Carton Cemetery

First published by Maynooth Local History and Civic Forum in Rita Edwards (ed.) Myth and Memory, 2002

Carton cemetery is situated in Carton Estate in the heart of one of the finest parkland settings in the country. It is sited approximately 80 meters west of Carton house in an area close to the Rye Water river. The cemetery is surrounded on three sides by sloping terrain, which is covered by shrubbery wood including many mature beech trees.

Entrance into the cemetery is by two gates. The first gate is ten foot wide and leads into the area of shrubbery wood; the second gate is also ten-foot wide and leads into the cemetery proper, which is oval in shape measuring approximately 35 meters in length by 24 meters wide. It is partially surrounded by a wire fence that once extended around the entire perimeter. There are also signs of a pathway that extended around it on the outside.

There are 11 separate monuments in the cemetery. Ten are lying flat and one is upright and they commemorate 12 members of the Leinster family who died between 1850 and 1938.

The Leinster or FitzGerald family are without doubt the most famous family in Irish history. They came to the country in the 12th century and throughout the successive centuries held the following titles, Barons of Naas, Barons of Offaly, Earls of Kildare and Dukes of Leinster. Members of the family have been interred throughout the centuries in Cathedrals, Abbeys and Churches until the 19th century when a private family burial ground was opened in Carton Estate.

It was during the lifetime of Augustus the 3rd Duke of Leinster that Carton cemetery was opened. The first interment was of Lady Mapel who died on 13th December 1850. She was four-months old and the daughter of Lord Charles the eldest son and heir of Lord Augustus. It was almost seventeen years later in 1867 when the next interments took place when two daughters of Lord Charles, passed away within 20 days. Lady Margaret was only 15 days old when she died on 26th October and her 18-year-old sister Lady Geraldine the eldest of the family died on 15th November. In the following year close to Christmas of 1868 the youngest of the family Lord Robert died at birth and was also interred in Carton.

The year 1887 saw the death of both the 4th Duke and the Duchess within three months. Lord Charles died in March in his 68th year while his wife Lady Caroline passed away the following May aged 60.They were the first Duke and Duchess to be interred in the cemetery.

Their son Gerald the 5th Duke was the next interment in Carton. He had been Duke for only 6 years when he died in December 1893 aged 42 years. His wife the Duchess Lady Hermione died fifteen months later in March 1895 and was interred in an adjoining grave.

The next interment in Carton was that of Maurice the 6th Duke and son of the 5th Duke. His death in 1922 set a chain of events that led to Carton passing out of control of the FitzGerald family. Maurice the 6th Duke who was unmarried spent the last years of his life in an institution in Edinburgh. Following his death his younger brother Lord Edward succeeded to the title and became the 7th Duke. Although Edward had sold his reversionary rights to Carton Estate the cemetery was unaffected by this. Two members of the FitzGerald family Lord Frederick and his sister Lady Ema (Emma) uncle and aunt of the Duke and both unmarried continued to live at Carton. Both Frederick who died in 1924 and Ema who died in 1931 were interred in the cemetery.

Gravestone of Lady Pamela FitzGerald at Carton cemetery

At this time the senior member of the FitzGerald family living in the country was Gerald, Marquis of Kildare, son and heir of the 7th Duke. He married Joane McMurragh-Kavanagh of Borris House in county Carlow and their first-born was a daughter named Pamela. However Pamela died within 6 months on 23rd April 1938 and was interred in Carton. To date she is the last person interred in the cemetery. Her father is at present the 8th Duke of Leinster and lives in England.

Note: Gerald the 8th Duke of Leinster died in 2004 and was succeeded to the title by his eldest son Lord Maurice who is now the 9th Duke.

For details of gravestone transcriptions at Carton see Myth and Memory, pp 62–64. This publication can be purchased at Maynooth Bookshop.