Old Ballymoney Graveyard subject of new book
Old Ballymoney Graveyard subject of a new book By Ailin Quinlan Saturday June 11th, 2011 Pictured at the launch of a new book, The Story of Old Ballymoney, history from headstones at Ballymoney Church were Mick O’Connell (right), chairman of Ballineen and Enniskeane Area Heritage Group (BEAHG), who compiled the book, with Lady Langham, Catherine Power, Cork County Council archaeologist, and Oreana Conner, president of BEAHG.
An ancient ‘cursing stone’ in a mysterious West Cork graveyard was used to bring bad luck to some and allow others to see into the future.
Mystery surrounds the origins of Old Ballymoney Graveyard outside the village of Ballineen, which is believed to date back to the ninth century and is now the subject of a new book. And, there are also no fewer than three separate roads into Old Ballymoney Graveyard – one for Methodists, one for Roman Catholics and one for Episcopalians.
While the origins of Old Ballymoney Graveyard are veiled in mystery, its history covers a turbulent period with graves containing the remains of a man who died in a notorious duel, famine victims, and the subjects of an eviction. Just inside the entrance of the old cemetery is a very old walled area, about 5m x 5m, which contains a number of un-inscribed gravestones.
One of the stones, which has a curious hole through it, is now believed to have been an ancient ‘cursing stone,’ says author Mick O Connell, a member of the Ballineen-Enniskeane Heritage Group, who spent three years researching and writing the new book; The Story of Old Ballymoney; A History from Headstones.
‘People would put a finger through the hole to strike a bargain or make a curse – in traditional Celtic mythology, these stones are supposed to bring health and protection. They are also believed to be ‘seeing’ stones, as some people claim they allow certain people to see the hidden world of fairies, goblins etc.’
With 100 colour illustrations and two maps, the 240-page paperback, which was launched at the graveyard by Cork county archaeologist Catryn Power, covers the history of Old Ballymoney Graveyard and the adjoining St Paul’s Graveyard, just outside the village.
‘Ballymoney’s history covers a fatal duel, the burial of some survivors of the battle of Kilmichael, and some famine graves. It is reported that 64 people were buried in Old Ballymoney Graveyard in one week in famine times, while it also contains the graves of people who suffered eviction.’
One of the mysteries about the site was the fact that the name of the church in Ballymoney was lost: ‘We knew the church in the adjoining graveyard was St Paul’s, but the name of the church in Old Ballymoney graveyard was lost in the mists of time – it was just known as Old Ballymoney Church.’
However, he says, their research uncovered a number of Irish words in the records of the Cloyne diocese which solved the mystery – the church’s real name, is Croise na hEiri or Cross of the Resurrection and the name dates from 1610.
The book was inspired by the group’s concern about the possible loss of inscriptions on some tombstones - some of the graves date back to the 1600s: ‘The inscriptions on the headstones in Old Ballymoney Graveyard were fading and vanishing, and the Ballineen-Enniskeane Heritage Group decided on a rescue mission,’ says Mick, who was commissioned to survey both graveyards and recover as many as possible of the memorial inscriptions.
Old Ballymoney Graveyard, he says, is now believed to have been an ancient religious site, although the present church is traceable to the 1400s. ‘The actual site is an early Christian site which pre-dates the Church – we believe it could go back to the 9th or 10th century.’
Some of the older graves date back to the 1700s. The oldest grave is that of Captain Thomas Spencer, while there are also the graves of the Daunts of Kilcascan and the Conners of Manch.
Two survivors from the Battle of Kilmichael are also buried there. The graveyard also contains the remains of Captain Joseph Daunt, who was killed in a duel by Daniel Conner of Manch in 1826.
The group photographed the graveyard using locational digital photography. Photographs are available on the internet, along with an audio recording of stories associated with the two graveyards. Both photographs and recordings will shortly be available at www.historicgraves.ie.
The Story of Old Ballymoney; A History from Headstones, is on sale locally and is also available at www.bandonbooks. com.
Courtesy of the Southern Star