In 1803 in St Patrick’s cemetery in Cushendun there was a headstone and its inscription was: “Charles McAlisters burying place”. Charles McAllister had an 18-year-old son, John, a sailor.
He and his fiancée agreed that he would complete one more voyage before their wedding. He would go to sea and while he was away, she would make the wedding preparations. They kissed on the harbour, he embarked and set sail from Cushendun Bay.
His fiancée’s sister in Glenravel was a seamstress. The plan was to travel there, and that they would make her wedding gown.
At that time a journey from Cushendun to Glenravel was difficult and she set off on a donkey and began the difficult trek up across Parkmore mountain, a journey which would take most of a day.
After three days, people began to gather in Cushendun as a schooner rounded the headland at Torr Head, to see why it had returned so soon. As it crossed Cushendun Bay more people arrived, and as the ship dropped anchor, a boat was lowered and a body was lowered into the boat. Two men followed, rowing the boat ashore. As they arrived it became known that the body was that of John McAllister. After two days, John had been aloft, lost his grip and fell to the deck, injuring himself fatally.
His fiancée was too far to reach, so a decision was made: they buried John and awaited her return. Nobody wanted to carry such news and it was decided it was better to wait.
After almost a week she rode into the village and all the people she passed lowered their heads. When she arrived at her house, they told her of John’s death.
She cried throughout that day. In late afternoon she wandered away and no one stopped her; they believed she would visit the McAllister family to grieve with John’s mother.
When darkness fell, she had not returned. Everyone began to worry. They checked in farm buildings and down the village streets, but she was not to be found. A search party was formed, and they began.
They continued through the night, paraffin lamps lighting every lane and pathway. By morning they converged on the cemetery where John lay; they found her deceased on top of his gravestone.
She was lifted, and, remarkably, the stone’s inscription had been altered. Where once it read “Charles McAlisters burying place” it now had a small verse scratched into the stone:
“Your ship love is moored
Head and starn for a fuldiew”
To a 19th century sailor, fuldiew was a common term. A sailor received full payment, known as receiving your full due only when his ship was decommissioned, but it was spoken as a single word, fuldiew.
A beautiful piece of love poetry, and such a touching love story: a bride-to-be dying of a broken heart on the grave of the man she loved and leaving an inscription which would inspire people for centuries.
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