Remembering the dead with annual cemetery Mass

The annual Mass for the dead at Killahenny graveyard is 17 July at 8 p.m. I wish I could attend. My maternal great grandparents and numerous relations are buried at this tiny cemetery next to the Ballybunion Golf Course.

Undated photo of John and Johanna Diggin, who died in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

Undated photo of John and Johanna Diggin, who died in 1940 and 1945, respectively.

“The Cemetery Mass, or annual Pattern, is a very special date that communities revolve around,” Miriam Donohoe wrote in this 2014 piece for the Irish Independent. She continued:

“A lot of work goes into sprucing up graveyards. Weathered headstones are freshly scrubbed, graves decorated with fresh flowers and wreaths and plots weeded. It is significant event, reaffirming bonds of kinship through the previous generations. Cemetery Sunday [not always on a Sunday] is about honoring ancestors, remembering parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and reminding ourselves of the larger connections within the community.”

Here’s another story about Cemetery Sunday from the A Trip to Ireland Blog.

As for Killahenny, it came to great attention after President Bill Clinton played the Ballybunion Golf Course (opened in 1893) in September 1998. In a Golf magazine story about his favorite courses, Clinton recalled:

I stood on the first tee in front of more than 10,000 people, without having taken a single practice shot, looking at one of the most intimidating opening shots in golf. A cemetery borders the fairway for 200 yards down the right side, and on that day, a strong wind was blowing from left to right. I aimed the driver well left but the wind curved it over and beyond the cemetery anyway. I was so keyed up I missed the next two shots and made a triple-bogey 7.

A 2002 story in the Wall Street Journal quoted a course official as claiming the cremated remains of at least 50 golfing businessmen from around the world had been scattered from the bunker above the 17th tee, the highest point on the course. Friends of other deceased fans of the course reportedly have returned with the clubs of their playing partners, burying them in the Killahenny cemetery.