Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | February 19, 2016

Buy books by other methods

I have used Amazon to sell books for many years but new regulations now prevent me from doing this. I also accept payment by PAYPAL, cheque or BACS which may be more convenient for the UK.

I will send a price list on request. Contact me at

Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | August 26, 2014

Kilraughts Old Churchyard


This is my fourth in my series of books on the old graveyards in North Antrim. Kilraughts is different from the others as it is not close to any village or town. It is unique in that most of the burials are Presbyterians or Reformed Presbyterians. The burials are also not only from the Kilraughts area but also Loughguile, Stranocum and some townlands around Ballymoney.

I have restricted the information of the family trees but fuller details are available on request.

The graveyard is still open for burials and is maintained by Ballymoney Borough Council.

I have also added at the end of the book names and locations of older families buried in Kilraughts 1st Presbyterian Churchyard and Kilraughts Reformed Presbyterian Churchyard. I can provide more information on these families.

No map of the churchyard was found and one doesn’t appear to ever have existed. As with Derrykeighan Old Churchyard, Bill Simpson has produced an accurate scale map. I have divided the map into sections for easier reading with a reference to each gravestone. However some of the positions of individual graves may not be exact.

For my research I have used church records and other local sources. S. Alexander Blair, the local historian, has produced several books on the history of the area. My book is based on the genealogy of the local families.

Sources used for my book

1660-1669 Hearth Money Rolls

1740 Protestant Householders’ Returns

1766 Religious Census

1803 Agricultural Census

1830-5, 1837-8 Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland: Parishes of County Antrim V, Vol. 16

1831 Tithe Applotment Book

1901 and 1911 Census of County Antrim

McClay transcription of the churchyards of Old Kilraughts, Kilraughts 1st Presbyterian and Kilraughts Reformed Presbyterian.

Kilraughts : A Kirk and its People : S. Alexander Blair

Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | November 24, 2008

My own family of Erskine

It is reputed that the Erskines came over to County Antrim from Scotland in 1602, probably dispossessed by a landlord who was making his farm larger, moving to the townland called Leitrim. The farm was rendered vacant in 1651 after the uprising of the native Irish when a Scottish regiment came through the lowland parts of County Antrim and forced the native Irish to go west.

My family came to Dunaverney to approximately 100 acres. Dunaverney is a town land 5 miles east of Ballymoney along, what is now known as, the Kirk Road. Over the years, the farm became divided up into 3 or 4 farms.

The earliest source should have been the Hearth Poll Tax register of 1660 to 1669. No Erskines appeared which means they either had no Hearth (unlikely), were poll tax evaders, or most likely the soldier doing the register couldn’t be bothered registering the houses in Dunaverney, as was common in up to 30% of the houses in some areas. The first source I found was the presence of an William Askin (as it was commonly spelt) in the 1740 Hearth Poll register for the Ballymoney Area, although another source stated Aron [or Adam] Then in the 1766 Religious Census of the Ballymoney area, three Erskine families were mentioned: two William Erskins and a James Erskine. The first William Erskin was the father of Alexander, who married Elizabeth Blair in 1767, William who married Mary Blair and was living in Ballymoney in 1766,1785 and 1803, Margaret (bapt 1751) and possibly James. In the 1796 Flax Grower’s Register, Elizabeth Erskine (possibly the wife of Alexander) had one wheel of flax.
In the1803 agricultural census, William Erskine was in one house and Widow and Alexander Erskine were in another. I found a burial registered in the Parish Church records of a James Erskine on the 5th June, 1808, aged 81. Presbyterian and Church of Ireland deaths were registered and buried together in the Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard.

Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | November 6, 2008

Map of Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard

Below is a copy of the map which I used in writing this book:

Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | November 6, 2008

Author and Publishers

Posted by: Dorothy Arthur | October 26, 2008

Ballymoney Press Release


From: Keith Beattie, Ballymoney Museum Date: 19 September 2014


People from Kilraughts will be able to ask ‘Who do you think you are?’ after the launch of the latest book by genealogist Dorothy Arthur in Ballymoney Town Hall on Wednesday, 24 September at 7.30pm.

In her latest book, Dorothy has painstakingly studied all of the headstones in Kilraughts Old Church Graveyard and deciphered the ancient inscriptions which, so often, are almost illegible. To compliment these details, the author then reveals the story of the family – dates for births, marriages and deaths; where they lived; who they were related to; their occupation and, occasionally, an anecdotal tale or published account of events linked to their life.

Her previous books (on Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard, St. Patrick Parish Church and Derrykeighan Old Church Graveyard) have proved invaluable for people researching their ancestors and copies are regularly purchased in America, Canada, Australia and around the globe.

“Kilraughts Old Church Graveyard” by Dorothy Arthur will be available at a discount price of £15 on the night of the book launch only; thereafter, it can be purchased for £18 from Ballymoney Tourist Information Centre, Ballymoney Town Hall or by visiting .

To coincide with the launch of her book, on Sunday, 28 September at 2pm, visitors will have a unique opportunity to join Dorothy on a guided tour around Kilraughts Old Church Graveyard. Dorothy will take visitors to see a selection of the more interesting headstones and reveal the stories of the families that are buried in this fascinating old graveyard which is now carefully maintained by Ballymoney Borough Council. The tour is free admission; no dogs permitted except Guide Dogs. Walking boots or heavy outdoor shoes are recommended as paths do not extend throughout the entire graveyard.


New Ballymoney family history resource unveiled

A superb new book is to be launched at Ballymoney Town Hall on Saturday 1st November.

Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard is the new publication by local historian Dorothy Arthur. Members of the public will have the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of the book at the special discounted price of £20. Dorothy Arthur will be delighted to meet with those who attend at 2pm.

The book is a culmination of over three years of meticulous research. Dorothy Arthur has investigated over 400 gravestones in the Old Church Graveyard, maintained by Ballymoney Borough Council. It is every genealogist’s dream as it contains not only a transcription and photograph of each grave, but also commentaries on the family histories along with family trees.

There is much interest in this long awaited publication, as it will provide a valuable resource for everyone with an interest in the families of the Ballymoney district. Until now, anyone researching the Old Church Graveyard, had access to a map and headstone listing, both held in Ballymoney Museum’s records. However, thanks to Dorothy Arthur’s comprehensive research, readers will be able to discover much more information about their ancestors, including where they lived and their occupations. For some of the families, she accumulated so much information that not all could be included, though she is happy for people to get in touch.

So what prompted Dorothy Arthur to tackle such a mammoth task? The Ballymoney-born author explains that her interest in family history began at a young age, when she would spend hours pouring over the gravestones in the Old Churchyard where her ancestors are buried. While delving into her own family tree, she acquired knowledge about other Ballymoney families. She decided to publish her research with the hope that she could help others looking for their Ballymoney ancestors.

Dorothy Arthur points out that many of the graves are illegible and some only partly readable, and she was required to come up with a number of approaches to try and unlock their secrets. It has been a long road, and many long hours have been spent ploughing through records at the museum, PRONI, and various churches.

The resulting publication is a remarkable achievement and given the high interest in researching family history in this part of the world, the book is sure to be a big hit with both genealogists and local people alike. This could be the perfect present for someone you know this Christmas. Don’t forget, the special discount price is only available on Saturday 1st November at the Town Hall. Refreshments will be provided.

For further information on the book please read this site or email

Copies of the book will be on sale in the Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall, Ballymoney from 1st November, priced £25.

Posted by: Mike McQuaid | October 26, 2008

History of Ballymoney Old Church Graveyard

This is an introduction to the graveyard by Keith Beattie, the curator of Ballymoney Museum and person responsible for the Ballymoney Ancestry website.

Ballymoney, County Antrim, is a place that many travelers inadvertently overlook. Driving along the bypass, tourists could be forgiven for seeing no further than the pleasant bungalows which mark the edge of this expanding market town.

However, with a simple detour into Ballymoney, visitors will discover a town full of remarkable history. There are the majestic Assembly Rooms, now bank offices, built c.1760 by the Earl of Antrim to hold his grand balls during the Antrim Hunt. Or the old Town Hall, now the Masonic Hall, built in 1775 and most notably marked with a plaque to commemorate the clock tower from which two rebels of the United Irish Rebellion were hanged. A glance down Charlotte Street will reveal two rows of Georgian terrace houses that still retain much of their period character. In Townhead Street the busy Town Hall is the venue of Ballymoney Museum, the perfect place to begin your tour of the town. And, of course, there are the meeting houses, chapels and churches that testify to the faith and devotion of the congregations of Ballymoney in recent centuries.

Perhaps the most beautiful and historic place in Ballymoney is the Old Church Graveyard, opposite St. Patrick’s Church of Ireland, at the top of Church Street. This graveyard is in the heart of the town and a busy road skirts the perimeter stone wall. Yet, within a few steps of the gate, visitors are instantly aware of the peace and tranquility of this ecclesiastical site. It is dominated by the ruins of the ancient parish church and benches are available for anyone who wishes to sit in contemplation. For those who wish to explore, there is plenty to fascinate the eager historian.

A place of worship
The landscape surrounding Ballymoney is rich with the evidence of centuries of human settlement in this area. Stone Age people populated the fertile land on the banks of the nearby River Bann, while early Christian raths and Norman mottes are scattered thoughout the ancient townlands.

The earliest mention of a church at Ballymoney is found in the records of the taxation of Pope Nicholas in 1306. In 1414, the church was dedicated to St. Mary and later this was changed to St. Patrick. The Ulster Visitation Book of 1622 stated that there was a ruined church in the parish. At this point in history, the population of the area was expanding fast with Scottish settlers establishing the new town which became the Ballymoney of today. In 1637, Sir Randall MacDonnell, Earl of Antrim, paid for the construction of the much needed church, and the red brick tower that can be seen today in the Old Church Graveyard is all that remains of this building. Within its ageing walls is a slab that reads “THIS CHVRCH VAS BYLDED TO THE GLORYE OF GOD 1637.”

Tragically, early in 1642, soon after being completed, the church was burned by rebel armies along with much of the town during the Irish Rebellion. The church was rebuilt and survived as the parish church of Ballymoney until 1782.

Nevertheless, confusion surrounds some aspects of the church’s history before 1637. According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs for the Parish of Ballymoney, written in 1835:

“The graveyard contains no stone older than 1700. There is a very old one, however, in the wall… all the letters have been obliterated by the weather and storms. The graveyard was established a few years before the foundation of the church and has been used ever since by the Scotch settlers of the district. Previous to 1637 no ecclesiastical building of any kind stood at the site or near it.”

These statements are perplexing – the oldest headstone in the churchyard is, indeed, set into a wall, but it is a wall that was built a decade after the Memoirs were written. The headstone in question very clearly reads “Camac 1610”. It strongly suggests a burial ground, and it may be argued a church, much longer than “a few years” before 1637.

Despite being a parish church, i.e. the Anglican Church or Church of Ireland, the majority of the early congregation were Presbyterian settlers from Scotland. They successfully secured the appointment of a Scottish Presbyterian clergyman, Reverend James Ker, described at the time as ‘not young in years’ but with a great reputation for ‘honesty and zeal’ though of ‘little learning and no great judgement’. Ker was a controversial figure who refused to condemn the execution of Charles I in 1649 and who we can assume supported Oliver Cromwell’s regime.

Despite his Presbyterian allegiance, Reverend Ker received a portion of the tithe, payable by all tenant farmers to the Church of Ireland clergyman responsible for the parish. In 1656, he is recorded as receiving an allowance from the Cromwellian Government of £120 per year. A few years later in 1661, after the monarchy was restored and King Charles II was crowned, Ker refused to conform to the strict new laws which enforced the Church of Ireland and the English Book of Common Prayer. In consequence, he was ejected and left for Scotland where he died shortly afterwards.2

The Church of Ireland clergyman who followed was Reverend James Watson and he was succeeded by John Dunbar (1673), Alexander Moore (1687), William Armar (1691), Philip Matthews (1694), Henry Reynell (1740) and Arthur Mahon (1752). Few of these clergymen would have actually led the worship at the church, as they were most likely absentees with a curate to adopt the duties required by a congregation. These included Reverend M. Cole (1693), James Bashon (1694), William Fletcher (1746), Laurence Grace (1768) and Lindsay Hall (1777).

The road to an unholy row
For several decades, this was the only church in the town. Then, in 1690, the first Presbyterian meeting house was built and many of the families left to join the new congregation. St. Patrick’s soon recovered and quickly began to prosper. In 1782, a new parish church was constructed nearby. The old church was vacated and passed into ruins, much as we see it today, although burials continued in the surrounding graveyard. The Ordnance Survey Memoirs record that in 1835 the tower still had “a steeple with a castellated top and a slated, conical roof resembling a spire”. Nothing remains of this spire.

In the 1840s, with the old church derelict and in ruins, the graveyard itself came under threat. A new road was needed to connect Coleraine and Ballymena. The chosen route for this highway was straight through the churchyard, separating the crumbling church from its newer counterpart and cutting over the graves of many local families. Despite the outrage, the wishes of the townsfolk were over ruled and the proposed road was built. Those graves which rested in the path of the road were lifted, the bodies exhumed and re-intered.

The architect of this unholy act was a young engineer called Sir Charles Lanyon, destined to become famous throughout Ireland for such beautiful buildings as Queen’s University in Belfast. Lanyon was a lay preacher in the Church of Ireland and it appears he used his influence and office to succeed where others would have failed.

Within 30 years, this road had further implications for the fate of the churchyard. In 1869, the Church of Ireland was disestablished and lost much of its influence and property. One consequence of this was that graveyards separated from their place of worship by a ‘carriage highway’ became the responsibility of the Board of Guardians, today’s equivalent of a Local Government Authority or Council. For this reason, Ballymoney Borough Council carefully maintains this graveyard and the tower. It was through the Council’s efforts that the Church Tower was restored with grant aid from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1997.

A tunnel under the town
It has always been assumed that there was an extensive tunnel that ran beneath the town of Ballymoney. It was purported to have served as a sanctuary if the town was attacked; or a passage which lead from a long forgotten castle to the church. Reports claimed that it ran from the Old Church Graveyard through to Main Street, and probably beyond. Local people talked of actually being down the tunnel as children and remarked on the considerable distance it seemed to travel in each direction. Yet such a tunnel had never been recorded on any map or historical archive.

An old report states that in 1845, the sexton was opening a grave near the old church when he fell into an underground chamber ‘bearing the appearance of an old vault covered with a strong arch’. There he found a silver chalice, an earthen pitcher, a curious shaped hammer and a human skull. The human remains were reburied and the other items have since been lost.

The Ordnance Survey Memoirs recorded the following:
“In the town of Ballymoney, and close to the old churchyard, it is said that a castle formerly stood. No information, however, can be gleaned as to the exact period of the destruction. It appears probable, however, that it took place long before the rebellion of 1641. The situation of the building was at the eastern side of the graveyard. One of the vaults is said to be still in existence, but covered over and concealed by graves and bones….”

Perhaps the tunnel was a secret access to this castle or fortified building. There is other intriguing evidence in the “Jorney made by the Earle of Sussex, Lord Deputye [sic]”. In July 1556, as the party traveled to Coleraine the following report is recorded:

“…also this day wee came to a Bishop’s house, which was with a castle and a church joyned together in one, called Ballymonin, ye Bishopp McGenusi’s house beeing Bpp. of Down and Conner [sic]”

If it is assumed that this building was on the site of the current ruined church (although, as discussed earlier, this cannot be confirmed) it may also support the theory of an access tunnel.

Fortunately, confirmation of a tunnel’s existence has been established. In c.1970, road engineers were working adjacent to the churchyard, building a new car park. As they were digging, they encountered a remarkable arched passage, three feet below the surface. The Clerk of Works at the time, Samuel Platt, surveyed the structure of the passage, photographed it and recorded his observations. These details were filed in County Hall, Ballymena, where, frustratingly, they have since been disposed of.

Mr. Platt described the passage, as can be seen in the illustration. It is unclear what function the gate served, if only to hinder pursuit through the tunnel. Due to the years of development and construction in the town, the tunnel had been blocked and filled in, preventing access for any great distance in either direction.

At about the same time, a similar structure was also briefly unearthed in Main Street. Wallace McNaul, then an employee of the Urban District Council, recalls coming across a passage or tunnel with a brick arched ceiling. It was assumed to be a sewer, and therefore not fully excavated, although Mr. McNaul believes it may possibly have been the tunnel. Further excavation throughout the town will probably be the only opportunity to explore this intriguing underground feature. Hopefully when it is next unearthed it will be possible to accurately survey, film and photograph the tunnel.

Burial records 1883-1932
One very valuable historical resource relating to the Old Church Graveyard is a ledger that records all the burials carried out between February 1883 and November 1932. The 1430 burials that took place in the graveyard over this period are listed with details including the individual’s date of death, date of funeral, age, religion, occupation, where they lived, if they were married or single and, in some cases, the cause of death. Thanks to the voluntary efforts of my colleague Robert Thompson, all the information in this ledger has been recorded on computer database.

The book of burials provides us with some interesting statistical details. For example, the religious breakdown of the 1430 burials is as follows:

Religion Burials 1882-1932
Baptist 3
Church of Ireland 36
Covenanter [or Reformed Presbyterian] 9
Unitarian 29
Methodist 1
Protestant 182
Presbyterian 1106
Unrecorded 64

These figures must be considered in context with the fact that many local churches also had their own burial grounds by this period. Previous to the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland, tenant farmers paid a tithe to the local Church of Ireland clergyman and could chose to be buried in the parish churchyard. The vast proportion of the local population were Presbyterian and they still chose to inter their deceased family in a churchyard associated with the Church of Ireland, even at a time when other burial grounds were available.

The cause of death is also recorded for 552 of the burials. Of these, 248 died of debility [or old age]; 63 of consumption [or tuberculosis]; 14 were diagnosed as dying of cancer; others were diagnosed as dying of diseases of the head, brain, heart, chest, kidney, liver or leg; the records also include deaths by bronchitis, asthma, blood poisoning, brain fever, concussion, congestion of the brain or lungs, diarrhoea, dropsey, suffocation, and whooping cough; a few died of apoplexy [a haemorrhage]; only one of measles; one drowned, another died of indigestion, another of an overdose of laudanum; interestingly, between 1892-1893, there are also three victims of suicide buried in the graveyard. 73 individuals are listed as cause of death ‘unknown’. The ages of the interred range from one day, to two people who lived to 104.