Sunday, 11 May 2014

Mount Jerome Cemetery

While staying in Dublin for a couple of days last week, I took the opportunity to visit Mount Jerome Cemetery in the suburb of Harold’s Cross in the south of the city. With the second highest number of burials of any cemetery in Ireland, Mount Jerome is one of the biggest cemeteries I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.

Opened in 1836, the sprawling cemetery features all manner of exquisite Victorian funerary art including ornate memorials, tombs, angels, shrouded urns, vaults and crypts. Due to a population boom, and therefore increase in mortality rate in Dublin in the early 19th century, the British government set up commercial cemetery companies throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland to deal with the need for burial grounds. The land upon which Mount Jerome Cemetery stands was acquired by the General Cemetery Company of Dublin from the Earl of Meath, as their first choice – a section of Phoenix Park – was declined by local authorities. According to Vivien Igoe, author of Dublin Burial Grounds & Graveyards, the land was described as "being on a gently elevated ground embellished with lawns and shrubberies, and wholly surrounded with lofty trees of venerable growth, giving it an air of seclusion and a solemnity of aspect peculiarly appropriate."

In the Seventies the number of burials in Mount Jerome began to decline, and by the 1990s the cemetery had fallen into a state of neglect, much of it becoming enshrouded with ivy and creeping vines. In 2000 the crematorium was opened and the funding this provided allowed proper care and maintenance of the cemetery.

Much like Belfast City Cemetery, the first people to be laid to rest in Mount Jerome were infants – twins of one Matthew Pollock. Also buried here are the likes of author and anthropologist William Carleton, the author of several novels detailing Irish peasantry, the horror of the famine and violent secret societies. William Wilde, the father of Oscar, is also buried here, as is author and playwright John Synge, writer on mysticism and clairvoyant AE Russell - who claimed to paint the spiritual beings he communed with - and renowned surgeon Abraham Colles, who studied his trade at Edinburgh in the midst of the infamous body-snatching, resurrectionist trade era. Also entombed within this labyrinthine necropolis of grandeur and beauty is 'the Father of the English Ghost Story' Joseph Sheridan le Fanu, known to admirers of Gothic fiction as the influential author of such chilling tales as Uncle Silas, the short story collection In A Glass Darkly (which contains Green Tea, The Room in the Dragon Volant, The Familiar, and, of course, Carmilla), and The Strange Event in the Life of Schalken the Painter. Given his reputation and renown in the studies of Gothic fiction, le Fanu’s final resting place is not what I was expecting. Buried alongside his wife Suzanne, and her father and brothers, their grave is marked by a simple stone slab, the inscription on which has become so eroded it is no longer readable. For shame. After double checking in the office beside the church, and being given a map of the cemetery and a brief biography of le Fanu, it was confirmed that yes, this most simple of monuments marks the spot where 'The Invisible Prince' (so called because of his reclusive tendencies) rests.




According to Eugene Tuohey, author of A Favour of the Dead, and one of Ireland's foremost authorities on spooky Victorian lore, the pathways of Mount Jerome are stalked by a spectral hound. Tuohey claims the dog belonged to one William Weir, who died while swimming off the coast of Wicklow. His faithful companion, Caesar, refused to move from the spot where Weir had left his clothes on the deserted beach. Shortly afterwards Caesar died, seemingly of a broken-heart, and when Weir’s body was recovered from the cold embrace of the sea and his vault eventually erected in Mount Jerome, a carved stone dog was mounted on top of it.


The grave of Sheridan le Fanu































Weir's faithful hound, Caesar.

2 comments:

Zach Murphy said...

Fantastic photos.

James Gracey said...

Thanks Zach. Mount Jerome is a beautiful cemetery - plus I think it helped that the sun was shining much of the time while I wandered about it.