Abbey Island Cemetery, Derrynane, Co. Kerry, Ireland

The old cemetery on the grounds of the ruins of Ahamore Abbey on Derrynane beach in Co. Kerry is a beautiful place to be buried.

White haired woman stands facing the sea, her back to the ruins of an old church

Accessible at low tide, many a coffin has been shouldered onto Abbey Island. There’s a bench there, overlooking the strand, facing out towards the Atlantic, right beside a headstone inscribed with the name Dwyer (my mother’s side of the family).

Wooden bench on a grassy knoll behind a stone wall overlooking the sea. Next to it is a black marble headstone with the word DWYER etched in gold.

Further in, there’s another gravestone etched with the names James and Catherine Murphy. This, coming so soon after my parents died, made this visit all the more special.

Both names are popular in Ireland but Abbey Island lends itself to flights of fancy.

Tombstone that reads In loving memory of James Murphy Catherine Murphy Charles Murphy John Murphy Derr (rest of text blocked by ceramic angel and shell cross. Other ornaments and flowers scattered on the grave

It’s here, too, in the grounds of the ruins of the sixth-century Abbey of St Finian that Daniel O’Connell’s wife Mary is buried.

Headstones in the grounds of a old ruined church with three arched windows. One headstone, in black marble, is etched with the name GRADY in gold letters

Their marriage had an interesting start. As Mary was rather penniless, his family was against the marriage. But O’Connell was determined. They married in secrecy and kept it a secret until Mary got pregnant. There was no hiding that.

Interior of a ruined, roofless church, the back wall covered in ivy. A tombstone is tucked into the left corder, and other gravestone are visible too

Mary O’Connell’s grave – top left

I was taken with the mix of Irish and English inscriptions; it wasn’t surprising as Kerry is one of Ireland’s Gaeltacht areas. It was lovely to see, though, as was the old Irish script, much favoured by my father.

Granite cross headstone with a heart in the middle. Inscription is in Irish and reads: N Luige annso tá Padraig O'Gráda deag 8 la b'eanair 1918 in aois a 84 bliana dó. Máire ni Muinteartaig a bean-céile, déag 8 lá d;Iuil 1887 in aois a 43 Bliana dí Na gcodlad táid go lá an luain beannache dilis dé la na nanam. Other headstones visible in the background against a stone wall

Stone with the inscription in Gaelic - O'Conaill - suaimhneas síoraí da n'anamgo mbeírímíd beo san áit seo árís

Trans: Eternal peace to your soul; may we live in this place again

Gravestone with writing in Gaelic - O'Braonain on one side and O' Moráin on the other with an angel etched between them and underneath: suaimhneas síorraí I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn. The ground in front is full of pebbles and on the horizon in the background are a line of crosses and other headstones

Trans: Eternal peace – may we be caught in God’s nets

I lionta Dé go gcastar sinn is a line from the hymn Ag Críost on Síol, synonymous with St Patrick’s Day. It was one of the many references to the close connection with the sea in this part of Ireland.

Stone with the following inscription - Home is the sailor Home from the Sea And the hunter home from the hill

From the poem Requiem by Robert Louis Stevenson

Black plaque on which is written in gold: We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came. It's set on pebbles on a grave proppsed against a pink flowerpot from which sticks a long white candle

Quotation from John F. Kennedy at the 1962 America’s Cup dinner

The American connections are in evidence, too. Sadly, I can’t find anything about Patrick O’Sullivan and how he ended up in the US Army or indeed, how he came home. All I could find is that he was married and died of a brain haemorrhage.

Headstone with the words: Patrick O'Sullivan. PVT US Army World War I, Mar 15 1892 Sep 14 1938 wife Julia 15.4.1892-5.10.1974 Their daughter Mary 4.2.1923-11.8.1934 Their son Tony Died 21.2.2013 Beside it is a newer, small black plaque with the gold letters reading: UNCLE, always loved and missed

The same for Humphrey O’Sullivan, although I wonder if he was any relation to the hedge-schoolmaster and crony of Daniel O’Connell, Amhlaoibh Ó’Súillebhán.

Four headstones - one in front reads Humphrey O'Sullivan, Ireland, PVT CO D 312 ENGRS 87 Division World War I September 20 1890 April 23 1957. At the base is another black plaque with gold lettering: In memory of Nora Sullivan of Liss died 2nd June 1972 aged 85 years. Rest in peace. Behind we can make out the following on a white granite marker: Erected to the memory of Ellie O'Sullivan, Dirreensillach who died 19th Oct 1957. Husband Patrick died..... Behind it again is a narrow white stone with the words: MARY FENTON WHITE Ireland Nurse Army Nurse Corps World War 1. February 14, 1892, March 17, 1962. Her husband Patrick White, died 19th October 1997 At the far back is an ornate celtic cross but inscription isn't legible

In the background of this photo is the grave of Mary Fenton White, the third WWI veteran buried in Derrynane. She was in the Army Nurse Corps, born in 1892 and died on St Patrick’s Day in 1962. She came home and married a farmer and would die of a fractured hip. And not all that long ago either.

The Celtic Crosses against the skyline stand tall and proud. Even though the day was dull, they shone. Weathered stone ages beautifully.

Three celtic cross headstons back onto a stone wall. The first partial inscription reads In loving memory of Timothy Foley Died >> September 1932 Aged 78 years. The second reads: Erected by Timothy and Mary fond memory of their daughter Lizzie Foley who died September 22nd 1908 aged 15 years. Her last words were I'm going to my Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. Sacred heart of Jesus have mercy on her soul. The third one reads: In loving memory of Mrs Mary Foley Waterville who died 7th Sept 1930 *(or 1939) aged 72 years

Elsewhere, looking out over the Atlantic, other gravestones stood straight, some at an angle, beaten down by the wind and the rain. It’s a magical spot.

The backs of headstones on a hill facing out over the ocean. In the nearground is a tall white slab with a celtic cross head on top. The grave surround is blue stone.

Three headstone. First is white with black inscription: In loving memory of the McGillicuddy family, Lohar. Mary, died 27 Jan 1944 Timothy, died 9 September 1946 Their Children Daniel died 17 July 1900 Mary died 8 June 1908 Abbie died 9 October 1927 Timothy died 13 Sept 1982 James McGillicuddy died 8 July 2001 His wife Julia died 21 June 2004 Their son James died 28 October 2021 Sacred heart of Jesus have mercy on them RIP> The second one, black marble with gold writing reads: In loving memory of Bartholomew O'Shea, Scart and Farranatee, Died 21st November 1966 aged 92 years. His wife Ellen M (nee Doyle) died 2nd October 1968 aged 92 years His son Patrick Joseph died 26th May 1991 aged 76 years His daughter Eileen Rose, died 4th February 2001 aged 83 years His daughter Johanna Margaret died 22nd April 2017 aged 96 years The third one, again black with faded gold lettering, reads: In loving memory of Crohane O'Shea, Farranatee, Died 20 December 1933 aged 89 years His wife Mary (nee Murphy) died 12th February 1937 aged (text hidden by grass) His daughter Bridie died 15th January 19?7

Mary and Timothy O’Sullivan lost three of their children; only the fourth outlived them (see alt text for full inscription)

Headstones on a grassy knoll overlooking the sea and sand below

So many stories. So much history. I’d like to go back and find someone in the know.

Apart from the O’Connell tomb (which has the oldest grave in the cemetery from 1770 and is still in use with the most recent burial in 2007) and one other overgrown, a third stands out. The Galvin Family tomb. The green and white tiles are a 1950s addition (according to a survey by Kerry County Council) yet the burial dates go back to 1892. Sadly, Mortimer (who himself died from apoplexy) and Catherine Galvin (who died from bronchitis) lost their only daughter Catherine in 1890 and their grandson Joseph in 1899 (aged 9). Catherine herself died in childbirth having only married a year earlier. So much life. So much tragedy.

Tomb tiled with green and white tiles. Stone itself has the following inscription: Erected in affectionate memory of Mortimer Galvin of Liss died Jany 17th 1900 aged 80 years and of his wife Catherine died Oct 15th 1892 aged 73 years and their daugher Catherine Clifford died Dec 22nd 1890 aged 2? years and their grandson Joseph Galvin died March 7th 1899 aged years.

And then, there’s the gravestone that makes you smile and leaves you wondering.

simple celtic cross stone with the inscription - in loving memory of dale dougherty - brave and beautiful. and at the base - Vincent Blackett









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