Yesterday I paid a visited to the newly opened Kilkea Castle Hotel and Golf Course , in the company of my good friend, archaeologist and historian, Dr Sharon Greene. The castle and grounds are full of many interesting features including a late medieval church and graveyard and medieval carvings. Sharon is an expert on the history and archaeology of south Co Kildare and she provided an excellent tour of the church and historic graveyard located behind the castle.
Kilkea Castle ( pronouced Kilkay) was the residence of the renowned antiquarian Lord Walter Fitzgerald. Lord Walter was a very active member of the Kildare Archaeological and Historical Society and was a prolific contributer to the societies journals on archaeology, history and folklore of the county. Such was his influence and achievements that Walter is commemorated by the Lord Walter Fitzgerald prize which is awarded biannually by the Kildare Archaeological Society for an essay of original research on some aspect of the county’s history.
A small pet cemetery located under a tree at the back of the castle close to the road leading to the golf club house shows us another side of Lord Walters personality. As well as being a keen archaeologist and historian Lord Walter was also a dog lover as is clearly evident from his commissioning of stone memorials to mark the passing of his pet dogs.
The cemetery consists of two finely cut stones. The one closest to the road is a rectangular limestone slab which bear the inscription
She was a Dandi Dinmont that for 12 years
was more faithful to him than her master’s shadow.
There are men both good and wise who hold that in a future stage
Dumb creatures we have cherished here below
Shall give us joyous greeting when we pass the Golden Gate.
Is it folly that I hope it may be so?
For never man had friend more enduring to the end.
Truer mate in every turn of time and tide,
Could I think we’d meet again it would lighten half the pain.
if the thought that my Pet had died.
Judging from the sentiment of the memorial stone Jessie a Dandi Dinot , now a rare breed of terrier, was sorely missed by her master. I like to think she accompanied him on his archaeological explorations.
Lord Walter adapted the last verse of the The poem the place where the old horse died by George Whyte Melville to express his loss for his little dog.
Another interesting feature of the stone is that it also records the details of the maker who is named as Kavanach of Carlow. It would be interesting to find out more about this stone mason.
The dogs who followed Jessie are recorded on a second stone which is partially covered in soil and pine needles. The stone is rectangular in shape and at the top a dog collar has been carved in relief with the words
1891 SHAUN 1902
The lower part of the stone contains the following inscription
The Faithful companion of
W. FITZ G
1902 MURTAGH 1913
1913 TEIGE 19
The date of death for Teige has been left blank which may suggest he outlived his master.
Lord Walter died in 1923 and was buried in the nearby family graveyard a short distance from his beloved dogs.