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‘Attack of the briars’ – Hackettstown – Old Parish – South Waterford

On a sunny January day I decided to go for a drive around the south Waterford area and I came across this old graveyard on my travels. Located in the gaeltacht area south of Dungarvan, it’s not easy to find but there are a couple of high crosses visible from the road. image (1) As I entered through the broken iron entrance gate it didn’t bode well that I was immediately attacked by the briars, they were like tentacles reaching out and grabbing onto me, everywhere I turned I was stuck in one, it was time to tuck the jeans into the wellies! IMG_1531 Unsure of which way to walk, I followed what seemed to be a used pathway through the grass & briars and this led to a celtic cross headstone, dedicated to Denis Joseph O’Connor, born in Kerry in 1922 , died in 1990. Most likely this was the last person to have been buried in this graveyard, I certainly couldn’t see any with a later date. IMG_1544 Throughout the rest of the graveyard, the headstones were almost completely taken over by the bushes and briars and long grass. In the centre of the site the remains of an old church can be made out from a couple of remaining collapsed walls. IMG_1541 IMG_1542 IMG_1546


Despite the poor condition of most of this graveyard, there is one plot which contained a a couple of celtic crosses and flat stones, these were mostly legible and were saved from the overgrowth due to a metal surround and being cemented in. The one of most interest is the headstone dedicated to Rev Walter Curran. I thought it would be easy to get some information about the Reverend online given that he was clergy but I couldn’t find any birth or death records for him. It just goes to show how bad the genealogy records are in Ireland. However I did come across him listed under Dunmore, in the 1856 SlatersDirectory under ‘Nobility, Gentry and Clergy’ where he is listed as being from Whitstown which I think is near Portlaw but I could be wrong.

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Having searched for ages trying to find out some more information about the Reverend, I almost gave up until I found a really interesting blog from Martin Coffey, and he has an interesting story about the Reverend and when he was being buried. You can read about it and other stories of the locality here

I came across a few photos of the graveyard from around 2008 where it didn’t seem to be as overgrown as it is now, it’s such a pity it has deteriorated so much in such a short time…though it’s probably a sign of the times…a shortage of funds and a shortage of interest from the younger generations.

Until the next visit somewhere in Ireland, take care 🙂



St. Canice’s Church, Kilkenny West, Co. Westmeath

January 2015

Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain;

Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain,

Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,

And parting summer’s lingering blooms delayed”

These are opening lines from the famous Oliver Goldsmith poem ‘The Deserted Village’. Now you may wonder what this has to do with forgotten graveyards so let me fill you in.

The Rev. Charles Goldsmith, father of the famous poet and playwright Oliver, served as curate in St Canice’s Church from 1730 to 1747 and he is interred in the graveyard here. The church is located in the townland of Kilkenny West between Athlone and Ballymahon, it’s pretty much in the centre of Ireland as you look at a map of the country.

Oliver Goldsmith lived in the nearby parsonage at Lissoy from aged two until he went to Trinity College and it’s thought that much of his famous poem focuses on his time spent there.


Having grown up not far from here and with my mother’s family being from the locality I was always aware of the Goldsmith connection but I don’t ever recall having passed this church and graveyard. It’s a few kilometres off the main road but it’s easy to spot from the road with it being on an elevated site. A set of stone steps and iron gates lead to the church ruins, which was built c.1830 and is believed to be on the site of a former 13th century abbey founded by Rev. Thomas Dillon, son of Sir Henry Dillon – Lord of Drumraney.


Unfortunately many of the the graves are overgrown with grass and briars and it was difficult to make out most of the inscriptions, though one headstone was notable in design as it had a scroll shaped front on the monument (see below) but the inscription was illegible.


There are various headstone designs from high crosses to flat slabs to singular stone markers.


It was disappointing to see this graveyard being so overgrown and wild especially as it has some historic value. The Goldsmith International Literary Festival is held every May Bank Holiday weekend in nearby Ballymahon and a visit to Kilkenny West is usually part of the agenda…now wouldn’t it be good if people could actually navigate the graveyard without falling and breaking an ankle or being attacked by the brambles! I believe the festival committee are looking to raise funds to restore some of the sites associated with Goldsmith, hopefully this graveyard will be on the list of places they will include in their work.

There is also a mortuary chapel in the far right of the graveyard, amazingly it has an intact stone roof which is best viewed from the inside, this was built c.1680.  There is a stone plaque above the entrance with the following ” Within this chapel lieth the body of too secular Priests, Father Christy Dilon and Father Peter Dilon. Died in the year 1678. C. Y. Died 1680″


Within the chapel is a well preserved flat tombstone dedicated to members of the Dillon family who originally built it.

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Here are a few other photos from my visit.


Above: View from the rear of the main church


Above: view from inside main church


Above: weeds and grass have taken over

West Waterford – Kilrossanty and Knockboy

November 2014

Driving around the scenic Comeragh Mountains in Co. Waterford on a sunny November day, I came across a couple of historic graveyards and if you didn’t know where they were, weren’t following an ordnance survey map, or weren’t a local you probably wouldn’t have found them. The first one I called into was in the townland of Kilrossanty on the southern side of the Comeragh Drive not far from Lemybrien.  You can enter via the gate or stone stile. I choose the stile. One common feature of all the sites I’ve visited is that they all have a stone stile beside the entrance, all of different design and as good as the day they were built.


Now it seems that this site is well known for it’s Holy Wells so I wasn’t sure what I was going to find walking down the path.



So I was pleasantly surprised to find a well cared for church ruins and graveyard. It’s obvious that community spirit is alive and well here and that they put some effort into preserving their history. The old church ruins contained many headstones and as with similar ruins I’ve seen, the interior of the church contains headstones – it seems to have been a trait that once a church was no longer in use, that the interior could be as grave plots. I suspect that these were probably for the more well-off in the community.



It appears that many of the graves within the church interior have been recorded by someone as the inscriptions have been cleaned up and are clearly legible.



The community have also  erected a memorial to all the famine victims who are buried here.



At one end of the church I came across an opening in the ground, I wasn’s sure if it was an underground level of the church or an old grave…being the wuss that I am I didn’t dwell  on it too much, just took this photo and continued on!



The outer part of the graveyard had the usual mix of headstones and monuments from different era’s. There was  one of a tall narrow design which I haven’t seen  previously.



As I continued clockwise on the Comeragh Drive I came across Knockboy graveyard. It’s signposted off the main Dungarvan – Clonmel road and you need to drive down a narrow lane to get to it. This graveyard is a known place of significant history in the Diocese of Lismore and Waterford, and it appears that there’ s an annual ceremony held here in September. There’s a good history of the area and details about the graveyard described on the board outside the gate.

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In the grounds there’s an old church ruins and within it are lots of headstones. It seemed to have been quite a large church in it’s day.


There’s a high density of headstones in what’s a relatively small site and again there’s a variety of designs. Again the lichen has taken over and many are illegible.




On the  far opposite corner of the graveyard is a square plot with 4 corner posts and chains surrounding it. It seems like a communal plot – if anyone knows the significance please drop me a note.




This graveyard also contains an Ogham stone, and you can read more about the historic significance of these via


If you want to find out more about old graveyards in your area, check with the heritage officer in your local county council.  Additionally many county councils have an online list of graveyards old and new with a short description of each.




Monasteroris, Edenderry, Co. Offaly


Situated about 1km from Edenderry on the road to Rhode is a 14th century Franciscan Abbey and Graveyard, and but for the sign below you might miss it.



However a small bit of online browsing led me to this place one wet Sunday afternoon. Despite the inclement weather I was glad I went there as it got me quite annoyed. It was one of those times when it was reinforced to me what little regard we sometimes have for our local history and heritage. Now before you go all defensive, I’m not saying all parishes, towns and counties are the same and it’s only my opinion! In fact I visited another graveyard on the same day not far from this place and it was like chalk and cheese.


I found the graveyard in Monasteroris  overgrown with very long grass, many headstones covered in ivy and crypts taken over by weeds and bushes.  I realise it’s Winter and maybe the wet day didn’t help, but grass can be cut all year round, bushes and briars can be trimmed. To see it in such an untidy state is a bit sad and disappointing.

Surely each county has a heritage budget which can be spent on basic maintenance of old graveyards, particularly if they have some known historic links. If councils are strapped for cash, why can’t they think outside the box and think of a different way to get the job done at no cost. If I can think of ways, surely our elected Cllr’s can do the same? Why not get the unemployed working on a restoration programme, how about donating sites to colleges for practical work, ask schools to get involved, put the ask on local businesses to sponsor a programme, look for private donations,  could the retired community help…..there’s lots which could be done if we just gave it a little bit of thought!!

Entrance to a crypt within the old church

What I did find here though was a mix of very different types of burial stones, there were the usual high crosses & standing headstones, but there were also single stone markers, metal crosses, stone tombs and gated crypts. The church dates from 1325 and according to the plaque on the wall it was in use until 1777/78, thereafter it was divided into crypts. It seemed like a mix of religions here too.






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There’s an obvious celtic cross (it has a metal railing around it) which was erected in memory of two United Irishmen Fr. Kearns and Colonel Perry who were hanged in the nearby Blundell Wood in 1798.

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Inside one of the gated crypts I found some stones in memory of some members of the Odlum and Clarke family from near Geashill, Co. Offaly.  A quick search on Roots Online told me that Jane Odlum (nee Clarke) ,  was originally from Glenageary, Dublin and had married Benjamin R Odlum, a gentleman farmer from Geashill in 1888. Is this what was known as the landed gentry?






This project is teaching me lots of skills on how to research family history but there were two important learnings on this day. One, I definitely want to be cremated (family take note!), and two, I need to invest in a pair of wellies 🙂



Timahoe, Co. Laois (Queen’s County)


Wandering through Co. Laois on the way to Waterford, I came across the small village of Timahoe in Co. Laois.  It struck me as an old-fashioned rural village,  there certainly was no mad property boom here. This is a good thing in my view as many of our villages now have half-finished modern eyesores blotting the landscape. I wasn’t going to stop until out of the corner of my eye I spotted a round tower and I decided to check it out. The tower is intact and dates from the 12th century…that’s 800 years ago, though the cap was repaired in the 19th century. Those monks were pretty good at building, I wonder if our 21st century buildings will last as long!

The crows had a lovely high place for roosting. Check out for more of its history.


As I strolled around the grounds, I came across an old Church of Ireland church which is now used as a heritage centre, and an old  graveyard with an older church ruins from the 15th century. It’s a lovely rural and quiet setting for a graveyard.

The graveyard itself looks unused though there is one recent stone marking some ashes being laid there.  I saw one headstone which was unusual in that it seemed to have quite an ornate design, originally with carvings like flowers wrapped around the upper part, and other carvings in the stone which make it look like a tree trunk, but maybe this was just the ageing process taking over.  I couldn’t make out the inscription though I’ve since found out the family name is Hinds.


The other plot which was noticeable was a large one with 3 headstones for various members of the Edge family. What was interesting is that across two branches of the family, some of them died abroad in the 1890’s, in Switzerland, India, Perth and South Africa. There was obviously a history of emigration in the family  but it seems they all died very young , between the ages of 21 and 28. Their siblings who stayed behind also died young, disease was widespread across Ireland at this time particularly TB (consumption).

In one branch of the family, the mother Kate, outlived her husband and 8 of her children.  Her husband George was listed as a farmer in 1881 , after he died in 1890  it seems like Kate left the farm in Laois and moved to the city suburbs where she lived until 1936.


The good thing about this graveyard is that it’s in the grounds of a historic round tower thereby ensuring it is well maintained for years to come. Sadly not all old burial sites are so fortunate and more needs to be done to preserve them.

Pollardstown, The Curragh, Co. Kildare

Sunday 12th October 2014

After years of driving by a sign ‘Reilig’ and thinking “that must be an old closed graveyard down that boreen, I must check it out some time”, I finally decided to go and see it. It was only a few kilometers out the road and I hoped it would be a good candidate for my first post to the blog.
As I opened the gate, I knew it wasn’t a good sign to see gleaming marble stones and fresh flowers amongst some much older ones….this was a well cared for graveyard and obviously in use so it didn’t fit the criteria I had set out i.e. must be unused and closed. Feeling a bit deflated I took out the ordnance survey map and looked for other possible sites in the vicinity and headed off to find them. I tried to find three more graveyards but failed, but I did get to see remote parts of Kildare I didn’t know existed!  

About ready to throw in the towel but I took one last look at the map and spotted a graveyard marked at Pollardstown, near the Curragh. I found it easily enough, my map reading skills had improved throughout the afternoon!

In the grounds along with the graveyard, is the remains of an old stone church, only the two gable ends are standing and they are being held together by the trees and vegetation. But at least the grass is being kept cut, pobably by the council so it was easy to walk around. I think the church dates back to the 12th century thought there is very little known about it according to online records. The headstones are laid out all around the church however many have fallen or are leaning heavily, and very few inscriptions are clearly visible as the lichen has taken over.


There were two headstones which caught my eye, one erected by a James Cluxton in memory of Bailey Cluxton and some other members of his family, including his three infant children.  I noticed that there were no female members of the family mentioned e.g. wife. With the range of years from 1800 to 1920, I was hopeful that I might find out a little bit more in the census  records around those years but couldn’t find him. However I was able to find some of the later names listed in the 1911 census, they appeared to have been from Calverstown (near Kilcullen). From a family of 13, at least 3 of the sons were working as pawnbroker assistants in Dublin, which I thought was unusual.


The other headstone which I found interesting because of the shape and the  style of language used for the inscription “Here lyeth the body of Mauri O’ Duin who departed this life November the 28th in the year of our Lord God 1758 and in the 65th year…” The stone is in pretty good condition for it’s age and it sits as part of three which are directly beside backed onto one one of the end walls of the church,  it looks like a later stone next to it has been cleaned up but I’ve been unable to find out anything further on this as the online records for this period aren’t great.

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 So that’s it so far for my first attempt, I’m still hopeful I will find out a bit more about these two families at a later date and if I do,  I will update this post.