A Musical Moment


The remains of St Patrick’s, Killowen located on the outskirts of Kenmare, County Kerry. The church was reported in good repair in 1806 and enlarged six years later but replaced in 1856 by another building closer to the town centre, it being declared at the time ‘the old church was so small the increasing number of Protestants could not be accommodated.’ Since then it has fallen into ruin but the graveyard is notable for being the burial site of English-born composer Ernest J Moeran who from 1930 onwards spent the greater part of his time living in this part of the country (both his father and grandfather had been an Irish Anglican clergymen). Moeran died after falling into the river Kenmare in December 1950.

5 comments on “A Musical Moment

  1. Hibernophile says:

    It is rather sad that as a composer Moeran’s music is not better appreciated. He studied at the RCM with Stanford, and whereas Stanford’s music is such a dominant feature in the English sacred music repertoire, Moeran has been largely forgotten. He followed in the footsteps of giants such as Vaughan-Williams, continuing his work of recording folk songs (which otherwise would have been irretrievably lost). Unfortunately, as is so often the case with artistic brilliance, he had his demons and recurrent difficulties throughout his life. Both the man and his music should be better known to the Irish people.

    Errata: He did not die falling in to the Kenmare river as you suggest (that is the popular held account). The inquest concluded that he actually died from a stroke and was deceased before entering the river. (Apologies for being so punctilious)

  2. Bob Frewen says:

    That graveyard also contains the unmarked grave of the American Royalist Henry Pelham (1748-1806), the subject in ‘Boy with a Squirrel’ painted by his half-brother John Singleton Copley. Pelham too died by drowning, while supervising the construction of Martello towers in Bantry Bay.
    Pelham’s revision of the plan for the town of Kenmare is what stands today. He also mapped Co. Kerry (missing) and Co. Limerick on a scale of 1 1/8” to 1 English mile, so it was a huge affair, broken down into 12 separate sheets, each measuring approximately a metre by half a metre. He was an antiquarian and an engraver, John Ferrar’s History of Limerick (1787) contains several of his plates among them Quin Abbey, Clare Abbey and Ennis Abbey. His work also appears in Francis Grose’s Antiquities of Ireland (1793–94).

  3. Bob Frewen says:

    Stanford too had a Kenmare link – he was very friendly with and a frequent visitor to the Graves family of Parknasilla and the Blands of neighbouring Derryquin Castle. James Bland was a student at Trinity College Dublin at the same time as Graves. Bland has recounted the three were socialising in his rooms and he was whistling a jig, an old tune known as “The Top of the Cork Road” that his nurse had often sung to him when a child in Derryquin. Stanford asked him to sing it again & took down the music; turning to Graves he said “You must put words to this tune”. The song, words by Graves, music by Stanford, is “Father O’Flynn’ and based on Sneem’s PP, Fr. Walshe. (‘Of priests we can offer a charmin’ variety / Far renowned for larnin’ and piety’; ‘Powerfulest preacher and tinderest teacher / and kindliest creature in ould Donegal’; ‘Checkin’ the crazy ones, coaxin’ the onaisy ones / Liftin’ the lazy ones on wid the stick.’)

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