Our very own Tombstone City

By Paddy Neary

THE ANCIENT Parish Church of St John’s stood probably in the grounds of the old cemetery on the
Dublin Road.
St Stephen was recognised as the patron of this church in the 18th century.
From 1800 on the church was always referred to as St John’s.
In the Bishop’s visitation book for 1731, reference is made to the old Mass House in St
John’s Parish.
This was probably the chapel in Maudlin Street. Fr Purcell PP from 1753 to 1760 had the chapel and presbytery repaired at his own expense.
This chapel was rebuilt in 1796 and continued in use to 1847 when it was taken down.
From the Ordnance Survey map of 1842, it can be seen this chapel stood inside the
present railings.
When it was taken down the site was added to the graveyard.
The last chapel built here was commenced in 1840, its
foundation stone laid by Most Revd Dr Kinsella on 13th April of that year.

Collier Wing
It continued in use for some years after 1900. The stonework from the old church of St John’s was removed and used in the construction of the Collier Wing, St Kieran’s College in 1956.
Fr Joe Clohosey surveyed the graveyard during the years 1953 to 1955 and found over 600 monuments.
He recorded details of inscriptions from about 500. The remainder of 100 could not be read as some had sunk into the ground, others had fallen flat with the inscription underneath.
Others are illegible due to the passage of time. The
oldest dated monument is that to Philip Dooly died 20th August 1699; his is the only 17th
century date.
There are 93 monuments
belonging to the 18th century.
The religious and civic life of Kilkenny is well represented; at least 12 Mayors are buried here including Robert Cane, Daniel Smithwick, P. M. Egan,
Michael Banim.
Was charged
The most important
ecclesiastical persons buried here are Drs Colman O’Shaughnessy and Thomas De Burgo, both Bishops of Ossory.
Dr O’Shaughnessy came from an important Galway family. After the confiscation of the family estates he fled to the
continent and became a
Dominican Friar.
Returning to Ireland he was appointed Bishop of Ossory.
In 1741 he was charged as Domestic Chaplain to the Pretender. We do not know the outcome of the trial.
On the death of his brother he became head of the family and in spite of the Penal Laws he began to assert his claim in the court of law to his
ancestral property.
The Bishop had deposited his papers and documents leading to his claim in the present day Magdalen Tower.
Robbers were hired, gained entrance to the Tower and carried off all the family records.

Refused to admit
After the Bishop’s death, a younger brother took up the claim, whose son the last claimant as well as the last male of the family died in poverty in 1783.
Dr Thomas Burke or de Burgo was born in Dublin City in 1709; he was also from Galway, a Dominican Friar.
He was ordained in Rome, appointed a professor there, returning to Ireland in 1743. He was installed as Bishop of
Ossory in 1759.
The Butlers of Ballyragget claimed to have the right to
appointment to the parish
of Ballyragget.
The death of Edmund
Kavanagh in 1761 gave Robert Butler the opportunity of
exercising the right he believed himself to possess.
He presented to the vacant benefice Rev Dr Deleign. Dr Burke refused to admit the presentation but would accept any suitable priest recommended by Mr Butler.
But Mr Butler refused this where upon the Bishop appointed Rev James Dowling as parish priest.

Some dispute
In August 1764 an appeal was made by Butler to the Archbishop of Dublin; the appeal went against him. The Dr Denis Deleign later became parish priest of St John’s and is buried beside Dr. Burke.
The Rev Richard O’Donnell was born about 1736. There is some dispute as to whether he was born in Inistioge or Callan.
He was ordained in Gorrynachreene in Kilkenny by Dr Burke in 1761.
He spent about 16 years in St. Marys before moving to St John’s as Parish Priest in 1789.
He was appointed Dean in 1802. As Fr Connell, he is the hero in the Banims novel Tales of the O’Hara family.
Dr Robert Cane, was born in 1807. He was sent to Dublin to qualify as a doctor and returned to Kilkenny in 1832, aged 25.
He was appointed to the Fever Hospital. He became Medical Officer to the Union Workhouse, County and City Prisons and special physician to the Marquis of Ormonde from 1836.

A great friend
He was a great friend of all the public figures of the time, Daniel O’Connell, Charles Gavan Duffy, Thomas Davis; he succeeded his friend Edmund Smithwick as second Mayor of the reformed Corporation.
He was a member of the Irish Confederation when the 1848 Rebellion took place.
He was arrested though he took no part in the rebellion.
He spent about three months in prison and lost most of his official positions.
He was a founder member of Kilkenny Archaeological Society. He died in 1858.
It was not until 1873 that a Celtic Cross was erected over his grave at the instigation of Mayor William Kenealy and John Hogan the historian.
Many other Kilkenny families are buried here.
They included Darcys of John’s Bridge, Henry and John Potter, Shearmans and Carrigans of High Street, Crottys of Parliament Street, Dunleavys of John Street, Smithwicks of Kilcreene Cottage,
Hennessys of Radestown,
Meanys of Kilderry and
Cellarstown, Coyles of High Street. Sherins of High Street and The Capuchin Friars.

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