Thursday, June 13, 2024

Remembering the 1,256 patients in St. Loman’s Hospital cemetery

Last Saturday, 5 November, 1,000 small white crosses and 1,000 daffodil bulbs were put in place in the cemetery in the grounds of St. Loman’s Hospital, Mullingar – the crosses and the daffodils symbolically represent the 1,256 patients who were interred in the cemetery between 1907 and 1970.

The putting in place of the crosses and the daffodils took place last Saturday morning, in advance of an interdenominational memorial service in the cemetery on Saturday afternoon, which was organised by relatives and by a small group of people working to have the cemetery and its original numbered white crosses restored as a fitting tribute to the patients buried there in less enlightened times.
Mullingar historian Ruth Illingworth was the master of ceremonies for Saturday afternoon’s memorial service, which was attended by a large number of people from Mullingar and surrounding areas, as well as relatives of the patients and some politicians.
She detailed the history of the cemetery since it opened in 1907 until the last of the burials, 46 years ago, in 1970.
Ruth also pointed out that many of the patients would have spent decades in the hospital, dying there, even though they should never have been admitted in the first place.
She pointed out that prejudices still existed and that hopefully ceremonies such as the Memorial Service would assist in righting the wrongs of the past and the present.
The Mayor of Mullingar, Cllr. John Shaw, gave an address at the start of the memorial service and welcomed all to the ceremonies.
Cllr. Shaw acknowledged that the cemetery had often been overlooked and neglected over the years and he hoped that Saturday’s memorial service would be the first of many ceremonies acknowledging the 1,256 patients interred there.
He pointed out that a relative of his own had spent time in St. Loman’s Hospital and that work remained to be done in improving attitudes to mental health and related conditions.
During the memorial service, Fr. Padraig McMahon, Adm., Mullingar, and the Revd. Alastair Graham, Rector, All Saints, Mullingar, led those present in prayers and readings before blessing all present.
Fr. McMahon blessed the graves during the memorial service.
On behalf of the organisers, Julianne Clarke thanked all who attended and all who assisted in making the memorial service possible.
Julianne is a great granddaughter of Julia Leonard (née Caffrey) who was a patient in the hospital, who died there in 1919, and whose grave is in the cemetery.
Also at the memorial service was a cousin of Julianne’s, Kathy Crinion, who is also a great-granddaughter of Julia Leonard.
Kathy sang a song in tribute to the patients at the conclusion of the ceremonies.
As previously reported in Topic, the first of the burials in the cemetery in the grounds of St. Loman’s Hospital was on Monday, 5 August, 1907 and the last of the burials was 63 years later, on Tuesday, 6 October, 1970, 46 years ago.
Prior to the opening of the St. Loman’s cemetery, patients were buried in the Famine Graveyard, adjacent to the Supply water way on the Castlepollard Road, Mullingar.
Up to 2011, the plots in the St. Loman’s Hospital cemetry were marked with numbered white crosses, with the numbers cross-referenced to a ledger in the hospital containing the names of all who were buried there, with a cemetery map showing where their plots were.
These crosses were removed in 2011 and it is the hope of the organisers of the memorial service that the crosses can be returned to mark again the graves of the 1,256 patients.
The map of the cemetery plots has been provided and identifies the location of each of the graves.

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