MORE than 200 people gathered at an ancient Famine burial ground in West Cork last week to celebrate the revival of a little bit of local history.
The gathering marked the culmination of a three-year community project to refurbish what had been an overgrown burial pit, and turn it into a tranquil place of commemoration.
Fr Finbarr Crowley, parish priest of Innishannon, celebrated Mass at the site of the Kilpadder Famine Burial Pit at Dromkeen, just outside Innishannon village.
The congregation, which included residents of Dromkeen, Knockroe and Farnagow – as well as two families from the USA who had provided financial support to the project and flew to Ireland for the occasion – listened closely as local artist Mary Nolan O’Brien, spoke of how she, her husband Joe, and local volunteers had worked to bring the project to fruition.
Ms Nolan O’Brien welcomed the guests and Americans Bob and Susan Murphy as well as Jim and Cheryl Calvey who had flown from Boston.
‘The restoration has been on my mind for nearly 60 years now,’ said Mary, adding that the arrival by Bob Murphy in Dromkeen three years ago had been the catalyst, as Bob had traced his ancestors to the graveyard.
She paid tribute to the archaeological department of Cork County Council for its support, and praised Cllrs Kevin Murphy and Alan Coleman for their help.
It was hoped, she added, that the children who had taken part in the mass, would cherish the site, and, in future years, treat it and those who rested in it, with the respect they so richly deserved.
A special stone, carrying an inscription commemorating the work, was unveiled by local landowner Jim Connolly, and the site was formally added to the Innishannon History Trail.
It is believed that during the famine, Bob Murphy’s grandfather and two siblings emigrated to America, leaving behind the remainder of their family of eight, all of whom died in the famine and are believed to have been buried in Kilpadder, which dates from 1845.
The grave site, which is bereft of any memorial stones – there are no records of the people who lie buried there – covers about three quarters of an acre.
After visiting the site in 2012, Bob returned to the States but within weeks contacted Mary with a proposal to fund the restoration.
Bob is a member of the Knights and Ladies of St Finbarr, the oldest club in the USA for emigrants from Co Cork, a group which was prepared to donate ,000 for the restoration of the graveyard – if Mary would oversee the project.
Bob and his friend Jim Calvey, who was club treasurer at the time, also donated personal funds.