Carrig Church & Graveyard

Carrig Church & Graveyard

THE MEDIEVAL church of St. Nicholas which was once in the hands of the lords of the liberty of Wexford stood proudly in the townsland of Newtown and remained in their charge until 1404 when it was handed over to Selskar Priory. The remains of the church were still standing at the time of the ordnance survey of 1841. We know this to be true because the O’Donovan letters of the time tell us that fragments of the wall remain. There are no doors or windows and the church had no choir. O’Donovan also tells us that the original church was 46 feet long and 20 feet wide, the walls were 3 feet thick and constructed of quarried stone cemented with lime and sand mortar. He goes on to say that the church stands about 200 yards from a holy well called after St. Nicholas and is surrounded by a small cemetery which is still in use. The holiday is 6 December and there is no patron. The cemetery in question is, of course, the lovely Carrig graveyard described in Gratten Flood’s History of Ferns as being situated in a secluded spot near the mouth of a glen through which flows a mountain stream. The name Carrig signifies a rock and was originally imposed because the church was built beside a rocky hill. Carrig would, however, be just another graveyard if it were not for Mr. James Nolan and Mr. James McGrath, both from Hill Street in Wexford town. Both young men sat on a milestone in Farnogue during the late 19th century where they wrote that most beautiful of ballads “Carrig River”. The song was to top the bill in many social gatherings during the early part of the century and contains a special reference to Carrig graveyard, “It’s often that with vain regret we think on things we’ve seen; We’ve seen the past but can’t forget and mourn what might have been; As we strayed along the sweet birds’ song was ringing in the sky, O’er the lonely graves in Carrig where the ninety-eight men lie”. The reference in the song to the men of ’98 has given Carrig graveyard a special significance in this year of commemoration even though details of people who died during the conflict and who were buried in Carrig are not easily found. We do know for certain that Lieutenant Colonel Jonas Watson, who was killed in action on 30 May, 1798, was buried there. Mr. Watson was leading the attack on rebel forces who were camped at the Three Rocks when he lost his life but historians differ on the number of casualtys during that particular military engagement. We know for certain, however, that others were killed and it is reasonable to assume that some were interred in Carrig. We should never lose sight of the fact, of course, that Carrig graveyard was an ordinary cemetery where people in the surrounding areas were buried and we should be grateful to Mr. Brian Cantwell for his valuable research relative to graveyards in the county. Mr. Cantwell went to the trouble of compiling an index of all headstones in cemeteries throughout the county, details of which are housed in Wexford County Library. When we look at this index we find that people from Carrigeen St., John St., Barntown, Taghmon, Carriglawn, and 81 elsewhere throughout the district are buried in Carrig, as is the Percival family, who were landed gentry of note during the 19th century. Carrig graveyard, which is situated about 3 miles from Wexford town, is now in the charge of Wexford County Council. All evidence of the church of St. Nicholas of Myra has disappeared but the cemetery still holds a special place in the minds and hearts of the people of Wexford.

Credit: Padge Reck – Book Three Rocks Remembered