St. Cedna's Churchyard, Larne
Some time ago I downloaded on to my computer's free 'kindle' a book by George Rutherford called Old Families of Larne & District. It contains mostly records of the inscriptions on gravestones, and 'lo and behold' there is indeed one clan stone, which gives us new information. It is in the Larne and Inver Old Graveyard at St. Cedna's Church in the townland of Town Parks and parish of Larne. Those with good memories will recall that this townland is where in 1861 a George McIlhaigh was landlord to Daniel McConnell in Newton Street, a site which I suspect he had taken over from his father, James McIlhaggo who had a lease on a property there when he was first a Mill Bleacher and later a Publican.
The stone is one of those pictured above in the grounds of St. Cedna's which is at the end of Church Street just south of the Inver river and the modern bypass to Larne Harbour. The stone has been moved from its original place and set against the east boundary wall. This is the only medieval burying ground in the combined parishes of Larne and Inver to continue in use to modern times. The oldest stone dates from 1677 and all the inscriptions in the graveyard and on memorials in the church building have been copied.
Our stone reads 'Here lieth the body of Agnes McElh[e]go who died July 27th 1819 aged 17 years. Also two of her brothers viz. George and James'. Although very short this inscription tells us a number of things. First that Agnes existed and must have been born about 1802. Also that George and James were siblings and that she had at least one other brother who is buried elsewhere. My researches into Larne and into nearby Islandmagee tell me that there were indeed two other brothers, Samuel and William. Samuel is buried at Ballypriormore and possibly that is where William is also buried.
I think Agnes and possibly George (see below) were the youngest siblings and a somewhat late addition to the family. The oldest brothers were James (born about 1778), Samuel (1780) and William (1782). At present I cannot be sure when George was born and sadly the stone does not give us burial dates for either James or George. There are no extant church burial records for 1819 when Agnes died, but they do exist from 1826 so might include George or James. Another trip to PRONI is required!
I must now add one more apparently unrelated fact that I have just discovered by dint of putting M'Elhago into Google. There was a brief notice in a digitised newspaper, the Otago Times for 10 June 1868, headed 'Missing Friends', which says 'George McElhago, a letter from home for you, at Mr. Macassey's Office, Dunedin'. Now Dunedin is the town in New Zealand to which the McElhago family from Dunbar and Edinburgh (and originally from Irvine) emigrated. However by 1868 they had changed their surname to the maternal 'White' and in any case there was no George amongst them, at least to the best of our knowledge. So, was the 'Missing Friend' George in fact George McElhago from Larne who was visiting cousins in New Zealand? This is quite possible for we do have a George McIlhaggo's death in Larne in 1880 aged 76 who could be both the 'missing friend' and the brother of Agnes. He would have been born about 1804, a couple of years after Agnes. If this is the case then, most interesting of all, we have a potential family link between Scotland and Ireland.