Glasnevin Gravediggers Strike

4th August 1919
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On the 4th of August 1919, Gravediggers at Dublin's famous Glasnevin cemetery went on strike. They downed tools and refused to dig as the bodies lay in wait.

The early 1900's saw a number of spates of industrial action taking place across Dublin city. In 1913 the Dublin Lock-Out saw striking workers being locked out of their places of employment for six months. 3 years later, the workers of Dublin were still not being paid a fair wage, nor given the necessary equipment required to carry out their jobs. On group in particular were the Gravediggers at Glasnevin cemetery on the North side of the city. 

On the 4th of August 1919, 50 Gravediggers went on strike. These men were incredibly hard workers, who had carried on tirelessly during outbreaks of disease which saw dramatic increases in the death toll, and consequently an increase in their workload. During one epidemic a team of 40 men were opening and closing up to 60 graves per day, some of them up to 9 feet in depth. 

Their demands were simple. They wanted better wages, as they argued that, at the time, 35 shillings could not be considered a living wage. They also wanted boots, which they were entitled to by law, but which their employers refused to supply, forcing the men to work in ankle-deep water. For the first time in its history, the gates of Glasnevin Cemetery were closed to the public.

This was just one of several periods of strike action in Glasnevin, but it was perhaps the worst, as contemporary reports speak of the bodies lying in wait and some family members being forced to bury their own dead. 

The Glasnevin Cemetery is also home to the world's first cemetery museum. The museum features tours and geneaolgy services. 

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