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A History of Kilkeedy Church and Graveyard by Deirdre Keane

 

Kilkeedy Church

Located in the town land of Cross, ‘Kilkeedy’ originates form the Irish ‘Cill Chaoidhe’, translating as the church of St. Keedy, Kedda or Ketta. His festival was celebrated here each year on the third of March.

The existing ruins date from the fourteenth century, with a small chapel added on the northeast side of the main church. An aerial survey of the site and the ordnance survey map indicate the previous existence of a large circular enclosure of approximately 130 metres in diameter, having features similar to other ancient ecclesiastical sites.

O.S. map showing the location of Kilkeedy Church & Graveyard
O.S. map showing the location of Kilkeedy Church & Graveyard

The walls evident in the map and aerial photograph are now incorporated into the modern field network. The church ruins and graveyard are now enclosed by a wall built in 1934/35. Toberkeedy, the well that served the site lies two metres southeast of the main wall indicated by a circular stone wall.

Kilkeedy Church and Burial Ground
Kilkeedy Church and Burial Ground, also known as Cross Abbey
The aerial survey shows the previous extent of the site

The Church Ruins

The present day ruins measure approximately 15 metres x 7 metres with a small additional chapel measuring 7 x 4 metres. The main part of the church is orientated East-West with a gothic-style window located in the east gable to catch the rays of the rising sun. The window which is now covered in ivy consists of two broad ogee-headed lights with a semi-circular head to the splay.

In the southeast corner a square-headed door way is now b locked in. A niche in the wall in which vessels were kept remains. There are references to a stone holy water font located within the church until 1900.

The Ordnance Survey letters for County Clare describe Kilkeedy Church:

“The present church at Kilkeedy is by no means to be considered the primitive one, but one erected on its site about five centuries since. It consists of two parts, a church of considerable size, and a small chapel erected against it on the north side. The larger part of the church extends east west and measures about sixty feet in length and twenty in breadth. The west wall is level with the ground, but the east gable and side walls are in tolerable preservation. The east gable contains a gothic window of considerable size and neatness and the south wall a round headed but decidedly modern one about three feet five inches in height on the outside and four inches wide. There is a holy water font placed on the middle of the floor of the church but this is not its original position.”

Kilkeedy church viewed from north west
Kilkeedy church viewed from north west

The Small Chapel

The small additional chapel was built by the family of O’Maolain. A stone inserted in its south wall bears this inscription:

“1706 IHS This tumbe is made by F. Con. Mullan, for him and his family in his ancestors chaple, to whom God be merciful”

The chapel also contains a grave slab dating from 1800 on which it is written as Mylan. The Mylan (Moylan) family’s prominence in Kilkeedy is indicated by an entry dated 5th February, 1716 in the Inchiquin Manuscripts:

“Conveyance in consideration of her dowry by more Ny Veolayn of Kilkeedy Co. Clare, wife of Donald alias Donall Oge O’Dea of Dishert, gent., to her husband of the half quarter of Aghrim I Veolayn in the parish of Kilkeedy, barony of Inchiquinn ……..”

The chapel had two storeys, evident from the corbels which supported the joists of the upper floor. A small doorway, fireplaces and two small windows at upper storey level suggest that this was a residence for a priest.

Window of small chapel looking east
Window of small chapel looking east

View from West
View from West

View of South East corner
View of South East corner

Stone Carving

Two crosses carved in stone remain at Kilkeedy Church. Within the small additional chapel a stone slab measuring 180 cm. x 60 cm. is inscribed with a simple cross. It is possible that this slab was moved from another location as it faces west in contrast to all other gravestones which face east.

A more elaborate cross is carved onto a fragmented stone located below the window of the east gable. The cross measures 45 cm. x 60 cm. consisting of a central cross extending beyond a circle, each extension ending in a rounded triform inscription.

It is possible that these crosses were moved from a different location on the site. They may have been boundary crosses which were placed at each of the cardinal points of the compass to form a circle of protection and to indicate the boundary of the church lands.

Inscribed stone cross at east gable
Inscribed stone cross at east gable

Association with the MacBrody School of History

The location of the MacBrody School of History is disputed by the parishes of Kilkeedy and Ruan. The dispute arises from two contradictory history references to the MacBrody School.

The School is associated with the approbation of the Annals of the Four Masters which took place in 1636. Michael Ó Cleirigh first took the Annals of the Four Masters to the Egan School of History in the Parish of Lorrha in County Tipperary. It was then taken to the MacBrody School of History in Kilkeedy “four miles south of Gort inside the Clare border.” However, in ‘the History and Topography of County Clare’ Frost identified Cill Chaidhe as Kilkee in the Parish of Ruan as the home of Conor MacBrody. In the original manuscript of Conor MacBrody it is written as “Kilchaeide” translating as Kilkeedy. Kilkee is written as Cill Caeidhe.

If the school was located in Kilkeedy it is probable that it was located near Kilkeedy Church as evident from the topography of the site and its previous importance and complexity.

Bibliography

Brew, Frank. The Parish of Kilkeedy: A local history. (Tubber: Frank Brew, 1998)

Feehan, John et al. The Book of the Burren. (Kinvara: Tireolas, 1991)

Frost, James. The History and Topography of County Clare (Dublin: Mercier Press, 1973)

O’Donovan, John & Curry, Eugene. The Antiquities of County Clare (Ennis: Clasp Press, 1997)

Swinfen, Avril. Forgotten Stones: Ancient church sites of the Burren and environs (Dublin: Lilliput Press, 1992)

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