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Saturday 24 February 2018

Guinness grave now a Mecca for Arthur fans

Tom Prendiville

THE long-forgotten grave of Arthur Guinness, founder of Ireland's national beer, has become a Mecca for discerning tourists.

Uncle Arthur rests peacefully near Hazelhatch, Co Kildare. He died in 1803 and was buried in a small country graveyard at Oughterard near Celbridge.

The tiny cemetery is located on a small hill surrounded by verdant countryside and dates from the 6th century, local historians claim.

Sadly the graveyard is a bit overgrown but it also contains the remnants of a Round Tower and numerous tombs.

Tourists and the curious who want to make the unusual pilgrimage have their work cut out because the small graveyard is not signposted.

Yet every day people from all over the globe make out the resting place; inspired by the worldwide Arthur's Day celebration, which started out as a one-off event but has now become an annual festival.

American visitors Doug Stein and Monica Iversson from Kansas City were glad they made the pilgrimage and got a bus from the city centre to Celbridge before embarking on a long meandering walk to the small graveyard.

"It is kind of neat and a fun thing to do. We heard about the graveyard through the internet so we thought. Hey! Why not! I quite like Guinness as a drink. It has been in so many movies about Ireland that you can't come here without trying it," explained Monica.

"I have no Irish blood in me but I do have lots of Irish beer in me. If you drink Guinness you got to pay your respects. For such a famous man it's kind of strange that his grave is not on any of the official tourist literature," added Doug.

The pair describe themselves as 'Punk Tourists' -- grabbing a cheap flight and then figuring out everything on the hoof from accommodation to seeking out offbeat pursuits and attractions that never feature in any official guidebook.

"It is becoming a real big thing. It is a more fun way to enjoy your vacation. By coming here today we got to see this beautiful lush countryside and a fairy fort, which was real neat. It's the way to go," added Monica.

Another visitor, Simon Fry, from Somerset, came on a bicycle and took out a video cam and bottle of Guinness to act as a theatrical prop for his home movie.

"I like visiting graveyards -- you never know who you are going to find buried there. It is a kind of [posthumous] celebrity spotting.

Arthur Guinness is buried alongside his wife Olivia, their children and grandchildren. The legend on the tomb to Arthur and his wife reads: "They lived universally beloved and respected and their memory will long be cherished by a numerous circle of friends, relations and descendants."

It could be added that he was also beloved by millions of pint drinkers over the past 250 years.

"This interest will undoubtedly grow as we continue Arthur's philanthropic legacy with the Arthur Guinness Fund. We are celebrating Arthur's Day again across Ireland, Malaysia, the Caribbean and the US on September 23," said Killian Burns from the Guinness Brewery.

Sunday Independent

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