I thought it was about time to get this blog in the Halloween mood, and what better way than a visit to the cemetery. I personally love visiting them, especially during Autumn.
Mount Jerome is very much in the shadow of its big sister, Glasnevin Cemetery (Dublin’s biggest cemetery) but I think it deserves a bit of the spotlight. It’s a beautiful slice of Victorian Dublin. It’s often compared to Highgate Cemetery in London and Paris’Père Lachaise and rightly so, it gives off the same sort of moody derelict atmosphere.
It’s an impressive example of Victorian architecture and symbolism, it even features quite a few famous Dublin characters as well as a very spooky vault…
Mount Jerome was created in the early 19th century as an answer to the worryingly increase of deaths due to the cholera outbreaks of the time. Despite being non-denominational in its original plan, it quickly became the Protestant cemetery.
You see Mount Jerome was located right in the middle of a rich and affluent neighbourhood of Dublin. Walking through the cemetery’s old part today, you can admire the big vaults and tomb stones of the rich families of the time.
Mount Jerome had to wait until the 1920s and the establishment of the Irish Free State to see its first Catholic burial. Since then, beautiful Celtic crosses have stood alongside Victorian features (urns, angels, wreaths, obelisks and other Egyptian inspired structures). And if you look closely, you could even spot some masonic symbols (skulls and hands).
My favourite kind of memorials though are the ones that tell a little story about the deceased. On top of one of the structures stands a howling dog, it is said that the animal was found inconsolable on the shoreline where his master had drowned (see picture below). Or there is this vault which was fitted with a bell and a chain for a lady who had the phobia of being buried alive.
Mount Jerome has also quite a few famous residents. First off, keeping with the Halloween theme, there is Sheridan Le Fanu, a writer specialised in ghost stories. He is one of the founder of the genre and was a huge influence on his peers, most notably Bram Stoker, author of Dracula. You may have seen a google doodle dedicated to him recently as this year marks his bicentenary.
The cemetery counts also among its ranks playwright J.M. Synge, author of The Playboy of the Western World, the Guinness family vault and Oscar Wilde‘s father. You will find on Mount Jerome’s website handy maps (1 & 2) that will help you plan your visit and locate all the memorials that spike your interest.
Did you know that the real Mr Darcy was Irish? His name was Thomas Langlois Lefroy and he rests in a vault just next to the chapel in Mount Jerome. This member of the bar from Limerick had a few flirtatious encounters with Jane Austen. She was so deeply impacted that it is said she based Pride and Prejudice‘s brooding hero on her Irish suitor.
When I was a teenager, I used to have volleyball training just next to a cemetery. One evening my friend (hi Sandra, if you’re reading!) and I found out that there was a passage between the stadium and the cemetery and sneaked inside.
I may sound like the biggest chicken but walking in a graveyard at night is quite terrifying. We barely dared looking inside the vaults through the stained windows. I remember having to hold my breath while my eyes were getting accustomed to the darkness until I could discern the lines of a thankfully empty room.
Had I have to look into the Dycer vault in Mount Jerome then, I’m pretty sure my heart would have stopped on the spot. Even in clear daylight and knowing well what’s inside, I can’t help breaking into cold sweat when my eyes are met with those of a gawping skeleton with a twisted spine.
The vault belongs to Edward Dycer, a veterinarian surgeon from 19th century Dublin but apparently those bones are one of his relatives’. The reason they are exposed is due to the fact that the coffin hadn’t been lined with lead.
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of this jewel of Victorian Dublin. What do you think of visiting cemeteries? Is that something you do on holidays when discovering a new place? Or do you find it too creepy? Or maybe disrespectful? I’d love to read what you think on the subject.
Mount Jerome Cemetery – website
158 Harold’s Cross Road
Bus: 9, 16, 49 54A
Opening Hours: 8.30am – 4pm (Mon-Sat) / 10am – 4pm (Sun & Bank Holidays)