A remarkable sight in the west – a house of death dwarfing a house of prayer. The roofless church on the left of the photos has Early Medieval (400-1100 A.D.) origins. It is dedicated to a saintess St Sourney.
On the other hand the 19th century mausoleum was constructed by Arthur St George to house his wife Lady Harriet St George. (By the way the word mausoleum comes from the name of the enormous marble tomb which was built for the remains of Mausolos, a pre-Christian Greek king. That mausoleum was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world).
The church and mausoleum are located in Drumacoo townland – a couple of miles from the shores of Galway Bay between Kilcolgan and Ballindereen in County Galway. The Burren hills are in the background to the south. The mausoleum enjoys inter visibility with the St George’s 18th century mansion Tyrone House. The mausoleum is in Gothic revival style whereas the mansion is now in ruins.
The Drumacoo site is extremely interesting – it also includes the deserted village of Drumacoo and the holy well of St Sourney.
I visited this Thursday morning and the site was drowned in winter sunlight. Moreover I was really lucky to bump into a local authority on Drumacoo history. This kind man told me his great grandfather worked as coachman for the St Georges. The St George family would invite the tenants to some of the gatherings in the mansion. The local man considered them to be decent landlords.
The English poet laureate John Betjeman (1906-1984) referred to the mausoleum in the last lines of his poem “Ireland With Emily”:
There in pinnacled protection,
One extinguished family waits
A Church of Ireland resurrection
By the broken, rusty gates.
Sheepswool, straw and droppings cover,
Graves of spinster, rake and lover,
Whose fantastic mausoleum,
Sings its own seablown Te Deum,
In and out the slipping slates
The mausoleum and the mansion were once strong statements of the St George’s supremacy in south-west Galway. Next time I visit Drumacoo, I hope to see the interior of the “fantastic mausoleum”.
© Text by Tony Kirby / Images by Carsten Krieger