Drum Cemetery (Knockatemple)


The one remaining wall of Drum church doubtless holds many secrets. These are hidden by ivy which is probably holding the stonework together.

At the top of the rise in the middle of the cemetery at Drum stands an ancient wall of uncertain age. This is the last standing remnant of the old church that remained in use until the mid 19th century. It seems that plans in the late 1800s to reconstruct the building were thwarted by the inhabitants of nearby Belcarra, who were intent on building their own place of worship. After a quantity of stones were brought to the site in Drum, Belcarra men came in the night and took them away. By the time the theft was discovered, building of the new Belcarra church was underway, and there the stones remain to this day. No further attempt has been made to restore the church in Drum – it remains a single, precarious wall largely supported by a vigorous exoskeleton of ivy.

The remains of a Caiseal (a stone-walled ring fort built for shelter or inhabitation) nearby indicate that Drum was a place of pilgrimage, for the Caiseal would have provided temporary accomodation for those with no option but to stay overnight.


Part of an ancient Cross-slab can be seen below the remains of the old church at Drum. The rest of the slab is probably somewhere on the site

What is known locally as a Druid’s grave can be seen in an adjoining field. This was likely a pre-Christian burial site. The pattern of Christian-era religious buildings appearing on pagan sites is one commonly repeated throughout the country.

Leo Morahan, in his 1988 update on the Ordnance Survey of Ireland 6 inch map letters (completed in 1842) notes the following:

“A number of small and large irregular limestone slabs and blocks represent the older graves in the oldest part of the graveyard. These can be clearly made out… though they are least distinct in the N. sector. They do not appear to form a pattern, nearly all are aligned N-S. a considerable number of the markers are moss covered…

The tomb of the Fitzgerald-Kenny family faces to the south. This highly respected family resided in Clogher House from the 1870s until James Fitzgerald-Kenny died in 1956, after serving as a TD and Minister for Justice.

“The old graveyard is distinguishable from the remainder of the graveyard as a more raised area. No clear trace of the entrance to the old graveyard is visible. Grave slabs, headstones and family plots of the 19th and 20th century have been inserted into the old graveyard, often resulting in damage to existing graves.

“The largest of these is a large walled Fitzgerald-Kenny family plot in the (south) portion of the church.”


The tomb of the Fitzgerald-Kenny family faces to the south. This highly respected family resided in Clogher House from the 1870s until James Fitzgerald-Kenny died in 1956, after serving as a TD and Minister for Justice.

Morahan also noted an apparent extension to the old graveyard not marked on the historical maps, and accumulations of rubble throughout, which he presumes to be the remains of the old church.

Most of the more modern grave markers are facing toward the east, apart from the Fitzgerald-Kenny tomb, which is facing west, for reasons unknown to us. This type of burial was traditionally reserved for clergymen.

Nearby, between the Drum Inn and the football pitch, is Geata na Gcorp, the Gate of the Corpse. Burial processions typically passed this way, and pallbearers would pause here to pass the coffin through a hole in the wall, typically stopping to rest before embarking on the final leg of their journey to Drum cemetery.


There are countless unmarked graves within the cemetery at Drum, each of them somebody’s loss. Some bear crude engravings such as this: PRAY FOR JOHN MARY CONNOLLY RIP.

This cemetery is also notable in being situated on the highest ridge for miles around, giving a wide vantage for those present in the Caiseal. This was a typical safety feature in medieval Ireland.

A brief study of the various Celtic crosses on display will reveal many features of Irish art and Ecclesiastical tradition. Apart from the symbol of the cross, which itself predates Christianity, we find floral ornamentation including shamrock, and a variety of interlacing Celtic knots, which originally became prominent in medieval art. The 7th century Book of Durrow and 9th century Book of Kells both feature some of the most elaborate intertwining Celtic knotwork seen in the world of Irish art.

The shamrock (seamrog, little clover) was reportedly used by St Patrick to explain the trinity to potential converts. In more recent times it has become a symbol of all things Irish, with each of its three leaves standing for faith, hope and love. The fourth leaf on a rare four-leaved clover is considered by many to bring luck to the finder.

When the 1800 Acts of Union made Ireland a part of the United Kingdom the shamrock was incorporated into the British royal coat of arms, even as it became representative of the Irish struggle to throw off the yoke of English rule.


Individual Celtic crosses are decorated in different ways, with different symbols.

In 1985, after a legal battle which went to the German Supreme Court, the trifoliate shamrock symbol was officially registered as a trademark of the Irish government. It is now widely seen as uniquely Irish.

There is really no such plant as shamrock. In various settings it may be white or red clover, or wood sorrel.


Saint Patrick’s footprint found at Knockatemple amid a number of other pats. One can only imagine how he must have leaped from this rock to avoid getting his sandals dirty.

In the field to the west of Drum cemetery is a rock known as St Patrick’s footprint. Patrick left other footprints in various places, the most famous of which is on Red Island, The Skerries, County Dublin. On learning that the locals were preparing to eat his pet goat Patrick leaped from one island to another to confront them, but arrived too late. The culprits initially tried to deny any knowledge of the animal, but were unable to speak without bleating. When they confessed they recovered their voices. Such had been the force of his leap that his foot left an indelible mark in the rock, and there it remains as a symbol of his power to this day. We wonder what dramatic event might have caused him to leave his footprint in this Mayo rock? Check it out and see what you think.