A man whose family has looked after Ardboe’s High Cross and graveyard for generations has hit out at Cookstown Council over the current state of the historical site.
John O’Hagan was the last local keeper of the ancient cross and before him, his father-in-law worked the site for over 40 years, taking it over from his father before him.
But since the council began caring for the grounds around the 1,100-year-old tourist attraction three years ago, he said their state-of-repair has suffered.
“It’s a disgrace the way it has went,” Mr O’Hagan told the Times. “We don’t want the graveyard in the state it’s in.
“Even on a bad day you couldn’t stay here for two hours that there wouldn’t be tourists here.
“At times it was cut every week, but this man seems to leave it every three weeks. You could be down there at a funeral and the grass is too long.
Where it was always green grass, now it’s just muck - John O’Hagan
“Where it was always green grass, now it’s just muck.”
Condemning the new site manager’s use of weed killer, which he said has destroyed large areas of grass around the base of the cross, along pathways and around graves, he added: “We want that reseeded all round them graves and for the council to stop using weed killer.”
His wife Margaret then added: “The way he kills it with the weed killer is ridiculous - to kill so much away is terrible.
“The man who did it until he was 70-years-old, he never used weed killer.”
They also voiced their disgust at bags of rubble, and grave-digging equipment left lying along the site’s main pathway. When asked if they had brought their concerns to the new caretaker, the couple said: “We have been trying to track him down for five weeks. I have been talking to his secretary several times but he has never got back to me.
“We have formed a group called ‘Friends of the Old Cross’ and we are going to stop this weed killer,” they added.
“We would like to see the council start keeping this graveyard in the state that it was kept.”
Mid Ulster MLA Patsy McGlone and Cookstown councillor Deirdre Mayo have promised to ensure that problems at Ardboe Cross and graveyard will be tackled by Mid Ulster Council.
Thanking the Times for making him aware of the situation, Mr McGlone said he would broach the subject with the relevant parties, whilst Cllr Mayo told the Mail: “Councils don’t as a rule own graveyards like this and it is quite a unique situation.
“I am dismayed at the state that the Old Cross Graveyard has gotten into.
“Cookstown Council has someone employed to cut the grass, but I will be contacting Operational Services immediately to discuss what action they can take to put the site right.
“As a local Heritage site it vital that the site is maintained to the highest standard.
“I have emailed the relevant people and will follow it up.”