Ballinafagh Churchyard Cemetery, Co. Kildare

The tiny cemetery that sits in the grounds of what has to be the most photographed church in Co. Kildare is a haven for a handful of local parishioners.

Ruins of Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

The Church of Ireland built this church on the site of a medieval church, the remains of which are still visible. It cost £900 to build back in 1831 which translates into about 120k today. You’d be lucky! It was funded by the Board of First Fruits…

[…] an institution of the Church of Ireland that was established in 1711 by Anne, Queen of Great Britain to build and improve churches and glebe houses [residences provided in each parish (or parish union) for the clergy man or woman and his or her family] in Ireland. This was funded from taxes collected on clerical incomes which were in turn funded by tithes.

Operating as a functioning church until 1959, its roof survived until 1985 (survived until it was manually removed, that is). Today, it’s boarded up – you can’t get inside without scaling a wall and, standing as it does in the middle of a field, you’d be hard pushed to do that unnoticed.

Ruins of Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

While its distinctive finials distinguish it from other CoI ruins I’ve seen, no churchyard cemetery in this part of the world would be complete without the requisite Celtic Cross. Indeed, the old Abbey cemetery in the nearby village of Clane is full of them. Ballinafagh is no exception.

Celtic cross in Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

Carty headstone gravemarker Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

Not much can be found out about those buried here. A register of baptisms 1841-76, marriages 1831-74 & burials 1840-76 was destroyed in the fire in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922 and I could find nothing about the Cartys or the Douglases anywhere on the Net.

Douglas family headstone Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

It’s a gorgeous place. It must be magical when the wheatfields are in full height. Those living in the house nearby are in an enviable position. I’m coveting their home and have added it to my list of Lotto buys.

Ruins of Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

Ballinafagh, also spelt Ballynafagh, depending on what you read and where you look has a famous son, one Edward O’Connor, whose life story was written up by local historian Seamus  Cullen. It makes for rich reading with lives as I know them today paling in comparison.

O’Connor was born in Ballinafagh just outside Prosperous in 1848 where his family were substantial tenant farmers. As a young man and an only son he decided not to go into farming but instead chose a career as a publican.

A brave decision in the day.

As a teenager in the autumn of 1865 when he was serving his apprenticeship in Dublin he became involved in the Fenian conspiracy. The following spring he was back living in Ballinafagh and came under suspicion from the local RIC who obtained certain information that linked him to Fenian activity. On the evening of 28 February 1866, the RIC from Robertstown and Donadea searched the O’Connor residence at Ballinafagh and Edward was taken into custody.

The local boy eventually makes good. Cullen’s fascinating account of the mystery man appeared in the Kildare Nationalist back in 2009. It’s worth a read.

Ruins of Ballinafagh Church Co Kildare

And the church and its cemetery are worth a visit. Bring your camera. Stay awhile.

@ 2024 Mary Murphy