Out of Place

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On the west wall of St Michael’s church in Castlepollard, County Westmeath hangs this memorial to Catherine Gunning who, as can be read, died in 1751 aged just nineteen (‘Here underlies too sad a truth/Discretion, innocence and youth/Death veil thy face, thy cruel Dart/Has Virtue pierc’d thro’ beauty’s heart’). Catherine was a cousin of those famous 18th century beauties, the Gunning sisters, Maria who married the sixth Earl of Coventry (but then died aged 27, most likely from lead poisoning due to efforts to maintain her pale skin) and Elizabeth who married first the sixth Duke of Hamilton and then the fifth Duke of Argyll (as well as being made a baroness in her own right). The Gunnings had settled in County Roscommon in the 17th century and through the marriage of Catherine’s surviving sister Bridget, this branch of the family’s property at Hollywell would pass to the Blakeneys. The plaque was likely moved from the older church of Killafree when the present St Michael’s was built c.1827 but a puzzle is why Catherine Gunning was laid to rest in this part of the country and not closer to her home?

5 comments on “Out of Place

  1. Is it the R.C. Church in Castlepollard or the Church of Ireland in the Square please?

  2. Michelle says:

    Hello there. I just came across your blog for the first time and I have been enjoying it entirely too much! Thank you for sharing these beautiful glimpses and historical insights into a country that continues to beckon me.

    Might I recommend putting your book links on your blog somewhere? (Perhaps you did but I am just not finding them?) Anyhow, it might boost your sales a bit, and people wouldn’t have to go looking for them individually.

    • Thank you for getting in touch, and for your most helpful suggestion: I am so uselessly un-commercial that what you propose had never occurred to me! Of course it makes sense and I shall do so in the near future. Thank you again..

      • Michelle says:

        You are most welcome. I will say, though, that the only thing I have been pondering upon more than the content of this blog is the tagline of your blog: “This is not an oxymoron.” Does that mean Irish people as a whole are not considered to be aesthetic people? In learning about them, I had never come across any statements that would have characterized them as being so.

        I suppose one could conclude that because many Irish people are down to earth and perhaps a bit rugged, they might be stereotyped in that light, but I have personally never made that connection.

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