Children’s Burial Grounds – Christmas 1998

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Children’s burial grounds are sometimes referred to “cillíní’ as places of burial of un-baptised children.  Some early sites, especially those long disused and rather remote, have been used for burial of un-baptised infants.  These graveyards are known by several names including cillín, ceallurach and cealltract, and the graves may be marked by small mounds and rough unlettered stones.

Dr. T. Fanning (1981) notes that the Irish word ceallunach “refers to places of interment of unbaptised children.  In a similar, separate reference to killeens he mentions that many infants died before they could be baptised, and so were denied Christian burial by the church, also that the poor people of the 18th and 19th centuries buried older children in such places if there was no money available for a proper funeral.  Taking the foregoing into consideration, the term ‘Children’s Burial Ground’ is used to describe the burial place of children, mainly unbaptised, but sometimes also baptised.  It would usually consist of a burial area containing grave markers, surrounded by an enclosing element, often within the protective confines of a long – abandoned host site which for various reasons had been deemed special or worthy of reverence.

Features of Children’s Burial Grounds (CBG)

1.      Enclosing features which are still visible:    For example close to the gable of a church, bounded by a field wall.

2.      Grave-markers: These may be visible overground often covered in the undergrowth.  Very often these markers were unmarked.

3.      Host site: Children’s burial grounds are often located in or near a ringfort, graveyard, church or an ecclesiastical enclosure

4.      Associated features: Sometimes associated with a holy well, bullaun stone, megalith, cross-slab or leacht.

5.      Size and shape: The dimensions of a CBG generally correspond to a named range for Children’s Burial Grounds.

6.      Place-name: The townland name or host-site name may include any element which would point to the existence of a CBG there e.g. Killeen, lisheen, lios, caltragh.

Local Children’s Burial Grounds


Children’s Burial Ground well- preserved C.B.G., 25.2m N-S, 22. 8m E-W, in N quadrant of a cashel.  The rectangular C.B.G. contains numerous small limestone grave markers aligned E-W, together with a small rectangular structure associated with the cashel.  Some less regularly sited grave markers are to be found on a small ridge running e-w outside the burial ground proper.  Source: Cody, E., 1983.

Ballydavid South

CBG fairly well preserved, rectangular, 10m E-W x 3m N-S, quite close to cast gable of Ballydavid church.  Bounded to E. by a field wall, the CBG contains grass, moss covered headstones around a central sycamore tree.  The unmarked headstones were up to O.5m high, 0.5m long, 0.1-0.15m thick and may originally have been arranged in neat N-S rows.


Poorly preserved CBG 13. 1 m E-W, 4.6m N-S on a high rise.  Grave markers are distributed haphazardly throughout, some of them upright, most recumbent, several placed right up on the rise at the South end, on average measuring 31 cms wide, 26cms high, 7cms thick.


Children’s Burial Ground extremely poor remains of a C.B.G. in a levelled site in pastureland. Some boulders, possibly grave-markers,    remain scattered among the thistles. The last burial there was about 50 years ago.

Coonkeen (Kelly)

C.B.G. Sub-rectangular, unenclosed, slightly raised area 8.2 m. x 6.3 m. containing rough, undressed limestone markers aligned N.NE.S.SW., facing WNW.  Only c. 40 uprights remain. Townland Boundary: Within 200m

Cloonkeen South

Children’s Burial Ground.  Small nearly rectangular C.B.G., 6 m. E-W x 9 m. N-S in fair condition and slightly raised above the interior of the surrounding enclosure.  Rough, uninscribed grave markers are 20cms. high x 28ems. wide on average and aligned E-W.


Childrens Burial Ground Sub rectangular, partly overgrown C.B.G.,15m N-S, 18.5 E-W, in fair condition, enclosed by field walls to N,W and S and by the railway to E. In S W sector there are upright limestone headstones c. 30 cms. high 23 cms wide, 6cms. thick but elsewhere they are mostly recumbent.

Gloves Middle

Childrens Burial Ground poorly preserved C.B.G., 2m. in diameter in W. sector of a ringfort, containing numerous unmarked moss-covered headstones.  The area is heavily overgrown with hawthorn and hazel.  Source: Cody, 1983.

Mountain West

Childrens Burial Ground poorly preserved C.B.G., at interior of a ringbarrow.  It contains several unaligned upright markers.

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About this record

Written by To be confirmed!

Published here 20 Apr 2023 and originally published Christmas 1998

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