Monday, 8 April 2013


Heading back up the bustling Church Street from the church of Mary in Mulhuddart, there is an interesting holy well. Firstly it is situated right on the side of the busy road and has a stone roof built over it which dates back to the eighteenth century. There is both a front and rear entrance. Like most holy wells, this was once probably a sacred spring for our ancient ancestors. With the coming of the new religion to our shores many of the sacred sites were Christianised, usually by associating them with a saint and changing festival/feast days to Christian ones, Christmas is probably the best known example of this. 

The well at Mulhuddart became popular during Norman times and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. During the eighteenth Century huge crowds are said to have gathered here on the 8th of September (Lady’s Day), the feast of the birth of the Virgin Mary, seeking a cure for whatever ailment they suffered from. It would seem that King Henry VI set up an order initially called the Order of the Guild of the Blessed Virgin Mary and provided them with a sum of money for the upkeep of Marian shrines in the area, but in particular for the upkeep of Our Lady’s Well. It was this order that erected a small ‘u’-shaped wall as an enclosure around the well and planted a number of trees to create the impression of a grove. After Henrys death the order seemed to disappear. 

After this the well and presumably the church came under the care of the nuns of Grace Dieu. The Grace Dieu nuns were an order of Augustinian canonesses dedicated to God, the Holy Trinity and Saint Mary founded by Rohese de Verdon in 1241. Whilst this order did not last long in England, they managed to survive a little longer in Ireland. They capped stone roof with a chimney like stone front & rear is inscribed with various prayers to the Virgin and a small niche and an incised cross above. 

The well is kept in quite good condition, considering its close proximity to the adjacent busy road; unfortunately upon examining the interior of the well it would seem that the water source has become stagnant. Considering the many housing estates and industrial complexes in the surrounding area it is quite possible that over recent years the source has been damaged.

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Friday, 5 April 2013

Church of Mary

Above the village of Mulhuddart in the old townland of Buzzardstown, stands the ruins of the Church of Mary. The church which stands on a curved mound affords some nice views of the surrounding area. The curve in the surrounding cemetery wall indicates that a circular enclosure once surrounded the site and suggests that a church be built here in the early Christian period before the coming of the Normans.

The ruin itself is fragmented, and  consists mainly  of a nave and chancel probably dating to the fourteenth century and a tower possibly a bell-tower built onto the western end of the church at some stage in the fifteenth century. The building of the tower would have necessitated the  closing of the western door of the church with the opening of a new door in the north wall of the nave.

The tower, which is vaulted on the first floor, would have been easy to defended in times of danger would have been a place of refuge for the local people. There is a splayed window in the west wall. The walls of the east end of the church survive at foundation level. There are a considerable number of burials within the church and a mural tablet on the exterior of the west wall of the tower.

The church was first referred to in the early 15th century was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1532 Henry VIII granted license to found a fraternity or guild at the site .The church was in poor condition by the mid-17th century and the Civil Survey (1654) records only ‘the walls of a church’ here. Back up Church road between these ruins and Mullhudddart lies an interesting Holy Well on the side of the road.

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Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Saggart Graveyard

Recently passing through the small village of Saggart I decided to stop at the graveyard as it is supposed to contain a number of interesting monuments and has a nice history to it. Found down the laneway adjacent the current Catholic Church and is believed to be the site of a previous church now long lost in time. It is also quite likely this was the site of the monastery of St Mosacra. A monk called Mosacra founded a settlement on the site of the village in the 7th century. The name Saggart derives from Teach Sacra which means 'house of Sacra' in Irish By 1207, Saggart, or Tasagart, as it was then called by the Normans, had been associated with the Cathedral of St. Patrick. In 1615, the church was reported as being in good repair but fifteen years later the church is stated to have fallen down, and the Protestant parishioners attended Rathcoole church. The current church was built in 1847. A monastery is believed to have existed in the village in the 7th century.

My main reason for stopping of here was to check out a couple of surviving monuments which were said to lie within its grounds, these being two high crosses a cross slab and a cross base. However I was initially disappointed when I could find none of these. In the burial ground I did find a large granite stone which I believe to be the Pilgrims Stone, said to date from the 10th century. I also found part of what appears to be the foundations of a previous church surrounded by various graves. Also of note is the memorial to Dublin merchant Edward Byrne, who was a member of the Catholic Committee, which included Wolfe Tone, both of which petitioned King George II in 1793 on behalf of the Irish people. Within this memorial I eventually found the cross slab along with what may have been part of a high cross. And to the rear of this there is another stone propping up a headstone which also may have been part of one of the high crosses mentioned. Whilst not one of the best places I have visited it is still worth a look around.

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Friday, 29 March 2013

Killelan Abbey

This was one of those sites that you just happen to come across by pure chance. On a recent trip down near Moone I was in the process of getting lost yet again,down some narrow country road thanks to my trusty Sat Nav. Then out of the corner of my eye I spotted something of interest. So I turned around and was able to park the car on the verge just outside the boundary wall gate.

The ruins known as Killelan Abbey consist of a church and graveyard. With little information available for this site, I really had to do some digging on this one. It would seem that the site at Killelan is the remains of a 13th century settlement connected to the Knights of St John of Jerusalem, whom were better known as the Crusader Knights Hospitaller. Unfortunately this is pretty much all that is known. Access to the ruin is via a gap in the wall and there are no paths within the enclosure save for a beaten track. The ground within the enclosure is significantly higher than outside with the surface quite uneven and overgrown in parts, so care is needed if exploring.

Similar to the site at Oughterard the main square part of the church has a barrel vaulted ceiling with what seems to have been some sort of Round/circular Tower attached to the North-West, this was believed to have been added at a later date, perhaps 14th century. Also visible are small sections of what was once the foundations to part of the nave.

After studying the circular part of the tower for a while to figure a way in, I found a small crawl-space which lead to a spiral stair case. As luck would have it I was not properly attired for the occasion and had to miss out on ascending the tower.

 Most of the grave stones that are still readable date from 18th – 19th century, with many more that appear to be much older. With so little available information available we can on speculate as to the surrounding history of such a location but I guess it would be a safe bet to assume that Killelan would have come to an abrupt end either during the Suppression of the monastery’s by Henry VIII in 1534 or if it indeed survived the ‘Act of Suppression’, Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland (1649–1653) would have surely finished the job.

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Boherboy Stone Pair

The main purpose of my recent trip to Saggart was to visit this wonderful pair of megalithic standing stones. I had previously visited these many years ago with a friend and seem to recall that they were under threat at the time due to plans for a new road being built. So it was great to see the old couple still standing. Located in the town land of Boherboy just outside Saggart the stones seem to have been christened over the years and are known locally as the Adam & Eve stones. Obviously in reference to the fact that the stones are a male & female pair. Guess which is which???

 The female stone which is  the larger of the two is  about 1.3 meters high with the pointed male stone slightly smaller at approx  1.2 meters high. There is a really nice energy to be found here and the local farmer keeps the area well maintained.

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Friday, 22 March 2013


Now for something a little different. Whilst this is not quite a ruin, it is a monument with some great history attached. On the new road which runs between the small villages of Kill and Johnstown there stands a memorial to one of Ireland’s almost forgotten heroes. The memorial, which was erected in the 1960s, commemorates John Devoy (1842 - 1928) and, until its recent re-location to accommodate road widening, marked the site of the cottage where Devoy was born.

 After joining the Fenian Brotherhood as a young man, Devoy was jailed in England for five years and released on condition that he would not return to the United Kingdom. He went to America where he worked as a journalist and rose to head the Clan na Gael organisation which provided funding and material support for the cause of Irish independence. He was largely responsible for the daring rescue of Fenian prisoners in Australia in 1876 using a whaling ship ‘The Catalpa’ and for financing initiatives such as ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, St Enda’s school and, later, the Irish Volunteer organisation. 

Described by Pádraig Pearse, the leader of the 1916 Rebellion, as “The greatest of the Fenians” He later supported the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and the formative Irish Free State during the Irish Civil War, and was an honoured guest of the new state in 1924. Devoy was editor of the Gaelic American from 1903 until his death in New York City on September 29, 1928. His body was returned to Ireland and buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

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Thursday, 21 March 2013

Johnstown Medieval Church

I found this old graveyard by pure chance having passed by it many times over the years. Situated at the north end of the small Kildare village of Johnstown. It contains the ruins of a medieval nave and chancel which was built by the Knights Hospitallers of St John of Jerusalem. Presumably where the village took its name from as the Hospitallers were a medieval order of knights who held lands in the surrounding area until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s.

There were many members of  local landlords and aristocracy which were buried in the graveyard, most notably those of the Bourkes, who were Lords of Naas and Earls of Mayo. Perhaps the most famous of these was Richard Southwell Bourke, 6th Earl of Mayo (1822-1872) who was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland three times in the 19th century. HE was also appointed as Viceroy of India in 1868, were he came to an untimely end after being stabbed to death. He then became known as 'The Pickled Earl', locally after his body was reputedly shipped back to Ireland in a barrel of rum (for preservative purposes). He is believed to be buried under the wonderfully ornate Celtic cross in the centre of the graveyard.

A large plot can be seen tucked away in a corner near the entrance to the graveyard which is the family plot of the Bourke clan. Today it is marked by a simple plain stone cross. Inset into the wall is a 15th century grave slab with coats of arms of the Flatsbury and Wogan families.This has been taken to be the grave slab of James Flatsbury who married Eleanor Wogan in 1436. In 1503 Phillip Flatsbury compiled the ‘Red Book of the Earls of Kildare’ for Garret ‘Og’ Fitzgerald, the 9th Earl of Kildare.The book, which contains lists of documents relating to the Fitzgerald estates (including grants and title deeds) went missing after the Rebellion of ‘Silken Thomas’ the 10th Earl, but is today in the possession of Trinity College Dublin.

Bourke family plot.
Flatsbury and Wogan grave slab

Also worthy of a mention are the octagonal base of a medieval baptismal font which lies in the confines of the chancel and is in reasonable condition for its age, and a fine example of a lancet window which remains suprisingly intact in comparison to the remainder of the structure.

Medieval Baptisim Font
Lancet Window

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