Just a couple of miles from Tempo on
the main road from Enniskillen, you will find The Pubble Graveyard. This
place has been in use as a burial ground for over 1000 years and it is thought
that many ancient
graves lie outside the present boundary wall. Over
the past 100 years or so some very curious and interesting
headstones have been uncovered.
As part of a special
series, Teresa McKeogh spends some time in the Pubble
graveyard with William Roulston (Ulster
Historical Foundation), Johnny McKeagney (Historian) and
Seamus McCanney (Historian).
The word Pubble actually means "people". It is believed that St.
Patrick preached to a multitude of people right here at this place. Some
years later a wooden church was built. That was eventually replaced
by a new stone building with a thatched roof. Then, towards the end of the
18th Century, a new church was built in the village of Tempo and the church
here at Pubble fell into ruins. Burials continued here however until around
Examples of the 'Mortality symbols' found in the graveyard.
Derived from Johnny McKeagney's own stone rubbings.
The earliest legible headstones to be found in the graveyard today date
back to 1707. Therefore this burial place carries a form of written record
of 300 years of the local community. It is possible to understand something
the lives they led from the headstones here.
William Roulston explains the meaning of the strange pictures known as 'Mortailty
Symbols' on some of the headstones in the graveyard. See the examples above
which are replications of Johnny McKeagney's own rubbings... The skull and
cross-bones is a well known symbol for death. The coffin and the bell represent
a funeral. The hour glass represents the time running out. These symbols
tell us a lot about how people felt about life and death at that time. Headstones
like these can be found around Fermanagh and in parts of Monaghan. William
suggests that these symbols may have been imported into Ireland by Scottish
settlers during the 17th Century.
Johnny McKeagney has spent years researching and etching
in this graveyard. He says that this place is of great
importance to the people of the local community who
are direct descendants of those who rest here.
Graves have been discovered in this area which have
been dated as far back as 4,000 years. In the late
1800s the cairn on Topped Mountain was opened up and
inside was discovered a chieftain, buried sitting upright,
with a bowl of food and a dagger to hand!
Johnny has uncovered hidden graves himself in the
recent past. He was working in the graveyard one day
and came across a slab buried in soil and undergrowth.
when he finally managed to clean off the covering,
taking great care not to break the headstone, he found
it to be in commemoration of MS Macafry. Although the
spelling may have changed a little through the years,
the McCaffrey's are a well know family of this area.
The stone Johnny found had been erected by the wife
of the deceased in the year 1739 and bore no less than
16 lines of words all in praise of him.
Seamus McCanney is another local
historian who has also spent many hours probing into
the secrets of this
place. He describes his passion for etching ancient
gravestones as a 'labour of love' and stresses that
great care has to be taken not to do damage to the
headstones in the process of etching from them. He
says that removing the moss and plant-life from an
old headstone is 'like scraping off layers of time'.
He talks about two Enniskillen ladies who came here
the inscriptions in the beginning of the 20th Century.
They were Lady Edyth and Lady Dorothy Lowry-Corry and
they were writing an article for "The Journal
of the Association for the Preservation of the Memorials
the Dead in Ireland" !
|The Friar's Headstone - One
notable headstone in the Pubble graveyard depicts
a man on horseback and a sheep. All of this is
surrounded by a floral design. The reason why this
headstone is so unusual is that the picture it
carries tells us the story of how the person actually
In the year 1761 a priest was out riding on
his horse 'doing his rounds'. As the horse was
jumping over a pool of water a sheep suddenly
darted out and startled it. The horse
shied and reared up, toppling over backwards,
killing the priest.
Around Fermanagh, there are numerous headstones
to be found which have a pictorial story etched
on them but this one is very rare in that the
story tells how the death took place.
Graphic derived from
a rubbing of the Friar's Headstone
Johnny feels that the graveyard
here at Pubble is not so much
a sombre place but "serene"
He feels that the atmosphere
is in keeping with the thought
that those buried here are
at their final rest. Rather
than being creepy or frightening,
he considers it a very homely
place to be.
He also thinks that the graveyard
extends well beyond the wall
that now surrounds it. The
wall was built in 1787. It
is his firm hope that Pubble
graveyard, which is cared for
by the local council, will
never be allowed to fall into
His son Gabriel, who emigrated
from Northern Ireland to California,
was home when these recordings
were made. He feels that it's
most important to return to
Tempo and loves to 'soak in'
the atmosphere of Fermanagh
with its wildlife, weather
and standing stones etc. Although
he enjoys the fresh challenge
of living in the USA, he knows
that this is home and he says
that he would like to be
Ireland. The audio clip below
finishes with a piece of music
played by Gabriel, in the
graveyard, on the Uilleann
If you enjoyed this article
you may like to read some of
the others in this series,
exploring community history
through headstones... click