The modest graveyard of Killathy, County Cork contains the remains of a late-medieval church but is dominated by the roofless shell of a large mausoleum, its pedimented facade of limestone ashlar featuring rusticated pilasters on either side of a wide arched opening, access to the interior barred by substantial metal gates (and a great deal of vegetation). The cement-rendered sides and rear of the building are completely plain and there is no indication anywhere for whom it might have been constructed, no crest, no name, nothing. Killathy lies mid-point between Castle Hyde, home to generations of the Hyde family, and Convamore, now a ruin but once residence of the Hares, Earls of Listowel: perhaps this mausoleum was erected for one of these families?
Inside a walled enclosure overlooking the plains of County Kildare, the church of Oughterard (from the Irish Uachtar Árd, meaning ‘a high place’) is thought to have been originally established in the sixth or seventh centuries, although the present buildings are of later date. What remains of what must once have been a substantial religious settlement are a truncated round tower and a barrel-vaulted chancel with a 14th century three-light window at the east end. Much of the nave has been lost, but on the south wall is the burial site of Arthur Guinness, founder of a certain well-known Irish business. The reason he was entombed here: his maternal grandfather William Read was a tenant farmer in this part of the country (and, it is sometimes said, Arthur Guinness was born in his mother’s family house when she returned there for the event).
In a graveyard high above Swinford, County Mayo is this mausoleum where members of the Brabazon family were formerly interred. The Brabazons had come to the area in the first half of the 17th century and were later responsible for developing the town, close to which they built a fine house, Brabazon House, which survived until 1980 when pulled down by the local Health Board. Also gone is St Mary’s, the Church of Ireland where they once worshipped, so this mausoleum, seemingly ‘repaired’ in 1828 by Sir William Brabazon, who was then MP for the area (and who died 12 years later after choking on a chicken bone), is the last remaining evidence of the family’s presence in the area. However, the Brabazons do not have the place to themselves: on top of the mausoleum is a large marble column topped with a cross, which commemorates one Patrick Corley who died in 1875 at the age of 60, while on another side of the mausoleum is a plaque dedicated to successive generations of the O’Donnel family who lived some five miles south at Fahyness (now Faheens).
Lisronagh, County Tipperary is today not so much a village as a hamlet, but this was not always the case. According to Samuel Lewis, in 1837 it had a population of 981, whereas in the census of 2016, the number of inhabitants had fallen to 184. The latter figure is even a fraction of what it had been in the Middle Ages: surviving documentation from 1333 show Lisronagh’s population likely exceeded 400. At that time, the land here was held by Lady Elizabeth de Burgh, daughter of a descendant of William de Burgh, the Anglo-Norman knight who in the late 12th century had acquired vast estates in this part of the country. William de Burgh is thought to have built some kind of fortified structure at Lisronagh, probably of wood, but this was probably later replaced by a stone castle. That building is not what is seen on the site today, since the earlier structure appears to have been destroyed in the 15th century by Edmond Butler, eighth Baron Dunboyne and Seneschal of Tipperary.
Lisronagh Castle, or what remains of it, is a 16th century tower house. A document dated 1530 in the collection of the National Library of Ireland shows the grant by one Richard Howet to Piers Butler, Earl of Ossory (later eighth Earl of Ormond) ‘of the tenement of the castle of Lisronagh.’ The present building may have been built thereafter, and remained the property of the Butler family at least into the latter part of the 17th century. When and how it fell into disrepair does not appear known. A large opening close to the base of the east wall (which faces the adjacent road) suggests this was the original entrance, although that is around the corner on the north side. High above the arched doorcase are corbels that would once have supported the now-lost machiolation; also largely gone are the window stones, presumably removed at some date. Internally, the tower house follows the usual pattern with a large, vaulted chamber of the ground floor. A flight of stairs to the immediate right of the entrance leads to the floors above, one of which retains a fireplace but otherwise little of the interior decoration survives.
Immediately north of Lisronagh Castle is an abandoned church. Dedicated to St John the Baptist, it dates from 1831 when constructed with the aid of funds from the Board of First Fruits, and on the site of a Medieval building (presumably serving the 400-plus populace recorded as having been here in the 1330s). The church very much conforms to the Board of First Fruits typology, having a three-bay nave with access at the west end beneath a two-stage bell tower. The entrance features a handsome stone carved Tudor arch but otherwise there is little decoration and certainly nothing inside, which has been given over to vegetation (as has the eastern end of the church). Services ceased here a century ago, in 1923, and the building subsequently became roofless and open to the elements. So there they now stand, side by side, two historic properties, both abandoned, both replete with memories of the past.
The remains of the 15th century church at Cloughprior, County Tipperary. Its name derives from the fact that in the 12th century the land on which the building stands came into the possession of the Augustinian Priory of St John the Baptist some ten miles south at Tyone, on the outskirts of Nenagh. It subsequently became a parish church but then fell into ruin, although the surrounding graveyard has consistently remained a place of burial. Of note here is a separate, walled section set aside for members of the Waller family who for some 20o years lived close by at Prior Park, a house dating from the 1770s. One of those more recently interred was 26-year old Edward de Warenne Waller, killed in a terrorist bomb attack in Bali in 2002.
There seems to be some dispute over who founded a monastery at Drumlane, County Cavan, the two potential candidates being St Columba and Saint Máedóc of Ferns. If the former, then a religious house would have been established here in the mid-sixth century, if the latter then the date would be somewhat later. In any case, not a lot now remains to show how important this monastery had once been; at its height, Drumlane was the richest ecclesiastical establishment in this part of the country. The church is thought to be mid-12th century and in the aftermath of the Reformation continued to be used for services by the Church of Ireland until 1821 when a new church was built and this one unroofed. The adjacent truncated round tower, probably 11th century, is missing its upper section and now rises 38 feet.
The so-called abbey in Mungret, County Limerick. There had been a monastery here, supposedly founded in the mid-sixth century by Saint Nessan, but due to frequent assault and despoliation over subsequent centuries, no trace of the original buildings survives. Instead, what can be found here dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries. In 1179 Donal Mór O Brien, King of Leinster granted the monastery and its lands to the Bishop of Limerick, and this subsequently became a parish church for Augustinian Canons Regular. The building is divided into three sections, the oldest part at the east end being the chancel, followed by the nave and then, at the west end, a square tower added in the 15th century and incorporating living quarters for a priest. Following the 16th century Reformation, the building continued to be used by the Church of Ireland until replaced by a new church designed by the Pain brothers in 1822 and located a short distance to the west of the older structure. The Pains’ work – which took the form of a Greek cross – did not survive long, since falling numbers of parishioners meant the new church at Mungret closed just 55 years later in 1877, before being unroofed in 1900, with much of the stone then reused to build a parochial house in nearby Raheen.
In the grounds of St Paul’s church, Newtownforbes, County Longford, this is believed to be the grave of Charlotte Brooke, a woman today too-little remembered or celebrated. Born around 1740, she was one of 22 children (only two of whom survived to adulthood) of Irish novelist and dramatist Henry Brooke whose Gustavus Vasa was famously the first play banned under the 1737 Licensing Act: it appears the Prime Minister Robert Walpole the villain of the piece resembled him. From an early age, Charlotte Brooke enjoyed a passionate interest in the Irish language and literature, translating many ancient texts into English so that they could reach an audience beyond these shores: her most celebrated work, Reliques of Irish Poetry, was published in 1788. By that date, she had become impoverished, her own money having been invested in a failed industrial scheme run by a cousin. As a result, she ended her days dependent on friends, dying in County Longford in 1793. Her body is thought to have been buried here, although her name is not on the stone, which instead carried the names of other members of the Brooke family.
On high ground offering superlative views over the surrounding countryside, this is St Osnadh’s church, Kellistown, County Carlow. It dates from 1810 when built with assistance from the Board of First Fruits, replacing a mediaeval church, the remains of which stand behind the present structure. St Osnadh’s is small and plain, with no windows on the north or west sides and it seems never to have been supported by many parishioners; as early as 1891 an observer noted that it was ‘no longer alas used for Divine Service, and apparently since the demise of its Rector, Rev. Garret, has been more or less closed.’ (This is presumably a reference to the Rev James Perkins Garrett, who died in 1879). Meanwhile, by the same date ‘the burial-ground is being quietly grazed by two goats; a donkey, and occasionally a pig, is allowed to stretch its limbs in a wild chase.’ The grounds today are no longer home to sundry livestock, but the church is a roofless shell.
South-east and to the rear of Kilkea Castle, County Kildare are the remains of a 13th century church, once associated – as was the main building – with the FitzGeralds, Earls of Kildare (and later Dukes of Leinster). Only the east gable and the remains of a chapel to the north survive, along with fragments of monuments to this once-mighty family. Inserted into a wall, for example, is a carving of a chained and collared animal, which might be a dog or perhaps a monkey which featured on the FitzGerald arms. Aforementioned arms can also be found on another stone. Kilkea Castle is today an hotel.