Two Foster Memorials in Collon (Church of Ireland) Church

The existing church at Collon was extensively re-modelled between 1810 and 1815. The work was commissioned by the Countess de Salis’s uncle, John Foster, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and was designed by the vicar of Collon, Revd Dr Daniel Augustus Beaufort. The works were funded by grants from the Board of First Fruits, but Samuel Lewis tells that the Foster family also “contributed bountifully towards its erection”.  In the process, a Foster family vault was constructed at Collon and in 1816 Foster remains were removed from tombs in Dunleer.

The large stained glass side windows on the south wall (installed in 1837) were given by John Leslie Foster.*  While there is no specific memorial there to John Foster who died in 1828, the church contains monuments in memory of the Countess’s mother (his sister-in-law), Catherine and to her sister (his niece), Letitia North.

Catherine Letitia Foster (née Leslie) (1757 – 1814)
Widow of William, Lord Bishop of Clogher
Collon Church - Memorial to Catherine Letitia Foster (mother of Harriet Countess de Salis)

“This tribute of filial affection is erected by Harriet Countess De Salis who early deprived of a beloved father found in her the vigorous and tender exertions of both parents united. She used this world as not abusing it, but her resignation in tedious suffering proved that she laid up her treasure in heaven, and where her treasure was that there her heart was also. Her memorial is not perished with her. It lives in the endless gratitude of her children who shall arise and call her blessed. Obiit. 25th Nov. A.D. 1814 ÆTAT.  57.”

This is Catherine Foster-Lesliethe memorial discussed by John Leslie Foster in a letter to his sister of 27 August 1816 (Letters to the Countess, letter number 16):

“I hope you received a letter from me on the subject of the inscription. I did not say enough on the subject of your alterations – I felt & feel it might look too much like soreness at correction.
I trust however that it is impossible that on reflection you should ever adopt it such as it now stands but I shall say no more than to make one point – to your writing an Epitaph I cannot object – of all people you have the best right but I never can submit to the imputation of my being the author of one which no classical scholar could tolerate and I therefore must make it a point – & really a very serious point that every thing I suggested be omitted & that the inscription be wholly new. Pray let me hear whether you received what I wrote before. The letter alluded to contained an account of the removal from Dunleer.”

Letitia North (née Foster) (1792 – 1852)
1852 - Letitia North plaque

Soon after her husband’s death in 1831, Letitia sold the house in Merrion Square, Dublin. Having fallen out with her sister, the Countess, she stayed with her other sisters, Kitty Stawell and Bess McCreight and with her brother, John, at Rathescar. After their parents’ death, she took under her wing the seven McCreight children who erected this moving memorial:

“To the memory of Letitia Dorothea, relict of John Henry North, M.P., Judge of the Admiralty. Daughter of the Right Revd William Foster, Bishop of Clogher.
This monument is erected by the grateful affection of her nieces, daughters of the Revd James McCreight, joined by their brother in this tribute to his sisters’ love.
Bereft of both parents at an early age they found in her the blessings of a father’s protection and a mother’s love, devoting every effort to their instruction above all to make them “Wise unto Salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” She conveyed to them under the Divine Blessing, what most she prized herself, that precious truth that embalms her in their memory and cheers them with the hope of meeting her at the right hand of the Lamb where death shall be swallowed up in victory.
She fell asleep in Jesus Nov. 28 1852 in the 60th year of her age.”

* Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (London, 1837).
Photos: courtesy of Patrick Lynch and John Rountree

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