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Defining a mass grave

Do a google search for "mass grave Ireland" and Tuam comes up, top of the list.

The phrase mass grave is used descriptively and emotionally. There's a chamber with multiple bodies in it. There are serious questions about the numbers of bodies and the decency with which the children & babies were treated in life and death. Our society prizes decent treatment of our dead, regardless of status - at least we say we do.

But.

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A decent burial - common V mass graves

Public discussion of burial practices can become very emotional. 

Mass and grave are the two most emotive words used in recent times. Both in public & academic discourse.

 

When I first started studying these things I thought mass grave would be easy to understand. But. Not so!

Over the next few months i'm going to explore the use of mass grave in an attempt to better understand our funerary practices through time.

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The healing grave of Fr. John O'Mullane; Old Kilcorney graveyard, Duhallow, Cork

This post starts and finishes with two different stories by two different women.

One woman was having trouble getting pregnant - she already had a few children - it just wasn't taking this time, until she went to her doctor for a chat. Talking to the doctor, who was a caring, kind, experienced woman, she came away more relaxed about the process. A month later it took.

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Healing Stones - Rev. Florence McCarthy d 1805

If you've ever flown into or out of Cork airport you may have flown over Killingley graveyard. This is one of those Cork graveyards situated on the side of a slope. It is rural but with strong links to the city and pride of place within the graveyard falls to the headstone for the Rev. Florence McCarthy (d 1805).

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Desecration for Salvation; the case of John Cuming Macdona

Catholics and Protestants are often buried together in Ireland.

Or rather, buried in the same place. The same burial ground.

We sometimes use different roads to get to the graveyard.

We sometimes use difference entrances into the same graveyard.

It's even been said some burial grounds have walls under the ground to stop our bones from mixing. We're a funny old crowd.

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Gates of Sligo Graveyards

Graveyards are made and maintained by the living, as sacred places to the memory of the beloved dead.

And the social history of a parish is wrapped up in it's graveyards.

By studying graveyards we can tell who the big landowners were; who had a middling farm and who had none. We can identify the trades families engaged in. And one of the most commonly encountered trades is that of blacksmith. For graveyards, blacksmith's made iron crosses, grave surrounds, and put together grave railings. But mainly blacksmiths made the iron gates that close-off the sacred space.

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Finding monumental sculptors in Ireland.

The people who put up headstones have many names.

Stonemason, stonecutter, lettercarver, sculptor, and monumental sculptor are a few that come to mind.

Sometimes, about 1% of the time, we find the stonecutters name carved on the bottom of the headstone. It'll say something like Fecit D McCarthy.

Which is latin for D McCarthy made this!

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