A NEW plaque has been unveiled at a cemetery in Danganmore, to commemorate the area’s ‘Wild Geese’, as well as others buried within the graveyard in marked and unmarked graves.
The cemetery contains the burial plot of members of the local Ryan family, many of whom fled Ireland during the Penal Laws to escape oppression, and ended up fighting in European wars. At a ceremony last Friday attended by local people and others with an interest in history, Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy unveiled the new plaque.
Mary Aylward is the vice chair of the Irish Geneaological Research Society. She has a strong interest in the ‘Wild Geese’ of Irish history: The men who left to fight in foreign armies, or fled to France, Spain and the rest of Europe in order to find a better life. Currently living in England, she returned to Kilkenny last weekend to visit Danganmore and see the unveiling.
“The plaque is to try and bring attention to the Ryan family of Danganmore, who were old Irish Catholic gentry,” she said.
Three brothers – John, James and Edmund Ryan – all entered the French army as part of the Irish Brigade during the 1740s.
“John fought in the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745, which was a tremendous battle between France and England,” said Ms Aylward.
“The Irish Brigade won the battle for the French king, defeating the English army.”
John Ryan then returned to Ireland where he died an old man, and was buried in the traditional family home of Danganmore. His two brothers remained in France.
Edmund was an aide to Bonnie Prince Charlie, who commissioned him to trawl the courts of Europe to find him a wife. Highly respected, and dressed in the finest silk, he would have to have been a gifted linguist capable of speaking many different languages.
The brothers’ uncle, Thomas Ryan, lived in Spain where he married an Irish girl. Until as recently as 1999, there was a House of Ryan in Cadiz, which was a local wine and brandy business.
Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy said the cemetery plaque was to honour an important piece of Kilkenny and Irish history.
“It is important that we remember these significant pieces of local history,” he said.
“This is also to promote the historic and tourism aspects of rural Kilkenny.”
Archaeologist John Tierney and Bernie Kirwan were called upon to decipher the almost illegible inscription on the distinctive altar tomb. They were able to establish that it was indeed the tomb of John Ryan.
“We learned how to use a series of non-invasive methods to record inscriptions and iconography and to further upload the complete graveyard on their web site Historicgraves.ie,” said Ms Kirwan.
Locals have now formed a cemetery committee, with John Hudson as its chairman, to promote and look after the historic graves.
“It is fantastic that they now have this committee, and plan to look after the graveyard into the future and find out more about it,” said Ms Aylward.
“The plaque on display now is to commemorate John Ryan who is buried there, and his involvement with the Wild Geese and the French army.
“We also need to thank the O’ Neill family, who own the land on which the cemetery is found. They were very hospitable and very helpful with all of this,” she said.