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Gone, not forgotten

• It was last Wednesday morning, after hearing on the radio of the sad passing of Aengus Fanning, that I attended the funeral Mass of a close relative in Clonskeagh and, later, the burial in Glasnevin Cemetery.

The day was mild and bright; encouraging the crowd to linger on, while engaged in chat and reminisces of the deceased. In the meantime, my patience was waning; more absorbed in the historic surroundings, soon I was lost in the midst of the thousands of headstones.

Deciphering the varied inscriptions, I made my way through the 124-acre walled estate, home to the graves of 1.2 million people since 1832.

Historic, famous and infamous names were intermingled with those of rich and poor. The variety, design and density of headstones intrigued me most. O'Donovan-Rossa, Big Jim Larkin, Eamon de Valera, Michael Collins, Maud Gonne, Roger Casement and Cathal Brugha are but a few of the well-known people I came across.

Peculiarly, the last one to attract my attention was the most famous and obvious of them all -- the 170ft round tower at the entrance, overhanging the tomb of the Liberator Daniel O'Connell. Despite family tradition he was buried here, while his heart was buried in Rome.

The coincidence of my day's outing was a report in the Irish Independent that evening. It read: "Descendant of the Liberator, Una O'Connell (85), who was married to the great-great grandson of Daniel O'Connell, is being returned from London, by her relatives, to be buried in the family tomb on Derrynane Abbey Island in Co Kerry."

In accordance with her wishes, half of Una O'Connell's ashes were buried in a coffin at the island-graveyard last Wednesday while the other half were scattered on the River Thames.

Her son, also Daniel, remarked of his great-great-great grandfather -- the famous campaigner for Catholic Emancipation and the Repeal of the Act of Union -- "I wish there were more like him around at the moment. He had more leadership in his little finger than the rest of them put together."

I thought, what a pity the second half of Una O'Connell's ashes were not scattered over the Liberator's famous tomb in Glasnevin Cemetery, some over O'Connell Street and a good sprinkling thrown to the winds over Leinster House. Hopefully, it might act as a liberating relic for the Irish People from current dictatorship and injustice.

James Gleeson
Thurles, Co Tipperary

Irish Independent