Historic Donaghmore by the sea

By Dan Walsh

Donaghmore “the Great Church” is a name that occurs in several parishes across the country, but Donaghmore, south-east of Gorey and close to Cahore, is an early medieval ecclesiastical site.  The present ruins of the 18th or 19th century Church of Ireland parish church, dedicated to St. Patrick, is on the site of an older church. In 1837 it was almost a ruin and in a poor state of repair.

A view from Donaghmore

In a fragment of the Book of Armagh, St Patrick is said to have come to Donaghmore from Tara Hill to meet the poet, Dubthach maccu Lagair, to select a person from his Leinster followers to be a bishop.

Donaghmore is memorable as the landing place of Dermot MacMurrough, the last King of Leinster, in 1167, on his return from Wales having sought aid of the English forces against his enemies. It is possible that Glasscarrig operated as a port for Ferns in those distant times.

Afterwards MacMurrough retired privately to Ferns Castle and the circumstances of this event gave rise to tradition that a subterraneous passage existed between Glasscarrig and Ferns. To this day no evidence has emerged that this was ever the case!

The old church in the grounds of Donaghmore Graveyard

A Priory of Benedictine monks was founded at Glasscarrig in the 14th century by Norman chiefs named Griffith Condon, Richard Roche and others, but in the 1837 “the remains, consisting only of part of the church, have been converted, and afford no indication of the character of the building.” We must imagine that the constant coastal erosion that occurs along the sandy cliffs reclaimed those ‘remains’ into the sea!

One wall of the Benedictine priory is still standing!

Donaghmore is the final resting place for many who were killed during the 1798 Rebellion; for some of the unknown who perished in shipwrecks off the coast; and the final resting place for numerous families long associated with this part of Co. Wexford. Currently cared for by Wexford County Council, the old graveyard is maintained to a high standard, and is frequently visited by those in search of the family tree.

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