Saturday 25 March 2017

Heritage unlocked in our cemeteries

Project reveals historical value

Sheila Fitzgerald

The many hours of painstaking work undertaken by volunteers who surveyed 14 graveyards across Duhallow over the past six weeks was celebrated with a closing get together and exhibition hosted by IRD Duhallow at the James O Keeffe Institute in Newmarket last week where the wealth of data catalogued by each team was on display.

In August 2012, IRD Duhallow held an information evening to determine interest in providing training in the care, conservation, and recording of historic data in graveyards throughout the area. As a result of positive feedback, two Leader funded training programmes were initiated with support also provided by Cork County Council, and the teams of volunteers duly set to work.

Eachtra Archaeological Projects was awarded the contract to deliver this bespoke training with John Tierney, Jacinta Kiely, Enda O Mahony, Robin Turk, and Finn Delaney at the helm.

The graveyards surveyed were Clonfert and Church of Ireland, Newmarket, Tullylease, Castlemagner, Castlecor Demense, Kilgobnet/Abbeyswell, Clonmeen North, Newberry/Kilshannig, Old Millstreet, Kilmeen, Nohoval Lower, Old Cullen, Knawhill, and Bweeng.

A treasure trove of information was collected by the teams, which included photographs of each grave stone, names, addresses, and date of death, along with fine examples of iconography whereby print rubbings were utilised to reproduce some of the wonderful ancient images and designs on the grave stones.

Many intriguing stories and snippets of information came to light as a result of the survey, and some of the volunteers shared their findings with the audience during the exhibition.

Sheila O'Sullivan, was one of the volunteers who came across the grave of Margaret Doyle, aged 49 years in Clonfert, who was described as 'late Nurse tender of the Newmarket Fever Hospital. She departed this life on Feb. 4th, 1833, deeply lamented by the poor of this neighbourhood to whom her loss cannot easily be suffered'. The head stone was erected by Philip Ryder Surgen 'in respect of her worth and humanity'.

Many other fascinating facts, too numerous to mention, were read out by those who undertook the survey, but an in depth database of the study can be accessed online at and many of these valuable discoveries will no doubt lead to further insights into our ancestry and local history in due course.


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