The Digger reveals the dramatic lengths one man went to prove he wasn't a body snatcher
Ballinderry Middle Church from an early 20th century postcard lssued by Lannigan, a Lisburn photographer.
THE Belfast Quarter Sessions Court of April 1832 attracted a lot of interest in the press, both locally and nationally. The Sessions commenced on Saturday 14th April and a jury of twelve men were sworn in. The trials heard on that day included cases related to the theft of a gown, a candlestick and window curtain' two ducks and a drake, thorn quicks, two casks and a quantity of butter. A John Ireland also pleaded guilty to the theft of four books, the property of Mr. Ward' at Lisburn on the 24th of January. The sentences handed out for the misdemeanours ranged from not guilty verdicts to a range of imprisonments from 2 to 12 months' and a private whipping.
The cases would be considered mundane, when compared to the hearing the following Monday.
The case arose from an incident in the parish of Ballinderry, and centered around a graveyard there. This is believed to be the graveyard attached to what is known as 'The Middle Church' or 'Jeremy Taylor's Church', buiite in the late 1660's.
In 1832 James Stannus, the rector for the parish and his curate Robert Hill were to learn of an event which took place in their parish. It was a scenario which they undoubtedly would never wish to experience again during their time in the ministry.
In December 1830 there appear to have been four burials officiated at by the ministers of Ballinderry. One was carried out on the 19th December. 27 year-old Jane Cinnamond, who had been residing in the Smithfield area of Belfast had passed away two days earlier. A death insertion in the Belfast Newsletter stated: "On the 17th inst of a rapid decline, aged 27 years, Mrs. Jane Cinnamond of Smithfield, Belfast third daughter of the late Mr. Robert Russell, of Ballinderry. The numerous and respectable convoy that attended her remains to Ballinderry old church-yard, testifies for her when dead of her worth when living." She would not however rest at the old churchyard in peace.
On Wednesday 7th March, 1832 Leonard Ingram, described as a stone mason from Ballinderry, was seen by Ann Dickson in the graveyard at Ballinderry. She later gave evidence to the court she saw Leonard Ingram standing on a coffin in a grave which he had opened. It was reported she had observed him "take out shavings, a piece of flannel, and some hair."
Initial reports of the incident in the local press state he had laid the hair from the corpse on the bank beside him and then took a spade and dismembered the head of the corpse. She told the court the cofftn was full of water and she witnessed him put in his hand and take out the head. Ingram, later described as a "monster", was alleged to have said "I'll take it up to old Susy and let her make much of it."
Ann Dickson had just witnessed him opening the grave of Jane Cinnamond. "Susy" was in fact the mother of the deceased, Mrs. Russell, who at the time of the occurrence was described as a widow and an aged lady.
Thomas Hopes, one of the churchwardens, gave evidence he had observed Ingram making his way to the Russell homestead carrying the head of Jane Cinnamond between 5pm and 6pm. He told the court he had asked where he was going and Ingram informed him he was taking it up to Jane Cinnamond's mother. Thomas Hopes claimed he advised him to take it back to where he got it, but Ingram refused and continued on his journey.
Initial reports in the local press said he brought the head of the girl into the "widow's house and laid it down before her swearing that there was the head of her daughter, and that his revenge was satisfied." He was subsequently summoned by the churchwardens at Ballinderry, but failed to appear and a search for his whereabouts was carried out by the police. Expenses in excess of £2 would later be paid to the churchwardens by the parish towards the prosecution of Leonard Ingram.
The question must be asked — what would drive someone to commit a crime as heinous as this and what did he seek to avenge?
Ann Dickson told the court Leonard Ingram was being blamed for being a "resurrection man." Resurrection men were also known as "body snatchers." This was a time when such practices were rife. Recently buried bodies were taken from graveyards and sold for anatomical purposes.
In order to prevent this "corpse houses" were erected in some graveyards. Coffins could be secured there and left for several weeks, until decomposition rendered the bodies useless to those in the medical profession who required them for research. According to the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, Kilrush graveyard in Lisburn had a wooden sentry box for those who watched and guarded the graveyard against the resurrection men.
There were many confrontations between resurrection men and the watchers. In September 1831 two young male medical students in the Dromara area had been taken into custody after the discovery of two bodies that had been packed and destined for Scotland. One was said to be the body of a cholera victim from Ballynahinch and the other a female believed to be from the Dromara area.
Leonard Ingram, in his defence, alleged that "the cause of his committing this horrible outrage on the feelings of deceased's friends and the public, was solely occasioned in consequence of a report which was in circulation against him of having sold this body to the resurrection men, being at the time of her interment, sexton of the parish church, and that he was anxious to satisfy her friends that the report was untrue."
His actions were considered to be a drastic solution to his problem, and the jury found him guilty of "mangling the corpse of Jane Cinnamond' and bringing her head to the house of her aged mother for the purpose of enraging her feelings." He was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment.
The interference of graves in churchyards was not solely confined to resurrectionists. I can remember hearing a story many years ago' dating back into the annals of history, which related the story of a caretaker at a church taking body parts from graves and feeding them to his pigs.
The Digger can be contacted at The Ulster Star Office or by email firstname.lastname@example.org
Next: A discarded Bible reveals the story of another graveyard scandal at Lambeg.