For lovers of old funerary monuments: this one now set into the wall of St Mary’s Church in Magheraculmoney, County Fermanagh. The inscription reads as follows:’
Here lieth intered James Johnston late of Banagh Esq.
Who died April 15, 1757 aged 66 Years’
Originally from Scotland, the Johnston family had settled in this part of the country at the start of the 17th century and came to own over 7,000 acres in Fermanagh.
At the rear of a graveyard in Clonlara, County Clare stands this impressive tomb erected following the death in June 1817 of the Rev. Charles Massy. The second son of Sir Hugh Dillon Massy, he had, like so many other young men in his position, become a Church of Ireland clergyman and as such was permitted to marry. His choice of bride was the 18-year old Mary Ann Ross-Lewin, beautiful and poor and as a result of the latter circumstance, Sir Hugh attempted to persuade his son against the marriage. To no avail: the couple married in 1796 and the following year had a son, named Hugh Dillon after his grandfather. All seemed well until 1803 when the Rev Massy and his wife made the acquaintance of Thomas Taylour, first Marquess of Headfort. At the end of that year, on the Sunday morning after Christmas and while her husband was officiating in church, Mary Anne Massy eloped with the marquess who was not only twice her age but married with four children. A scandal ensued, and the cuckolded clergyman brought a case for Criminal Conversation against Taylour, being awarded £10,000 at the end of a court case in July 1804. The Rev Massy was represented by barrister and orator John Philpot Curran, who was in a positin to sympathise with his client’s circumstances: a decade earlier, he had discovered his own wife Sarah had being having an affair with, and become pregnant by, another man – curiously enough, a Church of Ireland cleric the Rev Abraham Sandys. Curran successfully sued for Criminal Conversation, but, since his own philandering was publicly exposed during the case, he was only awarded a token £50. He and his wife separated but never divorced, whereas the Rev Massy did divorce his errant wife in 1808 and subsequently remarried. As for Mrs Massy, she was left in the disadvantaged position of being a divorced woman as the Marquess of Headfort remained married to his wife. None of this history, of course, is related on the the Rev Massy’s tomb but it seems a shame a monument that provides a link to these scandals of the late Georgian period should be allowed to fall into such poor condition.
After last Wednesday’s entry about the mausoleum at Fore, County Westmeath (To the Fore « The Irish Aesthete), here is the burial site of another branch of the same family. Located in Killare, this one holds the remains of the Nugents of Ballinacor, a property they acquired in the first half of the 17th century. Although confiscated by the Cromwellian government, Ballinacor was subsequently returned to Edmond Nugent after he had been declared ‘An innocent Papist.’ Indeed, successive generations remained loyal to their Roman Catholic faith, one of them, John Nugent, fighting for the French army and being awarded the Cross of St Louis for his bravery at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, when the British and Dutch forces under the Duke of Cumberland were defeated. Nugents remained at Ballinacor, an 18th century house, until the aftermath of the Great Famine when it was sold in the Encumbered Estates Court in 1852. Ballinacor was demolished as recently as 1995, meaning this mausoleum provides the only surviving evidence of the Nugent family’s long presence in the area.
More High Crosses, these ones found in the graveyard of St John’s church in Ballymore Eustace, County Kildare. The first stands to the immediate north of the early 19th century church. Standing 3.4 metres high, it is composed of three elements: head, shaft and pyramidal base. Rather than the usual elaborate carving customary on these crosses, it is relatively plain, perhaps because carved from unyielding granite. The only decoration of note can be seen on the west face which features a central boss with rounded moulding within a solid ring. Possibly dating from the 10th century, the cross’s two arms carry an inscription noting that it was re-erected on the present site by Ambrose Wall in 1689; he would be killed the following year during the Siege of Limerick. What remains of a second cross can be found south of the church; all that survives here is the tapered shaft and, deep in the vegetation, another pyramidal base.
In the graveyard of a church in Boho, County Fermanagh can be found what remains of a High Cross; just the base and shaft. The latter features Adam and Eve on one side, with a serpent curling up between them, and on the other the Virgin between two saints and, above them, the Baptism of Christ. The rest of the much-weathered sandstone is decorated with interlacing spiral patterns. This site also contains the grave of the Rev James McGirr, a local Catholic priest who during his lifetime gained a reputation as a faith healer. Before he died in 1815, McGirr seemingly declared ‘the clay that covers me will cure anything that I was able to cure when I was with you while I was alive.’ Ever since, anyone in the area who has a common ailment will take a spoonful of the grave’s soil, place it inside a pouch and then sleep with this under the pillow. Afterwards, soil must be returned to the graveyard as otherwise it is thought to bring bad luck. A notice inside the adjacent church from the present parish priest points out that a lot of soil from the McGirr grave has been removed of late and requests only a teaspoon-full be taken, and, most importantly, ‘This soil must be returned to the plot on the fourth day.’ Elsewhere in the graveyard, there are some especially handsome old gravestones to be seen (and some shockingly bad modern ones too).
After the last post about the former Bishop’s Palace in Clogher, County Tyrone, here is a view of St Macartan’s, the cathedral which justified having an episcopal residence in this small Ulster village. There appear to be no traces of the early Christian cathedral founded here, according to tradition, in 490 on the instructions of St Patrick, nor of its medieval successor which by 1622 was described as ‘altogether ruinous’ and incapable of bearing a roof. Instead, the building dates from 1744 when commissioned by Bishop John Stearne from the little-known architect James Martin (who died the following year). Austerely symmetrical in design, the cruciform building has pedimented gables on the transepts and chancel, also on the west front but this is then topped by a square belfry tower with obelisks finials. Both the entrance door and the windows are round-headed, although a Venetian window can be found at the east end of the building. The surrounding graveyard has some handsome tombstones indicating this has long been used as a burial site.