Below is a history of Kilcommon Church in Tinahely. A graveyard plan and panels are currently being prepared, so check back soon as they will be updated to this web page.
Kilcommon Church and graveyard, an early medieval ecclesiastical site located in County Wicklow, holds significant historical and archaeological significance. Situated in the townland of Churchland, civil parish of Kilcommon, and barony of Ballinacor South, this site is part of the rich tapestry of Ireland’s early medieval heritage.
In addition to renowned monastic sites like Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, there existed smaller Christian communities across the Irish countryside, similar to Kilcommon. These early ecclesiastical sites, including Kilcommon, often trace their origins to a founding saint who lived in the sixth century. Kilcommon, originally known as Cill Chomáin or the church of Comáin, was associated with a saint linked to the Dál nAraidhe of north-east Ulster. This saint died in 747 AD, and his feast day is celebrated on the 26th of December.
Early medieval church sites like Kilcommon encompass various features such as churches and graveyards, dwellings, ovens/kilns, wells, mills, and field systems. Some of these elements may have existed outside the ecclesiastical enclosure, which still stands at Kilcommon today.
In the 1530s, during the reign of Henry VIII, a significant religious transformation took place in England, which also had implications for Ireland. Henry VIII established a new Protestant religion, and as a result, Catholic chapels like the one in Kilcommon came under the ownership of the Church of England, with the English monarch serving as its head.
During this period, the existing Catholic churches were either renovated or left to deteriorate into ruins. In its place, a new Protestant church was constructed elsewhere or within the confines of the churchyard.
Subsequently, during the Penal Era, a set of harsh laws known as the Penal Laws were enforced in Ireland to suppress Catholicism and Protestant dissent. In response, penal churches, such as Whitefield (also known as “Old Kilavaney”), were established to provide a place of worship for Catholics.
Throughout these changes, both Catholics and Protestants continued to bury their deceased within the old parish church grounds, creating mixed graveyards like the one at Kilcommon.
The present-day Church of Ireland, known as Kilcommon Church, was built in 1820 and now occupies the original medieval church site, marking another chapter in the complex history of religious transformation in the area.
In 1798, a rebellion against English rule broke out in County Wexford and quickly spread into south Wicklow. Tinahely village was burned to the ground and a siege of Ballyrahan house, 3km from here, claimed an estimated 80-100 lives. There are four headstones in Kilcommon graveyard which commemorate the death of four young men who may have died as a consequence of this rebellion.
World War 1 1914-1918
A first world war memorial is located in the graveyard and is dedicated to four men from the parish who lost their lives in the war: Evans Hadden, John Pasley, George Pasley and George Thompson.
The Burial Record
At Kilcommon, a total of 298 headstones were documented, bearing inscriptions that encompassed 577 names, comprising 312 males and 257 females. Among these, 102 headstones featured a single name inscription, with 69 belonging to males and 33 to females. Eight headstones contained initials only.
The most common family names were as follows;
There were lots of very poignant and remarkable stories gleaned from the inscriptions. The following stood out.
1.1 A first world war memorial dedicated to four men from the parish who gave their lives, Evans
Hadden, John Pasley, George Pasley, and George Thompson. The memorial was moved here from
the Presbyterian Church in Tinahely.
1.13 Mr Joseph Blake who died at 102 years of age.
2.9 Rev. Richard Henry Symes died 10th July 1824. He was the third generation of his family to serve as Rector of the mixed parishes of Kilcommon, Crosspatrick and Preban.
3.19 Mr Roger Byers who died in 1722 aged 90. Born circa 1632
7.8 George Driver Cruelly murdered by the rebels in the late rebellion 1798
7.18 Rev. Thomas Brownrigg died 25th Jan 1896 aged 73. Chancellor of Christ Church Cathedral
13.4 Andrew O’Brien Died July 2nd 1836 aged 72. Commander of the Royal Navy.
21.30 Redmon Dvnahve 1749. The age and condition of the Headstone.
Within the church, there exists a memorial dedicated to Louisa Henrietta Symes, who tragically lost her life at the tender age of 10 in the Abergele rail disaster of 1868. This devastating event claimed the lives of 33 other individuals in North Wales.
Three young men who could possibly have died as a result of the 1798 rebellion.
7.10 Anslow Green died July 2nd 1798 aged 27 years
19.13 Peter Byrne Died June 2nd 1798 aged 28 years
20.11 Christopher Kavanagh died Sept 7th 1798 aged 25 years
Kilcommon boasts a remarkable collection of 18th-century headstones. Within this collection, six distinct stone cutters’ have been identified and their headstones are noted on the accompanying map. These skilled artisans were sought after professionals, evident in the abundance and quality of headstones found in Kilcommon.
Out of the 72 legible headstones dating from 1722 to 1799, several stone cutters were identified. Here is a list of those stone cutters:
The Aughrim Granite stone cutter
Kilcommon Church and Graveyard is one of the Wicklow projects to receive funding support from the Community Monuments Fund 2023(Ref: CMF23-3-WI005) . The CMF is coordinated by National Monuments Service of Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and administered at a local level by the Heritage Officer of Wicklow County Council.
The Wicklow Community Archaeology Project is funded by The Heritage Council and Wicklow County Council through the County Heritage Plan fund 2022 &23.
Sincere thanks to Jack Lynch and Triona Dormer for recording the headstones.