Soon after I arrived in Northern Ireland, I managed to find my grandparents’ grave in Belfast City Cemetery, and I tidy it up from time to time. I’d been told there were some others, and had wandered around a few times trying to find them, with no luck. I’d never quite got around to making inquiries about them, so when I saw that the City Council was holding a Visitor’s Day at the cemetery today, including a tracing service, I rang them.
They discovered three other graves: my great great grandfather and his wife, who lived in Sydenham; my great grandfather, his wife and a daughter who never married, who lived in Ballyhackamore; and a brother of my great grandfather, and his wife, who lived in Belmont.
The staff were extremely helpful and seemed genuinely interested in what they were doing. The day was well organised, with each inquirer being given a map with the location of the graves marked, and the names and dates of death written on the back. Staff were also available to take people to the graves.
I gather this is the second Visitors’ Day, and from what I saw it was proving very popular, despite the rain. The initiative hopes to send out a message that the cemetery is safe for all to visit. Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley, who has written a book about the cemetery, said:
We hope particularly that anyone who, because of political or other circumstances, has not visited for some years will come along.
To me, that’s real 'community relations'. Unfortunately I did find that ‘my’ three graves had been damaged, hard to say whether due to vandalism or lack of upkeep. Otherwise, they were not too overgrown and I’m sure that over the years I can continue to keep an eye on them and perhaps repair them at some point.