The Story of St. Mary's graveyard, Doneraile, Co. Cork

This graveyard and church are located in the townland of Horseclose in the Barony
of Fermoy. It belongs to the Mallow Union of parishes in the diocese of Cloyne.
It is located on the northside of Doneraile, on the west side of the road, north of the river Awbeg. Doneraile Court, a 17th century country house and demesne, lies immediately to the east.
The church was first built by the Right Honourable Sir William St. Leger, the Lord President of Munster in 1633. At the time, he was residing in the castle which predated Doneraile Court.
The church is rectangular, gable-ended and has a slate roof. It has a three-storeyed tower, which replaced a steeple. 
The wedge-shaped graveyard is enclosed by a stone wall. Burials are mainly to the south and east of the church. The headstones are mainly 18th and 19th century in date and there are some chest tombs. There are burials in vaults in the church. There are many uninscribed grave markers throughout the graveyard.
Almost 250 memorials have been recorded. The earliest inscription is to a 'Catren Daly' with year of death 1685.
Surnames recorded include Grove-White, Roche, Fitzgibbon, Henderson, Bingham
and Thomson.
Interesting Facts
Memorial no. 74 is of David Colligan. He died in 1816. His headstone is decorated with Freemason iconography.
Una Evans was in the Women's Auxiliary Airforce. She died in 1946 at the age of 28 in Aylesbury Vale, Buckinghamshire. Her grave is memorial no.175.
Memorial no. 77 is of Hayes, 4th Viscount of Doneraile who died in 1887. It is recorded that he was bitten by a fox and developed rabies. 
The original steeple of the church is famous because it gave the name to the steeplechase. It was the first horse race cross country over natural fences from the steeple of St. John’s Church, Buttevant to the steeple of this church in Doneraile in 1752. The distance was four miles. St. Mary's steeple blew down in a storm in 1825 and was replaced by the present tower. 
This post was researched and written as part of a grassroots heritage tourism project ( in collaboration with Ballyhoura Development CLG (, Cork Co. Council ( and Limerick Co. Council ( The stories were initially gathered during a community survey of the graveyard. They form part of the Historic Graves Project Destination for Ballyhoura (