Drumcreehy Church, Clare, Ireland

Drumcreehy Church, also know as St Colman’s Abbey and to others as Bishop’s Quarter graveyard, is a picturesque but decaying ruin standing overlooking the Burren near the southern shoreline of Galway Bay. Though some records suggest its founding in 1302 by Drumcruth others propose the windows and some aspects of the build my date from the 11th century and may have been integrated into the later design. The north door, which reflects the style of west doors of the nearby Quin Friary, and chancel may have only been added in the 15th or 16th century, or which most is now destroyed. There is an association with St Colman at many of the religious sites in this area, in fact that church is daubed with the inscription ‘St Colman’s Abbey’ however Drumcreehy seems to predate this later association. It appears the church was already in a very poor state by the 1839 when the ordnance survey letters of John O’ Donovan and Eugene Curry describe the church as, ‘five centuries old and in a state of dilapidation‘.

Though the church appears to have been out of use by the later part of the 19th century burials still took place here, and one of the most conspicuous being the tomb of Henry Comerford. Comerford was a rich merchant, landowner and magistrate from Galway whose actions during and after the famine led to infamy. Comerford had been the owner of a famine migration ship named the St John, destined for the USA that was wrecked off the coast of Massachusetts on 7th October 1849, leading to 100 deaths. However this was only the beginning of the misfortune. Understandably, during the decade that immediately followed the famine there was still huge emigration and economic distress, this migration of tenants and social upheaval was added to with the change in landlords. It was in 1857 that Comerford bought the estates around Kinvara that belonged to the William Gregory. Gregory was an MP for Galway and his second wife was Isabella Augusta Gregory, or Lady Gregory as she is more commonly known, a key figure in the Irish literary revival and co founder of the Abbey Theatre.

Comerford had obtained the bank loan for the estates on the basis of increased revenue from the lands. Gregory had a relatively good relationship with his tenants but Comerford immediately set about doubling and tripling the rents of an already disparate and dwindling community. In Monsignor Jerome Fahy’s ‘History and Antiquities of the Diocese of Kilmacduagh’ he stated that after Comerford’s purchase ‘the comparatively short interval of about twenty years witnessed the ruin of over a thousand homesteads in one Parish’. A father Francis Arthur also observed, ‘The change of landlords for the greatest portion of this place has rendered this one of the most wretched and deplorable parishes in Ireland’. He added that it was impossible to get credit from the merchants of Kinvara as the were ‘bereft of all hope’ after Comerford’s rack-renting. Comerford died in 1861 and is buried in the churchyard, though it is wrong to speak ill of the dead for this man the epitaph, ‘in all his dealings just’ may be a stretch.

GPS: 53.12306, -9.12486

2 thoughts on “Drumcreehy Church, Clare, Ireland

  1. Lovely pictures and a very interesting story! Did you notice in your photo just before the grave of Mr. Comerford the sheeps head in the overgrowth? It looks like a good piece of topiary.
    How fitting.

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