NATURE NOTEBOOK 15 2 ’16
– great power & abuse of privilege
‘This church of Killegy was built as a family mortuary chapel by Maurice Hussey of Cahernane, late Colonel in the army of King James 11. At his death in 1714 his body was borne here by his 4 sons and buried at midnight by torchlight.’
This is the story carved into a limestone tablet set into the wall in the dimply lit interior of the little oratory in Killegy graveyard. Was the funeral in the middle of the night because of a fear of disturbance? Local tradition says not, that it was Hussey’s wish.
The unworked stones set into the ground on the northern and eastern side of the little church anonymously mark the graves of famine burials. The little building looks much older than the 18th century. It is said to be a reconstructed 12th century building. The placename Killegy would support this. The limestone slab set into its wall is of comparatively recent vintage.
On the eastern side of the church a wild domestic hedging shrub hides the carving on the headstone of Thomas Greaney. The story goes that a Miss Maybury, who worked in nearby Muckross House, was in the family way because of the attentions of the landlord Henry Arthur Herbert, who hosted Queen Victoria’s stay here in 1861.
When Miss Maybury confronted Mr Herbert about her condition he promised to look after her. Going outside his front door the first person he met was Thomas Greaney, who worked in his gardens.
“Greaney you will marry Miss Maybury. Before that you will become a member of the established church. You will join the RIC. After six months you will receive a commission as a sargeant and then retire on pension. Finally you will become the first Postmaster in the Post Office that I will set up in Muckross.” It was said that the child born to the couple bore a remarkable resemblance to Henry Arthur.
The Killegy graveyard is dominated by a huge celtic cross that tells in raised lettering ‘IN AFFECTIONATE MEMORY OF THE RIGHT HONORABLE HENRY ARTHUR HERBERT BORN 1815 DIED 1866 HIS TENANTRY HAVE ERECTED THIS CROSS TO RECORD THEIR SENSE OF HIS VIRTUE_ AND THEIR GRIEF FOR HIS LOSS
Local folklore says the word ‘virtue’ was originally ‘virtues’ but that the last letter was taken out – and there is a blank at the end of the word. The huge cross is covered in rich, very skillfully carved celtic ornamentation.
As the legend records it was commissioned by the tenants on the Herbert Muckross estate. The story goes that when the sculptor brought his huge work of art here the tenants didn’t have the money to pay for it! Local folklore becomes less credible when it tells that the scultpor left the cross rather than bear the cost of bringing it back to Cork.
Henry Arthur is interred under the cross. It is said that he instructed that he was to be placed sitting on a great chair looking out over his estates of mountain, lake and woodland, so that when Gabriel’s bugle sounds he could race down the hill and be in heaven first.
Killegy graveyard is on a low hill, a place closer to heaven, and its perimeter of big trees gives the graves great shelter. The hilltop resting place looks as if it has been extensively man made. Perhaps it was an ancient place of worship.
‘It is said’ gives great scope to speculate.
– Frank Lewis
* Killegy is almost within sight of our self-catering rental accommodation Gallan Eile
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