Final resting place of Irish and Catholic war dead in Scotland to run out of burial space by summer

Final resting place of Irish and Catholic war dead in Scotland to run out of burial space by summer

A GRAVEYARD in the west of Scotland, which holds the last remains of many Irish immigrants, has almost run out of burial space.

North Lanarkshire Council anticipate that by this summer St Joseph’s Cemetery in Airdire, which had its first interment more than 150 years ago, will have no further room for burials.

St Joseph’s remained in the care of the local Catholic church until 1973, when it became the responsibility of the local authority.

It had been the first Catholic cemetery in the area.

A former parishioner, Chris McKay, whose ancestors are buried in St Joseph’s, has over the last three years, been carrying out the painstaking process of documenting the details of interments there.

“A lot of my family came over to Coatbridge from Ireland in the 1870s," he said. "The cemetery has a rich history – particularly as it’s the first real purpose-built graveyard for Catholics in Scotland. When I found out that there was no ledger, I offered to take on the task.”

Mr McKay is sad about the news from the council.

“One hundred and fifty five years the cemetery has served the people of Old & New Monkland," he said.

"It's really sad that it can take no more, as many people, I would think, would have always planned in being interred there with their extended families.”

According to Mr McKay, who now lives in Glasgow, St Joseph’s is the last resting place of a knight of the realm, Sir Montagu Gilbert Gerard, the son of cemetery landowner Archibald, as well as the great heavyweight boxer Dan McGoldrick and many dead from both World Wars.

Three Polish men who were killed in the Garnqueen fire clay works explosion of 1910 are also buried there.

Mr McKay is helping people trace any ancestors who might be buried in the cemetery by listing records of those interred there on a Facebook page.

The most common Irish name in the cemetery is Kelly, which occurs 62 times.

Higgins occurs 52 times, followed by McLaughlin (45), Quinn (45), Kane (44) and McGuire (44).

The Coatbridge and Airdrie area of west Scotland was a major destination for Irish immigration from the mid-19th century.

Many thousands of Irish people  - with substantial numbers from northern counties such as Donegal and Antrim - arrived to work in the coalmines and in labouring jobs.