‘The dead open the eyes of the living’: St Joseph’s Cemetery, Tullamore by Girvan McKay, Clonminch

clonminch cemetery
Clonminch Catholic Cemetery about 1910

Living just beside the cemetery, we often walk there and I have been struck by the informative and often moving inscriptions on the
tombstones of the graves there. It struck me that these throw a
valuable sidelight into the pattern of life and death in Tullamore.
Some are very sad, especially those on the graves of infants and the
very young. There are others that make you reflect on how strange
attitudes are. For example, when we came to live here in the summer
of 1983, you never saw tombstones commemorating any of the thousands
of Irish volunteers who fell in the two World Wars. We know that
until very recently it wasn’t politic (except in the North) to admit
that any member of an Irish family had served in what was regarded as
British regiment. But one day, not so long ago, I noticed that a
number of War Grave Commission tombstones had suddenly appeared like
mushrooms in St Joseph’s Cemetery. I list them below:
War Graves in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Tullamore

1049 ? Private J. Palmer
Leinster Regiment
3rd July 1917

8435 Private P. Coughlan
Connaught Rangers
16th October 1916 Age 39

4032506 Private M. Prendergast
The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
21st April 1942 Age 21

2711 Private J. Drennan
Leinster Regt.
20th September 1917 Age 26
32628 Private P. Walsh
The King’s Liverpool Regt.
5th April 1919

6106 Private W. Keogh
Royal Irish Regiment
5th October 1917 Age 17

Keogh war 1 Clonminch RC cemetery
Ireland’s struggle for independence and the Civil War also left their
mark on the Cemetery:

On grave of Robert Kelly of Convent View and his wife Katherine
A side tablet reads:
Son in law
P.J. Daly
Lieutenant I.R.A.
Died 30th May 1922
His wife Mary
Died 2nd Dec. 1950

MEMORIAL (THREE CROSSES) in Tullamore Cemetery
In memory of
Three brave young men
Patrick Cunningham Age 20
William Conroy Age 16
Colum Kelly Age 22
Executed in Birr Castle
by Pro Treaty Forces
on 26th January 1923

Peadar Bracken family Clonminch RC cemetery (3)

On one of the walls of Birr Castle is a slab commemorating the cruel
execution of these three young men.

Egan Clonminch RC cemetery (8)

Although the Irish language doesn’t feature very much in the Midlands
and pessimists tell us that it is dying, there seems to be some hint
of a change in attitudes to it. Only one of the oldest graves (that
of the Egan memorial of 1907) bears an inscription in Irish, but from
about the year 2000 onwards, there is a sudden outbreak in
inscriptions as Gaeilge. See below:
Gravestone inscriptions as Gaeilge in St Joseph’s Cemetery, Tullamore
(From Row 1 on rt hand past the gate – to Row 9 1-31)

1.Marcus MacAodhagáin died 2009
“Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam”

2. Noirín & Christopher Gowran d. 2009 “Ar dheis Dé…”

3. Ann Corbett d. 2008 & husnand Seamus d.2016 (inscription ditto)

4. Nan Kenny d. 2008 & Joe d. 2018
“Abair paidir ar a son”

5. John O’ Malley d. 2006 “Suaimhneas síoraí dá anam”

6. May O’ Dea d. 2014 “Ar dheis Dé, etc”

7. Roseleen Geoghegan d. 2010 “Ros sa ghairdín Dé”

8. “I ndíl ċuiṁne Donie Egan” d. 2004. “suaṁneas síoraí”

9. Seán Ó hOðráin and his wife Rosy d. 2004. “Go raiḃ solas Dé air”

16. Donal Brady d. 1986 & Mary Brady d.2001 “Ní críoch ach ath-fhás”

17. Seán Cronly d. 2013 “Ar dheis Dé gu raibh a anam dílis”

18. Máire Weymes d.1992 & Tony d.2002 “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h-anam”

19. Máirín O Mahon d.1995 & Michael d. 2002 “I bParthas na nGrás go rabhamaid”

20. Basil Guina d.1984 “In Iothlainn Dé go gcastar sinn”

21. Denis McSweeney 1990 & Una 2001 “Ní críoch ach ath-fhás”

22. Or do Paddy Broderick a d’éag ar an 10ú Feabhra 1986 ar aois 63
bliain agus a gharmhac Cían a d’éag sa

bhroinn 20ú Iuil 1994 agus a iníon Noëlle a d’éag ar an 26ú Marta
20ii “Ar dheis Dé go raibh”
De Burca
I gcuimhne gramhar
Samhain 2 109 – Samhain 2 1962

10. Ellen Hackett d. 2002 “A Thiarna déan trochaire (trocair?) . A
Chríost déan trochaire (trocair) ”

11. Veronica Tiernan d. 2016
“Suaimhneas síoraí dá h-anam dílis”

12. Alphonsus Keeley d.2011
“Ar dheis Dé…” plus the whole
Lord’s Prayer in Irish (“Ár n-Athair…” etc

13. Ethna Keeley d. 2017 “I nár gcroíthe go deo”

14. Joseph Walsh d. 2010 “I nár gcroíthe go deo”
15. Debby Feery d. 2015 “Suaimhneas síoraí aici”
(End of Row 8 9 – 31.)
23. Brother George R. Giffney d. 1984
Brother James G. Brennan d. 1986
Brother Edmond Owen Rossiter d. 1995 “In iothlainn Dé go dtugtar sinn”


24. Donall Ó Cearall Gael. Saighdiúir, Muinteór a fuair bás 26 Meán
Fomhair 1983 in aois 66 bliain “ – 1984 “In Iothlainn Dé go gcastar
(Also Máire and Seán in similar inscription in same script)

25. Egan – “I gcuiṁne graḋṁair enrí Aoḋgáin b.e. An Tulaċ Ṁór d’éag
Saṁain 7, 1907 29 mbliain d’aois “I ḃFlaiṫeas Ḋé glé do Ḋia agus dá

26. Máire Adams 1913-2000 an Tulach Mhór agus Baile an Mhordhaigh An Daingean

27. Thomas Kearney Puttachaun
d. 1992 “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dilis”

28. Cherished memories of a beloved husband and father John Burk 17
Clontarf Rd. who dies 23rd March 1993 aged 76 years
His wife Alice who died 11th Dec. 2016 aged 91
“Go raḃamaid le ċéile i bParrṫas Dé”


29. Anne Guckian d.2006 & Patrick Guckian d.2011 ““Ar dheis Dé go
raibh a anam dílis”

Inscriptions in languages other than English or Irish are hardly in
evidence, but there are two. It is always a melancholy sight to see
the grave of someone who has died in what to him or her was a foreign
country, far from his or her homeland. One of these is the memorial
to the German officer in Kilcruttin Cemetery. But more poignant is the
inscription on the tombstone of one solitary Slovak in St Joseph’s:

Tombstone Inscriptions other than in English and/or Irish

In Slovak
Dezider Žiga
Datum Narodenia 27-10-1951
Datum Úmrtia 25-12-2012
Navždy zostaneš v nasích srdciach
Manzél, otec a dedko nás milovany
Odpoèivaj v pokoji
Smutacia manželka z deťmi
In Latin

On the grave of William and Kathleen Jaffray of “Misty Lodge”, Spollanstown

(“After the clouds, the Sun”
The Roman legendary name Phoebus was ofter used in poetry to represent the sun.

Dezider Žiga
Date of Birth 27-10-1951
Date of Death 25-12-2012
For ever remains in our hearts
Our beloved husband, father and grandfather
Rest in peace
His sorrowing wife and children

There is a Spanish proverb that says: Los muertos abren los ojos a
los que viven. (“The dead open the eyes of the living”). If we take a
walk around a cemetery we may find that this is true.

Girvan McKay.