The Ground Under Our Feet: Lost Graveyards in Dublin

Posted by Mowl:

Some lovely photographs taken and captioned by Eamo, posted on Politicalworld.org

This is a view of Loughlinstown Hospital from the rear. That is where you will find one of the almost forgotten Cemeteries which are the resting place of un-named and un-numbered victims of the famine as well as the many souls who died in the poor-house which was in the building now occupied by the hospital. The paupers cemetery is not signposted but is easily accessed by driving into the carpark at the rear of the hospital and looking out for a grassy path winding away into blackberry bushes and trees.

Follow that way and after a short walk it opens onto a beautiful glade, you will almost certainly be the only living soul there but the place is so peaceful that it feels comfortable safe and warm.

The cemetery is well cared for but is thankfully not manicured until soulless. It is a sheltered open empty grassy space.

On a similar topic: recently, the organisation behind the community association for Ballyfermot neighbourhood has started asking questions as to who it was in Dublin County Council who gave the go-ahead for the unceremonious removal of numerous hundreds of year-old graves at the site of the former Ballyfermot Castle and cemetery, on Le Fanu Road out in Ballyfermot west, now long gone.

It’s said locally that the castle, which dated back to the seventeenth century, and its cemetery close by were deliberately allowed to fall into ruin, and it was also said by those apparently in the know that the construction of a more modern building would serve the commercial interests of the area far better. A pub stands on the spot where once stood a beautiful stone castle, the old heart of the neighbourhood.

So they destroyed the castle and gave us a pub.

I recall as a child many stories of grave-robbers and other scavengers associated with the site at the cemetery, but I also remember playing on the enormous burial mound when the gravestones were still standing. All were in a severely dilapidated condition, and some had caved in completely. We’d often wonder as little kids if we dug a bit would we find bones and skulls? Maybe even buried treasure?

It was a beautiful spot, many headstones read dates back to the early eighteenth and late seventeenth century, but as time went on it became a fly-tipping spot, and everybody dumped their household cráp there. Old prams, mattresses, cookers, and what have you. A short few years later, the entire area was bulldozed. No removal of remains, no ceremony, no remembrance stone. Just an industrial excavation of the whole site. Nobody now knows where the wasted remains were taken after bulldozing, or what happened to them, but it was all replaced with the estate now present as Cloverhill.  A rough enough place for any child who was reared there throughout the seventies and eighties. A miserable sprawl of concrete/metal houses that looked like they might blow over in a strong gale. No amenities, no central area to orientate the locals and give a neighbourhood feeling. Most if not all of those original houses were replaced since, because they were built to such appalling standards, and the people were herded in like sheep before the project was even completed. Not many years later they’d all be marched back out again when the entire project was demolished to build the sturdier houses which stand there now.

I also remember playing on the building site of Cloverhill. It was an adventure playground for us, traipsing through the brick skeletons of the houses as they were being constructed, but the skeletons and dust of the former occupants didn’t seem to have any meaning for either the local church or the county council. Any sign of the cemetery was erased from existence.

In a way, the photo of the mass grave above at Loughlinstown gives me a similiar chill of disgust at our inelegance, savagery, and in particular, the church’s hypocritical lack of respect for its precious flock. That so many bodies from the famine are remembered by just one stone out in the cemetery in Loughlinstown, and that the only name on the stone is the Sister who apparently dedicated it, reminds me of the same self-inflatable and triple-faced church which did so little to protect the remains of those buried next to Ballyfermot Castle. In fact, there is no marker there at all to indicate that they were ever buried there. Only a social welfare office.

So they took away the graveyard and gave us a dole office.

Where once was a castle, a place of much local history and pride, there’s a pub. Where once was a cemetery, of similiar historical value and pride, is now a labour exchange.

There’s still a long way to go in having the pertinent questions about the cemetery at Ballyfermot answered by either the church or the county council, and as usual one suspects no-one will be held accountable. One suspects that somebody somewhere made a suitcase full of used cash from it, and that whatever chances there are of having any kind of inquiry these days would instead be arranged in such a way as to line the pockets of another generation of the same legal elite, rather than show some goddamned respect to the people of the area and their historical legacy.

The site of the cemetery as it stands now:

An older map of the area as it was before Cloverhill was constructed:

Mowl  29th October 2013

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12 Responses

  1. Seems everywhere you go in this country, there is a hidden gem and an idiot hell-bent on destroying it. Very interesting piece.

  2. Fascinating piece of history – and no doubt political corruption lies at the heart of these vanishing parts of our history.

  3. Great post Mowl.
    As has been said by the other commenters we seem hell bent on steamrolling our past. We don’t appreciate the richness of our heritage. Having said that I recon we are a little better now at preserving our history. Well some aspects of our history. Ancient rights of way are still being gated and extinguished all over the country.

    Mowls original post and some more photos can be seen here:

    http://www.politicalworld.org/showthread.php?14165-The-things-people-stick-on-lampposts-thread/page11

    That is the place to show what is on a lamppost (or wall or door or…..anywhere) near you 🙂

  4. Very interesting and well written. It is very sad that buildings that make up part of Ireland’s national heritage have been lost and can only be bought back to life in print. Lets hope people learn from the mistakes of the past.

  5. .. i remember the graveyard in the 80’s /90’s .its now a mound of grass and a crech .not a pub of dole office. i now live across from it .

    • Interesting. Is there any kind of a plaque there ? It would be great if you were able to link a photo.

  6. Just took a look on Google Map – the raised area can be seen – from this excavation report, and from the old map posted by Mowl, we can tell that the eastern part of the graveyard was used as a site for the building with the sign “Ballyfermot Advance” on it. Most of the site of the castle, graveyard and old Church is now a green open space with a fence around it – “Le Fanu Park” – with the south east corner used for the building. A number of bodies were excavated from the site – burials went up to the beginning of the 20th century.
    http://www.excavations.ie/Pages/Details.php?Year=&County=Dublin&id=1048

  7. Some excellent additional research from Political World via excavations.ie.

    The site is a treasure trove of information, thank you for adding.

    According to local lore, the mound itself was steam-rolled over before construction began and all remains were re-covered with fresh earth and a coat a of new grass. If one navigates past the Ballyfermot Advance block on Google Earth, the mound is clearly visible to the rear. No marker or remembrance stone appears to exist anywhere on site.

    Map: http://goo.gl/maps/SLEMx

  8. Dublin City Council does its job in making green “open spaces” and maintaining them, but they are generic and featureless, designed for minimum maintenance with minimal tree planting and stripped of any local character or atmosphere. It would be so easy to make le Fanu park into a real oasis and place of beauty and interest, with people from the neighbourhood having a hand in it.

  9. The park itself, known locally as The Lawns, is a sprawling green area featuring some football pitches and other basic sports facilities. When the wind blows in from the west, it hammers the houses on the eastern end. There are few aged trees, only younger ones, so nothing breaks the gales that traverse it.

    Featureless is a kind term, and as you say, had the locals been allowed to involve themselves in re-designing the area around Ballyfermot Advance, then there might have been some chance even the walls of the cemetery might have been preserved. Or possibly a few ancient headstones.

    That there are graves and headstones beneath the mound indicates a lack of care and respect from both the local council, and dare I say it, the local church too. The church could have invested something of their coffers for the sake of both respect and posterity.

    That cemetery was the last true sign of our collective ancient history in the area. Now it’s gone.

  10. What the Planning Officers of old did to our nation’s capital city is nothing short of a disgrace. There were so many beautiful buildings, historic buildings and gorgeous views that they destroyed and lined their own pockets in the process. It really upsets me when I see Paris or Prague or Bruges and the wonderful job they have done in keeping the old buildings beautifully maintained and only allowing new buildings that harmonise with them. Great post.

  11. You’re quite right, Alex. Considering really outrageous cases like Sam Stephenson’s so-called architecture at the former Wood Quay site equally shivers the bones. To give us the horrifically ugly Civic Buildings in place of our rich Viking History, and to have blocked the view from the Liffey up to Christchurch, is another outrageous case in point.

    Though I was too young at the time, I’m proud of my parents and older siblings for taking part in the demonstrations against it’s tragic destruction.

    Walking around the perimeter of Saint Stephen’s Green can be another great shame. The wide streets, the beautiful Georgian buildings that remain, and worst of all: the profitable glass and steel ugliness that now stands incongruously amidst it all. It’s heartbreaking, and ultimately so self destructive.

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