UK churchyard where Irish-language memorial was denied has at least five headstones written in Welsh
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UK churchyard where Irish-language memorial was denied has at least five headstones written in Welsh

THE ENGLISH churchyard where a family was denied an Irish-language inscription on a memorial to a beloved family member features at least five headstones written in Welsh. 

St Giles Church Exhall in Ash Green, Coventry, denied the request of Margaret Keane’s family to have her headstone engraved with the phrase “in ár gcroíthe go deo”, which translates as “in our hearts forever”. 

The request was turned down by a judge on the grounds that, without having the English translation alongside it, people could misinterpret the message as a political slogan. 

He said it could only feature alongside the translation, something her family were opposed to.

Judge Stephen Eyre QC, the Chancellor of the Diocese of Coventry, took the decision though the church locally does not agree with his view on the matter. 

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Mrs Keane’s heartbroken daughters have also launched a legal appeal over the rejection of the standalone phrase. 

Speaking to the Coventry Telegraph, Reverend Gail Philip of St Giles Church highlighted the fact the churchyard features at least five headstones with messages in Welsh. 

To add further insult to injury, one even reads "yn ein calonnau am byth", which happens to translate as “in our hearts forever” - the very inscription the Keane family requested and one that features without a translation.

Rev Gail Phillip said: “The ruling about the memorial is a ruling by the Chancellor of the Diocese, who has legal jurisdiction over churchyards in our Diocese. 

“For us the use of the Irish language has never been an issue, partly because we do have five graves in the churchyard which have Welsh inscriptions without any translation. That was one of the reasons why the use of a phrase in the Irish language was never an issue for us or part of our discussions. 

"There were certain issues to do with the proposed shape of the memorial the family had originally proposed, which is why it went to the faculty process in the first place because the unusual shape meant it was a memorial stone that I couldn’t legally sign off as local vicar. 

So we were very surprised when the Chancellor’s ruling came through and the issue of the language came up, because this was the first time that it had been raised as an issue.” 

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Roger Casements Chairman Paddy Hoey with committee member Margaret Keane in 2017 (Pic Chris Egan)

The church’s only concern had come with the original plans for the shape of the headstone, though those were amended following discussion with Mrs Keane’s family. 

The church has already shown their support for the family’s campaign to have the ruling changed. 

Back in July, they helped mark the second anniversary of Mrs Keane’s death by having a memorial beamed onto the side of the church. 

Mrs Keane passed away in July 2018, aged 73. 

An active participant in the work of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Coventry and nationally she also served as a dinner lady at Goodyers End Primary in Bedworth for 26 years.  

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In 2017, she was handed the GAA’s International Award for “a lifetime of unselfish service and dedication” to the association after leaving the town of Athboy to make a new life in Coventry in the 1950s. 

The family is in the process appealing against the ruling.