We average 5 km of daily walking when surveying historic graveyards.
Yesterday the graveyard in Drucliffe was bigger than usual and we covered 7.5 km. That is 7.5km of walking beneath Benbulben -when every time you look up from the ground the beauty of Co. Sligo is there in its intriguing glory. We've done graveyard projects all over Ireland and from Dorset to Aberdeen and Benbulben is one of the most striking locations around.
Drumcliffe COI is also one of Ireland's flagship graveyards - besides being founded by St. Colmcille/Columba it is also the burial place of W.B. Yeats. In a 2-3 hour period yesterday morning up to 5 buses pulled in to visit the poets grave. We are rarely alone in our graveyard surveys but I haven't seen such crowds of people in a graveyard since Glendalough last August. The Select Vestry members who took part in the training survey told us that German and French tourists, in particular, make an effort to visit the Yeats grave beneath Benbulben.
The training survey yesterday focused on numbering and photographing the headstones in the Church of Ireland section of the graveyard but the key things I learned were how can a local community care for their sacred spaces while also accomodating up to 1000 visitors per day. I suggested writing a guide to the history of the graveyard and selling it for a fiver in the church porch in order to gain some money for the upkeep of the church and churchyard but it was gently pointed out to me that it might not be appropriate to use a consecrated church to sell such materials. I wonder what Failte Ireland can do for this gem of a site?
During the few hours we were onsite we heard lots of stories from locals and visitors alike. It appears a visitor once pitched his tent on Yeats' grave and had to be gently moved on. Imaging sleeping on a grave?! Reminds me of a story of a gravedigger further south who used to occasionally sleep in the graveyard if he wasn't going to make it home after a few drinks. One dawn a man walking by the graveyard was startled when a voice from within the graveyard called out, wondering what time it was?
The Sligo Historic Graveyard Training Project is an initiative of Sligo Heritage Forum and is an action of the County Sligo Heritage Plan 2016-2020. The project is funded by Sligo County Council and The Heritage Council