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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 21 December, 2014

Glasnevin historian Shane MacThomais dies

Colourful tour guide, passionate about preservation of cemetery’s legacy, passed away yesterday.

Updated 12.32

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Shane MacThomais surveying his beloved Glasnevin Cemetery in 2010. Image: Niall Carson/PA Images archive.

SHANE MACTHOMAIS, the high-profile resident historian for Glasnevin Cemetery, has passed away.

MacThomais’s entertaining and knowledgeable tours of the largest non-denominational graveyard in the country made him a popular figure among visitors and staff alike, and he was a regular voice on radio and in articles about the history of Glasnevin/Prospect Cemetery.

Glasnevin Trust confirmed to TheJournal.ie this morning that MacThomais had died suddenly yesterday. His body was discovered at Glasnevin Cemetery at around noon. He was just 46 years of age.

George McCullagh, CEO of Glasnevin Trust, told TheJournal.ie that MacThomais first came to the organisation on a FÁS scheme but “stood out – and was with us ever since, man and boy”.

McCullagh said:

The staff and I are absolutely devastated. He was a colleague but he was also a close personal friend. Shane absolutely loved Glasnevin.

He was our star.

He is survived by his daughter, mother, sister and brother.

Most recently, MacThomais was involved in plans for the refurbishment of the O’Connell Tower, a focal point in the cemetery. The tower was bombed by loyalist terrorists in 1971, knocking out a winding wooden staircase which once reached the windows at the top of the 168ft-structure.

In an interview with TheJournal.ie last Christmas, MacThomais said that a new staircase was being built and that he was looking forward to when visitors could once again gain access to the views from the top “to the Wicklow Mountains, up to the Cooleys or Mourne Mountains to the north and across the land to Meath”.

MacThomais himself was the first to see those views in decades, scaling the outside of the tower by ladder last year. He shared this picture of his feat with us:

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Image: Shane MacThomais/Glasnevin Trust.

Passionate about chronicling the ‘residents’ and history of Glasnevin and related cemeteries, MacThomais wrote a book in 2012 doing just that. His father Eamonn was also a well-known historian, and had a television series about the history of Dublin in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

At the publication of his book published by Mercier Press – entitled, with characteristic humour, Dead Interesting – MacThomais told the Southside People,

This has been both a professional and personal journey for me. I grew up surrounded by history through my father so it was a natural progression to do what I’m doing today. It’s nice to be able to carry on the family tradition and that love of history.

All proceeds from the book went towards restoration and maintenance of graves in Glasnevin.

A feature-length documentary about Glasnevin Cemetery and its history – which features interviews with Shane MacThomais – is currently in post-production.

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Shane MacThomais (back to camera) is seen here in May of last year giving a tour to Edward, the Duke of Kent. He was showing how the graves of a 1916 Easter Rising Volunteer, Edward Ennis, and a sergeant in the British Army Royal Dublin Fusileers, Patrick Dunne, who both died in 1916, lie side by side in Glasnevin Cemetery. Image: Julien Behal/PA Images

This was Shane relaying the tale of the death of Daniel O’Connell inside the crypt at the foot of the O’Connell Tower for Storymap Dublin in 2011:


via Storymap Dublin

Bombed staircase in O’Connell Tower at Glasnevin to be rebuilt>

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