Ashes to Ashes

Old tombstones embedded into the external walls of St Macartin’s Cathedral, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. A stone plaque over the building’s main entrance carries the date 1637, when the original church on this site was built. However in 1832 the old structure was deemed unsafe and so a new one erected on the site, with work finishing a decade later: originally a parish church, it was rededicated as a cathedral in 1923. These older stones were presumably rescued during the 19th century rebuild and then set into the wall.

In a Disused Graveyard

The living come with grassy tread
To read the gravestones on the hill;
The graveyard draws the living still,
But never anymore the dead.

The verses in it say and say:
“The ones who living come today
To read the stones and go away
Tomorrow dead will come to stay.”
So sure of death the marbles rhyme,
Yet can’t help marking all the time
How no one dead will seem to come.
What is it men are shrinking from?

It would be easy to be clever
And tell the stones: Men hate to die
And have stopped dying now forever.
I think they would believe the lie.

In a Disused Graveyard by Robert Frost
Photographs of the churchyard at St Patrick’s, Hill of Tara, County Meath.

In Loving Memory

Inside Christ Church, Ballymartle, County Cork dates from 1866 when it replaced an earlier building, the ruins of which can be seen close by. Several funerary monuments were moved from the latter, including this touching memorial to William Meade erected by his parents, Sir John Meade and his wife the Hon Elizabeth Butler, a daughter of the second Viscount Ikerrin: their grandson, also called John, would be created first Earl of Clanwilliam in 1776. But William had long since departed this world since, as the inscription notes, having been born in 1689 he died in 1702, less than a fortnight before what would have been his thirteenth birthday.

Transferred to Stone

One of a pair of High Crosses found on the site of a former monastic settlement at Ahenny, County Tipperary. Believed to date from the 8th century, and therefore among the earliest extant examples of these monuments, the North Cross (above) is of sandstone and stands 3.65 metres high. The main body is decorated in elaborate geometric designs imitating those found both on contemporaneous metalwork and in illuminated texts like the Book of Kells. Only the base is figurative although now so worn it is difficult to make out details of the procession of figures portrayed. The nearby South Cross is likewise of sandstone and rises 3.35 metres. Like its neighbor it has a curious removable cap, perhaps intended to represent a bishop’s mitre.

When Captain Rock Called

All that remains of the former Church of Ireland church in the village of Athlacca, County Limerick. Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837) notes of this building, ‘The church, built by aid of a loan of £560 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1813, was burnt by the Rockites in 1822; and the present church, a small but neat edifice, with a tower and lofty spire, was erected in the following year by a cess levied on the parish.’ The ‘Rockites’ were supporters of a widespread agrarian revolt across south-west Ireland during 1821-24, the name derived from a mythical ‘Captain Rock’ who was supposedly their leader. Athlacca church remained in use until 1942 after which the greater part of the building was demolished, leaving just the tower and spire as a reminder of what once stood here.


A View of the Sky

The round tower at Kilree, County Kilkenny. A religious settlement is supposed to have been established here by St Brigid but no buildings from the early Christian period survive. Situated in the south-west corner of the former enclosure, the tower is believed to date from the 11th century and features a door and seven windows. It rises some twenty-nine metres to a battlemented top now missing its cap, thereby allowing views of the sky from the interior.

State of Grace

The Grace Mausoleum erected by O.D.J. Grace in 1868 within the grounds of the former Dominican priory at Tulsk, County Roscommon. According to a family memoir published in 1823 the Graces could trace their ancestry back to the Anglo-Norman knight Raymond FitzGerald ‘le Gros’, brother-in-law of Strongbow. Whether true or not, by the start of the 16th century the Graces were settled in County Kilkenny. Another branch later moved to County Laois where they had constructed a not-dissimilar mausoleum at Arles (see In Good Grace, February 1st 2017) and owned a property named Gracefield. Meanwhile in the 1740s one Oliver Grace married the Roscommon heiress Mary Dowell and accordingly moved to this part of the country where he built a large Palladian house called Mantua, its design attributed to Richard Castle. Mantua is no more and nor are the Graces any longer living in Roscommon, so this somewhat neglected structure serves as a record of the family’s presence in the area.