John Tierney's blog

'In thee O Cross is all our hope' - Grave monuments in Newtown near Kilmacthomas, Waterford

Waterford is a funny county. For some visitors it is the bit between the ferry and West Cork, or Kerry. For others it is on the way to the Cliff Hotel in Ardmore, West Waterford. For many it is a hidden gem.
But that's the old story. The ‘scéal nua’ is the Waterford Greenway which in 2-3 years has transformed tourism in the county. The Greenway is a 46km off-road walking and cycling trail along the old Waterford to Dungarvan railway line.

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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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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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Slow down in old graveyards

Graveyards are about slowing down.

For those of us left behind when somebody dies, they are gone, but we're still here! Doing the shopping, getting the children to school, buying a niece's birthday present to post to Scotland, ringing the insurance company; working. We do a million things.

But when we go to visit the grave we slow down.

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