Aughadown Church, Cork, Ireland

Aughadown Church and Graveyard are situated west of Skibbereen on the banks of the River Ilen, the church is a simple 19th century Board of First Fruits structure but the graveyard and ecclesiastical history of the site predate this. No remains of the medieval church, first recorded in 1199, remain but its is recorded as being in use up until the early 1800s when it was replace in 1812 by the now ruined St Matthew’s Church, which was only in use for 60 years. The graveyard is home to Roman Catholic, Protestant and Methodist graves and many remarkable burials and headstones are recorded here. The juxtaposition of some of these burials cannot help but be remarked upon, with the grave of Colonel Thomas Beecher, Aide-de-camp to William of Orange at the Battle of the Boyne less than three metres from the grave of IRA man Patrick McCarthy. The Beechers were formidable landlords in the Skibbereen area, they held 30,000 acres and it was said that you could walk from Skibbereen to Crookhaven and never leave Beecher land. Thomas Beecher died on the 10th of August 1708 aged 69. Patrick McCarthy had served in the 3rd Cork Brigade of the IRA during the War of Independence, and was present at the Kilmichael ambush on the 28th of November 1920, led by the infamous Tom Barry. The Kilmichael ambush is a pivotal moment in Irish history, coming one week after Bloody Sunday, it was a dangerous attack for the IRA as there was little chance of escape unless they were victorious. The whole patrol of British Auxiliaries were wiped out, 16 at the ambush, and one more shortly afterwards, the IRA lost 3 volunteers. McCarthy survived the ambush but was tragically killed in 1922 during the Civil War while on duty overlooking the RIC barracks in Skibbereen, it is said the lighting of a cigarette is what caused him to be noticed, shot and then later died of his wounds at the tender age of 22. Another grave of note is that of Dr Stephen Sweetnam who served the people of Schull during the tragic years of the Irish famine, putting himself at risk of fever and other illness in his attempts to help the locals during those dark days, he died in 1885. There is a small patch of land that sits between the graveyard and the River Ilen and local folklore suggest that this was a Cillín, used for the burial of unbaptised babies. This church and graveyard are situated in such a picturesque part of Cork that a visit is highly recommended.

GPS: 51.52832, -9.35975

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