I noticed that the Goldenbridge Cemetery in Inchacore in Co. Dublin was reopened to the public on Sunday, almost 150 years after it closed. I was lucky recently to have been given a private tour of the Cemetery prior to this opening and was really taken by the archway created by two very well established Yew trees and the general ambience of the space.
From the time of the Reformation, Catholics were not allowed their own cemeteries and buried their dead in old churchyards, monasteries and Protestant churchyards. Daniel O’Connell campaigned for a cemetery to be opened in the wake of the Penal Laws, to “those of all religions and none”, Goldenbridge Cemetery was the first non-denominational Cemetery in Ireland. It was closed following a dispute with the British War Office and has operated as a closed cemetery, locked and visited by appointment only for nearly 150 years. Only occasional burials took place, like that of politician WT Cosgrave. His son, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave, was at his father’s graveside today.
Ceremonial events on Sunday included a re-enactment of Daniel O’Connell’s ‘speech of the establishment of the non-denomination cemetery’, musical recitals by St James’s Brass and Reed Band and Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, a lecture on the history of the cemetery from Professor Maurice Bric, and an ecumenical blessing.
The annual commemoration of O’Connell, whose 170th anniversary was on Saturday was also marked. Wreaths in his honour were laid by a number of people including Minister of State for Communities Catherine Byrne and by the Liberator’s great, great, great grandson John Cunningham. To follow see an image of a tree, which is thought to be planted by O’Connell when the Cemetery was first opened. The image on the right shows that many have carved their initials into the tree.
From today onwards, Goldenbridge Cemetery will be open Monday to Friday from 9am to 3pm for visitors and burial services.
The most important grave in the cemetery is that of WT Cosgrave, first head of government of the Irish Free State.
His son, former Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave (97), attended the rededication and formal reopening of the cemetery that Daniel O’Connell had campaigned for.
Mr Cosgrave, whose wife Vera Cosgrave was buried in Goldenbridge last September, said after the ceremony that “I’m very glad, very pleased to see it reopened. It’s a quiet cemetery.”
Frank Burke, a member of the Irish Volunteers and a step-brother of WT Cosgrave, is also buried there as is Mary Anne Jenkins a member of Cumann na mBan and Eugene Lynch an eight-year-old child killed during the 1916 Rising.