Cemetery: A short cut to a dead loss

By Jimmy Rhatigan

OUR forefathers and mothers who now occupy a beautiful place titled God’s Garden are badly in need of a short back and sides.
Local bishops, mayors of our city and eminent brothers in writing, Michael and John Banim are among those resting in peace at the Old St John’s Cemetery on the Dublin Road.
The holy souls must feel like all of us felt as a pandemic raged and barbers and hairdressers were in lockdown, clippers in closets, scissors silenced.
They badly need a haircut.
Or at least they could do with a lawnmower, flock of sheep or a tribe of goats to gobble up the near three feet tall sheaves of a type of Scutch Grass that is desecrating their final place of rest. Like we all looked when barbers were banned from working in the name of good health, the graves of our literati of centuries ago and members of Ye Faire Citie and county families are wild, wispy, weather-beaten.

Dignity restored
There was a collective sigh of relief when tonsorial artists were allowed back to work and hairdressing salons re-opened.
The sights were weird and wonderful, people queuing for a perm, cut, colour, hot towel shave or blow dry.
There won’t be any queues as dignity is restored to our ancestors. Community volunteers for whom the ancient burial grounds was out of bounds because of Coronavirus are set to return, not with hot towels or combs but with mowers, weed eaters and clippers.
Those who have gone before us deserve to be treated with respect and honour, many of them talented members of respected families who do not have kith or kin or even a 10th cousin to tend to their graves.

To be fair, the cemetery which has a selection of wonderfully crafted headstones is usually well coiffed and cleansed by young workers.

Sign of life
When The Kilkenny Observer visited the cemetery, a near neighbour of UPMC Nowlan Park GAA Ground, on a tour of duty we enjoyed what would perhaps be an archaeologist’s dream amble down Heritage Street.
The only sign of life was a sprightly and friendly little boy collecting conkers with the help of his loving grandad.
A fillip was a fantastic collection of wonderfully hoven tombstones, a credit to the artisans of another era.
Headstones are, not surprisingly in anything but pristine condition, crying out for a visit from a stone doctor, sandblasting and polishing to show them off in undoubted splendour.
We stumbled on the aftermath of an alfresco party, a selection of empty lager and beer cans that once contained a mix of cheap

Over indulgence
We couldn’t but feel that any drinking session was a coming together of local denizens of different generations, holy souls from another time and today’s souls who may be lost or at least straying.
Coincidentally, we had earlier met a group of very drunken young people lingering near the main entrance to St Kieran’s Cemetery.
It was pitiful but certainly not our wont to be critical. Prayers of hope and salvation would have been apt?
That we should find the remnants of a booze-up in another cemetery or churchyard only a short distance from St Kieran’s just may be a reminder that over indulgence can lead to an early grave, a dead loss?
We did not condemn those who had supped.
We respected a well-worn adage.
There but for the grace of God.

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