The Gathering rolls into Roscommon

There was a huge turnout in Roscommon last night for the first of the Gathering Ireland community events. These events will be taking place in every county in Ireland over the coming months and are an opportunity for the gathering team to spread the message about what the gathering is and for communities to learn how to become involved and to generate ideas for local gatherings across the country.

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Pioneers in Irish Graveyard Recording - Dr. Jane Lyons

Earlier this year we met Dr. Jane Lyons of one of the most valuable sources of Irish genealogical data on the internet. Dr. Lyons has shared some of her memorial transcriptions from Aghaboe in Laois ( with us and the record augments that made by the local community group in the course of a workshop in 2011.

Dr. Lyons pioneered the publication of Irish grave memorial photographs on the internet and finding her photographs ( on flickr was very encouraging in 2009. Besides publishing so many rare datasets Dr. Lyons also offers a genealogical research service at

St Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny

The Historic Graves project recently had a meeting in the Heritage Council Offices in Kilkenny which are nestled in the fabulously restored 14th century Bishop’s Palace building just outside the boundary wall surrounding St Canice’s Cathedral. I was early for the meeting and took the opportunity to explore the graveyard surrounding St Canice’s. By the time I ventured inside the cathedral it was close to closing for lunch but the nice lady manning the desk let me in for free to have a quick look around.  Read more »

How to draw a sketch plan of an historic graveyard

Grave plots are generally three feet wide and six feet long. Most grave plots are arranged in rows. The very first thing when recording an historic graveyard is to identify the row arrangements. Be patient and let the patterns reveal themselves - we prefer to find the straightest row (often along a boundary wall) and start there. Then we number the memorials (using strips of masking tape with numbers stuck to the back of the memorials) and sketch the relative location of the memorials. With practice, surprisingly accurate plans can be drawn. We have been using A4 ruled pages for the drawings but Robin Turk has just designed a new template sheet for the plans. Read more »

Theoretical Underpinnings to the Protection and Promotion of Historic Graveyards


I get frustrated by talk show radio when people formulate opinions and profess them passionately without seemingly any prior thought or background knowledge. I always react positively to passion but the lack of solid underpinnings bothers me. Luckily in my work life both in archaeology with Eachtra and in historic graveyard conservation and promotion with the Historic Graves project there are solid theoretical foundations for what we do. Read more »

Sunlight on a headstone


The key tools we use in reading headstones are the sun and the human eye. Oblique sunlight casts shadows on incised inscriptions allowing patterns to be recognised and words to be read. Patience is rewarded in graveyard recording when that perfect moment arrives and a previously undecipherable inscription is lit up by the sun emerging from behind the clouds. Using a mirror to bounce the sunlight during afternoon recording sessions onto the headstone face gives surprisingly good results. 
Rubbing grass, soil, chalk and other foreigh substances onto a stone are all less effective than the use of a torch and mirror and are strongly discouraged. They do not work and they may damage the memorial stone. Read more »

The 'Staker' Wallace and Abbey graveyard, Co. Limerick

The 'Staker' Wallace is a renowned folk hero of south Limerick who was hung, drawn and quartered for his role as local leader of the United Irishmen of 1798. During a workshop in Ballyorgan last week we were told that following his execution it is believed his mother recovered his head and carried it in her apron to be buried in Abbey graveyard in the Keale (pronounced Kale) valley, Ballyorgan. Given that the 'Staker' was probably in his 60s when he died his mother must have been a good age. Read more »

A Workshop in Kells Co. Meath

It is easy to miss St John’s cemetery in Kells Co. Meath as it is tucked away behind a large stone wall on Headfort Place to the south of the town. It also gets somewhat overshadowed by St Columba’s graveyard located on the top of the hill which contains numerous high crosses, an early church and a round tower. St John’s cemetery however is interesting in its own right and is well worth a visit. The Historic Graves project used the graveyard as a location for one of our workshops which forms part of an historic graveyard care and conservation course which we are presently running in conjunction with Meath PartnershipRead more »

Death and the Family Symposium

Clodagh Tait from the History Department of Mary Immaculate College and author of among many other publications Death Burial and Commemoration in Ireland 1550-1650 organised a Symposium on ‘Death and the Family’ which took place in Mary Immaculate college in Limerick on Wednedsay the 18th April 2012. Clodagh kindly invited the Historic Graves project along to give a talk at the symposium. There were four other speakers and a great afternoon was spent exploring a diverse range of subjects under the death and family umbrella. Read more »

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