This is worthy of further investigation. The year is 1904, rural Ireland, and the subject is the attitude of the people to those who chose to end their lives by suicide.
I am well aware that the Church, in those days, treated suicide as a mortal sin, but I had always thought that the populace were largely sympathetic to those poor unfortunates who took this drastic path. The Church, in wishing to discourage suicide, refused or placed restrictions on the burial of the corpse in consecrated ground, and refused the Funeral Rites. This situation persisted for centuries, and not only in Ireland.
I can understand the theological arguments for this position in the context of the times. What I didn't realise was just how abhorrent would be the reaction of the local people to these poor souls, and to their immediate families. This is surely a hidden history of Ireland suppressed from the national conscience, and waiting to be dragged out into the light.
Irish Times 9th January 1904
Expelling a Suicide
"A man named Coffey, residing in the district of Rathgormac, committed suicide on the 31st ult. by blowing out his brains with a revolver. Two months since, the unfortunate man was caught by one of his relations in the act of cutting his throat. The man was carefully watched since then, but lately, as he seemed to be of perfectly sound mind, all caution was relaxed. The matter being kept as quiet as possible in the neighbourhood, the corpse was interred in Kilrossanty Graveyard, the family burial place.
This morning a telegram was received by the Dungarvan police from Kilmacthomas to the effect that a large party, in defiance of the local constabulary, were engaged in exhuming the remains of the suicide. A strong force of police, under District Inspector Ryan, immediately proceeded to the spot. They found the grave open and the coffin exposed. The Leamybrien police stated that they were present when the coffin was being exposed, but owing to the great numbers of people they were powerless to interfere. However they succeeded in taking the names of many of the leaders in the affair. A body of police is still on duty at the graveyard.
There is a feeling of indignation amongst the surrounding people owing to the internment of the suicide, the only occurrance of this kind in the neighbourhood took place about fifteen years ago when the remains of police constable Bunion, who murdered a sergeant of the R.I.C. and then committed suicide, were left exposed for a month, as the graveyards for miles around were watched by crowds of people who frustrated several attempts at internment. Finally the corpse was interred at Ballinesha Graveyard, near Waterford, where portion of the burial ground was subsequently set aside for such cases."
I have heard of a number of suicides within the RIC, and I want to open up this topic further.