Saturday, 5 March 2016

Arbour Hill Cemetery #1

Arbour Hill's military cemetery is the last resting place of 14 of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising. It is currently undergoing a revamp.

The magnificent old yews - thick, tall, with flat tops, more like a maze than a line of trees - have been cut down, to be replaced by much skinnier specimens. Presumably the idea is to open out the space for the forthcoming centenary ceremonies, but I was sad to see them go.

Here are the "before" and "after" pics...

One welcome addition will be some benches - surprisingly, perhaps, the grounds never had any before. It's a popular place for locals to walk their dogs, prams and buggies. The above photo shows (far right) an incongruous viewing tower from Arbour Hill prison next door.

Untouched in the current renovations are the cenotaph - a wall of limestone with the text of the Proclamation of Ireland, hand-carved by sculptor Michael Biggs - and the granite terrace on what was once the prison yard.

At the heart of the terrace is a patch of grass, the burial site of the rebel leaders: Thomas Clarke, Thomas Mac Donagh, Pádraig Pearse, Edward Daly, Michael O’Hanrahan, William Pearse, Joseph Mary Plunkett, John MacBride, Con Colbert, Éamonn Ceannt, Seán Heuston, Michael Mallin, James Connolly and Seán Mac Diarmada.

The website explains that there was growing pressure on the fledgling Irish State to erect a suitable memorial in the cemetery, which "was a place of pilgrimage" but wasn't officially open to the public.

The Department of Defence eventually handed responsibility for the plot to the Office of Public Works in 1948. After extensive re-landscaping in 1949, the present design was approved in 1954. 

The memorial park was opened the following year, and says that Michael Biggs's memorial wall was completed in 1964. US President John F. Kennedy laid a wreath at the memorial on 28 June 1963 during his visit to Ireland.

Visiting times

8 am to 4 pm (weekdays), with later opening times of 11 am to 4 pm on Saturdays and 9.30 am to 4 pm on Sundays.