My visit to Glasnevin Cemetery

2 Dec

We all know the old saying about cemeteries, “people are dying to get in there”. Well, not me. Personally, I am not the biggest fan of cemeteries. Most people assume that I do not enjoy them because of the scare factor that cemeteries usually hold in many movies, television shows, etc., however I tend to avoid them for another reason. Although I do agree with the concept behind cemeteries and do agree that they should exist, I rather avoid the eerie feeling of anonymous death that surrounds them as you look at the sea of tombstones. When I found out that the Northeastern University group would be visiting a cemetery, these reasons left me discouraged.

However, Glasnevin Cemetery is not just any cemetery. The memorials of those that have passed are anything but anonymous. Glasnevin Cemetery is the final resting place for many of Ireland’s greatest heroes such as Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins. During our visit and tour of Glasnevin we had a tour guide that would stop every 10 tombstones and have countless stories to tell about a person. Although there technically is a Glasnevin Museum, the cemetery itself felt more like a museum than your traditional graveyard.

Anyone that knows anything about Glasnevin Cemetery knows about is massive size. However the cemetery was not always this massive. Although the cemetery today pans across 124 acres, much larger than the 9 acre plot that it was when it opened in 1832. Daniel O’Connell, as a place for proper form of burial, opened the cemetery for Catholics.  To show respect for Daniel O’Connell’s efforts for the Irish people, Glasnevin remembers their hero with the most prominent tombstone in the entire cemetery. He is buried in a crypt with many descendants of his family beneath a round tower. In 1952, a schoolboy prank resulted in an explosion. A boy used homemade ingredients to make a tiny bomb and climbed the O’Connell tower on June 6th. The boy was placed on a twelve-month probation and stated his motive was simply boredom and curiosity. This attack on the O’Connell tower was much less severe than the one that would follow in 1971. In January of that year, loyalists of the Ulster Volunteer Force planted an explosive that would cause the windows and frames to be destroyed although the intention was to cause more damage to the tower.

I walked away from Glasnevin Cemetery after our tour with the group with more of an open mind toward cemeteries. The history behind Glasnevin is vast and is too important to be forgotten. I definitely will visit again with friends in the future with the opposite mindset that I had approached it wish initially.

 -Alex Dfouni


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