Sunday, 3 July 2016

Dunnamaggan Graveyard, Parish of Dunnamaggan, county Kilkenny

Dunnamaggan graveyard gives the impression of being untidy and not that well kept although the front section, which is the newest section and nearest to the road, is well maintained.  The older section of the graveyard, behind the ruined church, is confusingly laid out. There are piles of broken stones around the ruined church which makes walking hazardous and several pieces of broken 19th century coffins handles lie on the open ground.

We visited the graveyard in 2009 and again again in 2010 and 2011 in order to complete the transcriptions and mapping.  In all at that time we found 98 memorials or memorial plots but it is important to bear in mind that this graveyard is still in use.   The graveyard is large being very long but not very wide. At the far end of the graveyard is a small rath or circular enclosure about 8 feet in diameter.  Carrigan (History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Ossory) suggests it might be the remnants of a hermit's cell.    The small ruined church is dated to the last years of the 12th century or the beginning of the 13th century.  St Leonard is the saint venerated here with a holy well and St Leonard's bush; emigrants leaving Dunnamaggan would take a sprig of the bush away with them as protection against ship wreck.  Similarly during the cholera epidemic of 1832 local people carried around little scraps of the bush to save themselves from the epidemic. Although the memorials do not record exactly what caused people to die, three people are recorded as dying when the cholera epidemic must have been at its most rampant.  These are a lady "Ellen Tobin alias Quinlan who departed this life the 8th May 1832 aged 84 years" and her grandson "John Tobin who departed this life the 8th January 1833 aged 1 and a quarter years" (No. 23) and "Patt Cass, brother of John Cass of Callan who died 5th January 1832 aged 22 years" (No. 94).

This is a very old Catholic graveyard.  Within is a ancient Celtic Cross which belong to the period 1050-1200AD.  This cross is decorated with five carvings of human figures; one of these represents a figure of a bishop or abbot in vestments and with a crozier; another represents a female saint, probably St Catherine with her wheel.    It is allegedly the resting place of one of the seven bishops treacherously done to death on the instruction of Margaret FitzGerald, countess of Granny Castle. The Legend of the Seven bishops is well known in Kilkenny but it was already an old story during the lifetime of the said Margaret Fitzgerald who died in 1539.

Apart from the Celtic Cross, the earliest memorial is dated 1750 with a further ten stones dating from this last half of the 18th century.  Thirteen stones date from 1802 - 1820 and six stones date from between 1827-1839.  There are three stones dating from the 1840s and a further four memorials dating from the 1850s.  

List of surnames inscribed on the memorials
Barry, Behan, Bergin, Brennan, Broderick, Bryan, Burke, Butler, Cahill, Cass, Clooney, Comerford, Condon, Corcoran, Costello, Costigan, Crealy, Croake, Cudihy, Danielly, Davis, Dawson, Deacon, Delany, Dempsey, Doyle, Dunne, Fahy, Fennely, Fitzpatrick, Fleming, Foley, Foran, Forristal, Funchion, Glendon, Grace, Grant, Green, Griffin, Hanrahan, Hawe, Heads, Hearns, Henebry, Hennesy, Hewetson, Holden, Hoyne, Hughes, Johnstone, Kavanagh, Keane, Keeffe, Kennedy, Kenney, Lahart, Lahert, Lannen, Liddiard, Long, Lynch, Maher, Marnell, McBride, McDonald, Meny, Millea, Moore, Morrissey, Murphy, Neel, Nores, O'Brien, O'Donoghue, O'Gorman, O'Keefe, O'Neill,  O'Shea, Peters, Peeters, Phelan, Pollard, Poor, Power, Purcell, Quinlan, Ragget, Roe, Rowe, Ryan, Sexton, Shelly, Stapleton, Tenison, Timon, Tobin, Vennard, Voss, Wallace, Walsh.
List of places named on memorials
America, Archer St, Kilkenny, Ballintee, Ballyhall, Ballytobin, Baurscoobe, Bawscoobe, Belgium, Caherleske, California, Callan, Churchtown, Dublin, Coolmore, Croan, Danganbeg, Danganmore, Delaware, Dunnamaggan (various spellings), Dunnamaggan West,  Fermoy, Garranrobin, Goodwinsgarden, Johnswell, Kells, Kilkenny, Kilmoganny,  Kilree, Knocktopher, Lacken, Ladyswell,  Lijsshenthock Military Cemetery, Loughbrack, Mallardstown, Monaussa, New Road, New South Wales, Newtown, Passage, Rathculbin, Rathduff, Readsbarn, Rockhall, Rossenara, Sheepstown, Shortalstown, Stoneyford, Tinvaun, USA, Vinesgrove, Waterford.
There are some very moving memorials here. One is a memorial on the boundary wall above a Marnell of Dunnamaggan burial plot.

This reads " In memory of Walter Marnell 1st Battalion Irish Guards who sacrificed his life at the Battle of the Somme on 1st July 1916 aged 22.  His body lies in Lijsshenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium. A beloved son of John and Catherine Marnell of Dunnamaggin.  Lest we forget.".    Guardsman Walter Marnell volunteered for The Irish Guards at Ormskirk, Lancashire, after the outbreak of the war and was shipped to France on 25th May 1915.   He died of his wounds on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.  Lijsshenthoek Military Cemetery is at Poperinge in West Flanders, Belgium.   As it happens it is 100 years since he died on the Somme and that is a very sombre thought. 
Another interesting memorial is attached to stone No. 44. "Erected by James Purcell in memory of his mother Bridget Purcell alias Rowe, Dunnamaggan who died 11th September 1859 aged 55 years. Also of her mother Mary Rowe alias Bryan who died 4th April 1860 aged 82 years and her uncle David Rowe who died 4th October 1868 aged 85 years.  From where the Delaware flows, Neath foreign skies, A sons poor tribute marks, Where his mother lies, And suppliant asks, From the far distant West, Old neighbours prayers, for her eternal rest".    There is a lot of genealogy on this one stone for anyone related to this family and the poem is unique.  We know exactly where James Purcell is in America.   But this stone also represents the deep rooted desire of many emigrants who have made enough money in their new country of residence to record, back in Ireland, the last resting place of their parents and relations.   There can't be a graveyard in the whole of Kilkenny county that does not have a similar memorial erected by an emigrant son or daughter (but not necessarily with a poem).   They are, perhaps, providing the dignity of a headstone or memorial for a family that previously may not have had the resources to erect a memorial but, as is the case here, the son has made it good in America and this is the last thing he can do for his mother.   It is like a determination to mark the spot that belongs to them, probably their traditional burial place.   It is interesting, though, that he makes no mention of his father; I wonder what the story is there?
Finally a shocking and terribly sad memorial of a large Celtic Cross  "Erected by Matthew Walsh in loving memory of his son Patrick, Captain in the IRA.  He was wounded by the British and taken to Fermoy where the amputation of his leg without anaesthetics caused his death 18th May 1921. May his soul rest in peace Amen".    Patrick Walsh was born in Dunnamaggan in 1887 and became a member of the Gaelic League and the Gaelic Athletic Association  and later a member of the Irish Volunteers.   On a morning in May 1921 he was severely wounded during an engagement with British forces at Knocknagress, Tullaroan, county Kilkenny and taken initially to the Kilkenny Military Barracks but later transferred to Fermoy Military Hospital where his leg was amputated.  He was Captain of B Company, 8th Battalion, Kilkenny Brigade.


  1. Thank you for this wonderful post.

  2. Great work ! Thomas Brownrigg from Danganmore, Dunnamaggin was a member of B Company with Pat Walsh. He was shot outside Clonmel on 2nd October 1922. Have you ever come across his grave anywhere ? Thanks Liam