Monday 15 March 2010

The Dead Centre of Dublin

Lately I have taken to haunting (oh, I’m so funny) the graveyard across the road.
Glasnevin Cemetery is a bona fide national monument. We had to learn about it in History class – how its establishment in 1832 was a huge coup for the Emancipation movement (Catholic emancipation, not female). In a gesture of respect to the leader of the movement, Daniel O’Connell, a Rapunzel-style tower was built above his grave.

In O’Connell’s case, death rehabilitated his reputation following a sex scandal. This is a bit of a theme: the cemetery also has the grave of Charles Stewart Parnell, see above re. death, rehabilitation, sex, scandal.

The cemetery is huge. Parts of it are very shiny and new, other parts are like country fields where the grass grows ankle high, obscuring the names on the stones. The memorials range from the simplest wooden crosses to ornate stone mausoleums.

The whole place is being restored at the moment, but I don’t think they’ll ever be able to take from its haphazard charm. I like to wander along paths at random, stumbling across the odd half-hidden stone – and the odd national heroic figure. For it is here that many of Ireland’s national heroes are buried. Some of them have very simple epitaphs, others very over-the-top, like this one:

Michael Collins (by virtue of being A Very Special Revolutionary Hero and Cut Down in His Prime) has his own plot removed from the riff raff,

though, strangely, Eamon de Valera doesn’t:

De Valera’s grave is just off what I call Revolutionary Row, which has the greatest concentration of revolutionary figures. This is just a small selection:

I like the intimacy of this and the irony of the fact that many of these people couldn’t stand each other in life, but are forever associated in death.

Way at the other side of the cemetery, is the much less well-tended, grass-growing-high, stones-falling-over part (my favourite). This is what I’ve dubbed Rich People’s Circle:

The moat (for want of a better word) has doors with names above them. I assume these are family crypts. Rich People’s Circle features some of the most insane grave ornamentation in the whole graveyard.

No mention of Glasnevin Cemetery would be complete without reference to Kavanagh's Pub, also known as the Gravediggers.

This is a jewel of a pub - timeless, immortal, a great place for a pint (and now, I'm told, they serve tapas. ?!?!)

I love the peace of the cemetery. On a sunny day, it’s a beautiful place to walk and sit and listen.

1 comment:

  1. A thoroughly enjoyable insight into North Dublin. You're like a war correspondent...