The small graveyard of Kilranelagh is situated in County Wicklow, South Ireland, near Talbotstown. It is believed to be one of the first Irish Christian cemeteries and it is the resting place of some of its most famous local sons such as the last Lord of Powerscourt Turlough (Terence) O’Toole from the O’Toole Clan or those from the Clan O’Byrne (Clan Ranelagh).
While I was involved in the project “Work is Elsewhere” which brought me and my colleague to a nearby biological farm we went on an afternoon trip to the nearby hills. Drawn by curiosity discovered by chance, we came across the sign for the little cemetery and decided to follow it.
We came to it by a steep path. It was a hot summers day, and we had just spent a hard morning weeding on the farm. We saw a man making hay in the middle of the graves. That was quite surreal to me even, if I just came from a field. He couldn’t move the heavy bag through the back of a grave and I started shooting, wondering what would happen and what the reaction of the old man would be. I understood that he didn’t care much about the camera and so I followed him all the way down. Here the hay was loaded on a truck with the help of a young man who stood a top of it.
The old man started to talk to me with a strong Irish accent, from which I couldn’t understand all he was saying, but I did get that: “This door”, showing me two standing stones, with another between them at the bottom, “is the Door to Heaven. A legend says that each coffin buried here first has to go through that door, so that the person will reach Heaven. Once a lady died, but when her coffin passed trough the door she suddenly woke up and lived another seven years…” the old man smiles “…bringing great joy to her husband!”
I couldn’t find any other report about the story, so it might be a completely fake legend! But does it matter? It did not matter to me. Another story the old man told me was that of Sam MacAlastair, a brave man who immolated his own life to save that of Michael Dwyer during the 1798 rebellion: “Sam MacAlastair was in the same house with Michael Dwyer when the British came, he fought the enemy till the end so that Michael Dwyer had more time to escape, but he was later killed anyway”.
I have never seen anybody making hay in a graveyard before, but I have always wandered how the grass stayed so short…