This small rather forgotten plot in the townland of Eglish was once the graveyard of Tartaraghan and is of considerable antiquity.
In the early centuries of Christianity, when the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul flourished in Armagh city, Tartaraghan was one of its outlying Granges, as was also Maghery on the shores of Lough Neagh. An ancient road ran from Armagh to this area, known locally as St. Patrick's Road, remnants of which were to be found until comparatively recent times, and which would have served as a means of communication between the Abbey and these Granges, so that the clergy could travel to Armagh to discharge their spiritual duties, and that the produce of the Granges could be transported to the Abbey.
A small church stood in close proximity to the graveyard, and an old tradition recorded by the late Canon P. Bookey, said that it stood on the side of the graveyard nearest to Tartaraghan Glebe; but after the surrender of possession of the Abbey and its lands by the last abbot (James O'Donnelly) on 1st November 1541, the Church of "Taghtaraghan" appears to have fallen into disrepair, so that when a map of the area was prepared in 1609 the Church was shown as being roofless. It is believed that the Church was later repaired, but must have fallen into disuse well before the end of the seventeenth century, and no trace of the building now remains.
The small graveyard comprises one rood of ground, and this would very likely have been adequate for the scattered population, bearing in mind that at the beginning of the seventeenth century the total population of Ireland was estimated as being less than one million. How it came to be known as "The Toby-Hole" is not altogether clear, although two widely differing explanations have been advanced.
The name may be derived from the Irish "Tobar" which designated a "well," and would therefore have indicated the existence of a Holy Well somewhere in the vicinity, but it must be conceded that there is not any local tradition to support this suggestion. On the other hand it has been suggested that the name has an association with the former landlord. By a patent dated the 22nd day of May 1612, and subsequent patents, various Church lands in County Armagh, including the townland of Eglish, were granted to Sir Toby Caulfeild, who acted as senseschal to the Primate; and it is feasible that this hollow plot was give the nick-name "Toby's Hole." It is interesting to note in passing, that because the townland of Eglish had been originally church land, it was always exempt from the payment of tythes.
The graveyard remained in use until shortly before the First World War, and today one can find but eight solitary headstones bearing witness to its past. A local tradition says that at one time the headstones were more numerous, but from time to time one would disappear only to re-appear as a hearth-stone in some newly-built house.
Robert Pillow of Armagh visited The Toby Hole in 1870, and recorded the inscriptions on the oldest stones, in his book which is preserved in Armagh Public Library.
About 20 burials dating from 1829 onwards are recorded in the Tartaraghan Parish registers, and include a reminder of the poverty which was all too common in the last century - "9th January 1835, Name unknown, a wandering tramp who died after being admitted to a house." The most recent burial would appear to have been that of John McAteer, on 21st February 1913; and some years later the graveyard was closed and vested in the Armagh Rural District Council.
The following are the inscriptions on the remaining headstones:
1, Here lyeth ye body/of Sarah Brislan/ WHO DYED NOUMBR / 18 1775 aged 72 yrs / Also John McIn / nally who depd / this life Jany / 14th 1783 aged 84 ys.
2, Here Lyth The Body / of Patk Devlin who / departed this life / June the 5th AD 1804 / aged 22 years.
3, Here lyeth the / Body of Robert / Ellet who dec / eased March 24 / day 1740 aged / 70 years.
4, Here lieth the Body of Mary Grier / who depd this life May 9th 1785 / aged 26 years / Also the Body of James Grier / who depd this life May the 24 AD 1812 / aged 47 years.
5, Here lyeth the body (of) / (RICH)ard Hughes who dep / arted this life April 22 / Anno Domini 1805 Aged / 46 years. Also his wife / Mary Hughes who depar / ted this life Febry 4th Anno / Domini 1800 Aged 62 years.
6, Here lieth the body / of Myllds kiney who / Departed this life / Janwry the 2 1784 / aged 66.
7, Here lietth the Body / of Terence McCahey who / Departed this life September / the 20 1781 Aged 77 years / Also Sicily McCahey who / depd this life Decr the 27th / 1775 aged 71 years.
8, Here lyeth the / Body of Bernard / O'Neill who Depd / Jan the 7th 1782 / aged 23 years / Also Iohn O'Neill / who Depd Oct 19 / 1796 aged 100.