WHITEWELL Cross-slab (the 'De Profundis Stone')
53 26' 45.484"N...7 20' 15.228"W
This wonderful Cross-slab, not marked on any edition of the OS maps, is known as the
De Profundis Stone and is located in the town-land of Whitewell, on the south side of a
road opposite the entrance to Kilbride -Veston graveyard on the Dunboden Estate, west
of the R400 that runs from Rochfortbridge (*Droichead Chaisleán Loiste) 3.5km to the
Mullingar (*An Muileann gCearr meaning 'the short mill' or 'the left-handed mill').
The slab, composed of limestone, is shaped like a coffin and has a crudely carved
incised cross with T-shaped terminals at the top end. It measures 0.94m in length, 0.44
m in width at its widest and 0.22m at its narrowest and is 0.14m in depth. The slab was
first documented by archaeologists Liam Cox and J. McCabe in 1970, as located inside
the graveyard to the south of a church. It once stood on a pedestal. The stone has since
been moved to the side of the road to the SSW of the graveyard, where it has been
mounted on a stone base. Behind the stone is a curved dry-stone wall, approximately
8m in length and 1.2m in height, with a seat where the chief mourners sat, 0.45m from
ground level. A Celtic Cross once stood as part of the curved wall at the back, and to the
centre. This stone is now unique in Ireland as it is the last remaining De Profundis
stone in the country. As the last remaining stone of its kind in Ireland, it is a unique
artefact of great heritage importance. It has long been a customary across Ireland for
the entrance of graveyards to be marked by prominent trees or stones, such as the De
Profundis Stone here at the Kilbride -Veston graveyard. James Woods recalled such a
custom in the early 1900’s 'at the present-day funeral processions, when they come to
one of these crosses, halt while the De Profundis is solemnly recited for the repose of
the soul of the deceased' (Woods, p.278). The coffin bearers rested the coffin on the
stone while the Priest and server recited the De Profundis in Latin. The bearers
changed over to another set of men who then carried the coffin into the graveyard for
burial. The last time this ceremony took place at Kilbride-Veston was at the burial of
John Boland of the Derries, Rochfortbridge on 29th July 1937. The 'De Profundis', (a
colloquial name for Psalm 129 of the Old Testament), is one of seven penitential
Psalms that from earliest times has been recited when the dead are being remembered.
It was part of both the Masses for the dead and the burial rite. It was also a custom to
say the prayer at the end of the Tridentine Mass, Low Mass when the mass was offered
for the dead in general. It was included in the Office of the Dead, which was recited by
lay people on the waking of a corpse at home or in the church. For this ritual, the men
dressed in long black sleeveless soutanes and chanted the De Profundis prayer in semi
darkness. The prayer itself, the first line of which is 'out of the depths I cry onto you O
Lord', is a cry of the sinner from the depths of chaos, a prayer of the sinner trusting in
the mercies of God, and as Psalm 129, a prayer of deliverance from the bonds of sin.
The dating of this slab is uncertain; however, it appears to be pre-1700 in date.

Gaybrook so named after John Gay, Sheriff in 1663, who took possession of the lands
then known as Redmondstown in 1666.
Rochfortbridge was formerly known as 'Beggar's Bridge'….it is traditionally stated
that this place derived its former name from the circumstances of a beggar having died
there, in whose pockets was found money sufficient to build the bridge, which crosses a
small stream (Lewis: topographical survey).

Woods, J., ‘Annals of Westmeath, ancient and modern’ (Sealy, Bryers & Walker, 1907)
* Placenames Database of Ireland 2016
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