A special commemoration ceremony was held at Doonpeter Cemetery in Glenville on Sunday afternoon.
The commemoration was held to mark the 175th anniversary of the worst effects of the Famine in the Glenville area and to commemorate unbaptised infants who are buried in the cemetery.
All those buried in Doonpeter Cemetery were remembered on a very poignant day as well as the hundreds of Famine victims whose identity has been lost in the midst of time.
Well-known Cork historian John Arnold who spoke at the commemoration said it was a very successful event. “It was well organised and an important local historical event. There was a good crowd and it was a lovely event. There were a lot of children there and they put coloured stones around the different graves in the cemetery. They will hopefully be coming back in the years to come with their children and grandchildren and telling them the stories of the cemetery,” he said.
The ancient church which once stood at Doonpeter Cemetery was burnt to the ground by the army of O’Neill in 1599. This arson was in retaliation for Lord Barrymore refusing to join forces with O’Neill.
The cemetery and the holy well are still in use said Mr Arnold. “It is believed that there was a pre-Christian church there right up until the middle ages. It was burnt by the forces of O’Neill and O’Donnell on their way to Kinsale in 1599. Doonpeter Cemetery and St Johns Holy Well which remain in the enclosure have long been special places of devotion. The well which is dedicated to St John is generally associated with cures for skin ailments. On St John’s Eve, bonfires are held in Glenville on July 23.
“The cemetery has been used for centuries. There are very few headstones there. There are heaps of plain stone markers where people are buried. There are two historic burial sites in the cemetery. One is a mass grave where there were a lot of victims buried during the Famine. That is at one part of the cemetery. Another part of the cemetery, the Cilin is where unbaptised or stillborn babies were buried.
“Probably since pre-Christian times the faithful have come here to pray and remember the dead. During Famine times many people were buried in a mass grave or pit within the surrounds of the cemetery. For centuries also the bodies of unbaptised infants were interred in Doonpeter, usually by night,” he added.
The local Doonpeter Holy Well and Graveyard Committee decided to erect two plaques to remember the famine victims and the infants buried in the cemetery.
The historian said it is nice to remember such poignant events in local and national history. “A local committee has really taken it in care and it is looking beautiful. It is important to remember our history. It is 175 years since the worst effects of the Famine in the Glenville area. The local cemetery and holy well committee erected two new plaques to commemorate the famine victims who were buried there and to commemorate the little unborn babies whose names are not even known and also buried in the cemetery.”
Representatives from Cork County Council, Cork City Council, and the National Heritage Council were in attendance at the event, while the unveiling and blessing was conducted by Bishop Fintan Gavin Bishop of Cork and Ross.
Mr Arnold said the main theme of the day was ‘remembering’. “Bishop Fintan talked about the importance of remembering. He mentioned the Famine victims and the practice of burying unbaptised children.”