Posted by: mdmusingsie | June 26, 2013

Spirits of the Past

Visiting a cemetery probably isn’t high on someone’s list when they go on holiday, but when a friend was coming to visit I asked if she would be interested in going with me to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

The bus I take into the city goes past there and I’ve gone by so many times and wondered at the sheer size of the place. Luckily, she agreed to go with me and I must say it was just as interesting as I expected.

Many of the “Founding Fathers” of the Irish Republic, as we would call them in the US, are buried there.  Michael Collins, Charles Stewart Parnell, Countess Markievicz, Eamonn de Valera to name just a few.  Of course Daniel O’Connell, the founder of the cemetery is there as well in a crypt underneath the round tower.  It was the first non-denominational cemetery, allowing not only Catholics who were not allowed to have cemeteries of their own, but anyone of any denomination to be buried there.


Looking up into O’Connell’s tower above the crypt


Daniel O’Connell’s family members in a side chamber


Daniel O’Connell’s crypt – his actual lead coffin encased in wood is inside the monument. Touching the coffin through the portals is supposed to bring luck (of course I did!)


Daniel O’Connell’s crypt and tower above


Michael Collins grave near the museum


Grace Plunkett – I wrote about her in my posting on Kilmainham


Eamon deValera

Currently it covers over 120 acres of land and according to our walking tour guide Niall, more people are buried in Glasnevin (1.5 million) than currently live in Dublin (1.3 million).  Sadly, a good number of them were infants and children – 50,000 in the original Angel’s Plot (a new Angel’s Plot was opened in the 1970’s).


Angels Plot area – unmarked graves of the poor, infants, and babies


Charles Stewart Parnell is buried atop a mound containing a mass burial of at least 10,000 cholera victims – he wanted to be buried among the common people.

Charles Steward Parnell's grave - a mound atop a mass grave surrounded by an iron fence

Charles Steward Parnell’s grave – a mound atop a mass grave surrounded by an iron fence

The grave markings range from simple place markings like those of Countess Markievicz to beautifully carved Celtic Crosses, even benches to reflect and remember loved ones.


Simple marker in the Republican section for Countess Markieicz


Benches as grave markers – this one in memory of a 3 year old named Amber



There’s also museum on site which has some interesting information about the cemetery and its inhabitants. You can also do genealogy searches on their computers (or on their website).

You could easily spend hours there wandering through history.  It was designed as a park with many trails, trees, and other greenery.  While I doubt people will actually do any picnicking there, it would certainly make for an interesting stroll on a nice day.

Another stop on our outing was to Ballyfermot where my friend grew up.  It was a trip down memory lane for her as we strolled past the house where she lived as a child, by the church where she made her first communion, and the school she once attended before immigrating to the US.  As with most areas of the world, some things remain the same while others are only flashes of memory.


  1. I love old cemeteries, Dawn! Thanks for sharing. Marie

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