Why the 1916 Leaders are buried at Arbour Hill Cemetery
The leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising are buried in Arbour Hill cemetery and not in Glasnevin cemetery because back in 1916, Arbour Hill was a British Army barracks and the plot where the leaders are buried was behind the British Army cemetery and was part of the prison yard. After the leaders were executed at Kilmainham gaol, their bodies were not returned to their families, instead they were moved to Arbour Hill, where a large pit had been dug and the bodies buried together with quicklime added to the graves, which would speed up decomposition. This caused widespread anger at the time, the public were already furious at the execution of so many and their burial in unconsecrated ground caused further anger.(1)
The British Army officials did not reveal where the 1916 leaders were buried as General Maxwell stated he did not want the graves becoming martyrs’ shrines. When Ireland gained independence in 1921 and after the Civil War, Arbour Hill became a place of commemoration for the new Irish State. In the 1950’s, the grave site layout and 1916 limestone Irish Proclamation was installed by the Office of Public Works. (2)
When John F. Kennedy visited Ireland in 1962, he visited Arbour Hill cemetery to honour the 1916 leaders and laid a wreath.
Directions to Arbour Hill Cemetery from Heuston Station
From Heuston Station, you can walk there in less than 15 minutes.
When leaving Heuston, take a left and across the liffey river at Sean Heuston bridge, (the luas bridge) and walk across to the Aishling hotel, after the Hotel take the first left Arbour Hill and walk up passed Montpelier Hill, then take a right and walk along for about 400 metres, you will pass Arbour Hill prison and then you’ll see the Church of the Defence Forces and the cemetery is behind the Church.
Directions to Arbour Hill Cemetery from Dublin City Centre
You can hop on a luas tram, the red line, and get off at the Museum stop and then walk up behind the Collins Barracks and Arbour Hill Cemetery is located behind the Barracks.
Bus Route(s): Nos. 37, 38, 39 from city centre will also bring you close to the Arbour Hill cemetery.
Head stones from British soldiers that line the boundary walls of the Arbour hill cemetery as the head stones fell down over the years, they were lined up against the wall.
A cedar tree planted in 2003, by the Lebanese Ambassador to Ireland, to commemorate all Irish Defence Forces personnel, who died serving in the Lebannon.
The graveyard feels more like a park, its nicely kept, there is one religious statue of Jesus.
The green grass in the middle of the photo is the grave plots of the leaders, 14 of them are buried here, the wall to the back is made of Wicklow granite and on it, the words of the Proclamation of Independence as read by Padraig Pearse is engraved onto the wall in Irish and English, with a gold engraved cross in middle. I stood and read all the Proclamation, its such a great speech, very rousing. The Irish tricolour flag was at half mast today as a mark of respect for former Taoiseach Albert Reynolds who passed away in 2014.
Graves of 14 of the Leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising, also William Pearse, a Soldier in the Rising, he was not a senior figure in the Rising, he was executed as he was Padraig Pearse’s brother.
Arbour Hill Cemetery is well worth a visit to see the last resting place of the leaders of the 1916 Rising and I would also recommend a visit to Glasnevin cemetery and get a guided tour.
Images & text: melcoo.com
Blog post originally published in August 2014, updated in April 2017