This is another of those ancient and very neglected graveyard sites, although it is now adjacent to a very busy and dangerous road between Waterford and Carrick on Suir. The ancient churchyard marks the site of a 6th century monastery founded by St Mo-Medog, also spelt St Momhaedhog, or Momoedoe. Here stood in Fiddown an old church in the English style which was erected about the year 1200. A very beautiful Holy water font was found here in 1805 in what was then called the "church field"; this font was removed to Piltown chapel and inserted in the wall of the chapel according to Carrigan (History of the Diocese of Ossory. Vol 4. 1905) A picturesque small scale church consisting of a nave and a chancel was rebuilt and beautified by the Rev. Robert Watts, the Protestant rector in 1747; this was used as a Protestant church up to about 1870. The nave was then taken down but the chancel retained to serve as a mortuary chapel at Protestant burials and as a mausoleum for the Briscoe and Bessborough families. (Please note that this can also be spelt Besborough and is not a typographical error when so spelt). Fixed to the wall over the east window is a stone effigy in relief representing the head and neck of a female with a crown of five points on her head; this is believed to be the virgin Mary. The graveyard was walled about 1775 but previous to this the graveyard extended considerably beyond its present boundaries, both to the east and west sides. The Irish Georgian Society took an interest in this mausoleum in the late 1960s and they restored and painted it at that time; this accounts for the Irish Georgian Society plaque now in the mausoleum. Of the 48 townlands in the civil parish of Fiddown, 24 were the property of Lord Bessborough, by far the biggest landlord in the area. In the Abstracts of Returns on the State of Popery 1766 the Protestant rector William Watts recorded 203 Popish families and 85 Protestant families in the Union of Fiddown. He records the Catholic priest at this time as Matthias Lanigan.
Fiddown is also recorded as being in the Roman Catholic parish of Templeorum. This graveyard is of considerable interest, though much overgrown, and contains both Protestant and Catholic burials.
Somewhere in the graveyard, and yet to be located by us, are some medieval tomb fragments from the ancient church site at Kilmodalla, alias Kildaton, which was destroyed in 1830 in order to make way for new stables at Lord Bessborough demesne at Piltown. These tomb fragments include at least one from the hand of the famous Kilkenny stone carver Rory O'Tunney; this is the tomb of Redmond Daton, alias D'Autun of Kildaton and his wife Helen Butler dated circa 1550, and is signed Roricus otyyne. We have not found an illustration of this stone and neither is it listed in John Hunt's book Irish Medieval Figure Sculpture 1200-1600. Irish University Press and Sothebys. 2 Vols. 1974. Kildaton, also called Kilmodalla, was the property of the Daton family, as was Cloncunny, but forfeited from them during the 17th century. Kilmodalla was their traditional burial place. We know that somewhere in the graveyard at Fiddown there is a fine tomb to Peter Walsh of Belline, catholic agent to Lord Bessborough and a keen antiquarian, Irish speaker and scholar; he died in 1819. There is also a monument to his parents John Walsh of Piltown who died in 1792 aged 80 years and Catherine Butler who died in 1760 aged 30 years. We have yet to find these stones and to survey the external graveyard which we are really looking forward to undertaking. There is a pedigree for Walsh of Fanningstown, the line to which Peter Walsh of Belline belongs, in Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland (1912); this states that Katherine (sic)was of Knocktopher, county Kilkenny and John Walsh's first wife. We are currently working on adding to this printed Walsh pedigree. Another well documented memorial is a horizontal slab bearing the inscription "Here lyeth the body of Edward Briscoe of Crofton in the County of Cumberland in England, who departed this life the 20th day of July anno Dom 1709 and in the 58th year of his age"
For the moment though we have access to the interior of the mausoleum and recorded exactly the inscriptions on the 26 memorials found there.
List of memorials starting immediately to the left of the entrance door
1. Small stone plaque. This chapel was restored by Ambrose Congreve, grandson of the 8th Earl of Bessborough, Mary widow of the 10th Earl and Madeleine, widow of the 11th Earl.
2. Below the window. A plaque of white marble on black marble. Signed by mason Browne & co, Bristol. In loving memory of Eliza Cecilia Briscoe wife of Edward Briscoe Esq., late Captain 41st Regiment (The Welsh) and daughter of Robert Briscoe Esq., She fell asleep in Jesus at Bournemouth 9th September 1883. "Them that sleep in Jesus will god bring with Him".
3. White marble plaque on black marble. Signed I Carew fecit Waterford. In the vault at the back of this lies deposited the remains of Rebecca daughter of the late Edwd Briscoe Esq., of Garnerea and wife of Wm Osborne Esq., of Silverspring who died in England at the Bristol Hot springs where she went for the benefit of her health the 19th Sepbr 1798 aged 33 years and 3 months. Fair was her form, more fair her gentle mind, where virtue, sense and piety combined, to wedded love gave friendships highest test, endeared the wife and made the husband blessed, now in widowed grief erects this sacred stone to make her virtues and his sorrowes known.
4. Positioned beneath No 3 above. A white marble plaque on black marble. In memory of Edward Briscoe Late Captain 41st Regt The Welsh, son of Edward Villiers Brisoce of Willmount, born June 2nd 1792, Ensign 87th Regt 1809, engaged at Busaco Albuhera where he carried the colours and the siege of Badejos. He served as Brigade Major 41st Regt in the Burmese War 1826, died February 2nd 1881.
5. White marble plaque on black marble. Top stone, Sacred to the memory of Eliza Thomasina Briscoe wife of the above (sic) Henry Harrison Briscoe who died at Cloncunny in her 65th years Febry 13th 1875. Also to the memory of Edward William Briscoe, eldest son of the above who died at San Marion Thomasina Briscoe youngest daughter of the above who died at Cloncunny in her 35th year Febry 6th 1881.
6. White marble on black marble plaque. Below stone No 5. In remembrance of Henry Harrison Brisoce Esq., of Cloncunny who died in Inverness Novr 14 1864 aged 65.
7. Massive and impressive memorial with 4 red/orange marble pillars, plus red marble with white marble plaque on a carving of a sarcophagus of Egyptian marble standing on large carved animal feet. Top of tomb decorated by two figures, from waist up, presumably the Earl and the Countess, dressed in what looks like roman togas. Signed by Guils Atkinson, London fecit. The inscriptions reads "Under the marble lie the remains of Brabazon Ponsonby, Earl of Bessborough, Viscount Duncannon of Sysonby in Leicester Shire in Great Britain and of Sarah his wife Grand Daughter and heiress to Primate Margetson. The virtues of their private lives need not be here recited, they are engraved in the hearts and minds of many who will deliver them from one generation to another beyond the duration of a perishable tomb. This monument is erected not as a necessary memorial to them but as a testimony of gratitude and respect owing from their son William Earl of Bessborough. He had the honour of serving his majesty King George the 2nd in several public employments of great trust and dignity and departed this life July 1758 aged 81. She in May 1733 aged 52". (According to Burke's Peerage 1893 Brabazon Ponsonby married 1stly, Sarah widow of Hugh Colville and daughter of James Margetson Esq., and grand-daughter of the most Rev James Margetson D.D. Archbishop of Armagh, and had issue. He married 2ndly in 1733 Elizabeth daughter and co-heir of John Sankey of Tenelick, county Longford butr had no issue by this second wife. Brabazon Ponsonby died 4th July 1758 and was succeeded by his son William 2nd Earl of Bessborough, who died in 1793 and who served George 3rd in several high positions including Lord of the Treasury and Post Master General. Burke does not state which positions were held by Brabazon Ponsonby, 1st Earl of Bessborough and who served King George 2nd .)
8. Ornate black and white marbl , decorated at the bottom of the panel by a supporting cherub with the Ponsonby arms impaling Moore. Here lies ye body of Mary ye wife of the Honble Coll William Ponsonby of Besborough, granddaughter of ye Right Honble ye Earle of Drogheda by her father and the Earle of Meath by her mother. And her virtues were suitable to her birth. She departed this life the sixth day of May 1713 in ye 52nd year of her age.
9. Left of altar. Black marble surrounded by white marble. This chancel was rebuilt and beautified by Revd Robert Watts M.A. Dean of St Canice and Vicar of Fiddown 1747 who after a contest at law and in equity carried on for nineteen years and fifteen hundred pounds expended by him recovered the Great Tithes of the Parish from the Subtractor for the Benefit of all succeeding incumbents. Quatenus nobis Denegatur dui Vivere Relinquamus aliquid que nos vixisse testemur.
10, Behind altar. Stained glass window inserted at top of larger plain glass. This reads " Pro Rege lege Greae".
11. Right of Altar. Top panel. Here lies ye body of Sir John Besborough who departed this life Anno Dom 1668 in ye 60th year of his age.
12. Immediately below the above plaque. In memory of William Wentworth Brabazon Ponsonby, second son of John William Viscount Duncannon and Maria his wife. born Dec 19th 1812. Died at 8th July 1831 on board HMS Madagascar, who was buried at Napuli in Greece.
13. Small plaque standing on floor immediately below the above memorial. Irish Georgian Society. In grateful memory of George Murphy (1926-1994) Chicago Illinois, Co-Founder Chicago Chapter. George and Mary loved Ireland.
14. Signed by maker Kidwell, London fecit. Gulielmi Ponsonby Uice Comitis Duncannon Quod Mortuum est Hic Jacet Depositum Obiit Die Nov 17 An Dom: 1724 Aeta 67, Siste Viator & Memento Mori.
15. In memory of Anthony George Brabazon Ponsonby Fourth son of John William Viscount Duncannon and Maria his wife, Born May 17th 1820. died at Bessborough October 6th 1841.
16. Top plaque. a gothic mural monument in Caen stone. In memory of John William Ponsonby 4th Earl of Bessborough who was born on the 31st April 1781 and died on the 16th May 1847 while holding office of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and Maria Vicountess Duncannon, his wife, daughter of John Fane 10th Earl of Westmoreland, who was born on the 11th May 1787 and died on the 19th March 1834.
17. Brass and placed below the above plaque. Emily Charlotte Mary Ponsonby and daughter of John William 4th Earl of Bessborough. born 17th February 1817, died 3rd February 1877. Till the day break and the shadows flee away.
18. Plaque made by F. Tatham, London. In memory of Frances Charlotte daughter of John George, Earl of Durham and wife of the Honble John George Brabazon married Sepbr 7 1835. Died Decr 17 1835 in the 23rd year of her age.
19. Top plaque in streaked alabaster, decorated with angels.. Erected by Caroline Amelia Countess of Bessborough in loving memory of John George Brabazon Ponsonby 5th Earl of Bessborough who was born 4th Oct 1809 and died 28 Jany 1880. Lord now lettest thy servant depart in peace.
20. Below the above memorial. Frederick Edward Neuflize Ponsonby the 10th Earl of Bessborough 1913-1993. Member of the European Parliament 1972-1979.
21. Brass and top plaque. Sacred to the memory of Alfred Philip Brisoce of this parish who passed way March 18 1890 aged 53 years.
22. Back marble below above brass plaque. Edward Briscoe of Cloncunny October 1851 aged 96 years, buried at Onchan, Isle of Man. Eiza his wife, daughter of Daniel Osborne Febraury 1837 aged 80 years, buried at Killaspy, Edward his son May 1815 aged 20 years, buried at St Saviour's London.
23. White marble plaque. Athur Mountifort Longfield Ponsonby, the 11th Earl of Bessborough 1912-2002.
24. Black marble slab on floor with brass insert. In Memoriam. Beneath this stone are laid the remains of John George Brabazon, 5th Earl of Bessborough born Oct 4th 1809. Died at Bessborough Jan 28th 1880. And also of Caroline Amelia Countess of Bessborough, his wife, born June 18th 1819. Died at Bessborough April 30th 1890. Waiting for the adoption to wit the redemption of our body. Romans 8.23.
25. Black marble slab on floor with lozenge shaped brass plaque insert. Topped with crest. Hic jacit Frederick George Brabazon sexii comtis de Bessborough qui decessit in pace XII die Martis MDCCCXCV. Atet LXXIX in christo spes.
26. Lecturn. Standing by the altar. A small brass plaque is attached to the wooden top of the lecturn. In memoriam William Osborne Briscoe Esq., M.D. Garnareah, Pilltown, obit Feby 6th 1874.
Guils Atkinson, London 7
Browne & co, Bristol 1
Carew, Waterford 3
Kidwell, London 14
F. Tatham, London 18
For further reading see:-
a) Michael O'Donnell. The Ponsonby and Briscoe Mausoleum in Fiddown in Decies No XXXIV. Spring 1987 (You can get this in full and online from the Waterford Library).
b) Daniel Dowling. Kildalton and its Past in Decies No XXXIII Summer 1986.
c) Rev . T.J Clohosey. The Ponsonbys and Fiddown Church in Old Kilkenny Review. 1967 No 19.
For other Bessborough Memorials see: Bessborough Memorials in Derby Cathedral, England which we posted on 28/1/2018.