Graveyard seats may seem an unusual topic for a blog post, but in today's installment Irish writer Mattie Lennon explores the idea of adding seats to Irish cemeteries.
Graveyards, both old and new, are an integral feature not only of the Irish rural landscape, but are also painstakingly preserved and cherished amidst urban city sprawl. I believe Irish people feel a deep spiritual connection with the past by visiting graveyards. But I have never visited a cemetery in Ireland where seats are provided for loved ones to rest, contemplate and connect with the past.
Since graveyards are such powerful reminders of the importance of family and our ancestors, Mattie explores if it would be fitting for Irish graveyards to provide a place to sit beside our dearly departed....
Taphophiles and Graveyard Seats By Mattie Lennon:
"Personally I have no bone to pick with graveyards, I take the air there willingly, perhaps more willingly than elsewhere, when take the air I must." ~ Mary Beckett
It would appear that people of a literary bent are fascinated by graveyards. And why wouldn’t they. One intellectual told me that the only place they can concentrate properly is in a cemetery. One friend of mine who is fairly handy with the pen but not so sure about the existence of a hereafter would spend all day in burial grounds. Being on holidays with him is a bit like being with the Bronte sisters. He has a good sense of humor and is not offended when I call him a “Tombstone Tourist.” Although he once informed me that the correct term for someone who loves cemeteries is “a taphophile." He then went into pedantic mode and informed me that his interest is known as “graving.”
While I don’t fully share my friend’s penchant for burial grounds I have accompanied him on several “graving” trips. (On one occasion a gravedigger took a look at me and said, “It’s hardly worth your while going home.”) I found the experience most interesting and I can appreciate the peace and tranquility to be found there.
In his poem A Country Graveyard in County Kerry, Martin Delany captures it very well in the following stanza ...
"I have been through this graveyard many times savouring
The withering flowers wafting in the wind, the weeding
Of old graves, the scent of mown grass on sun beamed days,
The laughter of men digging new highways to eternity."
Thomas Gray described his surroundings in vivid detail in Elegy in a Country Churchyard. And while I have you, take a look at the line,
“The ploughman homeward plods his weary way.”
Now, have a go at juggling the words around. You may be even surprised at how many ways you can use those words while being grammatically correct and conveying the same message.
It is claimed by oneirologists that if you dream that you are standing, walking or sitting in a graveyard you can expect a peaceful, quiet and happy life. Standing and walking is no bother but our burial places don’t offer many places to sit. In many countries you will find seats in graveyards. In the Jewish cemetery, many graves have a seat at their foot, but in Ireland it is not the norm. There are of course some with seating, New Abbey Cemetery in Kilcullen, County Kildare and the Huguenot Cemetery in Dublin are examples , but they are the exception.
Recently, an applicant from Gortnagluggin, County Limerick, was refused permission to erect a seat close to their family plot in St. Ita's graveyard, Killeady. On learning of this your humble scribe contacted every local authority on the island of Ireland. And guess what. The aforementioned was the only refusal for such a project in the last ten years.
Many Council representatives emphasied that they hadn’t ever refused permission for a cemetery seat. “Limerick You’re a Lady” how are ye.
There is no reason not to have more seating in Irish cemeteries. There is no legislation to prohibit the erection of seating provided it’s in a safe location.
I’m sure those who drafted the Rules and Regulations for the Regulation of Burial Grounds, in 1888, did not envisage the families of the deceased being deprived of an opportunity to sit down beside their loved ones.
In most burial grounds in the UK, families are allowed to sponsor a memorial seat to be placed in the cemetery and planning permission is not required for this. The seat is only sponsored and therefore remains the property of the Cemetery.
Thank You Mattie:
I love Mattie's stories, and I always learn something new from him. Today's graveyard lesson expanded my vocabulary. I had never before heard of a taphophile or a oneirologist.
Now I'm at a stage in life where ....
I'm learning something new everyday,
all the while trying to remember
what it is I learned yesterday.
So for the next few days I'll be asking myself, "what is it you call those dream experts?
And I might even dare say I am a taphophile. Previously I shared how graveyards remind me of Christmas. And I confess I continue to visit graveyards regularly in Ireland. I stroll around these outdoor historical archives, inhaling the fresh air and taking in the past.
Perhaps you too are a "tombstone tourist" ????
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
If you enjoyed this post here are some other stories and tributes you might enjoy.