On the 24th of September 2000, Monsignor Brian H. Henneberry, the Pastor of St Dunstan’s Church in Fredericton, initiated the unveiling of a Celtic memorial at the Hermitage Cemetery in Fredericton. This monument was dedicated to some of the earliest Roman Catholic parishioners, primarily of Irish descent, who were interred in St Dunstan’s Cemetery between 1836 and 1870. The memorial was financed by proceeds from the sale of St Dunstan’s School, which was erected on the land where the old cemetery was once situated.
Recognising the early Irish Catholic population in Fredericton is appropriate, considering their significant presence by 1871. As noted by historian Peter Toner: “A few pockets in southwestern New Brunswick were predominantly Irish and Catholic. The City of Fredericton is a case in point. Almost half of the population was Irish, and roughly 60% of them were Catholic. This demographic makeup extended to the neighbouring rural areas.”
The Hermitage Cemetery memorial incorporates various elements. The primary feature is an appropriately inscribed Celtic cross, similar to the one marking the grave of Rt. Rev. William Dollard, the first Roman Catholic Bishop of New Brunswick. Additionally, six plaques flanking this tall cross bear names like Breen, Dolan, Logue, McCann, O’Brien, Sullivan, and Tierney, among others, along with their death years. Monsignor Henneberry poignantly pointed out, “we particularly honour the 283 individuals who were initially buried in the old cemetery on Regent Street, whose remains were relocated here in 1910.” Lastly, a monument called a “slope marker,” in line with the Celtic cross, bears the names of eight nearby interred priests.
Names engraved on the memorial, listed alphabetically, were largely gathered from archival and church records, and from James Hannay’s “Report on Burying Grounds in New Brunswick.” Before inscription, Monsignor Henneberry made the list public at St. Dunstan’s Church for accuracy verification, though no amendments were suggested.
The Hermitage property, now the memorial site, was acquired in 1870 by Rev. James C. McDevitt. This picturesque location along the Woodstock Road was intended for a burial ground and other church-related uses. It quickly became the “new Catholic Cemetery.” The old St Dunstan’s burial ground was reportedly closed, but a few post-closure burials occurred, accounting for names such as Ann Densmore, John Long, Dennis O’Leary, and Richard Tobin, who died after 1870, appearing on the memorial.
The Hermitage Cemetery memorial, unveiled in 2000, was a long-awaited tribute. Ninety years prior, St Dunstan’s parishioners voted to repurpose the Regent Street cemetery for a school. This decision led to the relocation of most graves and markers obstructing school construction. According to local author, Ruth Scott, “the remains from the old graveyard were respectfully exhumed and reburied in the new cemetery on Woodstock Road, now known as the Hermitage. To create a playground, the remaining tombstones were also transferred to the Hermitage.”
Over time, remnants from the old cemetery occasionally surfaced on or around school grounds, sparking curiosity among locals, including students. Eventually, all remaining traces of the old graveyard were excavated and moved to the Hermitage Cemetery or naturally decayed, leaving virtually no evidence of the former burial site.
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