Clogher Graveyard

Nestled by the eastern shore of Lough Colga in the parish of Calry is one of Sligo’s historic graveyards – Clogher, dating back to medieval times. The graveyard is adorned with yew trees which is typical of many graveyards. Clogher is the final resting place of inhabitants of the Parish of Calry. The location is peaceful and tranquil and is far removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The precise origins of Clogher as a burial place are not known. Church Island on Lough Gill was the original Christian burial place for the inhabitants of the parish of Calry but the church on the island was destroyed by fire in 1416. The parish burial place then seem to have moved from the island to Clogher and the remains of a medieval church is located within the walls of the graveyard. The Cistercians of Boyle Abbey were known to have had land in this area.

Clogher is now designated as an ‘historic graveyard’ and is the last resting place of Calry residents over the past few centuries, including the Calry branch of the O’Connor Sligo clan.

The oldest identifiable tombstone in Clogher is that of Connel O’Connor who died on 23 December 1787. Connel was the grandfather of the well-known Sligo merchant, Peter O’Connor, who donated the high altar and bells for Sligo Cathedral. Also buried in Clogher are James O’Connor, the former owner of Ballyglass House and nephew of Peter.

The grave of James and his wife Emily is marked by a fine Celtic cross and is mentioned in O’Rorke’s History of Sligo. It is evident from O’Rorke’s account of Clogher, written in the early 1880s, that the graveyard was in quite poor condition at that time:

At the base of the hill is the site of the old religious establishment of Clogher, now and from time immemorial, used as a burying place. The graveyard being neatly walled, and lined in part with trees, looks well from a distance, but a near view shows the interior overrun with weeds, which cover and conceal the tombs, and give the place a neglected and disordered look. Some remains of an oblong building that ran from east to west, and measured 52 feet long and 21 wide, interior measurement, are still in their place, though the eastern gable and south side wall are levelled to the ground, while only about 12 feet high of the west gable and north sidewall continue standing. A very fine Irish cross, set over the grave of the late much-lamented Mrs. James O’Connor, is the most striking object in the place. It bears the inscription :

IN AFFECTIONATE REMEMBRANCE OF EMILY KATE,

THE BELOVED AND DEVOTED WIFE OF JAMES CHARLES O’CONNOR, OF BALLYGLASS.

BORN 21ST JULY, 1844;

DIED 1ST MAY, 1872.

MAY SHE REST IN PEACE.

The O’Connor crypt is the resting place of the O’Connors of Edenbawn House including Dennis, the father of Peter.

Clogher Graveyard has been immortalised by the local poet Michael Hargadon in his poem – The Country Churchyard – published in his collection Irish and Canadian Poems (1921).

By Colga Lake there is a shady spot

A rood or so, a little walled-in lot;

All folk are sad to enter that abode,

Yet there the weary leave aside their load.

Hargadon’s parents, John and Mary (McLoughlin) are buried in the graveyard along with five of their children who died of TB between 1899 and 1913 and their longest surviving son, Charlie, who died in 1976. Michael Hargadon (1888-1968) was commemorated in Sligo during August 2018.

According to Mary Timoney’s book, Had Me Made, several examples of Gaelic Revival headstones are to be found in Clogher and those of Patrick Commons (d. 1926) and Michael McNasser (d.1923) are referenced with photographs.

In 2017 an opportunity arose to present Clogher Graveyard as an historic graveyard to be surveyed under the Irish Historic Graves Project managed by the Heritage Council in cooperation with the local authorities. The ‘Sligo Historic Graves Project’ is an initiative of Sligo Heritage Forum and is an action of the County Sligo Heritage Plan 2016 – 2020.  The 2017 project was funded by Sligo County Council in partnership with The Heritage Council and was being delivered by John Tierney  of Eachtra Archaeological Projects (see www.historicgraves.com) on behalf of the Heritage Office, Sligo County Council. Other Sligo graveyards included in the project are: Old Sligo Cemetery, Keelogues, Drumcliffe Church of Ireland, St. Fechin’s Ballisodare, Montiagh, Ballynakill, Kilmacowen and Kilross.

A team from Calry Local History Society comprised of Eilish McGowan, Geraldine Branley, Charlie Branley, Francis Feehily and Gerard Rooney worked with Mr John Tierney in April 2017 to survey Clogher Graveyard and compile the data, photos and maps needed for the website.

Calry Local History Society launched Clogher Online at an event held in the Clayton Hotel on Wednesday 18 April 2018. The Society hopes that the website will be a valuable asset to historians, genealogical researchers and the general public.

The website address is: http://historicgraves.com/graveyard/clogher-calry/sl-clmo and the following data is recorded online for each marked grave : exact geographical location (i.e. GPS coordinates – north of the Equator and west of the Greenwich meridian); exact wording of epitaph; list of names of people commemorated; and a photo of the headstone. The site can be searched on any keyword.