A fine crowd was in attendance on Saturday last (August 17) to participate in an Ecumenical Service in St. Brigid's Cemetery, Kilbride, Clara organised by Clara Heritage Committee as part of the 2019 National Heritage Week programme of events.
Over the past number of months, the Committee members in particular: Brian Sheridan, Ray Henry and Tommy Minnock, assisted by Davy Stanley have made huge inroads into restoring the cemetery grounds to allow members of the public to once again stroll around the ancient Abbey and read the many headstones; several of which date back to the mid to late 1700s.
Although the weather initially threatened the event, it was as if St. Brigid herself once more spread her cloak over the ancient Abbey to save those in attendance from the heaviest of showers.
The service led by Fr. Joe Deegan and Fr. Flattery featured a number of traditional hymns sung by the Clara Folk Choir. As Fr. Deegan made his way around the cemetery to bless the graves, the sound of singing and music accompanied only by birdsong rang out once more across the ancient abbey.
The Abbey has a long association with Clara and is reported to date back to at least the 4th century when St. Brigid established her first convent. Kilbride Abbey predates those convents later established by St. Brigid including that of her main convent in Kildare. It is reputed that some local families - the Flattery's have 18 generations interred on the site, while the Geoghegan's can trace their connections back to the 1500s.
The work already completed by the Committee has led to many headstones previously hidden under years of overgrowth being made visible once more. The Committee is aware of the importance of preserving these for future generations and would like to thank Offaly County County Council's Heritage Officer Amanda Pedlow and County Archaeologist Cámin O'Brien in providing advice and assistance in this project.
In addition to the Ecumenical Service, Clara Heritage Committee is also hosting a guided tour of Kilbride Abbey and several other cemeteries in Clara, Tubber and Ballycumber on Saturday, August 24 from 3-6 pm.
The tour featuring local speakers at each stop will wind its way through Kilmanaghan, Liss, Boher, Lemanaghan cemeteries before returning to Clara and calling at the Quaker, Monastery cemeteries before its final stop in Kilbride.
There are a limited number of tickets available for the event and those interested in attending are asked to contact Tara on 086 1012393 for further information to reserve a seat. Tickets cost €5 each.