Kilmore's wooden crosses

Mar 27, 2017, 08:38 AM

Audio clip from the free Norman Way GPS audio tour:

An ancient funeral ritual said to date right back to the Anglo-Normans is still to be found in existence today in the village of Kilmore. If you didn't know about its location, it would be easy to pass by without heed, but once you see it, it is hard to ignore.

On the outskirts of Kilmore, just before the graveyard is what the locals call 'the flat egg roundabout'. Across from the roundabout is a detached cottage and twenty metres down from it is a hazel tree festooned with wooden crosses. In our audio piece Rose Hurley tells us more about this unique custom.

Stories as to its origin include it being a tradition started by St. Fursa when he first landed by the banks of the Somme. More credence might be put in the story of Charlmagne paying tribute to 25,000 of his retreating soldiers ambushed by the Basques in 777 A.D at the Pass of Roncevalles. Thereafter, pilgrims on their way to do the shrine of St. James of Compostella in Santiago would pay tribute to the dead soldiers and the saint by leaving a small wooden cross under 'Charlmagne's Cross'. It became known as the first station on the St. James pilgrimage and the tradition made its way up to Normandy and Flanders in time. As can be seen in Tomhaggard to this day, St. James is still venerated having benignly usurped St. Mosacer, courtesy of the Anglo-Normans.

Besides the wooden crosses and relics of Yola in everyday speech, other old Forth and Bargy customs that survive to the present day include mumming, the singing of old Christmas carols and the survival of many of the thatched houses.

You will find another site on the way to Kilmore Quay known as Brandy Cross where wooden crosses were also left - this was for the old cemetery of Grange (which no longer has space for new graves). Since the new cemetery opened up in Kilmore in 1952, the custom moved to the location you are now standing at. The Brandy Cross stop is off the official Norman Way signposted route and is in a most precarious position on a bend - best to salute this station instead!

Narrator of this audio clip: Rose Hurley

The Norman Way, Wexford, Customs, Kilmore