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The Rams in The History of Gorey

September 1st is a date that has been embedded in my mind as the day another school year started, I suppose it should be since I spent 42 years at the coalface of education.

On this date this year of 2021 I was despatched to the local hardware store to buy two and a half litres of varnish to paint the outside doors of our house.

On my way back to the car I noticed that the gate of Christchurch Parish Old Graveyard was open and so curiosity got the better of me and in I went.

I noticed some leaflets on an old grave and then I heard a voice in the wilderness asking me if I would like a leaflet and that, if I was interested, she would show me around. I told her about my paint mission, but she said that this was the last day the gate would be open for some time.

I sauntered off on my graveyard mission and the paint project was put on hold for the duration of my private tour .

My guide told me that I was standing on Gorey’s most historic site because the graveyard told the story of Gorey and its people since the first burials took place there about 1600.

We visited the tomb of Bishop Ram who died in 1634 . I was intrigued when she showed me the detail of the Victorian railings surrounding his tomb.

Bishop Ram was granted the charter of Gorey in 1619. It was then known as Newborough, but it changed back to Gorey again in the 1700s..You could say The Rams founded Gorey.

A church was built on the site in 1610 and it remained there until 1819.It is sad to see that only one corner stone of a window of that church remains today. It is apt that it sits on Bishop Rams grave .

My guide informed me that many people who died in the famine of 1741, the great famine of 1845 and also in The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918 were buried here.

From the side of the graveyard Gorey’s Market house , Gorey’s oldest building ,built in 1709, is clearly visible. There was a passageway from here to the church and graveyard which was probably used by the Ram family to attend church and funerals.

The graveyard was officially closed in 1874 but was used occasionally until the new graveyard was opened in Christchurch in 1889.

Bishop Ram was born in Windsor in England in 1564. He came to Ireland as chaplain to the Earl of Essex, who was executed by Queen Elizabeth ,and Ram later served as chaplain to Lord Mountjoy.

The site of the old Ram’s Arms Hotel [1700-1977]near the current garda Barracks is now a car park .If you ever visit Gorey you can clearly see the circular blue historic mark with a brief detail of Rams Hotel.

A very nice Heritage Orchard was developed and planted in 2013 ,at the opposite end of the carpark ,next to the Fire brigade station. Once again there are marker signs and a history of the area and also of the present Heritage Orchard. . They give great detail of the various types of apple trees planted there.

There were always orchards around this area. The Ram’s Palace built around 1641 contained an orchard and the addresses of the houses built on that site are still known as The Orchard.

There is also a housing Estate in Gorey named Ramsfort Park.

There have been a lot of plans and ideas in recent years to turn the rear of the market house into a modern-day music hall. While it would be a great boon to Gorey to have such a facility, we must also be sensitive of our past.

The market house is described by Wexford County Council as follows ”this iconic building is an integral part of the fabric of Main Street, Gorey”. It was built in 1709 . There are a few similar buildings around Ireland, notably in Ballinrobe and Tullamore.

While its main function was as a market house it was also used as a courthouse and prison during the pikemen rebellion of 1798 .

It was later used as a parochial school circa 1837.

In 2019 the project was given a grant of 430000 euros to progress to detailed design stage.

There are still lots of arguments pro and contra to this application . The jury is still out.

If this iconic building were to be converted into a concert venue it would be an imperative to restore the pillars on the Northern side of the graveyard to at least preserve the dignity, character and security of the graveyard. It is a special place in the heart of Gorey.

Full marks must go to the group of volunteers who have worked so hard over recent years to help restore and preserve our Gorey heritage for the future.

I hope their project comes to fruition with the erection of proper signage and explanatory notice boards around this absolutely fascinating part of Gorey’s past.

My thanks to my guide whose name I did not get and to Willie Willoughby for his excellent historical leaflet.

Mick O Callaghan

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