Great Dublin Places to Visit - Part 1 Glasnevin Cemetery


#1

I was delighted to see that the staircase in the O’Connell Monument is back operational again and while I don’t look forward to climbing 198 steps I look forward to the view from the top. On a clear day you can see Cooley, the Mountains of Mourne, Wicklow, Meath and what I look forward to most - my family home!

It is the latest addition to a tourist attraction that has gone from being an ugly and dangerous mess in the late 70s, 80s and even into the 90s - to a source of great pride for Dubliners – and the last resting place of over a million of us! Actually nearer 1.5 million!

I grew up in the shadow of the tower and went to school in nearby St. Vincent’s from the early 70s to the early 80s. There were many funerals for schoolmates’ parents over the years. And we always got lost in the cemetery and only made it back to school 5 minutes before it finished – despite knowing every nook and cranny in the place. Neighbours too were buried there and people whose papers I delivered. There were also the famous funerals of the era – I remember Bean (Sinead) De Valera’s funeral - I think we may have provided a guard of honour outside the school. Her husband actually died 7 months later in August 1975 - but we were on summer holidays.

But Glasnevin was in a sorry state in the 70s and 80s and beyond. Pathways were wrecked, gravestones in bits, railings rusting and there was a general air of neglect and dilapidation to the place. In addition there was a fair bit of anti social behaviour there – cider drinking etc - and also some attacks on people visiting graves. My own father died in 1984 and my mother would not bury him there because of the vandalism that was prevalent at the time. A real source of pity now.

In 2006, following lobbying by the Cemeteries Committee, the Government agreed to include the cemetery in the National Development Plan as an Office of Public Works project. They envisioned the cemetery as a potential tourist attraction and wanted to ensure that it would be somewhere the country could be proud of when the Easter centenary was celebrated ten years later.

The results have been stunning. Right from the open and welcoming entrance the place grabs your attention. O’Connell’s Tower dominates your first views and its stunning surrounds and the many Republican and notable burials at the front of the cemetery just make you want to see more. And there is plenty. Graves, railings, trees, paths have all been given a new lease of life – not quite what you’d expect in a cemetery! The museum is there now – and a fine restaurant, the best of tour guides – everything you would want.

A nice day weather-wise is not essential but greatly adds to a visit. An aimless wander is a real treat. Even crows add to the ambience believe it or not! Get the guide maps etc and make sure you see what interests you most. But just enjoy the history of the place too. The elaborate graves, the simple ones, the stories they tell. There is the tragedy of the Angels’ Plot, the crematorium and for United fans there is one Liam Whelan but be warned – Cabra’s finest is across the road in St. Paul’s.

I always like the towers that were built to thwart the grave robbers and body snatchers – there are some good ghost stories here worth looking up – the museum or guide will also fill you in! A group of local lads had a hut in the top of one of them in the lane up from the Gravediggers when I was a teenager – some den that was!

As a local there is an extra interest in wandering across Mr Duggan who always gave you a shilling on Friday after delivering her briquettes cut the fingers off you - or stumbling upon Ms Rafter who gave you nothing – maybe its down there with her! Even if you are not local the chances are you will happen on someone you worked with or played football with or maybe even someone who taught you! I also have relatives buried there and a few friends so there is always a reason to go and always a time to dwell, reminisce and recall the good times.

The Prospect entrance also means you can sneak into the Gravedigger’s for a pint and a little further along is a gateway to the Botanic Gardens – making this overall green space in Dublin 9 a national treasure.

The Glasnevin Trust, especially John Green and George McCullough, as well as the OPW deserve huge credit for what they have done here in the last decade. The pride among staff in Glasnevin – I know a few – was clear for all to see in that most poignant of documentaries ‘One Million Dubliners’ – (RIP Shane Mac Thomais). They love where they work and it’s easy to see why.

A visit is a lesson in history, humility, humanity, identity and just a great day out that will leave you as proud as ever to be a Dubliner. Highly recommended!


#2

What a fabulous post.

The video presentation in the museum is well worth a watch.

(Don’t pay any mind, to the day-cor, or what you may be sitting on. :face_with_monocle: )

It goes into grave robbing in the 1800’s, in all its gory, glorious detail, when the cemetery was a rich source of income for those inclined towards (illegally) providing the local teaching hospitals with their cadavers. Their methods of extracting the corpses, while avoiding detection above ground, was grim to say the least. It’s all strangely fascinating, in a goulish sort of a way, even if it’s not quite your normal museum cup of tea.


#3

Great read. Must mosey around it 1 day. Ashamed to say only ever go to funerals over there and leave.


#4

Had the great pleasure of a guided tour with Shane, he really was a chip off the old block. A brilliant, but tragic mind. Great post @DUB09 thank you.


#5

Great post

I did the tour last year and it was only at the weekend the Fuhrer was asking to go back and do it again with the Tower open. The tour is brilliant and I highly recommend it


#6

Great post!

Definitely a “must do” for anyone visiting the capital.


#7

I’d say most people do, so don’t feel bad. Who feels like being a tourist, on such a sad occasion, especially if you’ve afters to get to, or you have to go back to work.

It’s well worth a visit for itself, on a day when you don’t have a funeral to go to & the sadness from that, makes you not want to hang around.

It’s a very interesting place when there is something official on too. All my family are buried there & I’ve stumbled across quite a few 1916 & WW1 commemorative events (I just followed the sound of bagpipes or rifles) & they were fascinating.


#8

Won’t give them a penny ever since they spent public money treating the 1916 rising like it was some sort of natural disaster.


#9

Take a bow, great post brother.


#10

Excellent post. Remember the state of Dublin in the 80s, Stephens green was a wreck. All down the quays either side of the river as far as the point was derelict, was out that way for a gig recently, the difference couldn’t be more stark.


#11

Dare we say that Haughey deserves some credit for this (Temple Bar instigated the regeneration of the Quays)?


#12

The cemetery would be down to a more local man …


#13

Bartholomew?


#14

Yup …


#15

Everyone in a position of power will get some things right … well … maybe not everyone.


#16

Eh … Trump?


#17

He’ll take the credit if peace breaks out on the Korean peninsula.


#18

Really enjoyed that post.

I too went to St Vincent’s. I remember in a history class we would be learning about a prominent Irish history figure and the teacher would always tell us if they were buried across the road in glasnevin cemetery, a few of us would even wander over on a nice day on our break and visit the grave of whoever the lesson was about that day. A morbid shower we were!

On the anti social side of things. Christmas just gone I was up visiting the family grave with the other half and we had our newborn with us. My family plot is right down the back of the cemetery. On our way back up towards the main gate these two ladies came over to us and said “Sorry for bothering you son, I know you have the little one with you so I don’t want to cause you any hassle. But there is a fella following us since we came in here and we’re afraid he is going to mug us” she pointed him out to me and there was this little scrote on one of the paths that ran parallel to the one we were on. He was pretending to be visiting a grave but the women told me every time they stop he stops and faces the closest grave to him to take the look off him. I told them to continue on were they were going and I’d walk slowly behind them just in case. Low and behold as soon as they made their way he started walking again, constantly looking over at them. When they stopped he stopped and again began fixing flowers on the nearest grave. It was obvious he was following them. Anyway I walked behind them for about five more mins staying out of this little toe rags view and eventually he cut across to the path the two women were on, even began a slow jog in their direction. They both looked back to me in terror and I let a roar at him and he stopped dead in his tracks and I asked him was he lost or something. He said “just up visiting a few friends pal you know yourself” I said go on ■■■■ off with ye and he made a B line towards the main gate. Along the way he met up with an accomplice who was kneeling at another random grave and they legged it out the gate. The two women thanked me and said it’s not the first time something like this had happened them. Even now telling the story is infuriating. To think there are little scumbags like that targeting people on a Christmas week visiting their loved ones grave.

I had the pleasure of attending lectures given by Shane McTomas before his untimely death. A gentleman in every sense of the word and my God did he know his stuff. He delivered 6 lectures, one a week, for free on Irish history in the teachers club in town. It was part of work he was doing in conjunction with Sinn Fein to educate people on Irish history for anyone who wanted to attend. I’ve studied engineering up to masters level and never have I left a lecture feeling as invigorated as I did after one of Shane’s lectures. Almost made me change my career path as I was only a year or two into the degree at the time. He was a brilliant mind and such a loss to the tours of Glasnevein.

One million dubliners is a must watch for everyone, I think I’ll watch it again this evening.

Again, excellent post.


#19

Great post @DUB09 and @Sam_11 I used to love going up for a ramble of to visit relatives graves, and scoot across to New side to see Liam Whelan’s grave, as he was a friend of the granddad.


#20

@Sam_11

Well done Sam.

Does my heart good knowing there are people like yourself prepared to stand up to those yokes.