Lifford and Sir Richard Hansard

The most interesting of all the seventeenth century church monuments in west Ulster is undoubtedly that to Sir Richard Hansard in Clonleigh Church of Ireland, Lifford, County Donegal. The monument consists of two sculpted figures kneeling on either side of a prayer stool. The figures represent Sir Richard and his wife, Anne. Both are dressed in contemporary costume. Sir Richard is wearing his military armour, while his wife is wearing a long dress and veil.

The inscription is the most detailed of any in West Ulster in the seventeenth century, and contains a great deal of information about Sir Richard. He was born in Lincolnshire, England, and educated at Cambridge before becoming a soldier. He served in Ireland in a number of places during the Nine Years War (1594-1603) and was governor of Lifford during the rebellion of Sir Chair O Dochartaigh (1608). As a reward for his services, he was granted Lifford and the surrounding lands by James I and given permission to found a corporate town at Lifford.

The inscription describes how Hansard had appointed Sir John Vaughan, Sir George Marbury and Thomas Perkins as the executors of his will and how these men had carried out the instructions in that will. These included building a church, school and schoolhouse and setting aside money from his lands to pay for a schoolmaster and other officials in the town.

Sir Richard Hansard died on October 5th, 1619. The inscription finished by pointing out that the executors of his will had been forced to buy the lands from Hansard's brother for 1,500 in order that the instructions in his will were fully carried out. The inscription is therefore not just a record of Hansard's achievements, but also of those of his executors.

Copyright William Roulston of the Ulster Historical Foundation. From his MA dissertation "Memento Mori: seventeenth century memorials to the dead in West Ulster" (QUB 1996)

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