Taphophilia: from the Greek “Taphos” (Tomb) is a word recently coined to describe a cemetery enthusiast. There are many manifestations of the syndrome. It can encompass Photography, genealogy, taking rubbings of headstones, casual mindful wandering among the monuments while reading the inscriptions are all symptoms. Such activities could be classified as morbid, but it can be rewarding and thought provoking.
Ascending the steep climb from Lucan Village towards the townland of Esker, through the neat and varied suburban streetscape, the traveller will happen upon two cemeteries which stand to the left and right of the roadway. One stands behind a rubble stone wall, the other behind a pebble dashed block wall.
The one behind the rubble wall was established in 1890, and was known as “Esker New Cemetery”.
Esker New Cemetery
It was still known by this name in 1938. Later, a burial ground directly opposite was established – becoming the er… “New New” Esker Cemetery. Unsurprisingly, the original 1890 site is now known as the old cemetery. What these will be called when a proposed graveyard (under construction) is established beside the original cemetery is anyone’s guess!
Nomenclature aside, burial grounds are an invaluable source of local lore and knowledge, and the 1890 cemetery at Esker is no exception. It is in a triangular formation, with a small triangular “innocents” plot for child burials within the boundary of consecrated land at the point furthest from the adjoining road. The caretaker’s house still stands, although it is currently derelict.
1938 map showing triangular layout
Two burials are of note. One is that of 40 year old Annie Young. Her headstone is unusual in that the cause of her death is recorded:
A search of the Irish Newspaper Archives (available in the County Library, Tallaght) provides a contemporary report of how the unfortunate lady met her end. This is how her death was reported. At the time the piece was written, her name was unknown:
News report: Cork Examiner, 18th September 1899
Another notable interment is that of Pte Peter Casey of the 2nd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles, who succumbed to wounds he received in action. He had been shipped back to the London War Hospital in Epsom, and died there on the 6th of October 1916.
Pte. Casey doesn’t have the usual Commonwealth War Grave headstone – presumably because his father, also Peter, had predeceased him so they were buried together in the family plot.
In Loving Memory of Peter Casey…
…Also his son, Peter, RIR, who died from wounds recd in action 6th Oct 1916 Aged 26 Years
Again The Irish Newspaper Archives provide his funeral details:
Dr. William Reville, writing in the Irish Times recently, wrote about the increasing popularity of cremation as opposed to burial:
“the tombstones of the dead stand among us as they themselves once did but if cemeteries vanish we will forget the dead and forget to consider their wishes and intentions”.
How unfortunate that would be.