Kilbride Cemetery Doagh, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim


The parish of Kilbride is said to have formerly possessed an extensive church or monastery, which was dedicated to St Bridget, and from which the parish derives its name. Only the burial grounds now remain.  The foundations of the church were removed around 1834.

Near the centre of the graveyard stands a fine monument, erected in 1837 to the memory of the Stephenson family.  It commemorates four Ulster medical men along with other members of their family. Samuel Martin Stephenson, who died in 1834, was 'Superintending Surgeon' in the Madras Presidency. The architecture of the mausoleum ‘owes something to the spirit of the Brighton Pavilion as well as to the funerary buildings of Moslem India.' It was commissioned by Dr Stephenson (author of an ‘Historical essay on the parish and congregation of Templepatrick’) and cost £300.  It was built of Tardree cut stone and is of great architectural significance. This structure is listed by the Northern Ireland Environment Service and is on the Buildings at Risk register.

The right-hand tombstone to the back of the mausoleum is that of William Galt.

In 1768 Galt was instrumental in setting up Doagh Book Club and also began to educate the youth of the village.  He did this by setting up what is thought to be one of the first Sunday Schools in Ireland in 1770. A branch of the United Irishman was established in Doagh in 1791 and Galt was secretary. It is said that after the Battle of Antrim soldiers destroyed many of the books from the school by playing football with them.

The doors of the mausoleum were built by John Rowan, an engineer and inventor born in Doagh in 1787.  Rowan established a well-known foundry in the village and in 1836 he designed and built a steam coach which he drove to Belfast. He was also known for his generosity towards his employees. The piston ring, which is used in every vehicle engine, is credited as Rowan’s invention. The doors of the mausoleum carry Rowan’s name.  There is also a memorial to Rowan in the nearby Doagh village. 

The white stone near the mausoleum marks the grave of Florence Mary McDowell (1886-1976), celebrated local author, who wrote 'Other Days Around Me' and 'Roses and Rainbows'. A teacher who retired in 1948, Florence’s first book was published when she was 83 years old.

There is also a vault at the north corner of the graveyard, which was built by subscription of the inhabitants as a protection vault, to prevent the exhumation of bodies.  According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, dead bodies were deposited in the vault for 6 weeks before burial and subscriptions were from 1 guinea to 1 shilling. Also known as a 'corpse house', this type of vault was originally used to store bodies until they were no longer 'fresh' enough for body snatchers to make money from them. After this time they were buried.

The oldest tombstone in the graveyard dates back to 1674 and there are several others bearing dates of 1676 to 1699.

Kilbride Cemetery Doagh, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim