The Officers’ Cemetery was the designated burial ground for all residents of the Royal Hospital from 1680 until in the early 19th century when a new military cemetery purely for privates and NCO pensioners was established North of Bully’s Acre. The original Royal Hospital cemetery then became exclusively for the use of Officers and their families.
Some of the Royal Hospitals civilian workers also made special requests to be buried in the Officers’ Cemetery. The area of the cemeteries was more than likely part of a larger burial ground that crossed both sides of the Western Avenue that now divides the Officers’ cemetery from the public Burial ground of Bully’s Acre.
The Parish Church of St John more than likely had a small burial plot around it contained by a curvilinear boundary ditch, this graveyard may have endured once the Hospitaller Priory was abandoned and the burials simply migrated over time to occupy a much larger site. Evidence that point towards this development is the presence of a head stone dedicated to a Hugh and Hive Hackett in the Officers’ Cemetery dating to 1652.
There is a headstone in the Officers cemetery dedicated to William Proby who died in 1700, a veteran of the battle of the Boyne and later a pensioner in the Royal Hospital. At the time of his burial the cemetery accommodated both officers and rank and file pensioners.
There is a monument to commemorate the Blackburn family that died on the HMS Leinster when it was torpedoed in WWI shortly after leaving port. Lieutenant Colonel Charles Harold Blackburn and his two children died when the HMS Leinster was torpedoed leaving Dublin bay. An estimated 564 passengers lost their lives when the ship sank on October 10th 1918.
The maritime history of Ireland and its long litany of disasters is something that an island nation can never completely forget. The work Ghost Ship in the IMMA Collection by Dorothy Cross taps into that fear of the sea and the darkness of unknown currents in the depths where light can barely reach. A light ship in luminescent silhouettte gives us hope that our journey across the cold dark waters will not end in tragedy.
The IMMA Heritage Trail is kindly supported by An Chomhairle Oidhreachta / The Heritage Council and the Office of Public Works. OSI Historic map details are provided courtesy of Tailte Éireann.
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