HARRY WARREN takes a walk through this city centre location that is half park, half graveyard
In Dublin, there are many beautiful parks, but one of my favourites is St. Kevin’s Park on Camden Row, a quiet retreat away from the busy streets. Often bypassed by tourists but favoured by locals, St Kevin’s Park is unusual in having the ruins of a church and being a half park, half graveyard.
The grounds were redeveloped some years ago and the cemetery around the old church became today’s park. The park grounds still have some notable headstones, but most have been removed. Old headstones with weathered patina line the perimeter of the park, and more are around the church ruins.
There has been a church on the site of St Kevin’s since the 13th century. This medieval church is no longer extant, and after the Reformation, the parish was administered by the Church of Ireland. The present-day ruins are of a later Anglican church built in 1750 that was deconcentrated in 1912. Many historic events occurred in St. Kevins and their stories should be told.
St. Kevin’s is the final resting place of the renowned Irish Martyr, Archbishop Dermot O’Hurley, who was executed by the Elizabethan government of Dublin on 20th June 1584 for treason and refusing to swear allegiance to the Crown.
O’Hurley was born at Lycadoon in Co Limerick and studied at Louvain, France, becoming a professor of philosophy.
Following a period in Rome, he was appointed Archbishop of Cashel by Pope Gregory XIII in 1581.
The repressive Penal Laws at the time forced O’Hurley to disguise himself while secretly returning to his homeland in order to avoid being captured by Elizabethan spies. The archbishops’ letters were intercepted so the spies knew he was returning to Ireland and were seeking him. In 1583, O’Hurley landed at Skerries, heavily disguised, and planned to travel to Waterford.
Following a brief stay with the Baron of Slane in Slane Castle, he made his way to Carrick-on-Suir believing that the politically powerful Earl of Ormond would protect him on arrival. Lord Justices Henry Wallop and the Protestant Archbishop of Dublin, Adam Loftus, discovered that Baron Slane had sheltered O’Hurley and threatened him with dire consequences if he did not hand him over.
With an imminent arrest for treason looming, the Baron rushed to Carrick-on-Suir, apprehended the archbishop bringing him to Dublin Castle for imprisonment.
Interrogated by the Lord Justices, O’Hurley admitted being a Roman Catholic and refused to answer any other questions. Attempting to get him to recant his faith or to inform on other prominent Catholics including Thomas Walsingham, the Earl of Kildare, Queen Elizabeth’s secretary heartlessly ordered that the archbishop be subjected to a particularly cruel torture known as ‘the boots’.
He was strapped onto a chair and forced to put his bare feet into iron boots filled with salt, butter, oil, tallow, and other fats. His legs were fastened into position by wooden shackles.
Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own