|Cemetery Project Establishes
Limerick’s Social History
Special to The Irish American Post
The first in a series of projects aimed at documenting the social history
of Limerick through one of the country’s largest cemeteries has been completed.
Limerick Mayor Kathleen Leddin officially launched an online, searchable
database of 70,000 people buried at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery, reflecting
the work by staff from Limerick City Archives in conjunction with the History
Department of Mary Immaculate College. The organizations have spent two
years manually transcribing thousands of handwritten records of those buried
at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery between 1855 and 2008. The records include
the name, age, address and grave location of those buried in the 164-year-old
Other projects underway include an illustrated publication outlining
the social history of Limerick City through public submissions of photographs
and stories relating to those buried in the cemetery. The book will be
launched in April, 2014, as part of a major conference on cemeteries, which
is being organized in conjunction with Limerick being named Ireland’s first
City of Culture next year.
Meanwhile, work is presently underway to develop a publicly-available
online map of all burial plots at Mount St. Lawrence Cemetery. Students
and academics from the Geography and History Departments of Mary Immaculate
College are working together with Limerick City Archives on the project.
Of the project, Mayor Leddin acknowledged the work of Limerick City
Archives and Mary Immaculate College in creating "a lasting and precious
record of Limerick’s social history."
"Our cemeteries and the stories surrounding those who are buried there
contain vital links to our past and therefore, it is important that these
stories and the final resting places of our citizens are documented, "
she said. "This project represents the first in a series of projects aimed
at making it easier for members of the public, both at home and abroad,
to locate information relating to their deceased relatives," Leddin added.
Mount St. Lawrence graveyard, located in the South Liberties, has been
the primary place of burial in Limerick City for all strata of society
since its opening in 1849. Its development was initiated as burial ground
capacity elsewhere in the city was placed under pressure following cholera
epidemics in the 1830s and the Great Famine in the 1840s. An extension
to Mount St. Lawrence was opened in 1960. The management of the cemetery
was transferred from the Church to the Limerick City Council in 1979.
Mount St. Lawrence contains plots reserved for particular groups, including
religious and diocesan graves and the Republican plot. One of the largest
is the Good Shepherd Plot where 241 women who had passed through its reformatory
for girls, industrial school and Magdalene asylum on Clare Street were
buried. They were unmarked until a campaign resulted in the erection of
markers listing by name the women interred there.
Commenting on the newly launched online database of burials at the cemetery,
Jacqui Hayes, Limerick City archivist, said: "The records contain the names,
addresses at time of death, ages, position of the grave and dates of death
of all those buried in the cemetery. This information makes them an invaluable
resource for those conducting genealogical research on the Limerick area."
She also indicated that the records offered a unique tool for those
conducting research into the social history of Limerick and mortality rates
for all ages in Limerick City and its environs for over a century and a
"The address of the deceased gives an indication of the footfall of
various institutions including the mental hospital and the County Infirmary.
These are invaluable in the case of Limerick Union Workhouse whose admissions
records are no longer available," Hayes said. This feature of the records
reflects the political and consequently geographical changes which took
place in the city of Limerick, for example the renaming of the streets
over time, she concluded.
For Hayes, this project has been more than merely an academic study,
but one with a personal side, feeling that the deceased came alive for
her as she organized the archive.
"Cemeteries are about people, all sorts of people and each one of them
gets a line in the burial register. They all have history whether they
lived in the lanes of Limerick and couldn't afford a headstone or were
a former merchant or mayor of the city. They are all recorded in the cemetery,"
she pointed out.
Hayes regularly visits the actual cemetery and walks among the plots,
noting names she transcribed earlier. "It’s amazing to get the location
of the grave from the register and then find it physically in the cemetery.
It gives me a sense of respect for the lives they lived and a real sense
of the past being very close," she said.
These are emotional experiences, especially with the Good Shepherd plot,
where the Magdalene girls are buried. "It is now quite a beautiful spot
with each girls name inscribed in a series of large slabs. It’s a simple
dignity, having your name recorded. But prior to 2005, there was only a
single marker noting that the plot of the former inhabitants of the Magdalene
Laundry," Hayes added.
Mount St. Lawrence’s separate Republican plot also has a story to tell,
said Hayes. "To provide a focus for Republican commemorations. Dunlin had
set an example in 1901 with the funeral of Irish Republican leader. James
Stephens. Buried at Mount St. Lawrence were Limerick mayors George Clancy
and Michael O’ Callaghan, along with citizen Joseph Donohue, all killed
by the Black and Tans in the notorious "Curfew Murders" on March 7, 1921.
There are 21 people now buried in the Mount St. Lawrence Republican
plot, including a few wives, The last burial was 1968. Those buried in
the Republican plot were not always interred there when they died but were
exhumed and re-interred there at a later date, according to Hayes.
Among other famous personalities buried at Mount St. Lawrence include
65 mayors of Limerick. There are a number of additional burials from the
Republican era, such as IRA fighter Sean South who died in an attack on
a Royal Irish Constabulary post in 1957. Among Limerick politicians are
Jim Kemmy and Donacha O’ Malley; as well as Michael Hogan, the Bard of
Thomond, and Maurice Lenihan who wrote the classic History of Limerick.
There are also deceased athletes representing the strong tradition sport
in Limerick, including those noted in rugby, Gaelic games, horse racing,
soccer and rowing. They include Pa Healy, Limerick's greatest sportsman,
who excelled in rugby, boxing and rowing; and the Hartys, among of the
greatest horse-racing families in Ireland.
"There are many ordinary individual buried there who all had interesting
stories in their own right," Harley agreed, indicating that Mount St. Lawrence
its is still an active cemetery, although burial numbers are now relatively
|The book on the project will be published by Limerick City Archives
(15 euro) with a launch date set for April 25, 2014. Books can be ordered
via O Mahony's Bookshop (www.omahonys.ie)
beginning on April 26. An online searchable database may be viewed at