Blennerhassett Family Tree
Genealogy one-name study - by Bill Jehan
 
 
 Blennerhassett Inscriptions at
Ballyseedy Old Church and Graveyard
Ballyseedy, Tralee, Co.Kerry

(Ballyseedy old burial ground)
 
 
 
Ruined church:    Church of Ireland - Diocese of Ardfert & Aghadoe

Old Graveyard:   historically this served both Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic communities,
in modern times predominantly R.C.
 
 
 
Ballyseedy is pronounced "Ballysheedy" (Bail ó Sioda = O'Sheedy's Town).
Ballyseedy townland is a small part of the larger Ballyseedy civil parish (= Ballyseedy Church of Ireland parish)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 Detail from old Ordnance Survey Map
 
On this map "Ballyseedy Church (In Ruins)" is a small white rectangle inside the old graveyard marked "Grave Yd".
 
On this map "Church" is a small black rectangle representing the "Church of Ireland" church (built c1840) in the new churchyard (below the old graveyard marked "Grave Yd").
 
The new churchyard appears here as it was before being enlarged & extended southwards c1963. 
 
 
 
 
 
The old graveyard (a.k.a. old burial ground) at Ballyseedy, containing the ruin of Ballyseedy old church (Church of Ireland), was for generations the last resting place for Ballycarty, Ballyseedy & Farmer's Bridge families of both Protestant (Church of Ireland) and Roman Catholic traditions. The present Ballyseedy Church of Ireland church was constructed c1840 within a new churchyard, adjacent to and on the south side of the old. For the remainder of the 19th century the old churchyard continued to be used as before, containing as it does a number of Church of Ireland family tombs (with vaults under) and other graves, those families continuing to inter deceased loved ones with their ancestors. This practise continued until the old tombs became full, and by the early 20th century Church of Ireland families favoured the new churchyard, the old graveyard becoming mainly Catholic for new interments. The new churchyard was extended southwards to reach its present dimensions c1963.
 
THE RUINED CHURCH
A 17th century "Church of Ireland" church survives as a ruin in the old graveyard that lies adjacent to the new churchyard on the north side. By 1830 this church was already a ruin. During the 1830s services were held in the school house at Farmers Bridge; a church was opened c1840 at Ballyseedy by Arthur Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy House c1840, this perhaps identical with the the church from which came church plate inscribed "Ballyseedy Church 1839" [Leslie p.166]. The present church was built in 1871, the concept of Rev. William Webb Raymond (incumbent 1857-1869), and enlarged 1877.
 
The older church was bult as an Anglican (Church of Ireland) place of worship, perhaps early in the 17th century by Robert Blennerhassett, first settler of the name in Co.Kerry, or his son John Blennerhassett. The church would have been used by the Blennerhassett family, their tenants and workers, on the estate they established centred on Ballyseedy, Ballycarty and Ballymacelligott. This followed the 1590 grant of these lands by Sir Edward Denny of Dennyvale and Tralee to Robert's father Thomas Blennerhassett of Flimby, Co.Cumberland.
NOTE: The Ordinance Survey conducted by A.Curry and John O’Donovan in 1840 estimated the structure to be then 300 years old, which if true would indicate a build date of c1540, long before the arrival of Robert Blennerhassett in Ireland. That date is doubtful.
 
The church was not located at the original Ballyseedy "village" (this was and is at the west end of Ballyseedy Wood, adjacent to but a short distance to the south of "old Ballyseedy Castle", also a ruin), or at Farmer's Bridge, the village that presently forms the centre of population for Ballyseedy. Instead the church was built at the boundary between Ballycarty and Ballyseedy townlands, half way between these two communities, each of which was then centred around small square Geraldine forts previously belonging to the Earls of Desmond.
 
The church was a simple structure of one room, the nave. The dimensions are 48ft x 19ft 6ins, the walls of locally quarried limestone 3ft thick. A surviving window in the east end gable wall is of brown sandstone and limestone. A similar window in the west end gable wall is now lost, the space refilled with masonry. The roof was thatched. William Williamson (no address stated) and Cecelia Moor of Kilgobbin, near Tralee, are recorded as married at Ballyseedy Church of Ireland on April 28th 1713. The church appears to have been already a ruin in 1830, the John Hurley tomb of that date being constructed within the ruin. "The Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" 1837 reports the old church already a ruin, with Church of Ireland services held in the School House at Farmers Bridge, where presumably they been held for some years previously. "The Parlimentary Gazetteer of Ireland" 1844, p.179 reports "A large school-house is used as the parochial place of worship, and has an attendance of 75" but this information may have been out of date by the time it was published.
 
BLENNERHASSETT GRAVES
Two Blennerhassett graves carry visible inscriptions and so are easily identified. The family tomb of Blennerhassett of Gortatlea (Ballymacelligott) & Blackbriar (Currans), erected 1840, is  No.72  on the list - the grave of Blennerhassett of Skahanagh / Clahane / Caherleheen, erected 1899, is  No.14 .
 
Some of the larger tombs in the old churchyard have no surviving inscriptions and thus are difficult to identify. One of these will have been erected for the Blennerhassett family of Ballyseedy Castle, the probable builders of the old church, but I know not which tomb is theirs. 20th century graves for the Blennerhassetts of Ballyseedy Castle may be seen in the new churchyard, on your left side as you walk the short path from the churchyard gate to the door of the present (new) Ballyseedy church.
 
Warning If you are able to identify a "Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy Castle" tomb in the old churchyard, or know of an earlier map of the graves, please get in touch... 
 
 Ballyseedy Old Church 2010
east end gable wall with surviving window
 
 
 
 
Caring for Ballyseedy Graveyard 
 
The Griffin family of Ballyseedy have long cared for this ancient burial ground. John "Jack" Griffin (1891-1950) was caretaker until his death, succeeded through the 1950s by his nephew, also named Jack Griffin, the last man to hold the position. In the following years this atmospheric old burial ground became much neglected and overgrown, until by the hard labour of many in 2001-2 it was cleared of undergrowth & trees and an attempt was made to chemically kill the tree and ivy roots that were breaking open and destroying stone tombs.
 
In 2008 the site was once again starting to be overgrown, trees regenerating, those tree roots that had not died were once again wreaking havoc on stone tombs. Following the death of Jack's brother Peter Griffin in June 2009, the Griffin family have devoted much time and effort keeping grass and weeds in the churchyard under control. Peter's son Noel Griffin in 2009-10 has compiled a numbered list of surviving inscriptions on tombs and headstones and prepared a corresponding Map of the Old Graveyard showing the location of monuments, with an index by family name. The Griffin family grave is No.50 on the list.
 
In 2010 a volunteer group of interested local people formed "Ballyseedy Graveyard Committee" with the aim of raising money necessary for continued maintenance, repairs and improvements. On 31st August 2010 an evening open-air Mass was celebrated at the altar in the churchyard. There was good attendance and following the service a leaflet was distributed, informing those present that the committee is formed and fund-raising has commenced.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Recent developments at Ballyseedy Cemetery
Noel Griffin reports that sufficient money has been raised for the main gates to be refurbished. These have been taken away by a local engineering company who will strip them, replace missing ironwork, treat, paint and rehang them. The same company are donating a gate to replace the existing turnstyle.

Following recent meetings between the committee and Kerry County Council, the Council have been doing good work cutting down over-growth along the walls and on the tombs, then spraying the remaining stumps to kill them.  They are presently laying gravel footpaths within the graveyard.  Later this year they plan to repair and seal some of the open tombs. All in all the graveyard is now looking good. A lot has been achieved but more to do.....
 
To make a contribution towards the work of maintaining
Ballyseedy Old Churchyard for the future, please
 
 
 
 
   photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
 
 
 
Ballyseedy Old Church 2005
 
 
Ballyseedy Old Church
after graveyard maintenance in 2010
the recently erected open-air stone altar is to the right. 
photo: courtesy of Julie Walker
click on image to enlarge
 
photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
click on image to enlarge
 
 
Ballyseeedy Old Graveyard facing north-east, 2004 
 The tomb in the foreground, erected in 1803 for the Brosnahan family,
is one of the best maintained of the old tombs, No.34 on the list 
 
 
 
Ballyseeedy Old Graveyard facing south-west,
after churchyard maintenance in 2010
Old Ballyseedy Church ruin is in the right background.
New Ballyseedy Church is in the left background, beyond the wall 
photo: BJ
 
photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
 
 
 
 
 
 Tomb of the Blennerhassett family of Gortatlea (Ballymacelligott) & Blackbriar (Currans)
erected 1840  -    No.72  on the list 
 
photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
 
 
photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
 
photo: courtesy of Noel Griffin
click on image to enlarge
click on image to enlarge
  inscription (yes it is there, really...) on a stone above the vault entrance
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Erected By

THOMAS, ARTHUR, RICHARD

And JOHN BLENNERHASSETT

For Them And Their Posterity

May 10th 1840

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This tomb was erected 10-May-1840 by his four sons in memory of Arthur Blennerhassett (born c1755 died c1840 (not d.1826, his will was proved 1841).
 
Arthur was a farmer, of Gortatlea (pronounced "Gortaclay") Ballymacelligott and Blackbriar (a.k.a. Skaghduve pronounced "Skagduff") Currans, eldest son of Thomas Blennerhassett "The Disinherited" of Ash Hill, Ballymacelligott (born 18-Dec-1736) and ancestor of most of the Ballymacelligott and Currans Blennerhassetts.
 
The four sons were:
Serjeant Thomas Arthur Blennerhassett of Blackbriar (b.c1783/6 d.20-Mar-1868)
Arthur Thomas Blennerhassett of Gortatlea (b.c1785/6 d.1873)
Richard Arthur Blennerhassett (b.c1812 d.20-Jun-1862 at sea on the way to Australia)
John Blennerhassett (b.c1799 but is probably not the John b.c1800 mentioned below)
 
An amusing anecdote relating to this tomb is told of Irish tenor James Blennerhassett of Sligo (1865-1956), grandson of the Thomas Blennerhassett in the above inscription, as retold in 1988 to Frank & Beatty Blennerhassett by James' grandson Brian Blennerhassett of Sligo: 
 
 
 
...When James' wife was pregnant with a child and so couldn't attend a funeral at Ballyseedy he (James) wrote a letter to her about the funeral, reporting "They'd gone to the crypt, eight men carrying the coffin, out on a gravel path, opened a creaking door, the chap in front said 'let her go', the coffin bounced down six steps, splintering of wood, closed the door" to which he added "don't bury me in Ballyseedy, bury me in Sligo"...
 
 
NOTE: This story can be dated c1895-1905 from dates of birth of James's children, 1895, 1897, 1900 and c1904/5 
 

 
 
Family grave of the Blennerhassetts of Gortatlea of Skahanagh/Clahane/Caherleheen, near Tralee
headstone erected 1899  -   No.14  on the list
 
On the left is the original headstone with a later tablet resting below it, as they appeared until 2004.
Centre is the headstone following restoration in 2004.  On the right is shown two new tablets from 2004,
placed one on each side of the headstone to replace the earlier tablet.
 
 
photos: BJ
 
 
 
 
 
 
earlier tablet below headstone
 
 
 
JOSEPH BLENNERHASSETT
DIED JULY 1904.
 
THOMAS BLENNERHASSETT
DIED FEBRUARY 10 1939.
HIS WIFE CATHERINE
DIED FEBRUARY  6 1951.
THEIR CHILDREN
ELLEN, MARY, THOMAS,
MARGARET, JOHN & ARTHUR.
 
JOSEPH JNR
DIED SEPTEMBER 23 1955.
HIS WIFE BRIDIE
DIED AUGUST 6 1961.
 
DOMINICK
DIED DECEMBER 23 1991. 
 
 
headstone after restoration
 
 
 
 
 
 
ERECTED BY
JOSEPH BLENNERHASSETT
IN LOVING MEMORY
OF HIS WIFE
ELLEN
WHO DIED JULY 5TH 1899
AGED 60 YEARS
AND HIS DAUGHTER
CATHERINE
WHO DIED AUGUST 3RD 1897
AGED 21 YEARS
 
 
R  I  P 
 
 
 
new tablet (left)
 
JOSEPH BLENNERHASSETT
DIED JULY 1904.
 
THOMAS BLENNERHASSETT
DIED FEBRUARY 10 1939.
HIS WIFE CATHERINE
DIED FEBRUARY 6 1951.
THEIR CHILDREN
ELLEN, MARY, THOMAS,
MARGARET, JOHN
ARTHUR.
 
new tablet (right)
 
JOSEPH JNR BLENNERHASSETT
DIED SEPTEMBER 23 1955.
HIS WIFE BRIDIE
DIED AUGUST 6 1961.
 
DOMINICK BLENNERHASSETT
DIED DECEMBER 23 1991.
BRENDAN BLENNERHASSETT
DIED OCTOBER 28 1993.
PAULINE BLENNERHASSETT
DIED JANUARY 8 2004.
 
 
 
Joseph died 28-Apr-1903, not July 1904
Catherine was aged 23 years, not 21
 
 
 
The first burial in this plot is believed to be John Blennerhassett (born c1800, died at date unknown between 1870 and 1899, no inscription). Family tradition tells us that John went to "the colonies" in "the very early times", and that following his death the remains were brought home to Tralee in a sealed lead coffin, accompanied by his medals and a sum of money. This was probably from New South Wales or New Zealand, where others of his family emigrated. During the 19th century in Australia and New Zealand it was usual practice, because of the heat, to use a sealed lead coffin whenever a body had to be moved a long distance, either within the country or outside it. It was an expensive option. The medals indicate he served in the military or police.
 
Following arrival of the lead coffin at Tralee, John's son Joseph Blennerhassett purchased this plot and interred his father here. The subsequent burial in the plot was Joseph's wife Ellen Blennerhassett, who died 5-July-1899, followed by Joseph himself who died 28-Apr-1903. The lead coffin was subsequently reported "...unearthed in bits..." whentheir daughter-in-law  Katie Blennerhassett (nee Shanahan) was interred here in 1951.
 
The medals were said to have been kept in the family house at Skahanagh (now a ruin), the money given as dowry at the c1903 marriage of Joseph's daughter Hannah Blennerhassett to John Shanahan of The Spa, Tralee.       Warning where are these medals now?  

 
 
 
 
A large and well-constructed tomb ( C3) within the ruins of Ballyseedy old church is inscribed:
 
 
 
The Family Tomb of
 
John Hurly, Fenit
 
   R.I.P.
 
 
 
This could be the tomb of the John Hurly who was interred at Ballyseedy 20-Nov-1830 [see Parish Registers of Ballyseedyas that date is appropriate for the style of the tomb...
 
...and the above John Hurly could perhaps be identical with John Hurly of Tralee who was Clerk of Crown & Peace for Kerry at Tralee (i.e. he kept the legal records for County) and a Justice of the Peace (Magistrate) for Co.Kerry. He is said to have died 26-Nov-1829 but the two dates are so close I wonder if there has been a dating error with one of them.
 
NOTE: His grandmother on his father's side was Avice Blennerhassett who married Donogh Hurly. His mother (or step-mother) was Belinda Blennerhassett.
 
NOTE: If so the old church was already a ruin by 1830.
 
It is more probable this is a family tomb erected during his own lifetime by John Hurly of Fenit, who died October 1878 and was interred at Ballyseedy. He was a grandson of John Hurly of Tralee.
 
NOTE: He was also g.g.g.son of Anne Blennerhassett, nephew of Rowland Blennerhassett and brother-in-law of Dorcas Blennerhassett of Ballyseedy House.
John Hurly of Fenit owned c1858-1872 the original Ms of Black Jack's Book, the 2nd and most complete of two Ms genealogies of Blennerhassett & related families written by Capt. John "Black Jack" Blennerhassett (c1665-c1738) of Castle Conway, Killorglin. 

 

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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