37.25 – Mary Elizabeth Vaughan

Here’s a plot marker whose initials helped us find its owner, although its placement is curious, being found in between two 1869 graves. We suspect we know why though – more on that at the end.

Mary Elizabeth Vaughan was born around 1865. Mary is actually one of the biggest mysteries we have here in the yard, because she wasn’t born here, never married, arrived in Todmorden between census periods, and died between census periods. The informant at her death was Margaret Alice (Dyson) McDermott (who is buried at 16.32 with her family) who was living in Todmorden during a census period according to her children’s birth registrations but can’t be found on the relevant one. What do we definitely know?

Mary was 20 when she died on September 16th 1885, at 16 Ridge Lane behind the railway station. She was a dressmaker. She died of phthsis.

We also know from her burial record that her burial was certified by Hyacinth Skerrett. It’s an interesting moment where we see something that could be churlishness or could be accepted form; Hyacinth Skerrett was otherwise known as the Reverend Father Hyacinth Heffernan Skerrett, the town’s Roman Catholic priest from at some point after 1881. So Mary was Catholic, and this might be the reason why her grave marker appears on a grave that’s “out of sequence” with the others. Other denominations were buried at Christ Church and it could be that St. Joseph’s owned a number of plots which they could use for pauper’s burials or burials for parishioners without other family to look after them. John McGrail a few rows down is another young Catholic who’s buried here with only a plot marker – he had family but they had many problems. Mary was “merely” alone.

Father Skerrett acted as the landlord on a number of properties around the back of Doghouse, Ridge Street and Cobden, which explains the predominance of Irish-born and Irish-sounding surnamed families found in that part of Todmorden in the late 1800s.

Poor Mary Elizabeth Vaughan, who died far from home and whose life was so ordinary that her only appearance in the newspapers here was at her death. At least Father Skerrett ensured enough initials were on the plot marker for her name to not be lost forever.

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