In Abington Cemetery, near Murroe in County Limerick, at six o’clocklast Wednesday morning, the beautifully carved memorial to Catríona Kiely was the magnet that immediately drew me.
If a headstone is erected to ensure that the name of the deceased is spoken and remembered, this unique piece of craftsmanship worked.
“When there was a death in a small village, everyone knew about it. But with mass migration to the city, the old assumptions didn’t hold true. In a city, there were deaths every day. Here, a person could live unknown and die unnoticed, even by neighbours in the same district. In response to this bewildering new reality the memorial became more important and, for those who could afford it, more elaborate. It announced and recorded the loss; it was a way of keeping the memory alive, of fixing it in a place which would otherwise all too quickly forget. It was a statement of belonging, and an affirmation of individual significance. The city was always restless, shifting, reinventing itself, and a stone represented stillness and permanence. To publish a person’s name and dates there was a bid for posterity. The life might be extinguished, but the firmness of stone, and the work of the mason’s chisel, would testify forever that they had lived.”
These Silent Mansions: A Life In Graveyards
Jean Sprackland, 2020