Ireland day 0188. Monday 04 April 2022- Kilkenny

Ireland day 0188. Monday 04 April 2022- Kilkenny
Today’s summary Drove down to Kilkenny where Val’s maternal grandmother’s family all come from.   Had a good look round and found Val’s great great grandparents’ grave – now sadly damaged.   The churchyard warden helped us find a stonemason who may be able to repair it.   A great day out
Today’s weather Drizzly and overcast all day.   Very little wind.   About 11C
Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of our route)
Close-up location
(The green line shows where we walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Kilkenny and St Riochs churchyard

One of the reasons we decided to upend our lives last year, and come and live in Ireland, was the close connection of Val’s family with the Emerald Isle.   It’s quite a long and complicated story, but basically Val’s maternal grandmother Eileen was born in Ireland, and as far as we can tell, Eileen ‘s ancestors – at least as far back as 1720 – all came from a small area of Ireland around the city of Kilkenny.   (By the way, even though it’s only a relatively small place – with a population of just 26,000 – it was granted a royal charter by James I in 1609 which gate it the status of a city).

Eileen’s father happened to be in the UK with his family (including Eileen) when he died unexpectedly in 1910.   So he was buried there, and his wife, and most of his descendants continued to live in the UK.   That is of course why Val ended up in Portsmouth.   So the “most recent” Irish relics still in Kilkenny are those of Eileen’s grandparents – in other words Val’s great great grandparents.   Through a great deal of diligent research, Val was able to establish that they were interred in St Rioch’s churchyard in Kilkenny, although the digitised notes from the Kilkenny Archaeological Society (which Val has just joined, incidentally) apocryphally observed that the headstone was “fallen”.

We managed to find St Rioch’s on Google Maps, so our purpose today, now that we have a car, was to drive down to Kilkenny and see what we could find.   We also wanted to have a look round the city, to try and imagine what it must have been like for her antecedents to live there 150 years ago.

We found St Rioch’s easily enough – it’s a very smartly tended small churchyard, only about half a kilometre from the city centre.   As soon as you enter the churchyard, you are struck not only by how neat and tidy it is, but also by how peaceful and quiet it is.   The noises of the urban surrounds seem to just melt away, and you can hear the birds chirping and smell the freshly cut grass.   The reason for the tidiness soon manifested itself in the form of Tom Reade, the volunteer churchwarden who keeps the place neat and tidy.   He was out and about today, doing a bit of tidying up, and he came over to introduce himself shortly after we stepped into the churchyard.

Tom was exceptionally friendly and helpful, and was able to show us to what he thought was probably the right plot.   The headstone was indeed broken into three pieces (and a fourth piece seemed to be missing) and lying on the ground alongside the grave.   But we could just make out carved on it the names of Val’s great great grandfather and great great grandmother, of their daughter who died aged seventeen and of two other children who were simply identified as having “died young”.  Val’s great great aunts and uncles who barely lived long enough to leave any trace on the world, other than on the headstone.

Tom told us about a local stone mason who he thought would be able to fix the headstone.  So after we had chatted to Tom a while longer – he was so knowledgeable about the area, having lived there for ninety four years, that we could barely drag ourselves away – we headed off down the road to see if Gargan’s stone craftsmen could help us out.   It was a successful visit and it looks like they may be able to effect some sort of repair and restore the grave to a semblance of its former glory.   It would be a nice thing to do, so Mr Gargan is going to have a look at the fragments of headstone and see what he can do.   He’ll give us a quote in the next few days and we will take it from there.

Unearthing your past like this can be quite emotional so Val decided we should recover over a “proper” Irish lunch of boiled ham, mashed potato and cabbage with tea and cake.  That suited me fine fine so we found a nice café and settled down for a really delicious lunch which made an enjoyable change from sandwiches and the trusty thermos.   Now that we are outside the tourist meccas of Dublin, prices were a bit more reasonable – €25 for a very substantial two course lunch for two – with lots of tea to wash it down.   For once, it struck me as good value.

After lunch we had a good (albeit somewhat superficial) look around Kilkenny.   It’s a smart sort of a place, with lots of nice independent shops selling all sorts of interesting things, and a magnificent castle towards the southern end of the centre.   We used our new OPW cards to go in and have a peek at the castle’s magnificent interior, and stayed there till they chucked us out at 5:30pm.   By this stage we were pretty much drained, so headed back to the churchyard for one last look around, then jumped into the car for the 90 minute drive back to Malahide.

Altogether a very satisfying and enjoyable day.   Combined with the Lugnaquilla epic on Saturday and then the Liberator crash exploration yesterday, I think it’s been one of the most enjoyable and fulfilling weekends we’ve had since we arrived in Ireland.   But the best bit of all, I have rather selfishly to admit, was finally getting rid of Covid on Saturday morning.   Hurrah all round!



Today’s photos (click to enlarge)

St Rioch’s churchyard, built by public subscription in 1829.   Two of Val’s great great grandparents are buried here Val outside St Rioch’s.   A smart little churchyard, largely thanks to the endeavours of the veritable Tom, who you can just see tending the flowerbed in the background
We treated ourselves to a “proper” Irish lunch in Kilkenny, comprising mashed potatoes, boiled ham, cabbage and onion sauce washed down with gallons of tea.   Val looks a bit bemused by it all, I must admit. Outside Kilkenny castle.   It is managed by the OPW so of course is excellent, and has very knowledgeable staff.   I learned for example that the castle is made of “black” Kilkenny “marble” – which is neither black nor marble – but which contains the same lithostrotion and brachiopod fossils as you see outcropping on Malahide beach.   We’ve joined the OPW as members now so used our membership cards to pop in and have a quick look round.   Very interesting history of the Butlers of Ormonde who lived there from 1391 until 1967.   Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithfull joined the celebration party when it was sold to the people of Kilkenny for £50 in 1967
Checking out these rather magnificent antlers, recovered from the bogs, from a Giant Irish Elk.   Unlike me, they became extinct about 10,000 years ago Wellington Square, where Val’s great-great grandparents lived and her great-grand father was brought up.   It’s a lovely square and if it were in central Dublin (or London) the elegant townhouses would sell for millions – if not more.   But sadly now it is falling into disrepair, and seems to be haunted by ghosts of former splendours and by more modern spectres from society’s fringes
Val with the churchyard warden, Tom Reade, and with her great great grandparent’s grave (with the cracked headstone) in the foreground.   He told us he was born in 1928, making him a very respectable 94 when we visited, and he was looking as chipper as ever.   He directed us to a local stonemason who may be able to repair the broken headstone.
Interactive map

(Elevations corrected at  GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )

Total distance: 10549 m
Max elevation: 63 m
Min elevation: 53 m
Total climbing: 252 m
Total descent: -252 m
Total time: 04:43:55
Download file: Kilkenny corrected.gpx

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