Updated: May 27, 2020
Discover biodiversity in our historic graveyards. Join Bronagh Lanigan of AR&R as she takes us on a journey through Gallon Graveyard!
It is Biodiversity Week in Cavan. Nature is bursting forth and thriving in the warmth of the summer sunshine.
Our gardens, hedgerows, roadside verges, and the entire countryside are at their very best right now and this year many of us have an opportunity to pause and enjoy it.
There are reports all over the world of a drop in air pollution as people stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Reports too of nature reclaiming towns and cities as wild animals enjoy the deserted streets and fish returning to the clear waters in the canals in Venice. It seems when man takes a step back nature pushes forward.
There is very little land in Ireland that is not farmed or built upon or lived on where nature can truly thrive. Our historic graveyards are mostly closed to new burials now, you could say they have been on lockdown for many years! Nature has reclaimed these pockets of land and they have become a haven for wildlife.
This is no secret to Cavan’s Historic Graveyard Network. Members of the networks are committees and individuals who help to look after our historic graveyards in County Cavan. They recognise the importance of the graveyards for native flora and fauna. We encourage ‘light touch’ maintenance of the graveyards and discourage any use of weed killers or pesticides.
It is a policy of Cavan County Council to protect the historic graveyards as important places for biodiversity. Number 13 in the Historic Graveyard Policies:
‘No pesticides to be used in a historic burial ground. Historic graveyards are often a haven for wildlife, rare species of invertebrates, grassland fungi and mosses, ferns, and lichens. A maintenance programme for the upkeep of the burial ground should recognise the value of the burial ground as a habitat.’
Gallon Graveyard is a wonderful haven for nature in a beautifully scenic location overlooking Daragan Lough, near Killinkere. The mature trees on the west boundary of the graveyard near the entrance, the stone boundary walls and church ruins, headstones, and long grass areas are all important habitats for birds, bats, mosses, ferns, wildflowers, insects and native mammals.
The parish of Killinkere took its name from this church, An Cillin Ciar, meaning the black or burnt church. This name reflects the tumultuous history of the church which was attacked, burned, and rebuilt many times. The remains of the church include the end gable wall of the church with a window opening and the lower sections of the remaining side and end walls. A small corbel stone (a stone bracket supporting roof timbers) with a carved face on it was found in the graveyard many years ago. It has been built into the repaired gable wall of the church. See if you can find it during your visit.
The church is dedicated to St Ultan, Abbot-Bishop of the Abbey at Ardbracon near Navan Co.Meath who established a church here in the seventh century. St. Ultan is the patron saint of children and the first children’s hospital in Ireland, established in 1919, was named after him. A holy well in a nearby field is also named after him.
This is a multi-denominational burial site and the gravestones here recall the fortunes of the people of this area over the centuries. The oldest legible headstone dates from 1728 and a full survey of the headstones was carried out by committee members and facilitated by John Tierney and The Heritage Council. This fascinating record of burials is available at https://historicgraves.com/graveyard/gallon/cv-gall
The remaining wall of the church at Gallon was in a dangerous state of repair for many years and works to restore it were carried out in 2015 thanks to the hard work of the committee and with support and funding from the local community, The Heritage Council and Cavan County Council.
Read here what the local schoolchildren in Killinkere wrote about St. Ultans Church in the 1930s
Enjoy your visit to your local historic graveyard and remember to leave no trace and love nature. Enjoy Biodiversity Week.
Cavan Heritage Office supported by The Heritage Council.