Thursday, December 24, 1998

Gravestone inscriptions of St. Michael's (1)

History is everywhere around us and local history is to be found amongst the gravestones and slabs of the town cemeteries. For instance I have often wondered how the name Gray’s Lane came to be applied to the laneway which leads to Spring Lodge. The answer invariably pointed to a previous owner of the farm which lies at the end of the land but it was somewhat satisfying to find amongst the gravestones of St. Michael’s more information on Mr. Gray.

James Alexander of Spring Lodge died on 2nd October, 1871 aged 47 years leaving his widow Euphemia who as the widow of the late Robert Gray of Corrie, Edinburgh had married Alexander. Euphemia, having survived two husbands, herself died at Spring Lodge on 23rd January, 1878 at the young age of 38 years. Her daughter Augusta married R. Gray and both lived at Spring Lodge where Mrs. Gray died in 1905 and her husband in 1915 aged 76 years. Over 80 years later the laneway to Spring Lodge is known by some as Gray’s Lane while to others it is still called “The Gullet”.

Not too far away from Alexander’s grave in St. Michael’s Cemetery is that of John Alexander Hannon of Ardreigh House who according to his tombstone “entered higher service” on 3rd April, 1923, joining his sons Ian and Leslie who had died in the Great War. His wife Martha died on 22nd March, 1934. It would seem that even in the early 1920’s St. John’s Cemetery where the Hannons of previous generations were buried could not accommodate any more burials.

The Scottish Presbyterian settlers who arrived in South Kildare after the Great Famine must have included a young Robert Anderson who died at Castlemitchell on 5th February, 1884 aged 47 years. I wonder what was the story of his son David who died a year later in Winnipeg, America aged 27 years and whose death is commemorated on the Anderson gravestone in St. Michael’s Cemetery.

I was puzzled by the tombstone for the Carey family which shows that John died on 8th July, 1925 aged 75 years having an address at St. Dominic’s Park, Athy. As the present St. Dominic’s Park did not exist then I am wondering where the St. Dominic’s Park listed on the tombstone was located. Luke Carroll of Purcellstown erected a monument to his mother who died in 1825 and his 19 year old daughter who died in 1819. I have never previously come across a reference to Purcellstown in this area.

A poignant reminder of the short lives allowed to those who went before us is found on the Roberts’ gravestone where in it is recorded the passing of Jane Cobbe “who died in the bloom of her womanhood on 6th January, 1875 at 28 years”. Erected by her husband John Roberts it also recorded the death of “our dear little girl Lizzie who died on 23rd August, 1873 aged 4 years and Stanley who died an infant on 26th August, 1873.” John Roberts was himself to die in October 1880 aged 39 years.

A man whose name I have come across several times is recorded in stone in St. Michael’s Cemetery. Joseph Coleman Reynolds, Dental Surgeon of 21 Leinster Street died on 13th October, 1951 at the comparatively young age of 50 years, just a few years after his son Joseph Michael had died aged 21 years. I am sure there are many who remember the young man whose brother Ken was one of the Social Club Players of the 1950’s.

Ever true to the Gaelic language for which she did so much to encourage was Bridget Darby who died on 26th March, 1958. In one of the very few headstones on which Gaelic script is chiselled there appears her name with that of her mother and three married sisters, Mary Foley, Mary Masterson and Margaret McDonald. Bridget and her mother lived at Leinster Street and while head mistress of Churchtown National School and a Town Councillor she did much to encourage the development of Irish in Athy.

Dr. James Deegan died on 5th July, 1915 aged 55 years and was followed four years later by his wife Margaret. I wonder does anybody remember where Dr. Deegan lived and what of his daughter Teresa Josephine who died on 3rd January, 1972.

An interesting memorial can be found to Elizabeth Delaney who died in 1855. The interest arises from her husband Joseph’s position in life which he notes on her gravestone with undoubted pride as “an officer of Inland Revenue”.

A mother’s sad memorial to her son notes the death of Reverend Laurence Doyle CC, Athy on 1st August, 1902 at 34 years of age. Mrs. Doyle who lived at Annamoe, Co. Wicklow erected the memorial following her son’s tragic death. Strangely it rests alongside the grave of his namesake and fellow curate Rev. Mark Doyle who died on 16th January, 1900 at the age of 31 years. He had spent four years as a curate in Athy and his memory was commemorated by the people of Athy and neighbourhood. What a tragic coincidence that two curates in their early 30’s should die within two years of each other while serving in Athy Parish. Just a few steps away is the grave of another local priest, also called Doyle who died in 1892 aged 64 years. Fr. James Doyle had been Parish Priest of Athy for 13 years having spent the previous 17 years as a curate in the town.

Well liked in Athy was Dr. Edward Ferris to whom a memorial was erected “by his numerous admirers” following his death on 25th March, 1877 aged 65 years. Ferris was described as an able physician whose death caused the poor to lose “a King and a generous friend.”

Tom Flood, former Captain in the Dublin Brigade of the IRA 1917 and Commandant in the National Army 1922 died 8th October 1950 aged 50 years. At the time of his untimely death he was a town Councillor and publican in Leinster Street. Not too far from the old IRA grave lies Captain Robert Glynn Dedrickson, late Kingsown 3rd Hussars 9th Cavalry 1914-1915 who died on 30th June, 1945. His wife Frances died in 1973. Was he a native of this area or does anyone know of his involvement in World War 1?

I finish off this journey through St. Michael’s Cemetery at the grave of Myles Hickey of Emily Square who died on 15th April, 1894 aged 64 years. His wife Ann died aged 78 years on 23rd April, 1909. I wonder were Myles and Ann the parents of Tim Hickey, the butcher whom I remember carrying on business in Emily Square up to the early 1960’s.

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