Donegal woman Betty Holmes will be part of a Remembrance Service at St. Conal's Hospital this weekend, where 1,000 daffodils have bloomed to remember the 1,180 patients buried there.
Betty Holmes’ dream to honour the memory of more than 1,000 people has been achieved and will culminate in a special event this weekend.
A simple service to remember the people of Donegal who were buried in the little-known graveyard at St Conal’s Hospital, Letterkenny, will take place at 3pm on Sunday 23rd April.
The service in the graveyard to the rear of the St Conal’s Campus follows a successful community-led initiative to respectfully commemorate those who were buried in the graveyard between 1868 and 1902.
The project involved a number of key local people, all brought together by local woman Betty Holmes and community groups such as the Letterkenny Men’s Shed, Letterkenny Tidy Towns Committee and was supported by the HSE and Pramerica.
Betty tells Donegal Woman why it was important for her to make the graveyard a fitting resting place for the patients of St. Conal’s.
“I am very proud of my involvement with this very special graveyard. As you know when I came across the graveyard last April 2016 I felt it was a special place. A lot of work has happened and having the short Remembrance Service this Sunday is the right thing to do,” she said.
Upon discovering the forgotten space, Betty took on an investigation to find out who was buried there and who knew about the graveyard. Local historian and former psychiatric nurse, Hugh Devlin was also on hand to provide vital facts and figures.
“For me, I believe that the 1180 patients buried there from 1868 to 1902 deserve to be remembered for their contribution to St. Conal’s Hospital back in those early years. This project for me is about respect for the patients,” Betty said.
The passionate community members have put in a lot of work to tidy the graveyard and ensure beautiful flowers are in bloom for this weekend’s service.
Daffodils and bluebells had been planted in the graveyard some years ago and this has now been improved upon with the addition of a small fence, outlining the grave area, a stone pathway, a stone gatepost and new gate and literally thousands of daffodils and crocus bulbs.
As well as the many souls buried at the graveyard, Betty said that another man will be firmly in the thoughts of people gathering at the service.
“We should also remember the late Mr. Alexander RIP who was the gardener at St Conal’s Hospital for 40 years. The late Mr. Alexander was buried the day that the volunteers from Pramerica with the Letterkenny Tidy Towns planted 1000 daffodils on 22nd Oct. 2016. Strange how things sometimes happen,” she said.
The committee wish to thank all of those involved in the project, particularly those who gave of their time, energy and enthusiasm in a voluntary capacity.