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Mystery over Robert Emmet's burial place comes to a head

THE exhumation of a young man's skull from a churchyard near Tralee, Co Kerry, is set to finally resolve whether Irish patriot Robert Emmet was buried in the county.

Robert Emmet was executed 200 years ago for his part in the 1803 Rising. He was hung and later beheaded.

The legend surfaced again duringa radio interview between Tralee antiques dealer, Maurice O'Keeffe, who has done a number of historical programmes, and Mr Emmet's descendant, Philip Emmet.

Mr Emmet said he would be happy to provide samples for DNA and scientific testing.

Yesterday, Mr O'Keeffe confirmed he had contacted garda authorities and had set the exhumation process in train.

A headless skeleton was discovered in the former Church of Ireland churchyard at Blennerville near Tralee in the early 1960s. Subsequently, some 20 years later, a skull was unearthed by a local garda in the churchyard during a community clean-up.

The skull had been placed in a mahogany box with brass handles, fuelling further speculation that this might match the body of the beheaded Emmet.

No testing was carried out at the time, and the box and skull were re-buried where they were discovered. However, the spot where it was buried is known by the garda.

The patriot's mother, Elizabeth Mason, came from a merchant family who resided at Ballydowney near Killarney and there were also connections with leading Tralee families of the time - many of whose crypts are in the churchyard at Blennerville.

There has long been speculation that Robert Emmet himself was born in Co Kerry.

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