DRAFT: October 5th 2000 Version B
OCTOBER 5th 2000
(1) CHAPLEFINNERTY CEMETERY
Chaplefinnerty Cemetery is located in open countryside a few miles to the north-east of the village of Ahascragh in the eastern part of County Galway. It is around 12 miles (20 Km) from Ballinasloe town, and in the diocese of Elphin.
At the time of writing (October 5th 2000), Chaplefinnerty Cemetery does not seem to appear on any of the normal road maps. However, it is shown on archaeological reference maps under the name"Chaplefeenaghty".
The area around Chaplefinnerty appears to have been inhabited by people for an exceptionally long time. The Cairn at Alloon for instance, which could be anything up to 7,000 years old, is just five miles or so from Chaplefinnerty Cemetery. (Enquiries suggest that Alloon has never been subjected to any major archaeological examination, and until it is nobody really knows for sure how old it is.)
The following sentence is believed to be the earliest know written reference to the ancient Celts (made by the Greek poet Homer around 900 B.C.):
The Cimmerians emerged from a cultural period that lasted in South West Asia from around 9000 to 6000 B.C. (known as the Neolithic period). They were later absorbed by the Scythians who they mingled with; and the Scythians are known to have had a highly developed metallurgy, a social structure which included agriculturalists, a highly sophisticated art style referred to as "animal art": but, who did not use text, and consequently had no written language. In addition, they appear to have had a love of horses, and they may have been the very first warriors to appear on horseback.
One possible reason for the presence of an advanced people in East Galway at such an early date, is that the areas of good grazing land (for cattle, sheep, and horses) in the region are often flanked and sometimes almost completely surrounded by marshy bogland. This would have provided the ancient Celts with a very effective and ready made form of natural protection from unwanted visitors.
Roads made of timber beams (called "toghers") have been found in several Irish bogs. If these structures were hidden slightly beneath the surface of the bog, as seems likely to have been the case, then the local inhabitants who knew their way around them would enjoy still greater protection.
Peat bogs also have unique and natural chemical protective qualities. In addition, they are also great places for hiding things (quickly and easily), and they almost certainly contain numerous treasures from Ireland's ancient past which have not yet been found. Part of a bronze horse bit (with La Tène style decorations and suspected to be from a royal chariot) was found in an East Galway bog (at Attymon, near Athenry town) some years ago, and it is now understood to be on display in the National Museum of Ireland (in Dublin).
Is looks as though the pre-Christian Celts may have had a dislike (or fear maybe) of bureaucracy - possibly because they somehow knew of the social dangers and disasters that it can sometimes bring (when used excessively and/or unfairly): as many of their descendants in Ireland were later to discover.
The Celts certainly do not seem to have cared much for cities of the kind often associated with high levels of literacy (such as Rome and Athens for example). The hundreds of ancient Celtic monuments around East Galway usually have lots of space (often half a mile or more) in between them. These sprawling settlements (sometimes referred to as "proto-towns") appear to be the furthest the ancient Celts ever wished to go as far as building cities was concerned. It is understood that similar Celtic settlements have been found around Danebury in Britain, Alesia in France, Manching in Bavaria, and Dürrnberg in Austria.
The River Suck however, (which runs just a few miles from Chaplefinnerty) is probably the main reason for the presence of early settlers in the area. Apart from the fertility of the land along the banks of such meandering rivers, they also provide good facilities for fishing, swimming, boating, and so on. It may be that (on a much smaller scale) the Suck Valley was to the people who built the Cairn at Alloon (possibly as long ago as 5000 B.C.), what the valley of the Nile later became to the people who built the Great Pyramids of Egypt (between 2686 B.C. and 2181 B.C.).
The name "Suck" appears to have come from the English word "Suckling". It seems that the original Celtic name for this river may have been lost. Nevertheless, some believe that the thinking behind this name is very Celtic in style: and it is thought to have come from the idea of a baby river feeding off its mother - in this case the River Shannon (Ireland's largest river).
For some lengthy period up to the Anglo Norman Invasion (in 1169), the Finnertys were the royal chiefs of Clann Conway (from Conmhach, "son of Con" in Celtic); and they had control of 48 townlands located on both sides of the river Suck. (Additional information regarding this is available on a different page at this site titled Origin of Finnerty family name.)
The name Connacht is a composite of two Celtic words "Conn Sneachta": meaning "Conn of the Snow". According to Celtic Mythology, Conn was a great king and magician; and one day - to demonstrate the level of his magical powers, he turned a quarter of Ireland white with snow. From that time onwards, the area has been called Connacht.
The photograph below shows one of the many islands on the river Suck.
The extreme differences between the two types of land, which are often found quiet close to each other in East Galway, can be seen in the photographs below.
(1) CHAPLEFINNERTY CEMETERY
A much more recent relic of the ancient past (than the Cairn at Alloon) is shown in the photograph below. It is thought to be from around 250 B.C. This item is on east bank of the Suck at Castlestrange (in County Roscommon). A part of the river Suck can be seen in the background, and the land on the far side of the river is in County Galway.
The decorated stone below has all the hall marks of the group of Celts normally associated with the large Celtic La Tène site in Switzerland; and the style seems to be very closely related to the world famous Turoe Stone, which is approximately 25 miles away to the south-east in East Galway (near the town of Loughrea).
It seems that nobody knows what the designs traced out on these La Téne stones are meant to represent. Though the La Téne Celts had Greek and Roman contemporaries who were highly literate, they themselves did not read or write at all apparently (apart from a small number of their druids maybe). In the complete absence of any direct written information from the La Téne Celts themselves, the best that people can do now is to try and guess: using the most accurate indirect evidence available at the time.
The main indirect evidence (at present) seems to come from the following sources:
Allowing for the above, and mainly for the purpose of trying to stimulate more interest and further research into the local Celtic Heritage of the East Galway region, we have attempted below to do the best we could with the very limited information available to us at the present time: for the purpose of guessing at what (if anything) the La Téne Celts were paying homage to when they selected and decorated the Castlestrange Stone. (Please note: we would be interested to hear other theories.)
It is well known (from classical authors, and from archaeological research - especially on the European mainland) that the human head was of fundamental importance to the spiritual (i.e. "non-material") and material beliefs of the pre-Christen Celts. To the Celts, it seems the human head (or more likely one particular part of the human head) was the "pars pro toto" - the place where the totality of all existence resided: both material and non-material.
It is also well known that the Celts much preferred to use models to represent complex ideas (as opposed to reading and writing about them); and when these two separate pieces of information are combined with the actual shape and colour, we think the Castlestrange Stone may have been chosen (and decorated) to be a model of the human brain. (Please keep in mind, we are only guessing!)
The Celts who produced the Castlerange Stone might not have had to look very far to find the right basic shape for the above stone. This is because the sand hills of the Esker Riada run straight through the East Galway area, and large stones of this kind with very smooth surfaces are often found when the sand is being removed. All are made of "grey-matter", and many of them look as though they may have been polished for millions of years by the waves of some sea or ocean. They have been deposited in a long narrow ridge which now runs between Galway and Dublin: following the bulldozer type action of an Ice Age glacier moving south towards the equator.
The Esker Riada ridge was later to form the main east-west highway for Ireland's first settlers; and at the point where it crossed the River Shannon, St Ciaran decided to build what has since become one of the world's best known monasteries: Clonmacnoise. Where it passes through the village of New Inn, there is what is thought to be a much older Celtic site: The Hill of Grange.
It is also known know that for the pre-Christian Celts, healing and ritual cleansing went hand in hand. Hence (perhaps?) the closeness of the Castlestrange Stone to the gentle waters of the Suck.
There are numerous Holy Wells in East Galway (as in other parts of Ireland); and there is evidence that the pre-Christian Celts saw the flow of clear water from such wells as a ready made model for arousing energies in the brain that produced clear thinking (and at the same time displaced and replaced thinking that was muddled and confused).
Sirona was the name of one Celtic Spring-Goddess, and she was just one of many local deities once worshiped throughout the large area of land in Europe once loosely governed by the cell-like social structure of the old Celtic "Empire".
It is known also that the ancient Celts associated the clear water of natural springs and rivers with child birth, fertility, and regeneration.
In another field in the countryside (of Galway) - roughly 25 miles to the south-east of the Castlestrange Stone (in Roscommon) - there is the world famous Turoe Stone shown in the photograph below. It too is close to a river.
Few doubt that the basic shape of the Turoe Stone was a Celtic symbol (or model) to represent the all important process of regeneration; and some even speculate that the decorations on the top part of the stone may have been intended to represent the semen that carries the genetic codes and memories: which are the core feature of human, animal, and plant regeneration.
If a straight line is drawn on the map between the locations of the Castlestrange Stone, and the Turoe Stone, Chaplefinnerty Cemetery happens to be more or less in the middle: roughly 12.5 miles equidistant from both - a leisurely day's walk for a fit person in olden times who wished to visit either location: and much less of course on the back of good horse.
If the Castlestrange Stone was meant by the pre-Christian Celts to be a model for honouring the human brain, then their choice might not have been a bad one: because, as far as we know, the human brain is by far the most complex piece of organic chemistry in the known universe.
Much is made these days of the "digital revolution", and the part it plays in information technology. Amazing though the applications of digital electronics can be, the coding used for transmitting and processing the information is (in reality) little more than an extremely high speed version of the simple "on/off" kind of signalling used in Morse Code: which is relatively very simple compared to the complexity of the chemical coding used in the human brain - particularly when account is taken of the fact that the memories and processors of the human brain can readily combine with another, to regenerate a third, which is a unique blend of the original two.
Reverting back to the cell like social structure used by the ancient Celts (referred to above regarding Sirona), it seems interesting to note that the same kind of structure appears to have been used for the Internet - designed in the United States during the "cold war" to withstand the worst kinds of military destruction mankind was capable of producing. Similarly for organisations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and so on: where a basic cell-like structure of small independent groups has survived (against the odds) in dealing with the whole gamut of internal and external conflicts and pressures that people from different social backgrounds, religions, races, nations, political persuasions, ages, and so on tend to generate.
Finally on this subject, and in all probability by complete coincidence, the original core ideas for world wide web Internet pages (of the kind you are now reading) were thought out and implemented near Lake Léman in Switzerland by Tim Berners-Lee and his associates (at CERN the European Particle Physics Laboratory); and Lake Léman is approximately 15 miles from Lake Neuchâtel: where the ancient Celtic La Téne site is located.
As can be seen from detailed maps, the meandering ways of the Suck start to peak around Castlestrange. Around this place, the surface area of the river expands and contracts in a carefree way which gently follows the whims of local rainfall. In many ways it seems idyllic - and it even has several families of wild swans.
Wild swans feature strongly in Irish Celtic mythology. Aoife, who had been given the beauty of autumn it was said - dark russet hair with a glint of gold, and hazel eyes with flecks of green - once used a magical golden wand to transform her step-children into four magnificent swans dressed in snow-white feathers.
To the untrained eye at least, there seems to be the remnants of several ancient Celtic monuments of different kinds close to the bridge at Castlestrange. The photograph above shows one of them.
For those who are interested in seeing the above stones, the exact location of the bridge at Castlestrange is shown on current editions of Map 40 in the Discovery Series of the Ordnance Survey of Ireland (which is compiled, published and printed by The Ordnance Survey Office, Phoenix Park, Dublin). Many of the larger newsagents in the Republic of Ireland stock copies of this particular series of maps.
For some reason the Castlestrange Stone itself is not shown on Map 40. However, it is only a short walk from the bridge.
Neither is there anything on Map 40 to indicate the presence of the mysterious looking pile of stones right beside the bridge (shown above). If the stones really are the remnants of some ancient Celtic structure, it would be normal for it to be indicated on the map with a small red circle (or something similar).
(1) CHAPLEFINNERTY CEMETERY
The map below shows some of the roads close to Chaplefinnerty. The Suck flows towards the south, and it provides a long stretch of the boundary between County Galway (on the west side) and County Roscommon (on the east). Donamon Castle, which is very strongly linked with the Finnerty name, and which is also in the diocese of Elphin, is about 16 miles to the north of the cemetery. As an aid to judging distance, some may find it useful to know that the journey by road between New Inn and Ballinasloe is 12.5 miles (20 km).
The signpost below is right on the entrance to the Cemetery. Though some parts of the graveyard now seem to have fallen into disuse, there is reason to believe that interest in Chaplefinnerty Cemetery may be enjoying a revival.
Around 1990 a local priest (Father Fallon) started holding Mass Ceremonies in the graveyard once each year in remembrance of Father James Finnerty. Although Father Fallon died shortly afterwards, and is in fact now buried within 15 yards or so of Father Finnerty, this memorial service continues to be held once each year. It takes place on the first Sunday after Ascension Thursday (which moves according to the dates set by Easter).
We understood that around 150 people now attend this annual open-air service. Most of those who attend are local people. Others travel longer distances because they have relatives buried at Chaplefinnerty.
At present, the grass at the site is cut just once each year (by the Galway County Council) - usually just before the annual memorial service mentioned above. A few local residents are at present considering ways of trying to improve on the present maintenance arrangements. The situation is complicated by the fact that this site is now protected for archaeological reasons, and many items cannot be legally disturbed without getting permission from the appropriate authorities. (In recent years, legislation has been introduced by the Irish Government which allows for fines of up to £50,000 to be imposed for damaging protected sites of this kind.)
Designed (by Father Finnerty it is said) in the shape of a coffin running lengthways with the road, this burial place appears to have been built on top of a much older Celtic monument. As can be seen from detailed maps, and as is generally the case for East Galway, there is a large number of such monuments in the immediate area.
Legend has it that once there were three churches at the site - though there appears to be little evidence of them left now. Maybe the stones were removed for other purposes in later years (such as road making), or maybe the churches were "mud hut" type structures with thatched roofs - which have since disappeared (as far as the untrained eye is concerned).
Part of the official Irish Government Archaeological Inventory of County Galway (Volume II) on "Chaplefeenaghty" states: "Within the graveyard are the sites of two post-medieval RC chapels (No. 3436) and a souterrain (No. 3194), and there is a holy well (No.3550) outside it to the NE."
There are entrances to at least two ancient underground chambers (or "caves" as they are often referred to locally) from within the cemetery walls. Chambers of the kind in question, relating to the "souterrain" referred to above, are often associated with ringforts of the Early Christian period of Irish history (circa 500 to 1100 A.D.).
The two photographs above show the entrance (photo on left) from the outside; and, part of the same entrance from just inside one of the underground chambers at Chaplefinnerty Cemetery (photo on right). The photo on the right was taken using artificial light. The wreath shown on the left (approximately 15 inches in diameter) was kindly lent for a few moments to give an idea of the entrance size.
Inside, the particular structure shown above is roughly thirty feet long, six feet wide, and five feet high. There is no trace of any kind of mortar or cement between the stones, and the blocks of stone which span the roof seem very large and very heavy. As is often the case, ease-of-defence appears to have been the main consideration regarding the design of the entrance to this type of "cave". Normally, the inside (shown on the right above) would be in almost complete darkness throughout the day.
It seems very likely that Father Finnerty and his followers would have sometimes hidden in the actual "cave" shown above: and in many other similar kinds of places throughout Ireland. They are not the most comfortable of places to spend time in. The one above is dark and damp, with an inch or two of water covering much of the floor. Also, there seems to be no obvious arrangements for ventilation: suggesting that it may have been constructed originally as a burial chamber.
(2) FATHER JAMES FINNERTY (1614 - 1683)
Various written records suggest that Father James Finnerty was born in 1614 - into one of the most eventful, most complicated, and most violent periods of Irish history.
By the time Father Finnerty was born, events in Ireland were being dictated and influenced more and more by the political and religious leaders of England, and to a lesser extent those of other European countries - such as Italy, France, Spain, and Germany.
Spain was expanding its territory (through overseas colonisation), and it was being watched very carefully by England. It seems that decisions may have been made in England to make Ireland (its nearest overseas island neighbour) a test bed for developing English colonisation techniques - so that the experience gained could be applied elsewhere in the world.
"Planters" (Protestant people from outside of Ireland) first appear to have been installed into Ireland in the 1500's; and although there seems to have been some genuine early attempts at peaceful political negotiation (regarding the take-over of the land of Ireland), that approach was abandoned. Negotiation then appears to have been replaced by violence (physical, psychological, verbal, and so on). Often, it was of the most brutal kind imaginable.
At the beginning of the 1600's the bulk of the land of Ireland was owned by Catholics. By the end of that century, the most of it belonged to Protestants.
The basic conflict between Protestants and Roman Catholics first seems to have appeared (in tangible form) during the life of Martin Luther. The date normally associated with this event is October 31st 1517 - the Eve of All Saint's day - when he is believed to have nailed his list of Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg in Germany.
Later, during the reign of Henry VIII , the conflict connected with the Reformation spread to England; and from there is spilled over into to Ireland through the line of English monarchs Edward VI & Jane, Mary I, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, and William of Orange. Amongst other things, the Penal Laws came into being during this period.
As can be seen by clicking on Mary I, Protestants were subjected to horrifying forms of suffering (as well as Catholics). "Around 300 Protestant heretics were burnt in three years" it is claimed.
Father Finnerty was born in 1614 during the reign of James I, and died in 1683 during the reign of Charles II. Eight years or so after his death, during the reign of William of Orange, Ireland came firmly under the grip of English rule following the decisive Battle of Aughrim (East Galway) in 1691.
There was a major setback for Irish Catholics in 1601 connected with a battle victory by Lord Mountjoy at Kinsale. As a direct consequence, several of the most able of the old Celtic leaders later boarded a ship on Lough Swilly and departed from Ireland (in September 1607). They had tried living as subjects of the English Crown for a few years it seems; but, driven by their Celtic instincts (and genes) perhaps, they decided that such a lifestyle was not for them. Instead, this group of 100 or so apparently opted for voluntary exile and set sail for the European mainland. Their controversial departure, which of course left many Irish Catholics very exposed and very vulnerable, is now referred to in Irish history as "The Flight of the Earls". This event took place just seven years before Father Finnerty was born.
In 1625, when Father Finnerty was 11, Charles I (a Catholic) became King of England. Generally, he seems to be thought of as an unsuccessful ruler. Perhaps the worst aspect of his reign (for Roman Catholics) was that he may (without meaning to) have drawn Oliver Cromwell to the forefront of English politics. Lord Cromwell eventually had Charles I beheaded in public on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, London (on January 30th 1649).
Part of the overall difficulty regarding the conflicts and tensions of the 1600's in Ireland was that it was not simply a straightforward struggle between two small groups, as had often been the case previously. To give just one example of the way loyalties within extremely powerful families of the time could be deeply divided, Protestant King William of Orange (for example) was married to the daughter of Catholic King James II.
The final (and decisive) battle between the armies of these two foreign Kings took place at Aughrim (mentioned above) in 1691: and it was the largest and bloodiest battle ever fought in Irish history. Both sides had roughly 20,000 soldiers each to begin with on the morning of July 12th 1691; and at the end of the single day's fighting a total of around 8,000 of them lay dead around the fields and gentle hills of n Aughrim. It is now referred to as "Ireland's Gettysburg" - because of its parallels with the most decisive battle of the civil war in the United States of America 170 or so years later.
Unfortunately, the Battle of Aughrim in 1691 (and its Protestant King versus Catholic King contest) did not bring an end to the religious and political conflict which still divides Ireland to this day - over 300 years later. The mainly Protestant "North" of the island remains under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland); while the largely Catholic "South" has now become the Republic of Ireland. (The Republic of Ireland is the only fully independent Celtic nation-state in the world.)
On account of the similarities with Gettysburg (and although it is a little irrelevant to Father Finnerty's story), it is related here that Irish cavalry commander and hero of Aughrim, Patrick Sarsfield, survived that battle - only to be killed two years later in another while serving in King Louis XIV's army in the Spanish Netherlands: where he was mortally wounded while fighting the English (again) at Neerwinden, near Landen (on Aug. 19, 1693). In certain respects, he can be likened to General Robert E. Lee of Gettysburg fame. Both were of striking appearance, and both were talented and courageous soldiers. In addition, both appear to have commanded a level of respect which enabled them to negotiate very good settlement terms for the defeated armies they represented. Patrick Sarsfield's memory is today strongly preserved in the song and folklore of Ireland, as well as in the names of many Irish places and organisations.
As indicated above, Father Finnerty's life (1614 - 1683) covered most of the 90 year period outlined above between 1601 and 1691. A native of Tuam (in north County Galway), it seems that many people of the time came to see him as a blessing from God: sent to help them through the horrific events of the times they were living in.
One of the English army officers (Sir Fredrick Hamilton), who was in Ireland during the 1600's, apparently kept written notes of his military operations here. To give an indication of what it might be like to encounter such a person, a few small parts of his own writings are reproduced below:
A parish priest of the diocese of Elphin, it appears that Father Finnerty was a saintly and very spiritual type of person who would have had little or no interest himself in land or other material things - apart from the most basic items (such as food, cloths, and shelter). There is reason to believe that he lived in appalling conditions at times.
He developed a reputation as a healer, and it is said that he could cure all sorts of physical and psychological health problems. He was also an exorcist.
Though Father Finnerty did have critics, he appears not to have been in the least distracted by them. This may (in part at least) be due to the many positive written comments (some listed below) made on his behalf by some of the leading people of his time. There is reason to believe that he tried his best for each person who sought help from him: and then simply left the final outcome (whatever it was) to the God of his understanding. If someone's health problem showed no sign of being cured (or relieved), it seems he would normally have a second try; and if that failed, he would then quietly move on to the next person. His critics appear to have been much more interested in the people who were not cured, than in those who were.
As a Catholic parish priest, Father Finnerty - like many others during this period - would have spent much of his life on the run. During these periods, it is said that he drew thousands of people to him; and that he and his followers travelled across many parts of Ireland and England to escape the wrath of Cromwell - through bogs, and forests, and mountains. It is clearly stated that his numerous followers included Protestants.
Father Finnerty does not appear to have refused anybody who sought his help; and one such person (of Celtic origin it seems) was described as "a girl troubled by fairies".
Verbal reports we have heard suggest that at some point during these troubled times rewards of £5 were on offer in certain parts of Ireland (by the English authorities) for a priest's head - the same as for a wolf's head. It is also claimed that Father Finnerty was once tied up behind a horse and cart, and then dragged around the streets of Roscommon Town.
It is believed that priests who failed (within 20 days) to comply with Cromwell's "To Hell or to Connacht" policy could be found guilty of treason. At the time, the normal mode of execution for treason was to be "hanged, drawn, and quartered". This was a killing process which involved hanging by the neck (or half-hanging maybe): and then disembowelling, beheading, and dismembering the main part of the body (into four parts).
Written reports indicate that Father Finnerty sometimes used the relics of Archbishop Malachy O'Quelly of Tuam while healing people. Archbishop O'Quelly was killed on the night of Sunday October 17th 1645 during the fighting described above (by Sir Fredrick Hamilton) in the "Toune of Sligo". Descriptions of the Bishop's final moments differ considerably; but, all suggest that he was probably hacked to pieces - or, as one report at the time put it: "mangled and dispatched with swords".
Many of the people Father Finnerty is said to have cured were either blind or deaf. At least one was a severely crippled man who, for at least eight years beforehand, could regularly be seen struggling to get around the main streets of Galway City: on all fours, and with the aid of two very low crutches. The account of this particular cure was the subject of a written testimony by a well known Galway lawyer of the time named Geoffrey Brown. Many believed that the cure Mr Brown and "a few hundred" others witnessed was miraculous.
Listed below is a small number of the many written comments which have been made by various clerics regarding Father James Finnerty:
Allowing for the way that the religious/political conflict in Ireland remains partly unresolved, this section closes with the words a man who seems to have had more success than most when it comes to dealing with the unenviable task of trying to end civil war in his own country.
Towards the end of the address President Abraham Lincoln gave on the day of his second inauguration he spoke the following words:
Just eight weeks or so later, the above words were spoken again at President Lincoln's funeral service. Following the success of the Union Army at Gettysburg, the wish he had expressed above had happily come true for him and those who supported him; but, as he sat quietly in a theatre trying to celebrate and relax a little (in his own characteristically humble way), he was shot in the back of the head from point blank range: by an assassin (John Wilkes Booth) who mistakenly believed that he would become a huge hero amongst the people who had fought on the side of the defeated General Robert E. Lee.
FATHER FINNERTY'S HEADSTONE TOP
Now thought to be well over 300 years old, the headstone (photographs below) seems generally to be in good condition (considering its age). A few small parts of the lettering are damaged slightly here and there: probably caused by such things as acid rain and frost action.
Echoing the pre-Christian Celtic priority for symbols (and three dimensional models) perhaps, the upper third of the stone is dominated by emblems (associated with Christianity). First there is a circle, with the letters "IHS" inscribed inside; and underneath the circle there is large rectangular inset which contains two further symbols of the priesthood: a chalice and a priest's hat. It is understood that the letters IHS are meant to represent the Greek word "ICHTUS" which means "fish"; and that the symbol of a fish was the secret identification sign used by the Christians who were persecuted shortly after the death of Christ: and who, like Father Finnerty and his followers, also hid in various caves and burial places (around Rome) including the catacombs. It seems also that some people in Ireland (and possibly elsewhere) now associate the letters IHS with the words "I Have Suffered".
The bottom two-thirds of the the headstone is devoted to text - which is written in Ecclesiastical Latin. The translation below was made (we understand) by a local priest:
Gobnaid (also spelled in several other ways which include:Gobnet, Gobhnet, Gobnait, Gobnata, and Gobnatae) was a 5th century nun who was born in County Clare. She is not thought to be very well known throughout Ireland as a whole at the present time (October 2000): though she may well be in certain specific parts of the country. Also, if the word "gobnet" is fed into the search engine at our site (please ensure "Web" is selected), it draws responses in several European languages other than English - suggesting that this particular word is very popular for some reason in parts of the world other than Ireland.
On account of a family feud with her brother, Gobnaid left Clare early in life and built a church on one of the Aran Islands (located in the Atlantic ocean close to Galway Bay). After leaving this island (Inisheer), she founded the Church of St. Gobnet (near Dungarvan, in County Waterford). She also founded a convent (of which she was Abbess) on land donated by the O'Herlihy family at Ballyvourney in County Cork.
St. Gobnaid's grave in the churchyard at Ballyvourney is believed to be decorated with crutches and other evidence of cures attributed to miracles achieved through her intercession. Highly spiritual it seems, there are stories associated with her of "wondrous interactions" with nature, and with the supernatural forces - through which she was believed to have performed her miracles. She is said to have been honoured by Pope Clement VIII in 1601 (just 13 years before Father Finnerty was born).
Donal Cam O'Sullivan Beare, famous for his epic and courageous 250 mile journey across Ireland (from Glengarriff to Leitrim Castle) in the depths of winter, rested with his party of followers for a while at St Gobnaid's shrine during the beginning of their 15 day journey north. Ten days or so later, what was then left of the group spent the night of January 11th 1603 in The Valley of The Suck (at a place called Mount-Mary which is near Ballygar). Several of his followers stayed on at Mount-Mary because they were too worn out to continue, and their descendants can still be found in the area. Others of his followers died there (from exposure).
The origin and meaning of the name "Gobnaid", which is of course very old now, is not easy to trace with absolute certainty. Nevertheless, it is thought that it may be a cleverly contrived type of name based on a mixture of the two Celtic words "Goibniú" and "gob". Gob in Celtic means mouth, and Goibniú (one of a triad of Irish Celtic Gods associated with hand crafts) was the God of the forge: the Celtic Vulcan who supervised the process of fashioning metal with fire. Consequently, it may be that this leader of nuns was called Gobnaid because she had a flair for fashioning words very skilfully. She is also closely associated with bees (and honey), and with nine special white deer. All things considered, and allowing for way that Celtic thinking often tends to be laden with symbolism, it seems that Gobnaid was so named because she was a very talented orator and/or conversationalist: who in addition (maybe?) was also very sweet, and gentle, and fair.
Father Finnerty's Headstone is about 60 inches high, 33 wide, and 5 deep. It is thought to have been cut from a slab of limestone, and as can be seen below its alignment may have shifted a little in different directions over the years.
With the aid of coloured chalks (of the kind used by children), the headstone's two main sets of features have been highlighted in the two photographs immediately below. (The chalks were only present on the stone for long enough to take the photographs; they were then carefully washed off and the stone was not damaged in any way.)
The word "FINACHTII" in the second line of the inscription below seems to leave very little doubt that this is definitely Father Finnerty's tombstone.
The frame structure in the top left-hand corner of the photograph below shows where a Mass service is now held once each year in memory of Father James Finnerty.
All of the many headstones in the section of the cemetery near the entrance appear to have been aligned so that they face Father Finnerty's. A small number of these are shown above. (The apex of the dark headstone in the centre foreground points to Father Finnerty's headstone - which is facing the camera.)
(4) OTHER CHAPLEFINNERTY HEADSTONES TOP
Many of the older headstones in Chaplefinnerty Cemetery are impossible to read in their present state. The list below is believed to include all of the names which can be read at the present time (September 2000). If any are missing from the list it is entirely accidental.
Photographs are included below of six headstones in Chaplefinnerty Cemetery containing names on the above list
All of them are chosen because they have some connection or other with the Finnerty name, or with the Finnerty family in New Inn.
1) James Finerty Headstone: It is thought that the Finnerty's in New Inn may have come from the Chaplefinnerty area several generations ago. This is mostly because detailed maps show there are place-names nearby called "Corrabane" and Cartron. In addition, local people talk of a road they have nicknamed "The New Line" (which is not shown on any maps we have seen). New Inn has exactly the same two place-names, and road nickname in its area. Recent research shows that the late W.T. Finnerty's grandfather lived in Corrabane (New Inn). His name was Michael Finnerty. He was born in 1796, married Mary Cahalan on February 14th 1836 (in New Inn/Bullaun parish), and died on May 11th 1870. It may be that Michael - or one of his ancestors - moved from the Chaplefinnerty area, and reapplied placenames he was already familiar with.
2) Martin Noone Headstone: W.T. Finnerty's mother was Catherine Noone. Catherine married his father (Patrick Finnerty) sometime around 1890 (possibly in Killmordaly Church), and she is known to have come from a village near New Inn called Cloonsheecahill. Noone is possibly the most common name on the headstones at Chaplefinnerty.
3) Connor Headstone:
The O' Connors have strong links with Rathcrogan in the Tulsk area of Roscommon, which is near Elphin. The paragraph below shows where the relationship between the O'Connors and the Finnertys appears to have begun some 13 centuries ago:
Rathcrogan, according to the Annalists, was a Royal Palace. The site is now thought to be one of the most important Celtic Royal sites in Europe. It covers an area of around 4 square miles and contains 60 National Monuments. For a long period it served both as an inauguration site, and a burial site, for the Kings of Connacht.
Amongst several other things, it is the legendary home of Queen Meave (Warrior Queen and Earth Goddess). It is now thought there was a road from Rathcrogan to Croagh Patrick, and that Croagh Patrick (with its spectacular views of Clew Bay) may have been a summer residence for the Celtic royalty of Rathcrogan long before St. Patrick's time. It is also now known that the summit of Croagh Patrick was enclosed by a massive rampart; and that glass beads found there (amber, blue, and black) date from the 3rd century B.C.
Historically, the well shown in the photograph below (which is part of the Rathcrogan complex) may be the most important in Ireland: for it is the point where the Christian beliefs of St. Patrick, and the pagan beliefs of the Celtic Druids are first thought to have met, and merged. The design of the Celtic Cross in the photograph is thought to be a symbol of this merger: Christ's cross drawn through the circular symbol of the sun (which the Celts are thought to have worshiped).
It was at the above well that St Patrick is believed to have met the two young daughters of King Loígaire of Tara (Eithne the Fair, and Fedelm the Red). Following discussion between St. Patrick and the two young princesses regarding Christian beliefs, is said that he baptised them at this place. They were his first royal converts it seems, and he then went on to make many more.
A few miles to the east of Croagh Patrick (on the way to Rathcrogan), there are rocks decorated with prehistoric art at a place called Boheh. From this site the setting sun appears to roll down the northern slope of the mountain on two days of the year (April 18th and August 24).
Following extensive research it seems, which might not yet be complete (September 2000), University College Galway are now placing information regarding Rathcrogan on their web site.
The Rathcrogan complex is around 25 miles to the north of Chaplefinnerty Cemetery.
4) Fr. Fallon Headstone: W.T. Finnerty's wife was Marguerite Finneran. Her Father's name was Thomas Finneran (from Taghmaconnell in County Roscommon), and his mother's maiden name was Fallon. The name Finneran comes from the Celtic words "Fionn Tighearna" meaning Fair Lord.
The gravestone shown in the photograph below is in fact that of the Father Michael Fallon who started the annual service in memory of Father James Finnerty around 1990.
As can be seen below, there are also other much more ancient links between the Finnertys and the Fallons.
5) McHugh Headstone: The married name of one of W.T. Finnerty's sister's (Nellie) was McHugh. We are not sure if the James McHugh on the headstone below was closely related to her husband or not.
There is now a stone plaque (shown below) dedicated to Nellie McHugh in memory of the landscaping work she did in Galway City. It is beside the canal close to Ward's shop, which is opposite one of the main entrances to University College Galway. The top section of the inscription is in Celtic - with the English translation beneath.
6) Clinton Headstone: As a teenager (around 1914) W.T. Finnerty is known to have worked for a few years at a business premises then called Sweeneys in Ahascragh (which is just a few miles from Chaplefinnerty). This business (opposite the Post Office) now has the name Clinton above the door.
We do not known if the Malachy Clinton named above is in anyway related to the Clinton Family which has become famous in recent years in the United States. Nevertheless, his family tombstone - and its dates - serve as a reminder that ordinary families can produce descendants who later become leaders of extraordinary nations: despite difficulties along the way of Irish historical events such as The Great Famine (of 1847 -52), plus the possibility (maybe?) of having to survive a lengthy sea journey in one of the dreaded coffin ships of that time.
It is also interesting to note that although the difficulties are not in his country, President Clinton nevertheless appears to often go out of his way, and to make special efforts to try and help out with the difficult process of trying to resolve the very deep-rooted political/religious tensions and conflicts which unfortunately are still ongoing in Ireland.
This section closes with thoughts of the many immigration officials in places like New York, Boston, Quebec, Sydney, Melbourne (and so on), who obviously helped the poverty stricken immigrants from Ireland around the time of the Great Famine (and after). Apart from all the problems connected with starvation, illness, and destitution, many of these Irish people would not have been able to fill in forms even (because they could neither read nor write); and in addition, the Celtic language that many of the immigrants spoke would probably not be understood by anybody other than themselves. Many it seems did not even know their date of birth; and the records apparently suggest that several asked to have March 17th put down: St Patrick' Day.
(5) THANKS TOP
Finnertys (New Inn) would like to thank the several local people in the Chaplefinnerty area who provided us with help to produce this page. Without exception, all were friendly and kind - and very enthusiastic regarding the possibility of making their local heritage information better known to the outside world.
Thanks also to the several people who helped in the public libraries in Ballinasloe, and Galway City, and in the various libraries of University College Galway (which is part of the National University of Ireland). Priest at Roscommon church.
In appreciation of all the time he saved us, a few special words of thanks are due we feel to Chaplefinnerty resident Michael Gilmore - who very kindly allowed us to copy the bulky set of notes he already had on Chaplefinnerty Cemetery. In the course of one conversation with Michael, it accidentally came to our knowledge that he has a very interesting namesake (possibly a distant relative?) who was born in nearby Ballygar (in 1829). This person's name is Patrick S. Gilmore; and he seems to be something of a lost hero at present: though this was certainly not always the case.
This section closes with a small tribute to Patrick S. Gilmore - who in is own quiet way is already known (indirectly) to many millions of people all around the world.
Patrick S. Gilmore was born with a great natural talent for music it seems; and, as a youth, he had the additional good fortune of receiving excellent tuition from two accomplished music teachers in Athlone. In 1848 - at the height of the Great Famine in Ireland - he crossed the Atlantic to Boston: where despite the reservations of the Know Nothing Party (which was both anti-immigrant and anti-catholic), he continued to make great progress with his musical career.
Later, while serving as a musician in the American Civil war, he heard a soldier singing a sorrowful little folk tune which sounded interesting. Patrick Gilmore wrote down the notes of this tune on paper and made some musical arrangements around them. This arrangement then went on to became what is thought to be the most famous marching song of the American Civil War: "John Brown's Body". With rewritten words, this piece of music later became known as "The The Battle Hymn of the Republic".
There was more musical creativity to follow from Patrick. After the Battle of Gettysburg, he seemed to anticipate that the war might soon be over, and that the troops would at last be able to return to their homes and loved ones. With this in mind, he wrote a very lively and positive sounding song called: "When Johnny Comes Marching Home". It quickly became an enduring favourite, and is often performed to this day. For example, when the homecoming U.S. troops walked down off the military aircraft after the "Desert Storm" operation in the early 1990's, it is understood to have been played by the military band on the tarmac, and heard by millions on television networks throughout the world.
There is now a plaque (photograph below) outside the house in Ballygar where Patrick S. Gilmore was born on Christmas Day 1829. It is thought he changed his middle name from "Stephen" to "Sarsfield" after arriving in Boston: possibly for the purpose of finding ways around difficulties he was having with the Know Nothing Party.
One of the statesmen mentioned on the above plaque who honoured this man from Ballygar was President Abraham Lincoln. When the Civil War hostilities had ended, he personally asked Patrick to organise and perform a large musical celebration in New Orleans. In what was one of his last (of many) kind-hearted and thoughtful acts, President Lincoln seems to have arranged for the 500 musicians who played at the event to have included people of all races, backgrounds, and religious beliefs; and that many of the 5000 children who sang the patriotic songs (of both North and South) were from the families of the losing Confederate side: tangible evidence it appears of the President's very sincere and deeply held wish to "to bind up the nation's wounds".
Apparently, the New Orleans performance was a stupendous affair; and President Lincoln wrote to Patrick Gilmore shortly afterwards: to thank him for a job well done.
REFERENCE SECTION TOP