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Clooney Graveyard is the subject of a new book by Jane Halloran Ryan. Photograph by Eamon Ward

New book records Clooney Graveyard Inscriptions

THE fascinating history of an East Clare cemetery has been brought to light in a new publication by Jane Halloran Ryan, in association with Clare Roots Society. 

A genealogist and history enthusiast, Jane is current researching for a PhD and is one of the team behind the hugely popular annual journal from heritage group Tulla Reaching Out. In recent years, Jane has been following another historical passion and has recently published Clooney Graveyard Inscriptions, containing a wealth of lore dating back to the early 1700s. 

This cemetery dates from the early eighteenth century and contains about 150 headstones, with both Catholic and Protestant families from the parishes around Clooney, Tulla and Quin, buried there at one time. The church is believed to date back to the thirtieth century, but it is not known what saint it was dedicated to. 

“One of the main reasons that pushed me to record Clooney was the fact that my great-great grandparents are both buried there and a headstone was put up by a great-grand uncle almost 100 years ago,” Jane explained. “The mystery continues as to why the McNamaras who lived in Tyredagh, Tulla were buried in Clooney continues to interest me, and the fact that there were several other families from Tulla who are buried here was of interest. My work began in 2018 when I started recording inscriptions and taking photographs of stones and plaques. There was so much positive feedback from everyone I spoke to about the graveyard and that really motivated me. I then approached Clare Roots Society with the idea of publishing a book.”

The support of the community and the local graveyard committee have been hugely important to Jane’s work. “Tom McNamara and the committee were delighted that this work was being done and very helpful. They even helped me by turning over stones that had fallen down, so that I would record the inscriptions. I really enjoyed meeting so many lovely people who were so good in sharing stories. The positivity around the project spurred me on.”

The lockdowns prompted by the pandemic left Jane cut off from her field of study, but she was able to progress other elements of the work. “Because Clooney Graveyard was outside of my 5km, I couldn’t get out there during the height of the lockdown,” she said. “There were other things I was able to do to progress the study, though.”

Among the tools for her desk-based research, was the work of antiquarian TJ Westropp, who published details of a number of Clare churches and their cemeteries in the early 20th century. “That work is available through Clare Library and the research done on graveyards in Clare was useful,” Jane said. “My only complaint was that Westropp tended to pick and choose what he wrote about.”

Jane’s work divides Clooney Graveyard into four sections, with one of those examining the area around the church and another looking at the graves inside it. “In each section, I’ve listed the number of headstones and unmarked graves and detailed the inscriptions by the surname,” she outlined. “I didn’t put too much focus on any particular grave because I wanted to be sensitive and to avoid leaving anyone out. There are one or two points of particular interest and I’ve put a focus on some of those.”

Over the course of her research, Jane painstakingly began to uncover the history of graveyard and those buried there over several centuries. “Among the very first to be buried there was Jane Miller who was one of the Browne family of Newgrove. Her burial stone is no longer in place, but I received a photo of that old plaque which was inside the church. There were two other plaques which are no longer there. The church itself is several centuries old and there are likely to be very old burial places connected to it.”

The surnames associated with the graveyard include McNamara, Culligan and Singleton. “John Singleton Copley was a famous painter in the 1700s,” Jane noted. “His family emigrated from East Clare to Boston in the early decades of the century. I’ve included some details because the Singletons are no longer in the area and because of their famous ancestor.

“I also expanded on the obelisk monument dedicated to Dennis O’Duffy who fought at the Battle of Vinegar Hill in 1798. That monument is very prominent. There’s also a large monument dedicated to three local men who were IRA volunteers, so there is some detail on that.”

Drone photography for the book, which illustrates the layout of the graveyard, was short by Jim Brennan.

“The book is really selling well and I’m being told that people are picking up two copies in some cases, so I know they’re going far and wide,” Jane said. “I’m so grateful to everyone who helped me and shared photos and stories. The local community have been amazing and it’s made this project so interesting and enjoyable.”

Clooney Graveyard Inscriptions is available from Quin Post Office, Clooney Stores, Ennis Bookshop and Mary Kelly’s in Ennis. 

About Fiona McGarry

Fiona McGarry joined The Clare Champion as a reporter after a four-year stint as producer of Morning Focus on Clare FM. Prior to that she worked for various radio, print and online titles, including Newstalk, Maximum Media and The Tuam Herald. Fiona’s media career began in her native Mayo when she joined Midwest Radio. She is the maker of a number of radio documentaries, funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). She has also availed of the Simon Cumbers Media Fund to report on development issues supported by Irish Aid in Haiti. She won a Justice Media Award for a short radio series on the work of Bedford Row Project, which supports prisoners and families in the Mid-West. Fiona also teaches on the Journalism programmes at NUI Galway. If you have a story and would like to get in touch with Fiona you can email her at fmcgarry@clarechampion.ie or telephone 065 6864146.

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