Cemetery notes and/or description: Ballinskelligs - translated from Irish, Baile an Sceilg - The Town of the Crag. [This refers to Skellig Michael, which is approx 7 miles offshore, which was accessed from here.]
The cemetery is located within the grounds of an old Augustinian Friary, which is believed to have been built in the 12th century by monks from Skellig Michael
A plaque at the entrance reads, BALLINSKELLIGS PRIORY. The first great development of Irish monasticism began in about the 5th century when groups of monks, intent on a life of solitude and contemplation, gathered together to live in places that replicated the first desert communities. One of these was on top of Skellig Michael, a remote outcrop of rock in the Atlantic Ocean. Some time in the 12th century, the monks of Skellig Michael abandoned the rocky island and settled instead here at Ballinskelligs where they adopted the Augustinian rule and established a priory dedicated to St. Michael.
Much of the monastery has been eroded by the sea but what remains probably dates from the 15th century. The church and other buildings were arranged around a central cloister "garth" (yard) which had covered walkways around it for working and praying. Parts of this cloister, and a large hall which was one of the domestic buildings, still survives.
The entire site, including the cemetery, is now an Irish National Monument.
The cemetery was surveyed on 19th November 2011, when over 200 headstones were photographed. A second visit was made on 22 July 2012. The earliest recorded legible headstones are John Sugrue, who died in 1849 Thomas Kelly, who died in 1861
There are very many graves that are only marked by a stone post, which has no inscription on it.
A surprising feature is the number of headstones in the English language. The area is a "Gaeltacht" where the Irish language, up until the mid-twentieth century, was the predominant spoken language of those who lived in the surrounding districts. An estimated 90% of the headstones are carved in the English language. SeŠn ” Conaill the famous seanachai is buried here.
The cemetery is now closed, except for individual burial in family plots, and has been replaced by, Kinard Cemetery