Pet Cemetery at Kilkea Castle

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

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.

 

View of Kilkea Castle from old graveyard and church

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.

Memorial stones for Lord Walter Fitzgerald’s 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

 

JESSIE

1893

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.

                                          (Whyte Melville)

______________________________________

Kavanach Carlow

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.

Memorial stone for Jessie the beloved Dandie Dinmont terrier of Lord Walter Fitzgerald.

 

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

his Master,

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.

Memorial stone of Shaun, Murtach and Teige the beloved dogs of Lord Walter Fitzgerald

Lord Walter died in 1923 and was buried in the nearby family graveyard a short distance from his beloved dogs.

Fitzgerald family plot at Kilkea Castle graveyard located within the ruins of a later medieval church.

 

Image of Lord Walter Fitzgerald from the Kildare Archaeological and Historical Society

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