For the past number of years, I have attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. It’s part of the world’s largest arts festival. So when I came across this small headstone in Coalisland graveyard I was intrigued to find that it had been erected by a woman from Edinburgh called Ella John. A bit of research revealed the story of this gravestone. Local historian Sammy McKay was able to relate that It is the resting place of Maggie Hughes from Coalisland who was a worker in Coalisland Weaving Factory. On the morning of the 28th December 1895, Maggie Hughes left her home on the Lineside in the darkness of early morning. Work in the factory started at 6.30am. Heavy rain the night before had caused the basin (a stretch of water at the end of the canal used to load, unload and turn the lighter barges that traveled the canal.) to overflow. It is believed that the young weaver, she was 22 years old, lost her bearings in the dark and fell into the flooded canal.
It was only when she failed to return home at lunch time that a search was launched and she was found drowned a short distance from her house.
Her childhood friend and former neighbor Ella John (a granddaughter of Coalisland Weaving Factory owner John Stevenson) had married and gone to live in Edinburgh. To mark the death of her friend she had a small headstone erected at her grave which is situated to the rear right-hand side of St Mary and St Joseph’s RC church in Brackaville Coalisland Co Tyrone.