Vandalism strikes at 15th century churchyard

By Dan Walsh

Twelve graves at the 15th century Churchtown graveyard in a reasonably remote location between Tagoat and Rosslare Strand have been smeared with symbols and graffiti in an act of vandalism that has angered the local community.

The ancient 15th century Churchtown graveyard.

The despicable deed involved the distinctive use of green paint in the graveyard that is dominated by the stone-built ruins of a centuries old church and is kept in a clean and respectful condition as a community memorial by Wexford County Council.

Chairman of Wexford County Council, Cllr Ger Carthy condemned the act, adding it was the first time something like this has happened and he asked that those anti-social behaviour tendencies to “stay away from the cemetery or graveyards.”

COMMODORE JOHN BARRY at the Crescent, Wexford

Records relating to Rosslare Churchtown Church of St Mary go back to the 1400’s and it is reputed that the parents of Commodore John Barry, who is immortalised in a bronze statue on Crescent Quay in Wexford town, are buried here, although no stone has been found to date.

This information was discovered by American historian, William Bell Clark, (1889-1968) and is inscribed on a plaque at the graveyard entrance. It reads; “In this Churchyard of Rosslare lies the remains of John and Mary Barry (née Kelly), parents of Commodore John Barry, (1745-1803), Father of the United States Navy.” Barry was born at Ballysampson, a short distance away!

An authority on the history of Rosslare was the late Ibar Murphy, and thanks to support of his son, Brian, whom I met at the churchyard today, I was given access to his personal archived collection of notes.

It was the parish church for Rosslare (St Mary’s Parish.) up to its burning by Cromwell, who also burned the nearby churches of St. Michael, Poulrankin, the church in Ballybrennan and Our Lady’s Island.

A view through the ancient remains of the Churchtown church window

There was a small chapel at the Fort of Rosslare for the dwellers in the Fort village! A small thatched church was built in 1666 in Tagoat to replace it.
The present Pugin church in Tagoat was built in 1846 and that then  became the parish church for Rosslare, Rosslare Harbour,  Kilrane and Tagoat areas.
The parish took the old name of St. Mary which it still has today although Kilrane and Rosslare Harbour is now a separate parish!
Wexford County Council operates and maintains 14 open burial grounds and approximately 135 vested burial grounds throughout the county with an annual budget of €500,000 from Council funds for burial ground maintenance.

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