Shipping dynasty’s burial plot restored to former glory

AFTER... The McCorkell family plot in Derry City Cemetery following restoration.

AFTER... The McCorkell family plot in Derry City Cemetery following restoration.

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A family burial plot in Derry’s City Cemetery has been restored to its former glory.

Haslett Monumental Sculptors was asked to restore the McCorkell plot a year ago after it had fallen into disrepair.

BEFORE... The McCorkell plot before it was restored to its former glory.

BEFORE... The McCorkell plot before it was restored to its former glory.

From 1778, the McCorkell family’s shipping line operated from Derry with the principal purpose of carrying passengers to the Americas. Derry’s port was then one of the main points for emigration to Canada and America with passengers travelling from Scotland, England and Ireland.

Basil Haslett explains the work behind the restoration of the plot: “The sarcophagus, a beautiful white Latin cross, an obelisk, other granite and the surrounding iron railings were invisible as they were covered in ivy and brambles.

“The roots of an ash tree which had grown in the plot had pushed over the obelisk to a dangerous tilt.”

Heavy lifting gear, says Basil, had to be used to remove the obelisk, dig out the ash tree and replace the obelisk in its original place.

Both the obelisk and Latin cross were cleaned and there is now no trace of the ivy and brambles which hid the plot from view.

Basil says: “We are proud to have restored the plot to its original grandeur which is a fitting memory to the family and the significant contribution they made to the city over the last three centuries.”

Ironically, just weeks before, Basil Haslett was in the cemetery preparing a quotation to restore the family plot when a tour guide and a group of American and European tourists stopped at the burial ground.

“The tour guide explained the importance of the family’s shipping line of 27 three-masted ships which operated all over the world from Derry during the period 1790 to 1910.”

The Haslett family has its own history with Derry, dating back more than 265 years, when James Haslett discovered sandstone in the river bed on the boundary of his farm near Dungiven which he cut into tablets and engraved with the deceased’s name.

There are still Haslett tablets in County Derry graveyards dating from 1745.

Basil Haslett, who spent 26 years in banking and financial services, was always keen to use the artistic talents he nurtured as a young man.

Since 1993, he has been using his flair and craftsmanship as a monumental sculptor, working in 179 graveyards and creating 14 public monuments over the eighteen years since he re-started the business.