PHOTOGRAPHED BY WILLIAM MURPHY

MOUNT JEROME CEMETERY HAROLD’S CROSS

Mount Jerome Cemetery & Crematorium is situated in Harold's Cross on the south side of Dublin. Since its foundation in 1836, it has witnessed over 300,000 burials. Mount Jerome was established as a non-denominational cemetery but effectively it was an exclusively Protestant cemetery until the 1920s.

I am familiar with the Cemetery as I lived beside it's outer wall for two years (1981/82) and two of my grandparents are buried there. After my grandmother's funeral because the place was really depressing a very old uncle of mine described the graveyard as "an excellent advertisement for cremation" (back then Irish Catholics did not consider cremation an option). It is therefore somewhat ironic that as the result of the opening of a Crematorium in 2000 revenues have recovered and the Cemetery has undergone a reversal of fortune.

Due to the declining burial numbers in the 1970's, the condition of the Cemetery began to deteriorate as revenues fell. In 1984 it was put into voluntary liquidation. By the late 1990's, it had fallen into a serious state of neglect with large swaths of the cemetery covered in overgrowth. When I lived in the area the graves were often vandalised and at night a group of children would steal flowers from the graves in order to re-sell them the next day.

As already mentioned the cemetery was effectively reserved for protestants, especially wealthy ones, and as a result the place is a bit unusual. Many of those buried there were very wealthy and they wanted the world to know how important they had been when alive so they spent a fortune on elaborate memorials listing their virtues with very few references to religious matters or God. The one thing that struck me about the older sections of the cemetery is that there are very few crosses or truly christian symbols but here are many references to ancient Greece and Rome.

One striking feature is the large number columns that appear to be broken. Because the cemetery had been in very poor condition for an extended period I had assumed, when I first noticed them, that they were broken due to wear, general damage or vandalism. However, after further investigation I discovered that a broken column indicates a life cut short, a memorial to the death of someone who died young or in the prime of life, before reaching old age.

The notorious Martin Cahill (1949–1994) (known as "The General") is buried in Mount Jerome. His gravestone has been vandalised on numerous occasions and is currently broken in two with the top half missing. His body has since been removed to an unmarked grave elsewhere in the cemetery.

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