The story behind Ireland’s smallest chapel

A few photos from a visit to Carrick-on-Shannon in county Leitrim, we regularly drive through Carrick heading to Sligo but decided to stop for lunch and a stroll a few months ago. I had heard that Carrick had the smallest chapel in Ireland which had been renovated in the last few years so we decided to go and view it, we found it tucked away on the corner of Bridge street and Main street.

The story goes that when a local woman named Mary Josephine Costello died at the age of 47 on the 6th of October 1877, her husband Edward Costello, a local rich merchant was so heartbroken by the death of his beloved wife, he decided to have a chapel built in her memory and have her coffin interred within it.

Victorian mourning

The Victorian era (1837 to 1901) introduced new funeral rituals and in particular after 1861 when Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s husband died and she went into a long period of mourning, influenced many Victorians and would of had an influence on the grieving Edward’s decision to commission the building of a chapel in memory of his wife.  Early deaths were viewed increasingly as tragic and deserving of elaborate and grand-scale mourning.(i)  Following Queen Victoria’s example, it became customary for middle class and wealthy families to go through elaborate rituals to commemorate their dead. This included wearing mourning clothes, having a lavish and expensive funeral, curtailing social behaviour for a set period of time, and erecting an ornate monument on the grave.(ii)

Costello had his wife’s remains embalmed and entrusted her body to the care of the local Marist Sisters convent in Carrick until the chapel could be completed.(iii)  Two years later on the 22nd April 1879, the chapel building works were completed and the chapel was dedicated with a mass held where Mary Josephine’s body was interred in a decorated coffin and placed into a sunken floor and covered with a thick glass lid.  Edward had a mass held in the chapel every month until his own death in 1891, his coffin was also interred in the chapel.

The chapel is believed to be the smallest chapel in Ireland and the second smallest in the world, it measures 16 ft by 12 ft and is made of cut stone, there is no woodwork in the church, the roof is made of arched piece of masonry and there is a large stained glass window made from designs by Mayer of Munich.(iii)  The Carrick Heritage group raised funds and had the chapel renovated in 2009 and it is opened daily all year round, its free admission but donations are welcome.  

Chapel in Carrick
Costello’s Memorial chapel

 

Church doorway
Archway into chapel

 

Coffin
Edward Costello’s coffin

 

Mary Josephines carved coffin
Mary Josephine Costello’s coffin

 

Mary Josephine Costello Leitrim Portrait
Portrait of Mary Josephine Costello

 

Coffins encased in the glass floor of the chapel

 

Irish stained glass smallest church
Stained glass window from designs by Mayer of Munich, renovated by Connon studios Dublin

A quick look inside the chapel

[kad_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/X6aKbr3SXD8″ width=440 height=250 ]

 

 

Sources:

(i)   https://victorianmonsters.wordpress.com/victorian-funerary-practices/
(ii)  http://www.tchevalier.com/fallingangels/bckgrnd/mourning/
(iii) http://www.carrickheritage.com/costello-memorial-chapel.html

Images: melcoo

 

Castle on the shores of Lough Gill

Parkes Castle is a restored plantation castle which dates back to the early 17th century, located on the shores of Lough Gill, outside Dromahair village in county Leitrim.

It is located on the site of the Irish chieftain Brian O’Rourke’s 16th century tower house, Brian O’Rourke had helped the Spanish Armada troops who had survived the sinking of their ships in storms off the coast of Streedagh in county Sligo, which angered Queen Elizabeth I, who ordered his land and castle be confiscated, O’Rourke went on the run and was eventually caught and executed at Tyburn, London in 1591.

17th Century Irish castle
Parkes Castle

 

O’Rourke’s lands were given to the Cromwellian soldier Robert Parke, who built the castle you can see today, Captain Robert Parkes lived here with his wife and children, they later abandoned the castle and moved to the safer location of Sligo town. There was a local rumour that the Parkes children died in a drowning accident on Lough Gill, although there is no evidence for this, only that Captain Parkes, Will did not include them.  The Parkes descendants were the Gore-Booths of Lissadell house. By the 1980’s the castle was a shell and lay in ruins and the home to cattle, the Office of Public Works excavated the site and gained valuable information by the castle’s history and restored the castle, training apprentices in traditional craftmenship and using Irish Oak.

 

Irish Castle
Parkes Castle located outside Dromahair, Leitrim

 

Lough Gill at Parkes Castle
Lough Gill

 

Corner Turret
Courtyard and restored corner turret.

 

The Parkes family
Captain Parke’s wife and children

 

Captain Parkes
Captain Robert Parkes

 

We visited over heritage week and spent an hour here, there is a short video and we took the guided tour, which was excellent.

They also have a permanent exhibition called Vernacular architecture in Ireland, about Irish cottages which was very interesting and they have recreated an Irish cottage within the castle.

Location: On the Sligo – Dromahair Road (R286), 11 Km from Sligo town or 7 Km from Dromahair, Leitrim.

From Sligo town, you can also take the Rose of Innisfree boat cruise from the Back Avenue in Sligo town which travels up Lough Gill and docks at Parkes Castle.

For Parkes Castle, opening dates and times, check out the Heritage Ireland website.

 

A Rebel’s home

 

Kiltyclogher or Kilty as it is known locally, is a small village situated in north Leitrim, it is right on the border with Fermanagh. It is a quaint little village, laid out neatly with four roads, the village lies on the R281 road.

 

Seán Mac Diarmada's statue in Kiltyclogher, Leitrim Mac Diarmada statue
Seán Mac Diarmada statue which was erected in 1940. It was created by the Irish Sculptor Albert Power (1881-1945)

 

Brief History

The village was originally established in the 1830’s by the local landlord Charles Henry Tottenham, in honour of his daughter Sarah who had died in a riding accident, the village was originally named Sarahville and a crest with this name can still be seen today on the Market house building in the town.

Charles who lived in the nearby Glenfarne Hall, was the son of Nicholas Loftus Tottenham, originally of Loftus Hall on the Hook Head peninsula in Wexford. The Tottenham family arrived in Ireland during the Cromwellian plantation. Nicholas had been a Captain in a British Regiment and a M.P. for Wexford and he was bequeathed land in Leitrim.

Charles Tottenham built the village which consisted of 25 houses and the Market house and by the mid 1830’s, the village had 130 inhabitants.  There was also a constabulary police station in the village and a market was held every Friday in the Market house and a Fair on the 14th of the month. In 1837 the Roman Catholic church, St Patrick’s was built and in 1868, the Church of Ireland Kiltyclogher Parish church was built on the Kilcoo road.

During the Troubles, in 1973 the road into Fermanagh was blown up by the British Army, this had a detrimental affect on the local economy and cut off neighbours and townlands.  Thankfully, since the peace process, the road has reopened, although the village has suffered from problems of rural decline and lack of infrastructure and services. For the 1916-2016 centenary this year, the village has been spruced up and is looking really well, with window art facades on some of the old former pubs and shops.  It is hoped that the village will be designated as a ‘Heritage and Cultural Village’ with a special focus on arts and crafts. I think this will be great for the village as it has a history of music and drama. My grandmother brought my mother to some of the amateur drama plays held in Kilty back in the 1970’s.

McGowans Bar - Kiltyclogher Leitrim

Old Memories

I’m fond of Kilty as my grandparents lived just over the border and Kilty was their nearest village, I spent many summers there and walked in the road and over the old wooden bridge (which at one point resembled something out of an Indiana Jones movie) which crossed the river and up to Kilty for church on Sunday’s, my aunts changing out of their old mucky shoes and hiding them in a bag behind an old wall, before continuing on up into Kilty village in their high heels.

Art work on old tailor's shop
Bredin Tailors shop, Kiltyclogher Leitrim

 

Heritage Centre

We visited the new heritage centre opened in the former Market house building in the village and to do a tour of the home of the 1916 Leader Seán Mac Diarmada. The heritage centre hosts an exhibition about Sean and gives a brief history of Kilty, we met Paul there who was very kind and patient!

Market house in Kilty
The former Market house now the Kiltyclogher Heritage Centre

 

Seán Mac Diarmada

 

Sean Mac Diarmada art portrait
Striking artwork of Seán Mac Diarmada by Sinead Guckian displayed in the Heritage centre.

 

Seán was born in Corranmore townland, just outside the village of Kilty in 1883 and he lived in a three room cottage with his parents and his brothers and sisters. Seán had originally planned on been a teacher and he stayed on, in his local school Corracloon and was a teacher’s assistant there, while studying for teaching exams by correspondence. Around this time, he learnt Irish and became involved in the Gaelic League. After failing an exam, he moved to Belfast and worked as a Tram conductor and was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). In 1908, he moved to Dublin and was working as an organiser for Sinn Fein and by 1910 he was working as the editor of the Irish Freedom newspaper. He also became good friends with Tom Clarke and was considered to be Clarke’s protegé.

Irish cottage of Sean Mac Diarmada
The 19th century thatched cottage of Seán Mac Diarmada – 1916 Rising Leader

 

In 1964, Seán’s bachelor brother was approached by the Office of Public works, they wanted to make the cottage a national monument and asked Seán’s brother, not to make any alternations to the cottage, in return he received an allowance and continued to live in the cottage until his death in 1976. Walking into the 19th century white washed thatched cottage, you see the big open hearth and get the smell of turf, old furniture is dotted about the cottage, some of which was made by Seán’s father, who was a farmer and carpenter, it really brings you back in time, it is as if Seán and his family have just stepped out and will return at any minute. My mother came along with us and she loved it, as she grew up in a similar cottage in the 50’s and 60’s, with the big open hearth and hooks for hanging a kettle and saucepans.

Old hearth in traditional irish cottage
The old hearth, put on the kettle and throw some boxty on the pan

 

Inside Seán Mac Diarmada's cottage
Old dresser built by Seán’s father, on display at the family cottage in Kiltyclogher, Leitrim

 

It’s worth booking a tour with the heritage centre as they will meet you outside and open up the cottage, otherwise you can drive up to the cottage and view it from the outside, but it will really make your visit worthwhile to go into the cottage, we really enjoyed our visit to the village and the cottage. You can check out the heritage website for opening times and directions.

 

 

Sources:
1. kiltyclogherheritagecentre.com
2. Seán Mac Diarmada Summer School - seanmacdiarmada.ie/sean-mac-diarmada
3. Seán Mac Diarmada - 16 Lives biography book by Author Brian Feeney 
4. Tottenham Genealogy - tottenham.name/Tree/SectionC9.pdf
5. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Se%C3%A1n_Mac_Diarmada
6. Irish Century - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufLoFB3Jx3E
7. forebears.io/ireland/connaught/leitrim/clonclare/kiltyclogher
8. kilmorediocese.ie/diocese/parishes/113
9. leitrimobserver.ie/news/home/206963/This-is-our-last-chance-to.html
10. visual-arts-cork.com/irish-sculpture/albert-power.htm