Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Ennis again...

While I had been in New Ross, I had received a call from Larry Brennan in Ennis.  He had been doing some detective work and told me he had obtained some information which pin-pointed the location of the little Beechpark burial ground which we had been unsuccessful in locating at our previous attempt.  We had arranged to meet in the evening, after my day in Kilrush.

We met at the agreed time, and set off - first stop was a visit to Glenard House at Clarecastle.  Glenard was the home of my grandfather's eldest brother, Thomas Henry Pilkington (1859-1916).  He was a Civil Engineer, and Assistant County Surveyor for East Clare.  Tom stayed on at Waterpark after his parents' death in 1884, until moving to Glenard in 1893.  The move came about because he had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a reduced rental for Waterpark from Lord Inchiquin.

We were very warmly welcomed at Glenard by the present occupants, Mary and her daughter Lorraine.  It is a lovely old home, and I was delighted to be shown a big old cupboard in the bathroom in which my great-uncle Fred Pilkington had inscribed a message:
Fred W. Pilkington
putting things into this press
and underneath:
Home again 1889  
The dates indicate that this huge old cupboard would originally have been located at Waterpark, and moved to Glenard with the family, although how they would have negotiated it up the narrow stairs and into the bathroom I do not know!
Tea and scones over a chat with Mary and Lorraine were very welcome, but Larry was anxious to move on to our next appointment.

Glenard House c1904
                         Glenard House 2014

Our next stop was to meet up with Father Tom, the  Ennis Parish Priest, who was going to come to Beechpark with us.  We drove to a farm a little further down the road from the old Beechpark entrance.  Larry had been able to access an old map on which the little burial ground was marked, and by comparing it to a modern map had been able to fairly accurately locate it.  There is still quite a bit of ill-feeling locally towards Marcus Keane, even today, so Larry was cautious about publicising the location, for fear of drawing unwanted attention for the family who own the land now.  I'm quite sure I wouldn't find the place again, unaided!
So we set off for some more cross-country mud tramping, dodging some cattle in the process, and eventually found the little fenced burial ground with rusted iron gate firmly in place.
I think it would be many years since anyone has gained access via this gate.   While Larry endangered himself climbing over the spiked iron railing, Fr. Tom & I walked around the side until we found a low stone wall to scramble over. 
The burial ground was on the top of a small escarpment overlooking a stream, and was fenced on 3 sides.  It was seriously overgrown, but would have been a beautiful outlook at the time it was made.  We pushed our way through the tangled undergrowth, and found 4 small headstones marking the grave locations.  Unfortunately, my camera didn't do the job in capturing the inscriptions, but Fr. Tom did an excellent job.  See the gallery at: http://www.ennisparish.com/gallery/?album=25&gallery=558
The headstones were quite readable with not too much effort.  Only that of Marcus Keane was slightly askew, and the reading was more difficult.
In Memory of
Margaret Mary Barnes
who died at Beechpark
31st May 1883
In Memory of
Marcus Keane
Born 7th Feb 1815
Died 29th Oct 1883
Here Lies
Louisa Isabella Keane
wife of Marcus Keane
and Third Daughter of
Nicholas Westby
Born 13th Mar 1821
Died 3rd Oct 1894
Here Lies
Perceval William Keane
Eldest Son of
Marcus &
Louisa Isabella Keane
Born 3rd Sept 1848
Died 28 Apr 1910
Margaret Barnes has been variously described as a Housekeeper, or a Companion, or possibly a family connection although I haven't found any evidence of this.

In 1883, when Margaret Barnes and Marcus Keane died, the Keane family vault at Kilmaley cemetery was apparently full.  The bodies were temporarily stored in another vault until the burial ground at Beechpark was ready to receive them.  However, when the vault was opened to retrieve the coffins, they were not there - had been stolen by persons unknown.
Edinburgh Evening News 18 September 1884
This is why the headstones in the Beechpark cemetery for Marcus & Margaret begin "In memory of...", while those of Louisa & Perceval begin "Here lie...".  However, the bodies turned up again 9 years later in a different vault in the Kilmaley cemetery, and were eventually re-interred at the Beechpark burial ground.
Derby Daily Telegraph 5 October 1891
Both events were widely reported in newspapers
across Great Britain & Ireland. 
Perceval is another interesting character.  The eldest of seven children of Marcus & Louisa, he married in 1873 to Mary Frances Ellis. The marriage produced one daughter, Isabella Louisa born in 1874, but did not last, probably due to Percy's partiality to alcohol.
Percy was sent to Australia twice in an attempt by the family to make something of himself.  The first time, he arrived in Melbourne in March of 1877 on board the ship "Mysore", but evidently he didn't find the young settlement of Melbourne to his liking, because just 2 months later he sailed for London on board the ship "Renown".
The second visit to Australia was in 1896, when he was sent out to his cousins, Tom & Charlie Griffin, and Fred & Dan Pilkington, possibly in the hope that some hard work in the Australian bush would dry him out.  Not too sure how long this visit lasted, but by 1901, he is back in Ireland, where the census records him living at Kiltrellig with his Pilkington cousins.  Family letters & diaries relate his life of alcoholism.  He died in Barrington's Hospital, Limerick in 1910 - cause of death given as "softening of the brain".
Back to the present, and we said goodbye to Father Tom, and set off on a drive to locate another old Pilkington family home - "Cragleigh".
Some of the Pilkington family lived at Cragleigh from possibly the late-1700's until my 2x great-grandfather Thomas Pilkington moved to Waterpark in the mid-1820's.  It then became the home of the Kenny family.
Cragleigh underwent a major restoration in recent years.  It took us some time driving around small country roads, backing up for passing traffic, and enquiring of joggers and dog-walkers, before we finally found the property.  It is set well back from the road, and not visible from the street, being hidden behind security gates.  I settled for a photo of the original gateposts, and a distant shot of the house from across the fields on the drive back.
Cragleigh House, Ennis
I'm so grateful to Larry for making all of this happen - there is no way I would have found any of tonight's locations without local assistance.
Back to Kilrush just in time for a late dinner at the pub, and then a reasonably early night in preparation for another big day - my last full day in Ireland - tomorrow. 

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