• 17th century grave marker at Burgage near Blessington, Co. Wicklow

    There aren’t very many examples of 17th headstones in Wicklow, but I noticed one outside Blessington which struck me as particularly interesting. In 1940, in advance of the flooding of the area that now forms the Poulaphuca Reservoir, the graves in the ancient graveyard at Burgage More were exhumed and moved to a new cemetery nearby. Not only did they move the burials, they the headstones were moved as well. Among the many headstones moved to the new cemetery is a stone dated 1690. The top of the stone is missing, including most of the name of the person who it commemorates. What does survive are the words WHO DID (the D’s are reversed, and in this case DID was intended for DIED) – followed by the month, date and year when the person died. Though part of the lettering for the month is missing there is no doubt that it should be read as JULY THE 14 1690. What I find intriguing about this date is the fact that this person died shortly after, but probably lived to hear news of the outcome of, the infamous Battle of the Boyne, Co. Meath which was fought on July 1st that year (according to the Gregorian calendar of the time). This is perhaps the most famous battle ever fought on Irish soil and was unusual in that both kings actually commanded their respective armies in person during the battle. Even at the time it was realised to have been a turning point in the attempts by James II to regain the crown from King William of Orange. Of course, this was more than a battle over the British throne, it was part of a larger power struggle in which Protestant states tried to prevent French dominance of Europe. But that is another story. In the meantime, let us return to the name of the person who is commemorated on the stone at Burgage who died less than two weeks after the Battle of the Boyne. Only four letters survive of the person’s first name – WILL – coincidentally then, our man’s name was William!

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