custom of placing dead erect was general among all northern
In 1790 the Rev. William Beauford of Athy, and a member
of the Royal Irish Academy, submitted a paper to the Academy
titled A memoir respecting the antiquities of the church
of Killossy, in the Co. Kildare, with some conjectures on
the origin of the ancient Irish church.
He was describing the ancient parish church at Killashee,
Naas, which he considered important on account of
its singular construction of steeple merited the attention
of the curious in antiquities.
He believed that the present church was modern, but
on the foundations of an ancient one, and that the tower,
attached to the church was probably was probably unique,
being the only one of the kind yet discovered in this Kingdom,
if not in the British Isles.
The tower he described as round, and founded on a
square base, nearly half of the present height, each side
terminating in a pediment on a triangle of equal altitude,
from one of which grounded the stone roof of the old church.
Two years after Beaufords visit to Killashee Lieut.
Daniel Grose went there and commissioned a drawing for the
building from J. Newton (with a house in the background
which appears similar to the present dwelling there).
He described the steeple as very singular, not being
paralleled, as far as I know, by anything, by anything exactly
similar in this Kingdome, except at St.Kevins Kitchen,
where the round tower makes part of the fabrick.
There are such structures at Halling in Kent, and Little
Saxham in Suffolk.
Just a century after those excursions to Killashee another
man of the cloth, and who was also a Member of the Royal
Irish Academy, went there and wrote an account of the building.
Rev. Denis Murphy S.J., in the Journal of the county Kildare
Archeological Society, gave considerable attention to the
history of the site from its foundation by St Auxillius
in the 5th century.
His comment on the tower was that it was much older
than the present church; it belonged to an earlier building,as
may be seen by the drip-stones which mark the height and
pitch of the former roof. But to determine the date of its
erection with any sort of precision is not an easy task.
Beaufords paper on Killossy was not his first learned
discourse: in 1786 he had published an Essay on the political
accents of the Irish an another on Druidism Revived &
the Origin and Language of the Irish, and he made another
submission to the Royal Irish Academy.
It was an account of an ancient sepulchre discovered in
1788. He described how in February of that year some
peasants were digging in a garden at Calverstown, near Kilcullen,
and when one of them dropped a sack or spade in a hole he
found a stone box.
The men broke the lid of the box to see a skeleton
sitting inside facing south, and an urn. This is the only
one yet discovered where the body was placed in a sitting
position, indeed a short time since some small earthen tumuli
were opened on the Curragh of Kildare, under which skeletons
were found standing upright on their feet, and in their
hands or near them, spears with iron heads. The custom of
placing dead erect was general among all the northern natives,
and is still retained in Lapland and some parts of Norway,
and the natives of North America bury their dead sitting
in a hole in the ground, and cover them with a mound of
A graphic drawing of the Calverstown skeleton illustrated
that report in the Transactions of the RIA. Beauford, who
sometimes signed himself Beaufort, may have been a member
of the latter Huguenot family settled in Ireland since about
John ODonovan, who was engaged in the Ordnance Survey
of Co. Kildare in 1837, having received a good Letter they
would lay a foundation for philosophical and honest research,
but instead of this they have made bold assertions and vague
references, which will now expose them to the censure and
ridicule of the learned world.
Later, when writing about the Curragh, ODonovan was
again critical of the Athy clergyman: It is shameful
to see men (such as Beauford) thus impose their own fancies
on the world as true written history.
Another detractor of the Athy clergyman was Lennox Barrow,
who wrote a paper on Killashee Church tower in the Journal
of the Co. Kildare Archeological Society thirty years ago.
He described Beauford as that pioneering but not always
Courtesy of the Leinster Leader