Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Wednesday's Child: Francis Ball, aged 12

In June I wrote a post entitled 'Francis Ball: 1893-1905: "casemaker's son" lost' in which I give the details of the short life and early death of Francis Ball, brother to my maternal grandfather Patrick. On my second day in Ireland I went to Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin to visit family graves, to photograph interesting grave markers, and to find the grave of Francis Ball.

I spent many hours in Glasnevin that Sunday photographing the graves of those persons of great historic import, the mighty and the hallowed, those who played a significant role in changing the course of Irish history, and those whose participation is of perhaps less consequence. It was not until the afternoon that I ventured out to find the grave of little Francis Ball, a child who in all respects has been forgotten by history.

As I have previously noted, Glasnevin is a cemetery of massive proportion, with over one million people interred within its grounds; therefore, it is crucially important that you have in hand the grave number of the individual for whom you're searching. Along the stone wall which encircles the oldest part of the cemetery there are signs which bear numbers and letters creating a sort of grid which enables you to more easily find the one you seek. I had Francis's number in hand, "Latitude Y1, Longitude 8.5". I was confident I would find his grave and followed the signs along the wall until I found the one which would direct me to his plot.

The wall which surrounds the Prospect Cemetery section of Glasnevin
"Latitude Y1, Longitude 8.5"

Many cemeteries have special 'Angel' plots in which young children are interred, and Glasnevin is no exception. The Angel plot in which Francis is interred in located in the St. Patrick's section of the cemetery. Despite the fact that I have passed this very section in years past, I have never really taken a good look at it, but on that Sunday afternoon the sight of it shocked me. An elderly couple, in the area to visit the grave of their deceased baby, very kindly helped me to map out the exact spot of Francis's grave. Together we checked the numbers on the little markers of other graves and counted the paces in from the roadway to bring us to it. As you can see the area is just dirt and remnants of grass, and cemetery vehicles have cut a path across the ground. Francis and the other children who lie in these unmarked plots have been completely forgotten.

Francis Ball's grave lies at the center of this unmarked area, close by the edge of the shade.

At the age of 12 Francis Ball died 6 June 1905 at the Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin. Francis died of gastric fever, sometimes referred to as Typhoid fever. In the Glasnevin records he is listed as an adult, and his rank/profession is simply described as "casemaker's son". Buried in this single, unmarked and dusty, grave on 9 June 1905, his is the only body which occupies the space.

The impermanent markers of this 'Angel Plot'

As part of the Glasnevin renovation plans the wooden and plastic crosses, little dolls and stuffed animals, will soon be entirely cleared away from this area, like so much litter. In their place, and over the grave of Francis Ball, will stand beautiful rose bushes and fresh green sod. All of the graves will be unmarked, but the couple who helped me assured me that the families will always remember where their little ones are. I will remember Francis Ball, and now, you will remember him too.

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Cheers, Jennifer

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