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  • Writer's pictureHugh MacMahon

Behind the Ordinary

Some places are too close and look so ordinary that we might never think, or know, that they had a noteworthy past.     

Laraghbryan, on the old road west from Dublin, was like that for me. Today there are no signs or clues that it was anything more that an ordinary rural cemetery. The name, Láithreach Briúin (Site of the O’Byrnes), does not help unless it means the O’Byrnes of Wicklow were the original owners.

Its place in recorded history began with Senan, ‘The Wise One’, son of Fintan and Deid, who founded a settlement there in the 6th century.

During his lifetime Senan was praised for his ‘noble qualities’ and named as one of the churchmen who attended ‘the great Synod held at Dromcreat in 580AD’.

His centre was to survive over a thousand year despite its location on a warring  inter-kingdom border. It was often raided yet a report from 1630 noted the church at Laraghbryan was ‘in good repair but the chancel was unroofed’ (it still is!).

In 1770 when the first Duke of Leinster restored Saint Mary's Church of Ireland at his castle in nearby Maynooth, the wooden East Window from Laraghbryan was removed and installed there, where it is today.

By then Maynooth, home to the Fitzgeralds of Leinster, had become a separate centre though Laraghbryan remained (and continues to be) the burial place for the area.   

Today the ruins at Laraghbryan are hidden in a clump of trees but on close inspection proved in better shape than I expected. There is a sturdy tower from which, it is said, an underground passage leads to Maynooth Castle.

The surrounding graveyard expanded over a thousand years and among the more recent graves is that of Domhnall Ua Buachalla, the last Governor-General of the Irish Free State (1932–36).

A local Maynooth business man, in 1907 he was arrested and had his goods seized when he refused to pay a fine for having his grocery wagon painted with Domhnall Ua Buachalla (his name in Irish). British law required grocery wagons to be registered only in the English language. He went on to be involved in 1916 and was active in later events in Irish history. He died in 1963 and given a state funeral at Laraghbryan. The graveside oration was delivered by President de Valera.

There is a lot more history buried in Laraghbryne than I could have expected.

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