Archive of the Month
Tracking Parochial Families in Killinane and Kilconickny, County Galway: Local History Using Parish Registers & Gravestone Inscriptions
Archive of the Month – June 2016
I discovered the parishes of Killinane and Kilconickny, near Loughrea, county Galway, during 2013 while researching the history of my wife’s ancestors – the Taylors of Athenry, Ardrahan and Kilchreest. As part of my research I transcribed the surviving records of both now located in the RCB Library, Dublin, where they have been held in safe custody since 2007. Biographical notes of the families of these small communities were compiled from the transcribed church records, gravestone inscriptions from Killinane and Bookeen graveyards, and, other related research material. Together, these provided sufficient material for a book entitled The Church of Ireland Unions of Killinane and Kilconickny, Loughrea, County Galway, a History which I self–published in 2015. My research and related publication could not have been completed without the patient assistance and guidance of the team at the RCB Library and I am delighted to have an opportunity to make a contribution to ongoing efforts to index and make more widely available the content of parish registers by sharing my transcripts of all the entries in the surviving registers of baptism, marriage and burial available online, together with details from local graveyard inscriptions, for this Archive of the Month presentation.
Killinane, sometimes recorded as Killinan, was a vicarage in the diocese of Kilmacduagh. By order of the Privy Council dated 11 March 1726, Killinane was consolidated with the vicarages of Isertkelly, Kilchreest, Kilogollin (Killogilleen), Killora and Kilthomas to form what became known as the Killinane union. The Irish form of the name is Cill Fhionáin, meaning St Finan’s church, and surviving records of the clergy of the parishes of Killinane union date from c.1402.
In 1834, the total population of the union according to the census conducted by the Commissioners of Public Instruction was 9,149, and of that number, only 267 (2.9%) were Church of Ireland, or in the official language of the day: members of the ‘Established Church’. The church and graveyard of Killinane are situated south–west of Kilchreest, on the road from Loughrea to Gort, in the townland of Castleboy, between the great houses of the Persse families of Roxborough and Castleboy. Construction of the church was completed in c.1809 but the surviving gravestones indicate burials in the graveyard from at least 1786 suggesting an older building. It is possible that a nearby ruin of a former church may have been the church built by Dudley Persse (1625–1699) who requested that he be buried in the crypt beneath that church.
The only available photograph of Killinane church, which dates from the 19th century, and is available in local custody is this partial view in a photograph taken of grave 35, that of Michael Taylor, Ardrahan, who died in 1886. However, an original architectural drawing of the floor plan in the custody of the RCB Library shows the internal layout, including ten pews designated for members of the gentry and six provided for other parishioners.
Unfortunately the early registers for the parish of Killinane were in the Public Records Office of Ireland in 1922, and were destroyed during the civil war. Registers lost included baptisms 1823–1881; marriages 1823–1844, and burials 1829–1881. Subsequent registers comprising baptisms 1882–1928; marriages 1845–1915 and burials 1883–1929, together with related parish records including the vestry minutes are now kept safe in the RCB Library. A detailed handlist of the collection is available here. LINK TO PDF A Using these surviving records it is possible to glean a sense of the broad cross–section of parishioners: from the landed proprietors and staff employed in the great houses to farmers, merchants, professionals, tradespeople and labourers. Quite a number of the marriage and baptism records relate to members of the Royal Irish Constabulary, who were based in the barracks located in Kilchreest village.
The gravestones at Killinane graveyard help to supplement the surviving burial records, and fill in gaps in the early burial evidence. To facilitate research, a consolidated listing of both burials and inscriptions provides a more complete picture. The consolidated list is available here. Apart from the Persse family, other families such as the Cannons, Dillons, Glosters and Taylors made up the rich tapestry of the 18th–century local community. At that time there was no church in either Killinane or Kilconickny, and Loughrea would have been considered the mother church for the needs of parishioners of both the Killinane and Kilconickny unions. Indeed early church records for Loughrea provide evidence about some of these families and a detailed list of this parish collection, also held at the RCB library, is available here.
As the photograph below reveals some of the graves predate surviving burial records. The three graves in the foreground are (L to R) 54 Jane Taylor, 55 Annie Taylor, sister of Jane, and 56 Isabella Bradshaw, wife of Dean Bradshaw, who served as rector of Killinane between 1885 and 1933.
Each grave has a corresponding number on this locally produced sketch map
Immediately inside the gates are those of Frances Persse, second wife of Dudley Persse of Roxborough estate, and Dudley Persse, the son of Dudley Persse’s first wife, the Hon. Katherine O’Grady. Frances Persse died on 22 March 1886 and was buried on 26 March 1886. Dudley died on 13 March 1892 and was buried on 16 March 1892.
Many of the gravestone inscriptions at Killinane include traditional passages from scripture, or, affectionate tributes from the bereaved. One which is of particular interest is the inscription on grave 49, the box–tomb of Parsons Persse of Castleboy estate. Parsons was an industrious landlord with a keen understanding of the commercial, political and social issues affecting the country. On his death in 1812, his will provided for the setting up of an endowment scheme to provide a school in the townland of Illerton for the children of his tenants. When the school closed, the funds were applied for the benefit of the four remaining schools within the boundaries of the Castleboy estate. While there are only two schools today (Kilchreest and Ballyglass National Schools) the Parsons Persse Endowment Scheme continues to support both. While the tomb of Parsons Persse is damaged and difficult to access, the inscription, is quite readable:
Herein are deposited the remains of the late
Parsons Persse of Castleboy Esq.
who departed this life
on the 6th of August 1812 aged 74 years
Impressed with feelings of gratitude and regret
which time can never diminsh
his son Robert has caused to be erected
this humble tribute of respect
to the memory of a Father’s virtue
The inscription on the gravestone of the Joynt family (grave 5), which is the flat stone in the foreground of Fig. 6, is quite different from all other recorded inscriptions:
This vault was erected by James
Joynt in the year of our Lord
1807 for him and his family
it is desired that no person
except one of the above mentioned
family shall ope this vault under
the penalty of five pounds sterling
which money is to be paid into
the hands of the Parish Clergyman
and distributed by him at his
will to the poor of the Parish
Another gravestone inscription of interest is that of Mary Johnston, grave 42, containing a salutary reminder to the living:
Erected by Robert Johnston
in memory of his beloved
wife Mary who departed this
life the 18th December 1857
aged 55 years
Remember Man as you pass by
as you are now so once was I
as I am now so shall you be
prepare for death and follow me
Inscriptions do not ordinarily reveal the tragedy often related to burials, such as that on grave 53, that of the Hall family of Castleboy:
Sacred to the Memory
of Castleboy who departed
this life February 5th 1871
aged 21 years
Also of his sister Esther EC
Hall who departed this life
February 5th 1871 aged 16 years
Go home my friends and shed no tears
we must be here till Christ appears
short was our time long be our rest
he took us home when he thought best
Burial records for William and Esther Hall confirm that they were children of John Hall, gamekeeper. We also learn that Esther’s full name was Esther Elizabeth Charlotte and William’s age was stated to be 19 and not 21 as recorded on the gravestone. The cause of death in both cases was cholera.
The grave in the foreground of the image below is that of the Revd Michael Dillon Pilkington, and his wife, Anna Alexander Pilkington, nee Orr, whose uncle, George Orr Dunbar, was MP for Belfast. The Revd Pilkington, whose residence was in Kilconickny union, was ordained for the diocese of Tuam, but died at the age of just 27 and never served in a parish.
The lives of several members of the Taylor families of Raheen, Kilchreest, Tynagh and Ardrahan are recorded in surviving Killinane records. At the foot of the Pilkington grave there are three Taylor graves, the barely visible flat stone being the grave of Benjamin Taylor of Raheen, husband of Barbara Taylor, nee Gloster, and father of Jane and Annie Taylor, whose graves are shown in image 6 above. Grave number 25 to the left of the Pilkington grave, with the raised kerbing, rusted metal railings and tall gravestone, is the grave of Benjamin Taylor and his wife, Jane Taylor, nee Dillon. Benjamin and Jane were married on 1 February 1834 at Loughrea. They originally lived at Creganore, Castleboy, and Benjamin was employed as the estate carpenter and, later as the land steward on the Castleboy estate of Robert Henry Persse, (interred in grave 4). The surviving vestry records of Killinane indicate that Benjamin had a long and dedicated association with Killinane church from at least 1846, serving the parish in a variety of roles as churchwarden, glebewarden, treasurer, parochial nominator and diocesan synodsman. Benjamin and Jane were residing at Beech Lodge, Kilchreest village when Jane died in 1876.
Close to grave number 35 (of Michael Taylor) are 37a and 37b, where members of the Ellis family were interred. Originally from Ahascragh, County Galway, the Ellis family settled near Gort. Michael Taylor married Sarah Ellis, daughter of Samuel and Mary, whose remains are interred in grave 37a. Samuel and Mary’s son, Richard Ellis, and daughter, Ellen Hardy, are interred in grave 37b. In 1857, Ellen married John Taylor, widower of Elizabeth Feltus Taylor, grave 34, whom he had married in St Nicholas Church, Galway, in 1844. John Taylor died in 1883 and Ellen then married Albert Edward Hardy at Kilconickny church on 19 June 1885.
By the early 21st century Killinane graveyard had became neglected and overgrown. However, in 2007, an ecumenical group of volunteers from the Kilchreest and Castledaly Heritage Group began reclamation work and they continue to carry–out maintenance work annually. On 26 September 2015 an inter–denominational re–dedication service was held at Killinane graveyard, in memory of all those buried there.
In 1945 with falling numbers of parishioners, the church building at Killinane was closed. The former glebe house at Kilchreest was sold following the retirement of the last rector in 1935, but remains extant and privately occupied. Sadly Killinane church was demolished in the 1940s.
The vicarages of Kilconiran, Kiltullagh and Lickerigg, were united to form Kilconickny union in 1735. The Irish form of the name is Cill C’nuicne, or Conicne’s church, and surviving records of the clergy of the parishes of Kilconickny union date from c.1398.
The total population of the union in 1834 was 8,806, of which only 130 (1.5%) were Church of Ireland. According to Nicholas Carlisle’s Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1810) there was no church or glebe house in Kilconickny, but there was a glebe of five acres in the parish of Lickerrig and a glebe of two and a half acres in the parish of Kilconiran. Carlisle commented that ‘in the absence of a church, Divine Service was performed in Mr Daly’s House at Dunsandel’, and that a church was to be built ‘as soon as Mr Daly and other Gentlemen are willing to contribute and have agreed upon the most convenient site’. With the assistance of a grant of £600 from the Board of First Fruits, a church was completed in 1815 at Bookeen, in the parish of Lickerrig – today a short distance south of exit 16 on the M6 Dublin to Galway motorway.
After disestablishment of the Church of Ireland it was suggested that Kilconickny union should be united with Killinane union and that it be served by a curate but such consolidation was resisted and the two unions were not united until the retirement of the Revd Charles Mills in 1906. The church at Bookeen closed in 1933 and having been used for a number of purposes it fell into considerable disrepair. However, it was acquired in 2006 by Chris Deakin and Orla McCluskey who then set about a sympathetic renovation of the building and the grounds, managing to salvage many of the original features in replicating the original design. Today, it is a beautiful private residence known as Bookeen Hall.
The former Glebe House, situated at Kilconieron, was leased from Burton Persse of Moyode Castle. It was later purchased by the Aitkin family and renovated. It is extant and occupied.
The only surviving church records for Kilconickny is a single marriage register covering the period 1845–1907. This volume is safely lodged in the RCB Library, and the transcript is available here.
There is a small graveyard at Bookeen with four surviving graves. Two of those interred at Bookeen, Revd Charles Mills and Susan Hughes, are to be found in the Killinane burial records. The burial records of Killinane also indicate that a James Holt was buried at Bookeen on 2 April 1915, but his grave is unmarked. In the absence of any burial records for Bookeen, full details of the four surviving graves are available here and may be of benefit for others interested in genealogical research, please click here.
Like Killinane, Kilconickny was united with Loughrea in 1945, and all are now part of the Aughrim union in the diocese of Clonfert.
Biographical note: Gerry Kearney
Is a native of Cloyne, County Cork and has lived in Oranmore, County Galway since 1989. He is married to Marguerite, nee Taylor, of Athenry and has three adult children. Gerry left school early and took up a clerical position with the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, now An Post, in 1969. He held a number of management positions including Head Postmaster at Carrick–on–Shannon, Sligo and Galway, and was the Retail Operations Manager for the Galway Area in 2011, when ill–health dictated that he retire earlier than planned.
Retirement provided the opportunity to re–kindle an interest in history, and Gerry self–published a family history in 2012 for limited circulation – The Taylor Family of Ardrahan Post Office, A History 1837–2012. In 2015, Gerry self–published The Church of Ireland Unions of Killinane and Kilconickny, Loughrea, County Galway – A History. Gerry is at present completing an extensive history of the Persse family of County Galway.
Gerry can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
Librarian and Archivist
Dr Susan Hood
Librarian and Archivist