History of St. Joseph's Cemetery

William Fennell 1866From circa 600 AD, St. Finbarr’s Church and Cemetery at Magheross on the Kingscourt Road, Carrickmacross, served as the primary burial ground for Roman Catholics from the Parish of Magheross.

During King Henry 8th’s Reformation, circa 1537, the Church and Cemetery at Magheross were confiscated by the English Crown, who granted them to the newly-established Church of Ireland.

Hence, from circa 1537, the cemetery at Magheross was used for both Protestant and Catholic burials from the Parish of Magheross.

In the mid-1860s, the Parish Priest, Reverend James Joseph McMahon, rented lands in the townland of Drummond Otra, Carrickmacross, from Lord Weymouth, 4th Marquis of Bath.

From the mid-1860s, these lands in Drummond Otra were utilised as the primary Catholic Cemetery and named St. Joseph’s Cemetery.  The oldest legible headstone is that of ‘William Fennell of Carrickmacross, who died July 21st 1866, aged 42 years’.

Excerpts from the Rateable Valuation books for the cemetery read as follows:

(Information courtesy of the Valuation Office www.valoff.ie)

1864   1865-1873

Map Ref. No. 11c
Rev. Jas. Jos. McMahon from the Marquis of Bath
Transferred to the bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. McNally for a period
Land intended for burial ground, 3 acres
Valuation £4, 10 shillings
Lease rent £3, 15 shillings



Map Ref. No. 11c
Rt. Rev. Dr. McNally, reverting to the Rt. Rev. James Joseph McMahon in 1865
Cemetery Area revised downwards from 3 to 2 acres
(Undated comment added in the margin: ‘Large sums charged here for graves.’)


1873-1881   1882-1890

Map Ref. No. 11
Rev. J.J. McMahon from the Marquis of Bath
2 acres, Cemetery - R.C. burial ground (R.C. = Roman Catholic)
Valuation £3


  Map Ref. No. 11
Rev. J.J. McMahon to Rev. Peter Bermingham* (see below) in 1885
Roman Catholic Cemetery
In fee** (see below) from 1889
2 acres, valuation £3
1890-1901   1901-1925
Map Ref. No. 11
Very Rev. Peter Bermingham P.P. in fee
Land, cemetery, 2 acres at a valuation of £3
(Undated comment added in the margin: ‘Application for Cemetery to be exempt from rates, 11th June 1894.  Wrote for information, no reply.  Not to be exempt by order of committee, J.C., 8th June 1895.’)

Very Rev. Peter Bermingham to Archdeacon McGlone P.P. in 1910
McGlone to Dean O’Connor in 1918
O’Connor to Very Rev. Dean Keown in 1925
Cemetery, 2 acres, valuation £3



* Reverend Dean Peter Bermingham: Parish Priest of Magheross from 1884
** In Fee: In 1887, Reverend Bermingham purchased the freehold of the cemetery from the Marquis of Bath, and the transaction was processed by 1889

1885 map small
1885 Map of Cemetery

In June 1885, George McKitterick, Surveyor of the Shirley Estate, completed a survey of the Cemetery for the Very Rev. Dean Peter Birmingham. 

His survey allocated an individual number to each plot.

Click here for photos of the 1885 Map of Cemetry >>


The original Calvary was constructed by 1903 and included statutes of Our Lady, Mary Madelene and St. John the Apostle.  However, the statutes gradually eroded and were removed in the early 1970s.

Please click on photos to enlarge.

Calvary---1903 lg     Calvary---1910 lg   Calvary---1968 lg

The original lettering, which can be viewed in the 1903 and 1910 photographs, stated, ‘Pray for the souls of those whose remains are interred in this cemetery. RIP’  However, the lettering gradually eroded and was removed prior to the 1968 photograph.

According to Bishop Joseph Duffy’s booklet, ‘A History of St. Joseph’s Church’, published in October 1990:
‘In 1929, a bequest from J. O’Neill amounted to £50.  Peter Donnelly* (see below) erected the [new] Calvary in the Cemetery. 

The Architect was Thomas Joseph Cullen [from Dublin]. 

The figures for the Calvary were supplied by Messrs. Bull Ltd., Dublin. 

Total cost was £196. 13s. 10d.’

(* Peter Donnelly was a Building Contractor from Magheross, Carrickmacross, who later had the contract for the construction of the Stations of the Cross.  See below.)

The three photographs of Calvary dated circa 1903, 1910 and 1968 are courtesy of PJ McCabe, Carrickmacross.

Click here for more information on Calvary >>

1911 Design for Entrance Gates and Railings


Please click on image to enlarge.

In 1911, ‘Laragh’ Patrick Duffy, a Civil Engineer in Carrickmacross, designed and built the entrance gates, wall and railings for St. Joseph’s Cemetery. 

His drawing appeared on page 210 of the 1st April 1911 edition of the trade journal, ‘The Irish Builder’ (IB 53), and is reproduced courtesy of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland: PRONI Ref. D2403/J/1/1/2 - www.proni.gov.uk

For more information on the 1911 Design for Entrance Gates click here >>

He was known locally as ‘Laragh’ Pat Duffy, as he originated from Laragh Village, Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan.

The railings were constructed by Thomas and William Gordon, Blacksmiths from Carrickmacross.

Stations of the Cross

The fourteen Stations of the Cross are marked with their Roman Numerals in the May 2011 Map of Cemetery.

Peter Donnelly, a Building Contractor from Magheross, Carrickmacross, who also constructed the new Calvary, (see above), had the contract for the construction of the Stations of the Cross. 

The Stations were cast and erected by Joey and Johnnie Gartlan, and other plasterers from Carrickmacross.

For more information on the Stations of the Cross please click here >>

Local knowledge indicates that the Stations of the Cross were constructed in the 1950s, and they can be viewed in the background of the 1968 photograph of Calvary.

Section S

Local knowledge indicates that a ditch originally ran between Sections D and S of the cemetery. Section S was, and is, an open green field area, which was not consecrated (blessed) until the 1970s.

Prior to the 1970s, this area was utilised for burials that Church Law at the time deemed unsuitable for burial in consecrated ground, including:
* Unbaptised babies, children or adults
* Stillborn babies
* Suicide victims
* Vagrants of unknown religion

In the 1970s, the Church introduced a Funeral Rite for unbaptised infants and Reverend Monsignor Séamus Morris, the Parish Priest of Magheross, consecrated (blessed) the area.


In 2013, the Right Reverend Monsignor Vincent Connolly, Parish Priest of Magheross, funded the construction of public toilets in the cemetery.

1,313 Burial Plots

Carrickmacross Workhouse recorded 1,313 burial plots in St. Joseph’s Cemetery; from the oldest legible headstone dated 21st July 1866 to the temporary headstone dated 13th May 2011, and including 179 unknown/unmarked plots. 

To Search Graves, please click here >>