Stories from Portnahinch Co. Laois

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53° 8' 18.0708" N, 7° 16' 6.2796" W

Last month I spent a wonderful evening in the front room of Margaret Corcoran’s farmhouse which is located a short distance from Portnahinch graveyard in Co Laois. Margaret is a graduate of an Historic Graves workshop and has surveyed and published the Portnahinch graveyard memorial stones on the Historic Graves site. Margaret had gathered a group of local interested people so that we could record some stories to add to the Portnahinch section on the website. Those gathered were; Rena Mc Evoy, Jack Kelly, Michael Keegan, Paddy Moore, Seamus Gorman, Carlo Westman, Tom Westman, Jack Hyland, Alan Robinson, Tom Cunningham, Margaret Corcoran and Matt Corcoran.

There are some wonderful 18th century ledger slabs in the graveyard. However there is not too much in the way of recorded history. The earliest reference seems to be the primary valuation of 1850 which lists Richard Tibeaudo as the landlord. The first edition Ordnance Survey map of the area shows the original Portnahinch House and its proximity to the graveyard and the river Barrow. It is recorded that a Sheela na Gig which was located at the nearby Tinakill castle was taken from the ruined church at Portnahinch. The road which passes very close to the eastern gable end of the church was redirected when the bridge across the barrow was constructed. The location of the bridge was always a fording point across the river however the earlier road may have respected the original eastern graveyard boundary. The present road probably bisects the graveyard and indeed the eastern boundary wall is of different construction to the rest.

The stories recorded on the night include two stories about being scared walking past the graveyard at night time. One of these stories was told by Jack Kelly who is a very lively 92 year old. Seamus Gorman relates the story of his brother’s burial in the graveyard. Paddy Moore discusses some of the uninscribed memorial stones and burial plots of the Moore’s and Fitzpatrick’s. Alan Robinson from the present Portnahinch House describes a drainage system employed in the old Portnahinch House which was burned in a fire. There is also a general discussion in which the group figure out the date for the most recent burial in the graveyard.
The stories below are only a sample of what was recorded on the night. Maragaret is going to follow up with one on one interviews with some of the people present and some of those that couldn’t make it that night. The group has also decided to record some of the other graveyards in the parish and to add these to the Historic Graves website.
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