A House of Death in the West

Drumacoo Church and Mausoleum

Church (left) and Mausoleum (right) at Drumacoo

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.

Drumacoo Deserted Village

Drumacoo Deserted Village

Deserted Village at Drumacoo

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”.

Tyrone House

Tyrone House

© Text by Tony Kirby / Images by Carsten Krieger

2 thoughts on “A House of Death in the West

  1. Pingback: Abandoned Beauty | Burren Stories

  2. Very Interesting. I visited the Church and Mausoleum a few days ago … one year after your visit. Found it fascinating. Then went to the house and walked the ground floor and say signs of its former splendour. How the lives of the ‘landed gentry’ has changed. I’m watching Downtown Abbey at this time too and see how the family is trying, or not, to adapt to changing times.
    The church itself is a very interesting enlargement of an earlier small celtic church with the celtic method of using large block clearly visible. There is another such church of about the same age not far away nearer Kilcolgen at Killeely More.


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