BALSOON GRAVEYARD, CO. MEATH
TOMBSTONES AND INSCRIPTIONS
Recorded by Dr. Beryl Moore and Mr and Mrs Cawkhill
Balsoon, in the Barony of Lower Deece, is a small square graveyard surrounded by a good stone wall. The little ruined nave-chancel type church with its chancel arch still stands in the northern end of the graveyard: there was once a path around the plot where the graves are. In 1887 the Rev. William Ball Wright, author of The Ussher Memoirs, employed some men to help him study the tombstones and do some excavations. He found three pieces of the beautifully carved Eliot slab and placed them inside the nave of the church on the south side: the remaining pieces are still missing. The slab bears the arms of Eliot and four allied families, Might, Rochfort, Ussher and Kenedie. Mr Wright found no Ussher graves in Balsoon although he knew several of the family had been buried there, including the Rev. Marcus who died in 1698. He reported having found graves of the Eliots from about 1614, but we found none. In fact, we only found ten headstones, about half of which are to the same pattern – a plain heavy large stone with the upper edge raised in a semi-circle.
REILLY – 1880. Tall narrow stone with small plain cross on top and a Maltese cross below. It is outside the south wall of the chancel. “Erected by Thomas Reilly of Navan in memory of his father Patk Reilly who died 1883 aged 60 years, also of his mother Catherine Reilly who died in America in 1880 aged 76 years.”
DONEGAN – 1777. A big heavy stone, 6ft high with a crucifixion at top centre. Our Lord has upraised arms, head bent to viewer’s left, ribs clearly shown and legs straight. On each side is a leafy design and “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” around top. Further out on each side is a cherub’s head, and a border surrounds the inscription. “Erected by John Donegan of Bective in memory of his beloved parents Patrick Donegan who depd this life Feby the 20th 1777 aged 80 and Rose Donegan otherwise Plunkett who depd this life Octr the 10th 1797 aged 74 years. Here lies the body of Anne Donegan who depd this life Feby the 27th 1822 aged 14 years. Also Michael and Catherine who died when young. Also his son John Donegan who died Octr 2nd 1848 aged 34 years. Also his daughter-in-law Harriot Donegan who died May 9th 1852 aged 35.” At bottom of stone is “May They Rest in Peace Amen.”
ANTHONY – 1777. A stone in good condition, but tilting to the left. It has some fine scrollwork at top and a sunburst encircling Cross, IHS and Heart. “This stone was erected by Simon Anthony in memory of his father Thomas Anthony who departed this life the 9th of July 1777 aged 75 years.
SMYTH – 1782. A tall narrow stone , tilting forward, with Sunburst encircling a cross, IHS and three nails; below are two cherubs’ heads with outstretched wings and ‘Gloria in Excelsis Deo’ beneath. A border surrounds the inscription. Several pieces of this stone have flaked off and we have failed to read it fully. “This monument was erected by …… at Smyth in memory of his mother Me ….. Smyth alias Anthony (?) who depd this life the 27th of June 1782 aged 5 .. years. Also his father Peter Smyth aged 45 years.”
COWLEY – 1787. A large heavy stone much sunk in ground and tilting forwards. It has a full Sunburst enclosing Cross and IHS and a seven-petalled rose on each side. “Erected by Robert Cowley of Swainstown who died Decr the 26th 1795 aged 17 years. Also his father Peter Cowley who died Septr 14th 1787 aged 74 years….Mother Bridget Cowley….” The last words cannot be seen because of the tilt and the way the stone has sunk.
LINNEEN – 1748. Small stone of the usual pattern with no other ornamentation except a very large IHS in centre top. The rows of lettering are very close together. “This stone and burial place belongeth to Patrick Linneen and his posterity. Here lyeth the body of the above Patrick Linneen who departed this life January the 17th day 1750 aged 56 years. Here also lyeth the body of Catherine Linneen alias McCawley wife of the above Patrick Linneen who departed this life February the 21st day 1748 aged 58 years.” This is the oldest stone we found except for the Eliot slab dated 1616.
The last four tombstones are along the path in the south-east corner of the graveyard:
KER – 1864. A large draped urn on top of a high columnar tombstone with the inscription on a marble inset: “Sacred to the memory of Francis William Ker widow of the late William A Williams Kerr of Kilmore Co. Kildare who departed this life Dec. 12th 1873.” At foot of column is inscribed “them that sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” The inscription over the grave is “Sacred to memory of William A Williams Kerr who departed this life 18th day of August 1864.”
WILLIAMS – 1842. Chalice in centre top. “Sacred to the memory of Sarah Frances Williams 4th daughter of Henry Williams of Arodstown who died December 21st 1842 in the 21st year of her age. And Lettitia Ker Williams 5th daughter of Henry Williams who died April 8th 1845 in the 19th year of her age.”
WILLIAMS – 1841. A similar stone to the last, also with chalice. “Sacred to the memory of Henry Williams of Arodstown who died September 3rd 1861 in the 76th year of his age and his wife Eliza Williams who died February 7th 1841 aged 49 years.”
MOCKLER – 1817. Table-tomb with upper half broken in four pieces. It used to rest on four well carved pedestal stones. “To the memory of Captain Robert Mockler late of the 56th Reg. Foot who on the 16th day of July 1817 and the 36th year of his age closed an honourable life the last twenty years of which had been devoted to the service of his King and Country. He passed through life unblemished and death set a seal upon his character.”