Some of the most influential people in Ireland’s long and varied history from Saint Patrick to William Butler Yeats have as their final resting place what is known as ‘Gallery Graves’. Please read on for more:
The Patron Saint of Ireland was buried on Cathedral Hill in 461 AD, in Downpatrick, County Down, close to where his first church at Saul was founded.
His grave is a place of pilgrimage on St. Patrick’s Day (17 March).
This old cemetery at Ballycarry includes the ruins of Ireland’s first Presbyterian Church within its boundaries, as well as the grave of the first Presbyterian minister in Ireland, Rev. Edward Brice, who died in 1636. Some 50 graves of general historical note are marked as part of the Templecorran Cemetery Project and guided tours for groups can be arranged by the Ballycarry Community Association.
Six miles from Sligo lies the peaceful setting of Drumcliffe. It was here WB Yeats asked to be buried “Under Bare Ben Bulben’s Head”. In the nearby churchyard, a simple headstone marks the spot. A monastic establishment was founded at Drumcliffe in AD 745 by Saint Columba. There remains the lower portion of a round tower and an intricately sculptured Celtic Cross. Some of the panels are particularly interesting.
Legend has it that the first people to the buried here were Danes, who brought soil from Scandinavia so that they could rest in their own soil. Whether true or not, locals say that the soil at Ballypriormore is sandier than elsewhere in Islandmagee. Many old gravestones are to be found in the cemetery, which is accessed along a small lane just past Ballypriormore School.
Saint Colmcilles Church and Graveyard, Dublin
This classical-style church was built in 1827. Its site was donated by James J. Taylor of Swords House. The church has been altered over the years.
A two-storey vestry was added to the rear in 1879 and in 1924 the facade was altered by Francis P. Russell.
Among those interred in the graveyard are some prominent legends in Irish history, most notably A.J. Kettle (1833-1916), the famous Irish patriot who was known as Parnell’s “right hand man”.
St. John’s Graveyard, Wexford
Last resting place of John Redmond, who became leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party at Westminister in 1900. He brought the Party together after it was fragmented by the scandal of Charles Stewart Parnell and his affair with Kitty O’ Shea. Parnell was a charismatic leader who fought the cause of the Irish tenant farmer and Home Rule for Ireland through the Parliament at Westminister. He died in 1891, leaving a nation bitterly divided after his controversial downfall. Redmond actively recruited Irishmen for the British army during the Great War, believing that this show of loyalty would win support from the English Parliament for the Home Rule cause when the war was ended. This policy had its detractors and less parliamentary forces pushed events in a different direction. When the Rising of 1916 occurred and the leaders were executed, Redmond’s rationale became academic. He died in 1918 and is buried in the family tomb.
Saint Patrick’s Carncastle, Antrim
An old spanish Chestnut tree which can be found there is said to have grown from a seed in the pocket of a sailor drowned off the coast during the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588; legend has it that his body was washed ashore and buried at Cairncastle. Other interesting graves in the cemetery include that of local clergyman and historian Rev. Classon Porter, who once lived at nearby Ballygally Castle and whose tombstone is in the shape of a Celtic Cross. Inside the church is a baptismal font once used by Dean Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.
Carrowkeel Passage Cairns
Carrowkeel, in the Bricklieve hills, is an ancient cemetery of circular mounds dating from the late Stone Age (2500-200BC). There are some splendid views from the exposed hilltop site.