Maurice Davin, Founder of the GAA - Churchtown Graveyard, River Suir - Ireland

Graveyard of Maurice Davin - Founder of the GAA, County Tipperary, Ireland Graveyard of Maurice Davin - Founder of the GAA, County Tipperary, Ireland

Nestled on the banks of the River Suir bordering Tipperary and Waterford lies a small graveyard, old and overgrown like so many in Ireland.

I visited this quiet and peaceful place in Spring 2020 just a few weeks before the lockdown.

Here at Churchtown the Sun was shining, the birds tweeting and spring flowers were growing.

The grave of Tipperary man, world record holding athlete and founder of Ireland's Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Davin, is hard to miss with prominence over the River Suir.

Said to have been founded in the 6th century by Saint Mogue, Churchtown graveyard is old even by Irish standards. All that remains of any church are some ivy-clad walls, sadly the case for many of Ireland's ancient structures but these walls don't date back as far as the 6th century.

Davin was born in Carrick-on-Suir in 1842, a few years before The Great Famine, the failure of the potato crop in Ireland that devastated the country for years.

His family ran a transport business on the River Suir, moving goods by boat from Waterford to Clonmel via Carrick-on-Suir, as well as being farmers.

Davin was a keen sportsman, playing cricket but was best known for athletics - he held numerous Irish and World-records in the 1870s, particularly in throwing, shot put and hammer and was Ireland's best known sportsman at the time.

It was this fame and his devoted interest in opening up participation in sports to the Irish, that until 1884 were controlled by the English, that made him the right choice to become the GAA's first president after the association met in Thurles, County Tipperary in that year.

There are some other interesting sights at the graveyard, including a memorial to Frank Norton of the IRA who was accidentally shot in 1922 just after the start of the Irish Civil War.

Another, carved with three salmon, is for a Colonel Roche who swam up and down the River Foyle - not for recreation, there were no world records set here - during the Siege of Derry in 1689, for which he was granted lands in Waterford and control of ferries in Ireland.

The oldest inscribed gravestone that I found was that of Brigit Wels, who died aged 33; erected presumably by her husband to his "one dear life" in 1719, a full 300 years ago. Interestingly, the letter Y is back to front seven times on the gravestone which now leans heavily after centuries in the ground beside the River Suir.

Enjoy the gallery of images below from the graveyard at Churchtown.

  • Entrance to Churchtown GraveyardEntrance to Churchtown Graveyard
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Last modified on Sunday, 17 May 2020 00:42
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