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'Dead interesting' tours tell untold history of Glasnevin Cemetery

The lesser-known history of Glasnevin Cemetery will be the focus of the 'Dead Interesting' tour
Gareth McKeown

A woman who died once but was buried twice and the last Irish winner at Wimbledon feature in a new tour of Dublin's Glasnevin Cemetery telling the stories of some of its less well known inhabitants.

The 'Dead Interesting' tour aims to offer fresh insights away from the big names of Irish history such as Daniel O'Connell, Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera.

It features figures such as Maria Higgins, who died once yet was buried twice in Glasnevin in a complicated case of fraud; Irish chaplain Michael Morrison who witnessed the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp; Frank Stoker, a doubles winner at Wimbledon in the 1890s as well as an Irish rugby international; and Frank De Groot, who dramatically cut the ribbon and opened Sydney Harbour Bridge in 1932 when he wasn't meant to.

The 90-minute guided walking tour also visits the Hodgens family vault that was used as an arms store by the IRA during the War of Independence.

The Dublin Brigade used it as a dump right up to the truce, with a considerable quantity of revolvers, grenades and ammunition stored in a coffin unbeknownst to the British military.

Visitors will also hear about the Phoenix Park murders of 1882, the Church Street tenement collapse of 1913, the history of body snatching at Glasnevin and the Seapoint tragedy of 1836.

Conor Dodd, lead historian at Glasnevin, said the tour offers an opportunity to see the cemetery in a new way.

"The key objective of the Dead Interesting tour is to inform the visitor of what is around them, to open their eyes to the diverse heritage that the cemetery holds and get them to start noticing the things that make the cemetery a unique place," he said.

"Alongside this, it is an opportunity for those who have perhaps already visited the cemetery to see it in a new way, separate from the big names of Irish history that sometimes dominate the limelight.

"The tour will start with a basic background to the history of the cemetery and particularly O'Connell's involvement and the cemetery committee is a place to start and also sets us up to begin talking about the way in which it has developed over almost 200 years.

"The architecture of the O'Connell Tower, the mortuary chapel and the monument of Cardinal McCabe is also discussed.

"We will then take a trip to visit some of our most interesting residents and discuss the background to some of Ireland's most ‘dead interesting' people."

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