The Moving Graveyard of Matehy

In 1999 I came across the Journal of the Cork Northside Folklore Project and a piece on the graveyard of Matehy – roughly pronounced ‘maw-te-ha’ from the Irish Magh Teithe ( Magh Teithe can be translated as the ‘Plain of the Retreat’ or the ‘Plain of Flight’).  The story goes that in penal times when the celebration of the Catholic mass was outlawed, a notorious priest-hunter Captain Fox (no relation I hope), murdered a priest at a nearby Mass rock by cutting off his arms during the service. The raiding party then escaped on horseback but as they were crossing the Shournagh River, Fox’s horse shied, throwing him off and breaking his neck - the place is still known as Fox’s Bridge. The remaining yeomen panicked and hastily buried their captain in a nearby churchyard and ran off. That night, at the stroke of midnight, the dead of the graveyard awoke - they would not remain in a place where the priest murderer had been buried and one by one they slid out of their coffins and left with their headstones on their backs. They made their way across the fields and up the hill to Matehy cemetery where they re-interred themselves. Some of the headstones were dropped on the way and can still be seen in the riverbed. *

The story was a strange parallel as every night on the news we were hearing about the drownings and seeing the little rubber boats trying to make their way away from war and into Europe. 

And now in the spring of 2022 we see people in their thousands running from the guns, loaded down with suitcases and carrying children and animals and pitiful possessions.

*Thanks to Martin O’Mahony (The Archive, Journal of the Northside Folklore Project Vol1 Issue3 April 1999) and also to Shane Lehane for his version of the story -


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