Clonegam Cemetery Mass 02nd August 2011
On Tuesday evening people gathered for a special and historic event in the graveyard at Clonegam church. A cemetery mass was celebrated by Fr. Ned Hassett, Rev. George Cliffe also participated along with invited clergy. Many travelled from the village and further afield. The ceremony was also attended by Lord and Lady Waterford and members of their family. The present Church of Ireland building in Clonegam was built in 1741 on the site of an ancient church, constructed at right angles to the present church. At this time Portlaw as a parish was not formed but was across the boundaries of two older parishes, Clonegam and Guilcagh, in the Barony of Upperthird. The parish of Clonegam derives its name from the townland on which the ancient church stood. The Irish Cluain na gCam refers to a meadow of the windings or stream, a fitting description for the view as you look out from the graveyard towards the Comeraghs. The other townslands constituting the parish are located within the demesne of Curraghmore. When one stands within the grounds it is easy to get the feel for the centuries of Christian worship in this special place. One wonders if the peel of the small Portlaw Bell now housed in the Waterford Treasures Museum could be heard across the meadows under the church. This is a small bronze decorated handbell dating to 1549 believed to have been commissioned for the private chapel of the Earl of Tyrone at Curraghmore. There is no trace of the ancient church and historian Canon Power, in an article published in 1894-95, refers to a local story or legend at that time which referred to a vault being dug within the existing church at the beginning of the 19th century which disturbed a large quantity of bones. The story continues that the bones were at a great depth and were reverently re-interred in a deep grave close to the west wall of the building. All the evidence points to a sacred place which met the spiritual needs of the people who lived in the area for many centuries. These centuries were often troubled and divided but the ceremony witnessed last Tuesday celebrated a shared past and honoured all those buried in the adjoining cemetery. Well done to all who made it happen and who participated in a special and memorable evening.