Heritage Week 2013 Laois Graveyards talk

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Parish Centre Portlaoise , Laois
53° 1' 58.1232" N, 7° 17' 55.6548" W
Laois IE

We have recently commenced two training projects in Laois. Laois Partnership are funding a training project while Laois County Council Heritage Office have also funded some community support work in two graveyards. We have done work in Old Sleaty, Raheen and Clopook and this powerpoint presents some of what we are encountering. Any communities interested in taking part in a training programme during September and October please email john (at) eachtra.ie. The powerpoint was presented on the 19th August as part of the Laois Heritage Week events.


slide1 Laois Historic Graveyards Project 2013

slide2 How to – record a graveyard slide3 Double-click to edit Simply out, we number each grave memorial with masking tape and a marker. We then take one geotagged photo of each memorial in numbered sequence and upload this to the website. Instant publication is highly engaging for our volunteer groups – they see immediate results for their work. The geotagged grave memorial photo is then a hook that we can hang other media (audio and video stories) onto. We have become geolocated heritage media content publishers. Local people do the surveys, tell their stories and publish them to the web.

slide4 The System (Recording) Our core technique is number photo record slide5 This register is used to keep track of work in progress; tick the box when the headstone is photograhed and record sheet is complete We train people to use high tech cameras but also simple paper based registers. There is always a paper archive and communities must learn to manage these as community graveyards often involve repeat visits over a number of weeks or even months.

slide6 A relative location sketch plan - draw the headstones by row. Start at the SW corner Blank sketch sheet. This template is used to draw a relative location plan for all numbered grave memorials. The solid lines represent rows of grave memorials.

slide7 Double-click to edit Blank record sheet and the order in which we will fill in the details. All work is done in pairs for quality assurance. slide8 Double-click to edit The sketch plan is always complemented by contact prints of the photo survey and which are uploaded to the graveyard webpage.

slide9 The System (Data Entry) Once the grave memorials are recorded we must then type the biographical data into the online database. First create a user account by clicking the SIgnup Online button on the front page. When you have a user account then use the login button at the bottom of each page. Once logged in you will see an Edit button for your own graveyards. Beginners should type in shorter inscriptions first with fewer people. Do a few short ones and then work your way up. If typing a very long inscription with more than 5 people listed we suggest you save after the third person. Then edit again.

slide10 Common elements 
(learn the code) Once you learn a number of key phrases reading headstones become straight forward.


slide12 Double-click to edit An interesting pair of grave memorials were found side by side in Raheen. The simple inscribed cross could be very old but I suspect is more recent in execution. There is no medieval cross slab registered in Raheen on www.archaeology.ie.

slide13 The cast iron cross is made by mcCarthy Bros of Mountrath.

slide14 Here John shows us that the cross, while broken at the base, is still in fine condition. These cast iron Mountrath grave memorials are in very interesting Laois group.

slide15 Here local man Kevin lalor-Fitzgerald stands in front of the Lalor-Fitzgerald box tomb. Kevin’s family are related to the James Fintan Lalor who will be subject of an Inaugural School in September http://www.jamesfintanlalor.ie/

slide16 We recently spent on day with a team in the lovely graveyard of Old Sleaty.

slide17 If you travel north from Carlow town out the SLeaty road you will pass hte modern cemetery on the left, soon pass over a bridge and the Old Sleaty graveyard is in a field on your right. It is beautifully kept with approx 90 inscribed grave memorials.

slide18 A simple 18th century headstone erected by Elizabeth Church for her husband Joseph who died at the young age of 40. The Church surname is not found in the area today.

slide19 Old Sleaty has an interesting pair of Early medieval crosses but the variety of grave memorials is very interesting also. Ranging from a Commonwealth War Grave, some 18th century headstones to a very nice group of late 19th/20th century iron crosses. These iron crosses are decorated in a variety of interesting ways, reflecting a richer decorative tradition than we normally encounter.

slide20 Wrought iron work with a plain cross

slide21 but a decorate top. Are these ‘welded’ on?

slide22 A more conventional cross and ring, probably missing an inscribed tin plate.

slide23 A less conventional grave marker - looks like it is cobbled together from available pieces.

slide24 And simple but nicely cut and peeled decoration.

slide25 We started work with the small but dedicated group in Clopook and it is a fascinating place with tales of a Pooka, an Iron Age hillfort and a pond beyond the graveyard which looks as old as the hills.

slide26 A wide variety of grave memorials are found in Clopook and this O’Neil headstone is touching because of the reverse S. Every one is the wrong way around even though the stone is very well cut, dressed and decorated.

slide27 A nice high status group of table and box tombs.

slide28 A cast iron cross, no makers mark found, and painted silver. slide29 Double-click to edit With a barrel-chested crucified Christ. This motif is found across Europe from medieval times and I think it is fascinating to see it here in the medium of cast iron.

slide30 An interesting hood moulding early headstone. There are three of these in the graveyard and seem to be quite localised - it will be interesting to track their distribution during our training project in September.

slide31 And a double headed ledger slab with facing inscriptions. One for a priest and the other for his mother. slide32 Double-click to edit Son and reverend.

slide33 His mother?

slide34 Clopook also has an early group of mid 18th century ledger slabs - mostly for the high status Dunn family. We wondered if we could see both Catholic and Protestant headstones in the DUnn family. The tensions of penal laws are ften manifest in grave memorial decorations.

slide35 And perhaps the most well-known headstone in Clopook is this early round headed headstone for John Lawlor. The epitaph is not conventional.

slide36 Nor is the simple decoration. The lozenge shape is very unusual in an Irish context and we wonder if it has European parallels.

slide37 And inside the church we find an earlier ledger slab which predates the John Lawlor headstone.

slide38 It is a slab for Roger Moore Priest of this parish...

slide39 Roger Moore was born in 1640 and died in 1706.

slide40 A very strong ledger slab is found outside the south wall of the ruined church. It marks the Hacket family grave plot including the burial dates for two brothers, Edward and Andrew to died on the smae day in February 1838.

slide41 Paddy Lacey told us the story of the two young boys who died caught in a snowstorm in the winter of 1838. The boys may have been out in the snow to get some corn meal ground in a local mill and got caught in a blizzard on their way home. The crossroads where their bodies were found after the storm has two simple crosses marking their death and the crossroads has long been called Hackets cross. So the names on the ledge slab are connected to the crossroads 4 miles from their burial place.

slide42 Paddy, Raymond and Olive have bee trying to trace the Hackets of Clopook but they seem to have moved on before the time of Griffiths Valuation or did the family line die out? They believe they may know the family home place location.

slide43 Summary For any groups interested in taking part in the www.laoispartnership.ie training programme next Sept and Oct please get in touch with John or Orla at Laois Partnership.

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