Off the M8 – Lismore Quest

It’s half an hour’s drive off the motorway, leaving at Fermoy – but well worth the diversion. Lismore, County Waterford, is an ancient town. St Carthage arrived here in 635 and established a great centre of learning famous throughout Europe; the Vikings ransacked it in the ninth century, after which the Norman Prince John, son of King Henry II, arrived in 1185 to build the Castle, which passed through the ownerships of Walter Raleigh and the Great Earl of Cork, before becoming the Irish residence of the Duke of Devonshire. So there’s lots to see, and lots of history to take in: be prepared for many visits!

Our quest was to find a grave in the churchyard of St Carthage’s Cathedral. I am currently preparing a talk on the links between West Cork and Zululand (believe me, this is relevant)! The principle subject of this talk is a ‘soldier artist’ – William Whitelocke Lloyd, who was born and brought up in Strancally Castle, County Waterford, but lived for most of his adult life in Glandore, West Cork, (where you will find a pyramid). What should we find in St Carthage’s? Another pyramid! But that’s incidental to the main story here.

The Cathedral is said to be on the site of the original monastic foundation, and there’s some pretty ancient stonework inside it, including the quite remarkable tomb of the McGrath family which dates from 1486. The present building, however, comes mainly from the early seventeenth century when the Earl of Cork carried out major works, but also retained some earlier structure.

We did find the Whitelocke Lloyd grave, a little forlorn, close to the north west corner of the Cathedral. It has not weathered well and the inscription is not easily decipherable; a fallen cross lies broken across it. If you want to find out about this man’s exploits in the Zulu wars of 1879 – 80 and his career as an artist – for which he had no formal training – and why he is buried here with no family around him (his wife Catherine Anna Mona Brougham, daughter of the Dean of Lismore lies in a matching grave in Casteltownshend) you’ll have to come to my talk!

The somewhat forlorn grave of William Whitelocke Lloyd in the grounds of the Cathedral (above) and (upper pictures) two examples of the watercolour sketches of William Whitelocke Lloyd carried out while he was on active service in Africa. They were faithful records of the terrain and the conditions which the soldiers endured. Whitelocke Lloyd was ‘discovered’ by the Illustrated London News who used his drawings to produce engravings for publication – one is shown below.

Today’s post is largely a miscellany of the splendours we discovered in and around St Carthage’s Cathedral, and we hope this will inspire you to go there yourselves: it’s only two hours away from home – a mere hop and a skip.

Finola was delighted to find this rarity in St Carthage’s Cathedral – a window by the pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Byrne-Jones.

As with many Anglican churches, there are numerous elabortate memorials on the walls of St Carthage’s Cathedral. Here are just three examples, above.

In the Cathedral reposes this McGrath family tomb – one of the finest examples of sixteenth century stone carving in Ireland. Below – one of the earliest grave inscriptions, dating from 1718.

Robert’s Talk – West Cork and the Zulu Wars – will be given at the Talks in the Vaults series, Bank House, Ballydehob on Tuesday 13 November, at 8pm

9 thoughts

  1. I wonder if you met the current Dean (the Deanery is next to the cathedral and school) – he would have shown you the amazing and famous Library in the cathedral. On your next visit to those parts you should go to see Dungarvan Castle and other sights there – these, and Cappoquin, were my local towns when a child, and I go back every year from England.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Anne. We didn’t meet the Dean this time, but we have more to do in Lismore in the future, and will arrange this. The Library is certainly on the list!


  2. Robert, I want you to know how much your weekly posts are enjoyed by us. We love Ireland and each week we feel as if we are there through your and Finola’s posts. We hope to return some day! There are so many riches to be discovered! We so enjoyed our brief time with you two lovely people. Barbara and Gary (We met at Ballyfin)

    Sent from my iPhone


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Enjoyed this blog in particular as it recalls a personal attachment to Lismore Cathedral. Two years ago we went there while visiting Cappoquin where my grandmother was born in 1864 , and made our next stop Lismore Cathedral. As you know half the nave is essentially bare and in poor condition. While my partner investigated the altar I strolled through the closed section and at the back found a large marble plaque inscribed with ” A plaque erected by his sorrowing friends to the memory of Dr. John Mahony LRCRI Medical Officer of the Capoquin Dispensary District who died of fever caught in the discharge of his duties in the 28th year of his age … on the 24th of May, 1864.”
    My grandmother was born 5 months later.
    Thanks for the memory
    Denis Jesson, Piers Island, Canada

    Liked by 1 person

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