The Boy who Kicked the Nun by Michael OCallaghan

Gorey Market Square Graveyard Tour

Text provided by The North Wexford Historical Society

Welcome to the Gorey Parish old graveyard in the Market Square. Please take care whilst visiting this historic site as many grave markers are simple stones in the ground and must remain in place. The Rector and Select Vestry of Christ Church Parish accept no liability for any loss or injury to persons or property whilst visiting this graveyard. It is a place of Christian burial so please do keep this in mind and do not leave any litter behind. Dogs are welcome but must be kept on a lead and any ‘deposits’ from them must be removed by their owners.

You are standing in Gorey’s most historic site, a place that has been of spiritual significance to the town for more than 400 years. This parish graveyard, more than any other place, is intimately woven into the
lives of generations in the surrounding community. In churchyards, the presence of ordinary people of the past is strongest. This churchyard tells the story of Gorey and its people who are at rest here.
You are invited to explore our graveyard. Interpretative boards that will soon be located along the paths will help you find out more about the history of this place when you visit again. In the meantime this leaflet will help. You are also welcome to take a seat to enjoy this space as a place of quiet reflection.
This graveyard, which for many years was overgrown and inaccessible, has been restored and is now being looked after and maintained in a very sensitive and caring way.  As part of the restoration work, a new access path was laid without disturbing any headstone, and seats and signage were installed. The site was sown in grass and wildflowers to allow for easier maintenance and weed suppression.
Sensitive repairs were also carried out on the boundary walls and graves where appropriate.
All of this restoration work should help preserve our ancient heritage for all time. Thanks to all who gave their time to help see this project to fruition.

Special thanks to Canon Mark Hayden of Christ Church Gorey; Gorey Tidy Towns; Adhoc Community Facilities; Wexford County Council; Mr. Paul Woods of Kilmurray Nursery, and archaeologist Ms. Catherine McLoughlin of Stafford McLoughlin, for their expertise and work on this project. Thank you to local historian Mr. Willie Willoughby for compiling this information leaflet which will soon form information panels around the graveyard.

Special mention must go to Mr. Tom Reynolds who mapped and recorded the history of this graveyard in great detail in the 1970s.

A Brief History of the Market Square Churchyard.

The first burials on this site are known to date back to the early 1600s. The most prominent memorial still surviving is the tomb of Bishop Thomas Ram who died in 1634. His tomb is surrounded by a low wall and railing in the central section of the graveyard. Bishop Ram is a significant figure in Gorey’s history as he secured a Royal Charter for the town in 1619. The 400 th anniversary of this event was celebrated by the people of Gorey in 2019. After the granting of the Charter, Gorey town was known as Newborough, but it was not popular, and the name reverted to Gorey sometime in the 1700s. The historic name for the parish in which Gorey is located was Kilmichaelogue.

A church was commissioned by Bishop Ram to be built on this site sometime around 1610. It stood until 1819, and nothing of this church survives today. Records show that in 1770, Gorey was described as a village made up of a Church, a Mass House, and a Market House.  Noted burials in this graveyard include: some of the victims of the famine of 1741; people who died in the Great Famine of 1845; and some of those who died in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. As many as 2,000 people may be buried here.
It is recorded that a many military weddings were held in the church here between 1801 and 1819.
In the corner of the northern boundary wall are two pillars which were part of a passageway that ran from the Main Street through the Market House to the churchyard. It was probably used by the Ram family to attend church. These pillars demonstrate how two of Gorey’s most historical sites lie side by side
and were once joined up. The Market House, the rear of which is visible from the churchyard, was built in 1709, and is the town’s oldest surviving historic building.

In the corner facing Liam Brennan Hardware, there was once a small entrance gate out to Church Lane. It is long since blocked up.  In the 1850s, 20 fine chestnut trees were dotted all around the boundary wall.
They were removed in 1925.  Over the years, some people wanted to turn this graveyard into a park, but
common sense prevailed.  In 1874, this graveyard was officially closed after 260 years, with the following
‘Father in Thy gracious keeping, Leave we now Thy servants sleeping.’
However, burials did take place here until the new graveyard was opened at Christ Church in 1889.
Bishop Thomas Ram: this area contains the tomb of Bishop Thomas Ram and his family. The Ram family were very large landowners in the Gorey area for several centuries. Bishop Ram was born in 1564 at Windsor, England. He came to Ireland as chaplain to the ill-fated Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex, who was executed by Queen Elizabeth. He later served as chaplain to Lord Mountjoy by whose patronage he became Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin at the age of 40. Bishop Ram built his church on this site in 1610. He wanted his Gorey church to be the Diocesan cathedral for Ferns but this never happened. Instead, it
became the parish church for Gorey. It was said to have contained a very elegant east window which was given by the Reverend Stopford. Part of this window was found recently. Bishop Ram died in 1634 and was interred in his tomb which he’d had built here some time before. The Ram church stood in this area for over 200 years until 1819, at which point a new parish church, Christ Church, was built at the upper end of town.
Our history in headstones. Some very fine headstones survive in this churchyard. You are most welcome
to examine them in detail. The map printed here will help you easily locate particular names. Below are some points of particular interest that may help spark your search.

 Stone 84E, for Edward Whitmore, is one of the oldest surviving inscribed stone, dating back to 1716, some 100 years after the church was built.
 This churchyard contains a headstone for the Byrne family, descendants of Myles Byrne of 1798 fame.
 One headstone here is over a tonne weight-see reference below.
 Stone 55G is the smallest, and has the shortest inscription. It reads: AB ASS
 One man buried here has two headstones. James Eayres was better known around Gorey as the Little Umbrella Man. He prepared one of the headstones himself before he died. The parish put up another headstone some years after his death.
 Other burials of note nearby are members of the Bates family from Gorey who were coach builders of international fame.
 Bishop Ram, William Sinnott, and James Eayres had one thing in common: they all provided their memorial stone before they died.
 Stone 62D is the heaviest in the churchyard, measuring 7’6” x 3’9”x 7 ¾” thick.
 Only 29 headstones erected prior to 1818 remain.
 It is thought that Col. Walpole, who was in charge of Crown Forces at the Battle of Tubberneering, was killed and buried here in 1798 in an unmarked grave just inside the front gate. His family commissioned a
memorial to him in the old church on this site and it is now in the present Christ Church.

Meet the ‘stonies’: many headstones that survive here bear a record, not only of the deceased, but also of the talented craftsmen that helped preserve their memory. In the past, stone cutters were known as ‘stonies’.
Renowned local stonecutter Denis Cullen has two headstones here which are considered great works of art. They are signed, and feature depictions of a church. Three other headstones here are also attributed to Denis Cullen.
Two headstones are attributed to Charles Harrison of Dublin. He was one of the world’s great sculptors. He carved the pulpit in the present Christ Church Gorey and is also responsible for many great works in Dublin city. One of those who worked for Mr Harrison was James Pearse, father of Patrick and Willie
Pearse who are remembered for the role they played in the 1916 Rising.

Sheppard’s of Dublin supplied another headstone in this cemetery. A member
of the Sheppard family, Oliver Sheppard, carved the statue of ‘The Dying

Cúchulainn’ in 1911, now on display in the GPO. He also carved the Pikemen sculptures in Wexford town and Enniscorthy. The surnames of other stone cutters with headstones here are: Travers, O’Brien and Murphy.

Paddy Casey Gorey Market House Festival 2024
Gorey Market House Festival 2024
Gorey Market House Festival 2024
Paddy Casey Gorey Market House Festival 2024
Gorey Market House Festival 2024
Gorey Market House Festival 2024