This week we had a day trip to Dublin. Lucy and Jono wanted to look around the shops and as I’m not a shopper it was the perfect opportunity for me to go off exploring. The Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum has been on my ‘to do’ list for years so it was great to finally get there.
I went briefly to the Botantic Gardens first but the weather was so bad I gave up trying to look around. The gardens are right beside the cemetery and there is a walkway between the two which is dead handy (pun intended). Both are free to visit but if you want the guided tour of the cemetery there is a charge. You’d make a grave mistake if you didn’t take the guided tour because it’s just brilliant.
I’m always quite dubious of guided tours as I have a short attention span and while I like to know a bit about the place I’m visiting I don’t want to feel like I’m back at school and that there will be a written exam at the end of it all. I’m happy to say that the cemetery tour was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about a few of the 1.5 million people buried in Glasnevin. There are more people there than there are living in Dublin at the moment!
Dara was our tour guide, he was both informative and witty. We started our tour in the crypt of Daniel O’Connell, who established the cemetery in 1828. He has a huge crypt which we got to stay in while we heard all about the man. It was a welcome shelter from the downpour. As I didn’t go to school in Ireland my Irish history is almost non-existent and while it would be hard not to have heard anything about Daniel O’Connell (after all there is a street named after him in every town!) I didn’t know much about him. He did so much for Ireland and changed the history of the country and it was fascinating hearing just part of it. Daniel died on his way to Italy and we were told his dying wish was “my body to Ireland, My heart to Rome, My soul to God.”
His friends took him literally and cut his heart out placed it in a silver box and took it to Rome where it was placed in the wall of a church and concreted over. Years later the church was moved and when they went to take Daniel’s heart from the wall it had gone, probably stolen for the silver box, so his heart is somewhere in the world. Daniel is resting alongside some of his family members and you can see their coffins in the crypt.
Leading off from the crypt down a short passage way is the round tower. It’s the first thing that you will see before you even arrive at the cemetery and is a very imposing structure. The winding wooden staircase that once ran up the centre of the 168ft-high tower was bombed by loyalists in 1971. There are plans to build a new staircase, which was meant to have been done this year but there’s no sign of it starting yet.
Blimey this is a long blog post! Anyway after spending some time with Daniel O’Connell we headed back out into the torrential rain and got to see some of the other graves. I’m not going to tell you all about them because you’ll really have to go on a tour yourself, so I’ll just tell you about a few more highlights.
There was an interesting story about Charles Stewart Parnell, although he was no longer in government when he died because of his affair with Kitty O’Shea, his funeral was one of the largest ever. It took them 8 hours to get his coffin the 2 and a half miles from the city centre to the cemetery because he was so well thought of by the people of Ireland. Maud Gonne was a journalist covering the story of his funeral and she recorded a flash of light at the very moment the coffin was lowered into the ground. It was later verified that this was a comet!
At the grave of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa we got to hear the now famous speech delivered by Padraig Pearse: “The Fools, the Fools, the Fools! – they have left us our Fenian dead – And while Ireland holds these graves, Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” This oration roused Irish republican feeling and was a significant element in the lead-up to the Easter Rising of 1916. This was re-enacted by an actor dressed as Pearse in full uniform and takes place at 2.30pm daily until mid-September.
The final grave I will tell you about is Michael Collins. I could tell you all about him but this would turn into a book instead of a blog post so you can read more here. His was the only grave we saw that was covered in flowers, not only do members of the public bring flowers to his grave but we were told about a French lady who regularly sends flowers. Apparently she saw the film Michael Collins and fancied Liam Neeson who played him! She looked up Michael Collins himself and fancied him too so the flowers continue to be sent!
I have to say that despite battling with a dying umbrella and getting drenched the Glasnevin Museum was one of the most interesting places I’ve visited in Dublin. The tour was around an hour and a half and so interesting, even if like me, you aren’t well up on Irish history. Dara the tour guide bought these characters to life and in a way it was like stepping back in time. I would love to go back again on a dry day as I was very limited to the photos I got to take. You can find out more about Glasnevin Museum here.