Our trip to see the interesting gravestones was a complete failure because the weather was simply far too good! It's impossible to see the carvings or read the inscriptions when the sun is shining so brightly...though the grass had been roughly cut so at least it was dry underfoot.
I popped into the Museum first to find out where the church was...the town is only small, but we didn't recall ever having seen St Coman's church before... the chap in charge for the day was a wealth of information...we discussed unkempt burial grounds...the very real dangers of falling into someone's crypt and landing with a bump among old bones...how to attract tourists...the usual sort of stuff.
The church itself was built in 1775...it's in reasonable enough condition for its age, but it's kept locked and only opened when the Vicar takes a service there once a month. And it's a female Vicar...it's Church of Ireland you see...Protestant rather than Catholic, which is why there are many children's graves with inscriptions and so on.
The history of the actual site is interesting..there was an Early Christian site there in the 6th century but it was attacked first by the Vikings...and I had no idea they came so far from Dublin...then, whatever was left by the time the Vikings were finished with it was burned by Munster forces in 1134. The Augustan's built a monastery in 1140 and that must have been there a while before Cromwell's troops arrived hell bent on destroying anything vaguely Papal....
There's already a much ruined monastery about a quarter of a mile away...the chap in the museum said a recent theory by local historians is that the two monasteries were actually just one...if that is so, it must have been enormous.
There's nothing left in the burial ground to indicate there was ever anything else but the present church there...
One of the earliest headstones is that of a Cormock Muliuhill who died in 1719...he was a blacksmith and has the tools of his trade carved on his stone...I only know that because it's in a leaflet...didn't actually see it.
If you've been paying attention you'll remember that Catholics rarely had inscribed headstones so it's mostly guesswork to estimate how old they are...there were exceptions of course...but they mostly had a simple stone to mark the place, until the 1800's when it became fashionable to have Celtic crosses erected and the names and age of the deceased carved into the stone.
One of the local oddities about St Coman's burial ground is that many dates didn't include the first two numerals...for instance that for Eleanor Mc Dermitt who died in 1769 just gives the date as 69...
Looking across the graveyard is bewildering in many ways...for all the inscribed stones there are as many un-inscribed...then when you work out that this was once the main burial place for the people of Roscommon town and the Castle...and the two monasteries...going way back to the days when the first Christian church was established in the 6th century...that means the ground beneath your feet must be heaving with human remains.
The monastery which still exists... albeit in ruins...also has some graves but they are mostly local dignitaries of their day...though king Felim is there of course, in his niche with his Galloglasses' guarding him...they were added long, long after he died actually, but it's nice to think he might know they are there.
It wasn't simply sunny yesterday...it was also hot...and Himself wore a nice warm winter jumper...I'm not sure whether he does it to annoy or whether he simply doesn't feel the heat nowadays...he did finally take it off when we were on the way home and he didn't grumble about trailing round the burial ground either so I have to be thankful for small mercies.
We'll go back in the autumn when the light isn't so bright and glaring...and I'll take a spray bottle of water with me just to be on the safe side. Squirt water on the lettering and it shows up easily you see.