History Articles

Interments in the Blessington area

Entrance to "new" Burgage. On the left is the re-interment area and on the right are graves from 1940.

When it was proposed to flood the Liffey Valley as far as Poulaphouca and create a great reservoir, one issue that arose was the old graveyard at Burgage.The remains of those interred there, as well as monuments,headstones and other markings, would have to be moved to higher ground. In the middle 1930s the work began. An impressive granite wall, piers and gates would enclose the new cemetary, again at Burgage. The County Engineer, Patrick J. Foley,drew up the plans. He divided the old graveyard into grids numbering 1 to 1,123.The remains in each grid would be carefully coffined and moved to a corresponding grid in the new cemetary. Likewise with St. Mark`s Cross, headstones andOld Cross from "Old" Burgage. other indicators of graves. A register of the re-interments was compiled and is now in the care of Tony Clarke in Blessington. Tony can be contacted at 045/865149 to answer queries as best he can. Given in the register is the person`s age, address, occupation, religion and date of burial. There was no information available for some of the graves, but this is a great source for those trying to trace forbears in the Blessington/ Ballymore Eustace area. Leafing through the register with Tony, I looked, out of habit, at the surnames beginning with C. Imagine my surprise when I spotted my own surname and Christian name on it. As the name is so uncommon, I feel it is most likely that a family connection exists. Further research will, I hope, yield up more information.

Church of Ireland clergymen, unlike their Catholic brethren, were obliged to keep records of burials. So, tracing people interred at their Blessington graveyard, since the 1680`s is relatively easy. Many of the old families of Blessington can trace their roots there. The well known famine diarist, Elizabeth Smith, lies there, with husband Henry, and son Jack, who died so young. In the book entitled "The Highland Lady in Ireland", edited by Pelly & Tod, she describes a great Ball held in Blessington in 1849, to celebrate the 37th birthday of the 4th Manquis. On the menu, which was prepared in the present Ulster Bank was the following : 4 bullocks, 20 sheep, lambs, hams, and 5 cwt. Of plum pudding. In use for the festvities were also the present Credit Union House , and the now Downshire Hotel. The vast throngs spilled onto the Square and surrounding areas. In the year 1850 took place the wedding of her daughter. Annie, to James King, then of Humphreystown House, at St. Mary`s. Bells ringing,the Quality in their finery, and horses & carriages everywhere , it was a spectacle to remember. And now, after all the strutting and fretting, only peace.Scurlock`s Graveyard.

Scurlock`s Graveyard is situated at the bottom of the Red Lane in thedirection of the lake. The name Scurlock appears in Ireland towards the end of the 12th century, and is also, of course, associated with the townland of Scurlock`s Leap in Kilbride. It is likely that this is the site of the old church known as Capella de Villa Cumyn. Scurlock`s Holy Well, also on site, was much frequented on St. John`s Eve, mainly by women having ricketty or delicate children, rags being put on the bush over the well by these women. The graveyard now presents itself in a forlorn and desolate way. Headstones are mostly moss covered and at a slant. Images of Pip meeting the convict in Great Expectations comes to mind. I was able to decipher some of the inscriptions. The Byrne family of Newtown Great were interred here between the years 1869 and 1914. Also the name White appears. Another was Richard Olborn who died in 1813 aged 50. The oldest date I could make out was 1771, but I`m sure there are many older than that. With a view to finding out more about this ancient place, I contacted Ms. Joan Kavanagh of Co. Wicklow`s Genealogical Resource Centre. She referred me to Cantwell`s Memorials of the Dead, in the National Library. Research for another day, hopefully! The grave of Francis Maguire, 1928.

At Crosschapel a number of priests are buried. Rev. Roger Miley was interred there in 1801. A man of astuteness in difficult times, he tried to calm his parishioners in 1798 when the Downshire mansion was burned , along with many other premises in Blessington. A letter he sent at this time to Archbishop Troy in Dublin is still extant. One feels he paved the way for the purchase of the land at Crosschapel, and the building of the Parochial House there, for which the Marquis offered 50 guineas in 1811. An enterprising man, Rev. Miley dabbled a bit in property, and up until his death owned a farm of 80 acres at Tinode. Tradition has it that he died as a result of a horse ridingaccident. A plaque inside the chapel reminds us of his ministry in Blessington. Opposite his plaque is another , dedicated to Rev. Peter Duffy, C.C., who died in 1862. Outside are the graves of Jacobi Carroll, 1916, Francis Maguire, 1928, Rev. Patrick Hanley, and James Hamilton, 1885.

A view of Scurlock`s  Graveyard.

Next month I hope to do the placenames of Blessington and surrounding areas.

Jim Corley. (photos by Jim Corley)