Kilgarvin Cemetery, Bonniconlon in Co. Mayo

The 15th of August is the special day for the Pattern in the Parish of Kilgarvin and the mass is celebrated in the ancient cemetery at Kilgarvin where the first church or monastic site was built in 650 AD by Saint Feichin and the Local saint was Saint Brian and another was Ruadhan and Garbhan whom the site is named after.

There is a Holy Well nearby and it is called after St. Brian and in the Nineteenth Century there were pilgrimages there on Garland Sunday the last Sunday in July. People prayed the rosary and walked around the well so many times in order to complete the pilgrimage.

This tradition has now being continued by the 15 of August Mass. Some years back a special altar was erected to celebrate the mass and it is a major community celebration during the Summer.

The cemetery has a number of vaults too for the landed gentry, the Howley and O’ Dowda family and two of the most prominent merchants in the village of Bonniconlon in the early decades of the Twentieth Century are buried there John Lawrence and his son Pat; and Martin Bernard Durcan.

Other families there are the Kilennys of Ellagh House and the Fitzmaurice family who ran the post office in the late Nineteenth Century and were in – laws of the Cawley family. The Graves face West East as is the custom for people to face the direction of the Resurrection.

In 1928 a special plot for those who had fallen in the years 1920 – 1922 was officially opened, there are three men there, Lieut. Pat Mullen, Captain Thomas Jordan and Captain William Loftus.

Kilgarvan in Irish is Cill na nGarbhan or the church of Garvan who must have been the local saint for St. Feichin and St. Ruadhan. Close by at the well there is a flat stone bearing the foot prints and the hand prints of the Saint as he knelt in prayer.

The ruins of the church cannot be traced today but some years back a number of archaeologists from Castlebar came there and found an ogham stone in the burial grounds and they had an article published in Archaeology Ireland on this.

This adds further to the historical significance of the cemetery because often the Ogham Stone was an ancient burial site or tomb stone for a local chieftain and his name would be written on it.

There are another two sacred spots in the parish – one a holy well, Tobar Feichin in Rathreedane Fownland where there is a bush that used to have rags and pieces of cloth tied on it to show people’s gratitude for being granted an answer to their prayers.

The other spot is the burial ground at Kilbride or Cill Bride the Burial place of St. Bridget where unbaptised infants were buried.

St. Feichin was the saint who had the place in County Louth called Termonfeckin named after him, in Irish, Tearmann or Sanctuary of Feichin which would have been a place of prayer and contemplation.