By Holly Christian – October 24th 2020
Visit a grave.
You are allowed to travel anywhere in Ireland (unimpeded) to visit a grave. The Irish Sentinel has compiled a list of 32 famous graves in 32 counties that are well worth a visit during lockdown. Gardaí cannot stop you travelling anywhere in Ireland if you are on your way to visit any of the following graves. Safe Driving 😉
Bobby Sands (1954-81)
Bobby Sands joined the republican movement at the age of 18, after years of intimidation and threats against him and his family. He was, briefly, MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone, and the author of lyrics for several well-known songs, including Back Home in Derry, which has been recorded by Christy Moore, among others. He was arrested on suspicion of being involved in a bombing in Northern Ireland, and died in the Maze Prison after 66 days on hunger strike. His death, and that of nine others, focused international attention on the situation in Northern Ireland.
Brian Boru (941-1014)
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh
Long regarded as the man who delivered Ireland from the Vikings, this Munster monarch has been re-evaluated by modern historians. But whatever way you look at him, Brian of Béal Bóraimhe emerges from the mists of time as easily the best known of Ireland’s high kings, while the tale of his death, murdered while at prayer in his tent during the Battle of Clontarf, is about as royally poignant as it gets. After the battle his body was spirited to Armagh, where a plaque in the north wall of the cathedral marks his burial place.
T.P McKenna (1929 – 2011)
Mullagh Parish Churchyard, Mullagh, County CavanActor. Born, Thomas Patrick McKenna, he began acting in stage productions while attending St. Patrick’s College and later worked in the financial industry with Ulster Bank. Continuing to pursue his dream of becoming an entertainer and following his move to Dublin, McKenna left the banking field to be a full-time actor. He established himself as a distinguished performer with such reputable theatres as the Abbey and Dublin, also becoming a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal National Theatre Company during a nine year period from 1953 to 1962. Beginning in the late 1950s, a wide range of film and television roles would follow with the pictures “Ulysses” (1967), “Straw Dogs” (1971) and “Percy” (1971). TV audiences identified him with roles on British programs, “The Saint”, “The Avengers”, “Callan” and “Doctor Who”.
Dusty Springfield (1939-99)
Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare
Okay, you might think this is a bit of a cheat. But after all those bodies, bones, murders, corpses and people being dug up at the dead of night and spirited away somewhere else entirely, I’m entitled to pick one to cheer myself up. And what could be more cheering than the memory of Dusty Springfield, aka Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien? Born to a London-dwelling family with Kerry roots, she grew up to be one of the most kick-ass soul singers of all time. Some of her ashes were buried in St Mary’s Church in Henley-on-Thames. The rest were brought back to Ireland and scattered over the Cliffs of Moher; which is a bit Thelma & Louise, and, totally cool.
J G Farrell (1935-79)
St James’s, Durrus, Co Cork
When one of the most brilliant young English novelists of his day was swept to his death while fishing from Sheep’s Head peninsula, in west Cork, the rumour mill went bonkers. Did he fall? Was he pushed? Assassination? Suicide? It seems now to have been “just” a straightforward tragedy. When the first of his Empire trilogy, Troubles, was awarded the Lost Man Booker Prize (for novels published in 1970), in 2010, Farrell’s literary reputation was assured. His grave, in the 18th-century churchyard outside the village of Durrus, is a place of unearthly tranquillity.
Seamus Heaney (1824-1873)
Bellaghy Cemetery, Bellaghy, County Derry
Nobel Prize Laureate Poet. He is widely recognized as one of the major poets of the 20th century. Born the first of nine children, his father was a farmer and raised cattle. In 1957 he studied English Language and Literature at Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland. During his time in Belfast, he found a copy of Ted Hughes’s “Lupercal,” which inspired him to write poetry. In 1961 he graduated with a First Class Honors degree and began writing and publishing his poetry the following year. In 1963 he became a lecturer at St Joseph’s Teacher’s raining College in Belfast and after contributing various articles to local magazines, he came to the attention of Philip Hobsbaum, then an English lecturer at Queen’s University, and who was to establish a Belfast Group of local poets like he had done in London, England. In November 1965 his first book, “Eleven Poems,” was published for the Queen’s University Festival and the following year he published his first major volume, “Death of …
Bridie Gallagher, (1924 – 2012)
Doe Cemetery, Creeslough, County Donegal.Singer. Known as “The Girl from Donegal”, she was Ireland’s first true international singing star. She began her five decade career in the 1950s, with her first recording “A Mother’s Love a Blessing” (1956), followed by “I’ll Remember You Love, In My Prayers” (1956). Signed to Decca Records, some of her best ballads included “The Boys From The County Armagh” (1957), “Moonlight in Mayo” (1959), “I’ll Cry Tomorrow” (1962), “Poor Orphan Girl” (1967) and “Just Like Your Daddy” (1976). She played in many of the world’s best known theatres such as Carnegie Hall New York, Sydney Opera House Australia and the Royal Albert Hall London, where she holds the record for the largest number of people in attendance. In addition to having her own BBC radio and television shows, she also toured America, Australia, Canada and Europe. In July 2000, she gave a performance in Letterkenny Ireland, with an estimated crowd of 2,500 fans and a plaque in tribute to her career was unveiled. She died of pneumonia at age 87.
St Patrick (fifth century)
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Downpatrick, Co Down
A plethora of sites are associated with the life and times of our national patron saint, from the Rock of Cashel to Croagh Patrick, Slemish Mountain to the Hill of Slane, Saul Church to Lough Derg. Tradition has it, though, that his actual body lies in the grounds of Down Cathedral, where it has been marked since 1900 by a gargantuan slab of Mourne granite.
Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin
A simple brass plaque in the floor at the west end of St Patrick’s Cathedral marks the burial place of Jonathan Swift, dean of the cathedral for more than 30 years, author of Gulliver’s Travels and prolific satirist. His epitaph – he wrote that, too – is on the wall opposite the grave: engraved in black Kilkenny marble, it declares him to be “where savage indignation can no longer tear his heart”. Various other artefacts associated with Swift are also on display, including two death masks, some early editions of his writings and a cast of his skull.
Phil Lynott (1949-86)
St Fintan’s, Sutton
A legend of more recent vintage, Philip Parris Lynott provided Irish music with a fistful of iconic tunes: The Boys Are Back in Town, Jailbreak, Killer on the Loose. The Thin Lizzy vocalist was himself an icon, carrying his mixed-race heritage with style and grace at a time when ethnic diversity wasn’t Ireland’s strong point. The granite slab that marks his grave, engraved with Celtic motifs by his artist friend Jim Fitzpatrick, is regularly swathed in photographs, jewellery and other items of affectionate tribute.
Dermot Morgan (1952-98)
Down with that sort of thing. What sort of thing? Death from a heart attack at 45, that’s what. The final episode of Father Ted was barely in the bag when Dermot Morgan was felled out of the blue. Two decades later the much-loved TV comedy has travelled into the pop-culture stratosphere. Morgan’s ashes are interred in an understated plot at Deansgrange Cemetery; for a flavour of the outrageous character he was, and played, sit in the Joker’s Chair in Merrion Square Park, which has to be one of the best memorial statues anywhere, ever.
Charles Irwin (1824 – 1873)
St. Marks Churchyard, Aghadrumsee, County Fermanagh
Indian Mutiny Victoria Cross Medal Recipient. He served as a Private, 53rd Regiment, the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. On November 16, 1857, at the assault on the Secundra Bagh, Lucknow, India, although severely wounded through the right shoulder, Private Irwin was one of the first to enter the building under heavy fire. For most conspicuous bravery, he was awarded the Victoria Cross Medal in December, 1858.
Lord Haw-Haw (1906-46)
William Joyce, aka Lord Haw-Haw, worked for the German ministry of public enlightenment and propaganda during the second World War; he had an estimated six million radio listeners at the height of his nefarious broadcasting career. Joyce was hanged at Wandsworth Prison in 1945, but – at the request of his daughter – was reburied in Bohermore Cemetery, in Galway, August 1976. The family had strong Galway connections and lived there between 1909 and 1921. The cemetery, incidentally, is known locally as the “new” cemetery; it opened in 1880.
Tom Crean (1877-1938)
Ballinacourty, Annascaul, Co Kerry
It’s one of the greatest stories of human exploration – Ernest Shackleton struggling across the uncharted peaks of South Georgia to bring help to the crew of the Endurance – and Tom Crean was at its heart. That was just one of the three famously arduous Antarctic expeditions that the quiet Kerryman, who enlisted in the British navy at the age of 15, was to survive. It took the complications that followed a burst appendix to kill him at the age of 61. He is buried in his family tomb in the suitably understated cemetery near Annascaul.
Irish National Stud, Tully, Co Kildare
Arkle won 27 of his 36 races and took three consecutive Cheltenham Gold Cups in the 1960s, making him the second-most-famous horse in Irish racing history. Shergar, whose body has never been found, wins the race for the most mysterious, but Arkle was probably the best loved, certainly in his later years, when he received fan mail by the sackload and beat The Beatles to the “most popular personality of the year” slot in a 1966 UK magazine poll. His skeleton – yes, the actual skeleton – is on display at the horse museum at the Irish National Stud.
Piers and Margaret Butler (16th century)
St Canice’s Cathedral, Kilkenny
There are more Butlers in St Canice’s than you’d find at a Downton Abbey cosplay convention. James Butler, second earl of Ormonde, is there and so is Walter, the 11th. Pride of place, however, goes to the eye-catching tomb of the eighth earl of Ormonde, Piers Butler, and his wife, Margaret, countess of Ormonde and Ossory. Their armour-clad effigies are carved on top in black marble, so vividly that they might be about to get up and walk away, accompanied by their faithful dog, who lies at his master’s feet. Don’t be fooled by the countess’s ladylike head-dress. She was one tough cookie, described by contemporaries as “warlike and tall of stature . . . so politic, that nothing was thought substantially debated without her advice”.
James McGuire (1827-1862)
Donagh Cemetery, Donaghmore, County Laois
Indian Mutiny Victoria Cross Medal Recipient. He served as a Sergeant, in the 1st Bengal Fusiliers, British Army. On September 14, 1857, at Delhi, India, the troops were waiting at the Kabul Gate for reserve ammunition being carried when three boxes exploded and two were set on fire by enemy shot. Sergeant McGuire and a drummer who were part of the ammunition guard, seeing the danger of the fire spreading, seized the two boxes which were alight and threw them over the ramparts into the canal, thus saving many lives. For the most highest valour in action, he was awarded the Victoria Cross Medal.
Dolores O’Riordan (1971 – 2018)
Caherelly Cemetery Co. Limerick
Rock Musician. She was the lead vocalist for the Irish rock music band “The Cranberries”. After forming in 1989, they gained a wide following after their 1993 debut album “Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?” was released, and had a Top 10 charting hit song with the single “Linger”. They would go on to record six more albums, and had hits with the songs “Salvation” and “Zombie” (which referenced the 1916 Easter Uprising in Ireland). She also released two solo albums “Are You Listening?” (2007) and “No Baggage” (2009). She passed away suddenly at age 46 in London, England.
Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849)
St John’s, Edgeworthstown, Co Longford
The author of the novel Castle Rackrent was a woman of contradictions, working for the relief of tenants during the Famine, and adamant that women should play a full role in public life, yet holding resolutely Tory views on political issues. Born in Oxfordshire, Edgeworth moved to Ireland at the age of five, when her mother died and her father married again. Edgeworth never married. She died of a heart attack at the age of 81.
Para Bui Mor Mhacseoidin
Ballmascanlon, Dundalk. Co Louth.
According to legend, Mhacseoidin was a Scottish giant who came to Ireland to challenge Finn McCool. His tomb is said by archaeologists to be, in fact, a dolmen grave of 3000 BC. However, the capstone weights 47 tons, and might well have required a giant to lift it in place.
Grace O’Malley (1530-1603)
The Abbey, Clare Island, Co Mayo
Pirate queen and warrior princess, clan chieftain and matriarch, Grace O’Malley had the type of dramatic life that demands a spectacular resting place – and this 12th-century Cistercian abbey, perched on a headland 5km off the Mayo coast, fits the bill to perfection. An ornate plaque in the north wall of the chancel marks the spot where the body of Gráinne Mhaol is said to be interred. Even if you don’t believe she’s really there, the abbey is worth a visit for its glorious medieval wall and ceiling paintings.
Anne Fitzpatrick Plunkett
Church of Saint Nicholas of Myra, Dunsany, County Meath
Irish Peer. Born Anne FitzGerald the daughter of Joan de Caslte Martin and Richard FitzGerald. She married Christopher Plunket, 1st Lord Dunsany, they had one son. They established a line that remains one of the oldest extant titles in the Peerage of Ireland with 20 holders to date including the 18th Baron, a well-known poet and author.
Patrick Kavanagh (1904-67)
St Mary’s, Inniskeen, Co Monaghan
A ploughshare embedded in concrete is an apt memorial to find on the grave of the famously curmudgeonly poet, who left school at 13 and left Monaghan in his 30s in an attempt to make it in Dublin literary circles – only to make himself, and everyone who knew him, utterly miserable. Happily, Kavanagh ended up among the peaceful hills and lakes of Co Monaghan, right next to the centre that now commemorates his life and work.
Elizabeth and Mary Boleyn (17th century)
Clonony Castle, Co Offaly
They’re known locally as Queen Elizabeth’s cousins – that’s Elizabeth I, folks – but nobody knows how these other Boleyn girls come to be buried in the grounds of a Tudor castle in Offaly, or even who they are exactly. The grave was discovered in 1803, and the inscription sends shivers up the spine: “Here under leys Elisabeth and Mary Bullyn . . .” The castle is privately owned but is often open to the public.
Turlough O’Carolan (1670-1738)
Kilronan, Keadue, Co Roscommon
The blind harpist, composer and singer who wandered around Ireland for almost half a century is buried in the family crypt of his patrons, the McDermott Roes, at the foot of the Arigna Mountains. O’Carolan loved silly stories, backgammon and drink – his final composition was dedicated to the butler, Flinn, who brought him his ultimate beverage – but who knows what he would have made of the story of his own skull, which was removed from the grave a century after his death and, after many adventures, ended up in the National Museum of Ireland. There’s a song in that, for sure.
WB Yeats (1865-1939)
St Columba’s, Drumcliff, Co Sligo
With its severely plain headstone and that famously forbidding epitaph – “Cast a cold eye on life, on death. Horseman, pass by” – the grave of WB Yeats has long been a place of pilgrimage for poetry fans. Recent revelations about the jumbled identity of the bones contained at the site – Yeats died in France and his body was transferred to an ossuary before being repatriated in 1948 – have somewhat blurred those well-ordered edges. But Drumcliff, nestled between the slopes of Benbulbin and the Atlantic coast, is as serene as ever, and worth a visit any day of the week.
Paddy Clancy (1922-98)
Faugheen, Co Tipperary
The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem were instrumental in changing the face of Irish folk music in the US. Paddy Clancy’s obituary in the New York Times sums it up nicely: “They wore Aran sweaters and sang rollicking versions of rebel songs, drinking songs and love songs, interspersed with tall tales and poetry recitations.” When Clancy retired from the music scene, in 1968, he returned to Tipperary, where he had bought a dairy farm, and worked with rare breeds of cattle. “Lay Me Down in My Native Place,” his gravestone sings.
John Alexander Sinton (1884 – 1956)
Claggan Churchyard, Cookstown, County Tyrone
Ring New Cemetery, Ring County Waterford
Singer. He was a founding member of the Irish folk group “The Clancy Brothers,” performing with his brothers Paddy Clancy and Liam Clancy, along with Tommy Makem. They were the top selling Irish musical group of the 1950’s and 1960’s, and are credited with helping to revive folk music in the United States.
George Arthur Boyd-Rochfort
Castletown Old Churchyard, County Westmeath
World War I Victoria Cross Recipient. Born in Middleton Park, Ireland, he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion, Scots Guards, British Army. On August 13, 1915, 2nd Lieutenant Boyd-Rochfort was in charge of a work party at a communication trench near La Bessee Canal, France. Suddenly a German motor landed on the side of the parapet of the communication trench where 2nd Lieutenant Boyd-Rochfort was standing. Instead of stepping back into safety he shouted to his men to look out, rushed at the bomb, seized it and hurled it over the parapet, where it exploded before injuring any of his men. For most prestigious gallantry in the face of the enemy, he was awarded the Victoria Cross on September 1, 1915 and later achieved the rank of Captain. After the war, he became a noted racehorse trainer and breeder until his death at age 60 in Dublin, Ireland.
Saint John’s Churchyard, County Wexford
Member of Parliament from Ireland 1881-1918 principal lieutenant of Charles Parnell. Started Home Rule Bill ran party after Parnell died. in 1910 after two general elections H.H. Asquith and the Liberals needed Irish support to secure the Parliament Act of 1911 Redmond’s support was won in return for the (third) Home Rule Bill introduced in 1912. In 1914 he secured Home Rule. Had his National Volunteers support England in World War One over 50,000 Volunteers went to war. During the Irish Convention to resolve the problem of Home Rule he died in March 1918 later that year his party was defeated at the polls by Sinn Fein. His seat was then taken by his son Willian Archer Redmond.
Paul Henry (1877-1958)
St Patrick’s, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow
We associate the Belfast-born painter with the monochromatic images of Connemara, full of light and sky, that he produced during his time on Achill Island. Later, however, he settled in Wicklow, and he was buried opposite the entrance to the Powerscourt estate in a spot so picturesque that it might have come straight out of one of his canvases. The granite headstone marking the grave is as modest as he, apparently, was in life. “In loving memory Paul Henry, RHA,” it says.