TOMBS IN ST. MARY’S RUINED CHURCH, KILLEEN, CO. MEATH
In The Chancel
1) To the left of alter along north wall … Bishop’s Brass … 1450
2) In front of Altar … Fingal Vault.
3) To right of Altar … Tuite-Cusack Slab with Bishop’s Effigy … possibly 1300. If so the oldest slab in the Church.
4) Between the Sedilia and the East Wall, fastened to the South Wall in front of most easterly window … Plunkett-Dillon Mural Monument … 1681.
5) Along North Wall behind No.1 … Cusack slab with Knight’s Effigy … If Sir Lucas’ Cusack late 14th cent.
6) Behind No. 5 along North Wall … Plunkett-Forester slab … 1580
7) In front of Altar behind No.2 … Plunkett- Cusack slab … 1445
8) To right of Altar behind No. 3 … Cusack- Plunkett slab … 1620
9) In front of Altar behind No. 7 … Plunkett- Bermingham Slab 1521
1) A much fractured slab unsculptured except for a sunken portrayal of a Bishop wearing a mitre and holding a small crozier pointing outwards. The head lies to the east. A Brass originally fitted into this sunken area but was lost many years ago. Such brasses are rare in Ireland.
William Silke was consecrated Bishop of Meath in 1434 and lived after that
in the Palace of Ardbraccan where he died in 1450. He is said to have been buried in Killeen Abbey in front of the Alter because he had been P.P. of that Parish before being made the Bishop of Meath. This is thought to be his grave.
Also buried here (after his long and arduous labours) are remains of the Ven. Dr. Patrick Plunkett, 2nd son of Christopher 9th Lord of Killeen. Born about 1603 he entered the Cistercian order and became Abbot of St. Mary’s, Dublin and P.P. of Kilcloon. He taught his distinguished kinsman blessed Oliver Plunkett till his 16th year. In 1647 he got the See of Ardagh and later the See of Meath. He died in 1679 after a very adventurous life on the Continent, in prison, hiding in woods and on the mountains even when an old man.
2) Fingal Vault.
3) A large badly-fractured slab of a Bishop wearing a mitre and holding a crozier in his left hand pointing outwards. In his right hand is a small square object likely a book. His head lies to the east and is supported on the right side by an angel. There are some niches also on the right with heads in them likely saints. All is carved in low relief and he is represented as lying under an ornamental canopy. A black lettered inscription runs around the edge but cannot now be read; one line on the left side, two above the head and one on the right side. This grave holds many Tuites and Cusacks who in former times were Lords of Killeen. The original holder of this property was Sir Geoffrey De Cusack Knt. whose heiress granddaughter was Margaret who married Sir Richard De Tuite Knt. of Sonnagh (Co. Westmeath) & Killalon (Co. Meath) and through his wife, Killeen. Their heiress daughter Joan married Sir Walter De Cusack Knt. (a side branch of the Killeen Family). This Walter was knighted in 1361. Their son Sir Lucas De Cusack Knt had only one daughter Joan who married Sir Christopher Plunkett Knt of Rathregan in 1401 and for over 550 years since, the Lords of Killeen have been Plunketts.
One of the Cusacks was Geoffrey Bishop of Meath in 13th Cent. and died about 1300. If this is his tombstone it is the oldest in the Church.
4) This Plunkett-Dillon Mural Monument. Many broken pieces of the altar tomb were recently found behind this slab, evidently thrown in there to preserve them. The monument is in two divisions each with a crest, coat of arms, motto and inscription.
Left hand Division … Plunkett Crest, Coat of Arms and Motto (Festino Lente – Hasten forward with caution). Then comes the inscription “Sir Nicholas Plunkett Kt 3rd son of Christopher Lord Baron of Killeen and Jane Dillon his lady daughter to James Dillon Lord Baron of Kilkenny west afterwards Earle of Roscommon died ye 27th Day of December 1680 and of his …… age the 79th ……”
Right hand division … The Brown Crest, Coat of Arms and Motto (Lux en Tout- Loyal in everything). Then comes the Inscription “This Monument was erected for him by St. Valentine Browne of Ross in Ye County of Kierry Bart and Dame Jane his wife sole daughter and heire of ye said Sr Nicholas Plunkett and was finished in ye month of October ….. 1681”.
Archdall’s edition of Lodge’s Peerage of Ireland Vol. VI page 180 tells us that Sir Nicholas was an eminent Barrister and M.P. for Meath in 1634 and 1635 along with Sir Richard Barnewall. He was brother to Bishop Patrick Plunkett also buried within the walls of this Church, likely in grave No. 1. Both lived in stormy days. Sir Nicholas was appointed Ambassador to Rome and lived in exile on the continent for many years. In 1669 he was deputed to obtain from Charles 11 the restoration of the Estates of the Irish Catholics. He was married three times, firstly to the daughter and heiress of William Turner Alderman of Dublin and had 2 daughters Jane and Mary; the younger died early and the elder became his heiress and married Sir Valentine Browne of Ross, Killarney. When his wife died he married secondly Mary daughter of Christopher Plunkett of the Grange and thirdly Catherine Daughter of James Alymer of Carrickbrien in C. Clare. Sir Nicholas was interred by his sole surviving daughter Jane and her husband Sir Valentine Browne in a large tomb in Killeen to the right of the chancel with a slab over it on the wall which shows the Turner Arms in a Surcoat, the Alymer Arms in one Escutcheon, while in another is shown those of brown with Turner and Plunkett in a surcoat.
Sir Valentine Browne of Ross in the County of Kerry who erected this monument to his Father-in-law is the subject of a reference in a poem by Archdeacon O’Rahaille (Egan O’Rahilly) the great Irish tragic poet who lived from 1670 to 1726 (approx.). With the decline of the big house of the McCarthy’s who had patronised the native poets, O’Rahilly reluctantly appealed to Browne (who was of Anglo-Norman stock) only to be rebuffed. His next poem is one of regret for what the McCarthy’s had so lavishly given.
5) This effigial slab is of early 15th cent. cut in low relief and representing a Knight in Armour thought to be Sir Lucas Cusack Lord of killeen whose heiress daughter married Sir Christopher Plunkett of Rathregan in 1401. Only a few words of the inscription can be read; it runs between the ornamental border and the Knight’s effigy. The words “Cusak Killeen” were to be seen in 1911 when Lord Walter Fitzgerald visited the Church.
6) Archdall says this Plunkett-Forester slab commemorates Edward Plunkett of Balrath, the greatgrandson of 6th son of Sir Christopher the 1st lord of Killeen who married the heiress Joan Cusack in 1401 and founded the Plunkett houses of Killeen, Dunsany, Rathmore, Balrath and Dunsaughly. This Edward first married Margaret Plunkett daughter of Christopher Lord Dunsany and secondly Ellen daughter of Richard Forster of Santry Co. Dublin. It is dated 1584 and the inscription runs round the top and one side. The “Q” in “Qui” is upside down. The carving is in relief.
In the upper half and middle of the slab … Our Lord’s Passion and Crucifixion. Our Lord stands on the left side with one arm around the shaft of the Cross. Over it we get I N R I (Jesus of Nazareth king of the Jews).
On the left … The flogging post with ropes attached, pincers holding a nail, hammer, spear, ladder, 3-pronged scourge, 30 pieces of silver, cock standing on a barred oblong-shaped object, a lantern.
To the right … Scimitar, Reed, Closed Hand, Sponge on Pole, Hyssop on pole, Birchrod, Ewer and Basin, 2 Dice, Foliage.
Lower part of slab … initials E P & E F with the coats of arms of the Plunketts and Forsters. These initials stand for Edward Plunkett and Ellen Forster.
7) A Knight and his lady carved in low relief surmounted by a rich double canopy. The lady is lying on her husband’s right and wears a Bullock’s hoof-shaped head-dress. Her feet rest on a cushion. The Knight is clean shaven and his feet rest on a small sporting dog. Both have their hands doubled up flat on their chests. They are Sir Christopher Plunkett and Lady Joan Cusack who married in1401. A portion of the black-lettered inscription which runs along the edge can be read still and it gives their names and says they “caused this church to be built”.
Some 5 other male Plunketts also rest in this grave.
Sir Christopher Plunkett’s marriage to Lady Joan Cusack resulted in a family of 7 sons and 3 daughters….
John, eldest son … became Lord Killeen after his father and founder of the Fingal family.
Christopher, second son… founder of the Dunsany family.
Thomas, third son…founder of the Rathmore family.
Robert, fourth son…founder of the Dunsaghly family (Co. Dublin).
Richard, fifth son…died without issue.
Edward, sixth son…founder of the Balrath family.
Edmund, seventh son…A priest.
Lord Walter Fitzgerald says that when he examined this tombstone in 1911 he found it in good condition but shortly afterwards an English gentleman took Killeen Castle and grounds for a winter’s hunting and his servants placed a ladder against the outer wall of the Church and hurled stones down on these effigies with disastrous results.
Archdall tells us that this pair founded a Chantry in the West part of the Chancel for 4 priests and a College behind the South end of the Church in the reign of Henry V1. Lady Joan died in 1441 and Sir Christopher in 1445.
8) A well-preserved slab with Cusack Coat of Arms impaling Plunkett.
Cusack – Plunkett Arms Divided by a Bend
RC….Robert Cusack MP….Margaret Plunkett
The inscription runs round the edge of the stone and is peculiar as it starts in raised Roman capitals along one end and side, and then continues in small black letters in relief. The word “Esquire” was left out and added above. The son’s name is spelt differently to the father’s, “Cusack” being Cusacke”.
This Robert was from Gerardstown and his wife Margaret Porter of Kingstown, Co. Meath had one son James who died 2 years before his father in 1620, so the tomb was likely constructed then because that date is on it. Secondly Robert married Margaret Plunkett of Kilsaran in Co. Louth and had issue.
9) This stone is quite plain except for an inscription round the edge in large black letters in Latin. The translation is… “Here lies the bodies of Sir Edward Plunkett Kt Lord of Dunsany, who was slain at Killaderry in Offaly in the time of the Earl of Surrey Deputy of Ireland in A.D. 1521, and of Amy Birmingham his wife A.D. 1500.
This Edward was 4th Baron of Dunsany. He fought in the famous battle of Knocktoe in Connaught in Aug. 1504. In 1521 he went to Killaderry in Offaly when a much older man and chased after O’Carroll and O’Connor. The latter suddenly turned round and killed Sir Edward, who was brought home and buried in Killeen. O’Connor was fighting to re-possess his own territory which the Anglo-Normans had taken from his family.
In the Nave.
10) The Altar tomb in an alcove along the North wall…15th cent.
11) The Quatermas slab in the centre of the nave…1570.
12) A Knight’s effigy in a recess in the South Wall…16th .
10) Originally this great tomb stood in the chancel near the altar but when recently put together from bits and pieces scattered here and there it was placed in this alcove to save it from the weather. It consists of 2 heads under a double canopy, on the left a Knight in Armour and on his right his wife in a horned head-dress which was fashionable in the 15th cent. The rest of this carved slab is gone. Around the outer edge in raised black letters ran the inscription but now only the part above the lady has survived. It is… Obiter Domine Johane Cusak Domine De Killeen, Uxoris C…the translation is… the death of Dame Joan Cusack Lady of Killeen Wife of C (likely Christopher Plunkett Kt). They were married in 1401. She died in 1441 and he in 1445. They were likely buried before No. 7.
Around the 4 sides are shields of many families related to the great house of Fingal by marriage in after years…St. Laurence, Le Poer, Butler and many still unidentified. There are also shields with religious emblems…heart pierced with 2 swords, cross, spear, sun or crown of thorns, 3 nails and 2 scourges.
11) In the upper portion of this slab we find good carvings of Our Lord’s Passion… a rayed sun, a spear, 2 three-pronged scourges, the seamless robe, 3 dice, pincer and nail, ladder, 3 nails, heart pierced with 2 swords, all on a shield. Below is INRI over a Latin cross. The long inscription is in raised Roman Capitals except for the B’s which are in small Roman capitals. The S’s are reversed the c’s are like D’s, the W’s are written as V’s and the Q’s are reversed P’s. It runs…Here lieth the bodi of John Quatermas and his Bedfellow Ellen Rebne who rouft this porch and left an anfel for to repair the same to whose souls be merciful AD1570,
It is not certain what “an Anfel” is but possibly an angel which was a gold coin in use at that time. Also, the church as no porch.
12) An unidentified Knight’s in higher relief than any in the chancel, but not so elaborately carved. The hands are placed palms down on the chest, the left foot is on a small dog, no spurs are worn and the face is clean shaven. There is no inscription or coat of arms so it is impossible to identify him but he is likely a Plunkett of the early 16th cent.
In these notes I have been greatly helped by Lord Walter Fitzgerald’s account of the tombs in ‘St. Mary’s Killeen in the memorials of the Dead. Vol. 8 page 401.