Ancient Monument in the Hospital Fields, Dublin

[From the Dublin Penny Journal, Vol. 1, No. 9, August 25, 1832]

Our metropolitan readers need hardly be informed that the burial ground adjoining the Royal Hospital, vulgarly known by the name of "Bully's-acre," is probably the most extensive cemetery in the British empire. It has been for some ages the last home of the poor inhabitants of Dublin, and will be long remembered in our future annals in connection with the frightful pestilence, which we humbly trust is now about to cease its devastations, for the awful number of its victims which were deposited here within the last few months.

It may not be however so generally known that this cemetery, though now exclusively allotted to those whose fate in life has been unhappy, as if even in death the rich disdained to commingle, was once the chief burial place of the proudest class of men that perhaps ever figured in the great drama of human existence - the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem. Their establishment or hospital at Kilmainham, which was their chief seat in Ireland, was considered to he the noblest pile of architecture in the kingdom, and their possessions were as vast as their ambition was boundless. Of the former there are no remains; in an age but little remarkable for good taste, it was destroyed to erect on its site that less beautiful but perhaps more useful structure, the Royal Hospital for invalids! and of the latter the citizens of Dublin are allowed to enjoy a considerable portion-the Phoenix park-as a place of pleasant and healthful recreation-and a noisier and more beautiful spot for this purpose is not possessed by any city in Europe. It is our intention in future numbers to make both of those places the subject of descriptive sketches, but our present object lies with the ancient cemetery. Before even the establishment of the Knights at Kilmainham, this burial place belonged to a monastery founded in the sixth or seventh century by St. Magnen, from whom it received its name. In a place so ancient therefore, and so appropriated to the noble dead, we might naturally expect to find many interesting ancient monumental remains, but in this we are disappointed-one tomb alone, that of which we have prefixed a sketch, has survived the destroying hand of time, preserved as it would appear, by some traditional veneration that was attached to it. In fact it has been, and is still popularly supposed to be the tomb of the great and favourite Hero of our early history-that warrior Prince who died for his country in the arms of victory at the great battle of Clontarf. Tradition has however in this partly erred, for according to all our ancient historic authorities, the body of Brian was conveyed with great honour and ceremony to the Cathedral Church of Armagh, and there interred. But it appears from the same sources that others of the Irish princes slain in that great battle were really buried at Kilmainham, and that this monument was erected to mark the place of their interment. The chief of these was the Prince Murrough, the son of Brian, who, according to the Munster book of battles, by Mac Liag, was buried at the west end of the chapel, with a long stone standing on one end of his tomb, on which his name was written. Of this inscription there are now no legible traces; the stone being a coarse grained granite, and unfavourable to its preservation; and even the true lover's knot, represented in our sketch, is only to be traced when thrown into a favourable light by the noon day sun; at other times, it would not attract attention. This knot was in those times, a symbol of eternity, and it does not occur, at least in this form, at an earlier age than the eleventh century, nor does the style of its sculpture indicate a later one. There can be little doubt therefore that this cross, for such it was in its perfect state, was either the monument of Murrough, or of his son Turlough, who was slain in the same battle; and other circumstances corroborate this conclusion. About forty years ago, having fallen from its pedestal, it was again set up, on which occasion a number of coins of the Danish kings-the only minted money then generally in use- were found at its base; and with them a fine sword of the same period, which perhaps we are justified in calling the sword of Murrough O'Brian, it belonged at all events, to one of his compatriots. This sword was deposited with the then commander of the forces, who had it placed in the hall belonging to his apartments, where it still remains, a highly interesting though hitherto unnoticed memorial.

The monument at Kilmainham has, at least with the multitude, acquired an additional interest and celebrity, as the sepulchral monument of another hero, who equally fought for the honour and renown of his country, and who perhaps deserved his glory as well as any of his more illustrious predecessors, for man is the same at all times, and a hero is but a hero still. After a lapse of more than eight hundred years, the tomb of Murrough received the mortal remains of Dan Dannelly! and the victor of Clontarf and the victor of Kildare; the Pride of the Aristocracy and the Idol of the People sleep in the same grave. We shall not easily forget the enthusiastic admiration which we saw expressed for Sir Daniel by his numerous admirers on the occasion of his victories-those who love popularity might well envy it. We remember well his triumphal entry into Dublin, after his great battle on the Curragh. That indeed was an ovation. He was borne on the shoulders of the people, his mother, like a Roman matron, leading the van in the procession, and with all the pride of a second Agrippina, she frequently slapped her naked bosom, exposed for the occasion, and exultingly exclaimed, ' there's the breast that suck'd him-there's the breast that suck'd him!!!' Was the pride of a mother ever more admirably expressed!

Nor shall we soon forget the simple and pathetic lament his friend Dr. Brennan on his death-or its superiority in terseness and effect to that amplification of the same sentiment by our own poet Moore on the death of Pitt and Fox:-

"We are fallen on gloomy days-
Star after star decays." &c.

The words of Brennan, uttered with a sigh, were:-
"Oh blood and--what has the world come to;
Napoleon is dead-and they have buried Dan Dannelly!"