The North Tipperary Leader Partnership have funded a training project in the care, conservation and survey of historic graveyards in association with North Tipperary County Council Heritage officer Marion Carey. Training took place in St. James’ graveyard Killea on Saturday 21st of April and was, according to the participants, a great success providing a wonderful resource for the community and their extended families abroad.
The training project forms part of a wider project to help digitally record thousands of historical Irish graveyards. Archaeologists have joined up with community groups to document elements of heritage, local history and genealogy. In the last eight months over 6,000 historic graves have been recorded and published from 12 counties and almost eighty graveyards. Some community groups throughout Tipperary have already recorded graveyards in their local areas over the last thirty years and these groups may be interested in doing further work in 2012. Upperchurch is also participating. “Communities, County Councils and county library services throughout Ireland have already been highly innovative in their engagement with historic graveyard surveys, but the resource is fragmented”, explains John Tierney, Project Manager with The Historic Graves Project. “We have built a system which can combine the works done already and we work with people to build a resource of national significance.” Using high-tech, low cost devices such as GPS trackers, digital cameras and smartphones, rapid graveyard surveys are now possible with immediate publication to the internet. Experienced field archaeologists such as John Tierney provide training for members of community groups to conduct their own surveys and publish their own heritage stories.
Four people took part in the Killea workshop – Clare Bohan, Ian Cheshire, Josephine Coffey and John Fogarty. John is also a member of the Graveyard Committee. The goal of the training is to develop a resource for Killea which will also contribute to “genealogical tourism, aiming to draw visitors into the rural community and enhance the local economy” The project is also about building on the strengths of community volunteerism, for the benefit of the communities. The benefits of correct care of historic graveyards are many – communities develop a richer understanding of themselves. They also have something to offer in developing tourism and genealogical resources in their local areas. Denise Meagher, Chair of Killea Cultural Group provided lunch for the participants at Castle House. She believes this resource, coupled with the work Killea Cultural Group are doing to collect information about people from Killea living abroad will be of much long term benefit for the community. Stories emerging from the graveyards capture much about the old landlord system of landholding in rural Ireland and about the cultural differences which were commonplace in past times and, surprisingly for some, are also evident in burial practices today. The results of the current surveys will be live on the www.historicgraves.ie website. More information will also be available on the Killea web site www.killeatipp.ie. For more information contact either Marion Carey, Heritage Officer, or any of those who participated at Saturday’s Workshop in Killea.