A BAG of flour maybe be useful for many things but can it help preserve history? Well that’s exactly what the Clare Archaeological and Historical Society used, along with the stalwart work of its members, to help with the painstaking transcription of burial monuments at Kilraghtis graveyard, which is in the Doora-Barefield parish.
Mary Kearns of the society explained the efforts made by the volunteers to gather this fascinating information. “A bag of flour is what we used brush into the stones to get the inscriptions. The flour, good eyesight, endless patience, good weather and going back again and again. It can be exhausting going back and forth but the information is so interesting.”
This Sunday, as part of Heritage Week, the society will be launching a new booklet on Kilraghtis Church and graveyard in the very spot where the transcriptions were made.
The information uncovered in the research will be invaluable to those researching their family’s history. Mary said, “There is a lot of interest locally in relation to the graveyard. But also for families returning to the area, it will make it much easier for them to locate their ancestors’ graves. Some of the stones were very eroded and it took a lot of work to transcribe them but now we have them all mapped out and numbered so they will be much easier to locate. And of course, there is a great interest in genealogy now.”
Edel Greene of the Clare Archaeological and Historical Society commented, “Genealogical records in this country are very sketchy. RC parish records exist for many parishes but rarely go back beyond 1800 and the burning of the Public Records Office adjoining the Four Courts in the Irish Civil War destroyed so many civil records. Graveyards, therefore, represent an important alternative source of genealogical information, which needs to be transcribed for posterity before the elements takes that source away too.”
This latest project follows the success of the transcription of gravestones in Templemaley two years ago in a joint project with the Clare Roots Society. Mary said, “I still have people coming to me looking for the Templemaley one and it was well over a year ago that we launched that. We had to go for a second print with that.”
Edel added, “Mary and I undertook a transcription project at Templemaley two years ago. We both have roots in the parish and transcribing the stones lead to curiosity about those buried there so we decided to undertake research using local history publications and old newspapers to discover more about them. We published the results of the transcriptions and research and there was such interest that we decided to replicate it in the next parish, Kilraghtis. The Clare Roots Society’s Trojan work has inspired our efforts with this booklet that has been researched and funded by the Clare Archaeological and Historical Society.
“We encountered a few stones where the weather had eroded the inscription so much it was no longer legible and that is what will eventually happen with all old tombstones in the future.”
Kilraghtis as a parish dates back to at least the 13th century when it was recorded in a papal taxation document as Kilrathusa, its value in monetary terms being three marks. It adjoins the parishes of Templemaley and Doora and all have been subsumed into the modern parish of Doora-Barefield.
Edel explained, “The church is in good condition and appears to date from the 15th century but there was probably an earlier church on the site. We discovered inscriptions dating back to the early 1700s in and to the south of the church mainly but with others scattered about the wider expanse of the graveyard. As with much of our historical sources, the less well-off are not typically represented and most of those who could afford to pay for a stone mason would have been the wealthier in society such as large farmers, merchants and the landed classes.
“However, the surnames reveal the continuity of settlement in Kilraghtis for many families. Early tombstones for family names recorded include Brodie, McNamara, Hogan, Halloran, Baker, Rouen, Roughan, Rohan, Reddan, Tamplin, Marlborough, Coffee, Roche, Markham, Griffy, Flanagan, O’Dea, Davoren, Carmody, O’Connor, Perry, Arthur, Brin, Culligan, Daffy, Henry, Meere, Tierney, Considine, Malone, Callinan, Kearney, Butler, White, McMahon and Lacy.”
The earliest inscription discovered records the death in 1701 of Daniel Baker and reads: Here lies the body of Daniel Baker who departed this life Feb 1701 aged ? years. Erected for him and family. May the Lord have mercy on his soul. Amen.
As well as using the transcriptions, there was other research carried out by the group. Mary said, “We looked at the column on the bygone days in The Clare Champion and that gave us some great leads. That led us to the journals going back to the 1800s and the Local Studies Centre and the Clare library were a great help to us.”
Edel added, “We didn’t set out to do a parish history, we are very much coming at this from the angle of it being the graveyard transcriptions. But we do give a very general background of the parish in the booklet.”
There are also plans to revisit Templemaley in the future. “With Templemaley, we transcribed the earlier burials but we want to continue them on as far as possible. With Kilraghtis, we did the whole graveyard, right up to the modern times but Templemaley is a bit more difficult because it is still an active burial ground,” Mary added.
While the Kilraghtis project has uncovered many interesting facts, there are still some secrets to be told.
“In older graveyards in general in the past, older tomb stones would have been taken up. Maybe they were reused, maybe buried or maybe to make room for somebody else. But you can’t go taking over a churchyard to find out these things. There is probably a wealth of information under the soil that we might never get. The only thing is that because they are buried they are so well preserved and maybe in the future somebody will access them.”
On Sunday, Clare Archaeological and Historical Society are holding an outing to Kilraghtis Church and Graveyard at 7pm, where the booklet will be launched. The booklet will be available locally and the information will be available online from the Clare County Library Local Studies Centre.