HISTORIAN Breda Condron has been painstakingly recording the details on all of the headstones at Killoughey Church and Graveyard over the past number of years.
Breda’s long labour of love has now resulted in the publication of ‘Remembering the Past, a history of Killoughey Church and Cemetery’.
The tome will be launched immediately after Mass at Killoughey Graveyard on Sunday next, June 30 at 7pm. Afterwards refreshments will be enjoyed in Ard Aoibhinn in Mount Bolus and all are welcome.
The historic church has lain in ruins since an horrific act of mass murder was committed by Cromwellian troops there in 1651.
Breda explains: “Local tradition maintains that while the parishioners attended Mass on Christmas morning, the Cromwellian soldiers surrounded the church with fixed bayonets, secured the doors and set fire to the thatched roof. Neither the priest nor any of his congregation survived the fire.”
The records of the church’s founder, St Aughey, a monk or priest who had come to the area from nearby Lynally, were also destroyed as were all parish records, furniture and valuables.
The building, which up until then had been the main parish church, was never rebuilt.
“Until recently the church had been inaccessible and the growth was to such an extent that many people were unaware that anything remained of the building at all,” outlined Breda.
The local historian explained: “Over the past few years the Killoughey Church Preservation Committee has been working to clear the site and the first Mass was celebrated within its ruins on August 27 in 2003. A large crowd attended the historic ceremony.”
While working on the ruins the floor was dug into to build a canopy over the altar and unmistakable evidence, including bone fragments and burnt timber, were found of the 1651 massacre.
In her new publication, ”Remembering the Past, a history of Killoughey Church and Cemetery”, Breda has recorded the inscriptions on all the headstones in the graveyard as well as meticulously hand drawing the motifs found on the more ancient ones.
The book also records other aspects of the history of Killoughey parish including the fate of its own martyr, Fr Edward Molloy who was hanged from Brittas Castle in 1691.
The martyr’s body was decapitated with the head being displayed on a spike at the gate of Brittas and his body buried under the hanging tree.
But some nights later during a thunderstorm, local tradition asserts that men from Kiloughey travelled to Brittas, dug up his body and buried the remains in Rathlion church.
This story was confirmed in 1985 when the skeletal remains of a headless body were discovered in a shallow grave in the ruins of the vestry. The remains were reinterred in the same plot and a headstone placed in honour of Fr Molloy over-head.
History also attests that during the Penal times local Protestants sheltered Catholic priests in defiance of their landlords and the authorities.
Breda said she found five different spellings for Killoughey during her research – Killaughey, Killaghy, Killoughy, Killoughey and Killahy. All trace their roots to the original Irish Cill Achaidh, literally meaning church of the field.
A large congregation is expected at next Sunday evening’s Mass at 7pm with the launch of the book immediately afterwards to which all are welcome.