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Monday, 15 August 2011

Donegore Motte & St. John's Parish

"On a clear day this historic pre-Anglo-Norman motte has views of six Ulster counties. In earlier years the "Motte" was believed to have been a Passage Grave, but around 1798, it was an important meeting place for the United Irishmen preparing for the ‘Battle of Antrim’. The picturesque St. Johns Church is located close by and has recently been restored" Source Discover Northern Ireland.

I've always been curious about this church, often as I drive toward the motorway to Belfast I can see the church high on a hill. Mark and I set off along the country roads to Donegore to find this hidden gem, accidentally we missed the turn off and drove up what was the original motte, as we ascended the steep hill the views of the six counties were spectacular but unfortunately we couldn't stop and take photos as traffic along the windy narrow road can be quite hazardous.

Finally we realised the entrance to the old churchyard is actually close to two houses, one pink and one blue, the blue one was an original 18th century pub called The Motte House. We parked outside the stone walls and opened the gates to get inside. This is part of the adventure, wondering if one is trespassing or not! We noticed a small charity box on the gate so we dropped a few pounds into the collection.

The graveyard is very unlevel but beautifully maintained, there is no litter and the stones have gradually fallen over or were unreadable due to wear and tear, although some were still very clear. The most unsettling part for me was having to walk on some poor souls graves, as I find this quite disrespectful if one can avoid it, and there were some unmarked graves (pauper?) and once again I found this quite unnerving. However, the beauty of the stones, ranging from 18-19th centuries were magnificent, with elaborate wording and beautiful craftsmanship, of course there were some modern granite stones erected in memory of ancestors but this did not detract from the eerie atmosphere where everything seemed lost in time. From the highest part of the graveyard, (some tombs were accessible by steps) we noted the lovely view of the fields. As you can see from the photographs the plots ranged from very simple WW1 veterans plots or ostentatious family tombs.

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