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This article first appeared in the September 7, 2016 issue of the The Low Down to Hull and Back News.External Link Reprinted with permission. Search complete list of Low Down Articles.

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Calling all Celts - time to celebrate Martindale

By Nicole McCormick

The Hill's sizable Irish community will be banding together on Sept. 18 to celebrate their heritage and honour the efforts of several people who helped restore Low's Martindale pioneer cemetery back in the 1980s.

Celtic cross
Catholine Butler with the Celtic cross at Martindale cemetery near Low. Butler helped to restore the cemetery and raise the cross along with three cenotaphs in 1982. Photo provided by Catholine Butler.

Although Martindale's stone Celtic cross and cenotaphs have served as an iconic reminder of deceased Irish settlers for many years, the cemetery itself had been in a state of disrepair for quite some time - until former Low resident Catholine Butler took action.

"Nothing seemed to be done to restore it or build it up," said Butler. "Headstones had fallen over and there was even a point where cattle were tramping through the cemetery."

She first reached out to the local priest, but was met with some resistance when she voiced her desire to begin researching the ancestry of the deceased.

"He didn't think I was qualified to do it," she said. "He thought there should have been students or someone coming up from the university in Ottawa."

She decided to move forward despite the objections, but the priest had already brought in a bulldozer and dumped all of the headstones into a newly dug trench.

"Needless to say, it was very upsetting for me," said Butler.

Years passed and although Butler's drive for re-establishing her ancestors' final resting place never faded, she did have difficulty finding others who shared her sentiments for Martindale.

"I think the problem was that a lot of people were kind of embarrassed that this had happened and nothing had been done," she said. "I had a determination and I said when I was in the cemetery before this ever happened that I would do something, that I would help restore the cemetery. I made that promise. I made that promise to my ancestors and everyone that was buried there."

Soon enough, others then began stepping forward to help complete the project by September of 1982. They even managed to acquire the $10,000 necessary to raise the monuments with all the names of people that were buried there along with a stone Celtic cross with help from an anonymous donor.

"I can't tell you how excited we were to have the cenotaph, the Celtic cross up," said Butler. "It was so important to us."

The group was initially opposed to receiving recognition for their efforts, but now that Butler is the last living individual to have worked on the project, she decided it was time for people to know the truth. She said that this revelation was sparked by the release of a novel about Gatineau cemeteries, which included incorrect information about Martindale.

"I decided with the help of people to put plaques up to let people know who was involved. I now think that's very important."

The entire Celtic community is invited to the Sept. 18 ceremony, which will commemorate the installation of the plaques followed by live music and dancing to honour Low's Irish roots.

"Our ancestors, even though it was a lot of hardships they went through to get established, they still had time for music and dance," said Butler. "They brought that with them when they came. They didn't come with very much, but they came with their culture and they came with their faith, and they passed that down to the generations."