Irish republican hero Michael Collins has earned himself a new rival from the grave as the resting place of the charismatic storyteller and historian who once told the Big Fellow's story from up above is attracting more and more visitors to his own graveside.
The inimitable Shane Mac Thomáis was long known as one of the great beating hearts behind the increasingly popular tours in Glasnevin Cemetery before he tragically died by suicide in 2014, aged 46, on the grounds of the historical site he had poured so much energy into.
Immortalized in the film “One Million Dubliners” by Aoífe Kelleher - a beautiful movie hearing the stories held within the walls of the massive cemetery - Mac Thomáis is now becoming just as popular with visitors as Collins, with many wishing to see the resting place of the much loved tour guide.
"He is a great loss to the cemetery. But his legacy is still there,” Niall Oman, who currently gives tours in Glasnevin Cemetery, told the Evening Herald.
“People on the tours will constantly say where's Shane's grave, which I think is funny because in the film he mentions Collins' grave being the most visited and all of the flowers on his grave and now Shane himself is kind of rivaling Collins. If you go down to Shane's grave, he always seems to have flowers.”
"He is like Collins, in the sense that he died young - too young,” he continued. “He is still very popular to this day and he has a great film made about him, so you can't argue with that."
Oman has a very strong link with the cemetery himself, showing visitors the grave of his great-grandfather who took part in the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence.
During the Rising centenary, Oman remembers his deceased relative, William Oman, as the 15-year-old Dublin boy, possibly one of the youngest members of the Irish Citizen Army, who would kick off the rebellion with a burst of his bugle outside of Liberty Hall on the morning of Easter Monday, 1916.
Just months before this he had sounded the bugle at the graveside of Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa as they laid the great rebel to rest in Glasnevin Cemetery. We’re sure that any prospect of his great-grandson retelling his life story a hundred years on, as his body lay in the very same graveyard was unimaginable to the young Dubliner at the time.
"We would have been told from a young age that our great-grandfather fought in the 1916 Rising and that he fought in the War of Independence,” said Niall who has worked as a tourguide in Glasnevin Cemetery for the past six years.
"Because he was only 15, he was released from Richmond Barracks after being arrested after about 10 days."
When he first began to work in the cemetery, the 28-year-old history teacher was among those lucky few who had the honor of learning from the best, Shane Mac Thomáis himself.
Continuing on Mac Thomáis’s legacy, the tour has become a must see for many visitors to Ireland’s capital. Impressive praise for a graveyard but Glasnevin is no ordinary cemetery.
Within its grounds you will find greats of Irish history and literature scattered among the 1.5 million buried in Dublin’s Northside. They include Michael Collins, Maud Gonne, Countess Markievicz, Eamon de Valera, Joseph Mary Plunkett, his wife Grace Gifford and in recent years, Luke Kelly from The Dubliners and literary legends Brendan Behan and Christy Brown.
The sheer mass of Irish people of note in one space brings everybody from history buffs, to poets, to remaining families members to pay their respects, with Collins even receiving almost a hundred Valentine’s Day cards each year almost a hundred years after his death.
The Corkman is also visited by a mystery Frenchwoman every year, recently revealed as Veronique Crombie, a lecturer at the French National Museum who admits to a passionate love for the Irish revolutionary.
"The cemetery had its first burial in February 1832 - it was opened by Daniel O'Connell because he wanted a cemetery that would be for all religions and no religion,” Oman told the Herald.
“It has always been non-denominational and at present we have about 25 different religions and faiths buried here.”
"We started with nine acres of land and now we have 124 acres of land. By population, it is the biggest in the country because there is 1.5 million buried here - that's more than Dublin's population.
"So when you say to people on tours that there is more people below ground in Glasnevin than there is above ground, it hits home the size and scale of it."
With such an interesting and fascinating history, the unlikely tourist attraction is smashing its tourist targets and hoping to reach an incredible 90,000 visitors in 2016, a massive progression from the days in which Mac Thomáis would walk around the graves giving tours by himself on a daily basis.
According to Oman: “The major increase in tourism came in 2010 when we opened the museum here, and with the museum, the word got out that tours are really an attraction. There are also exhibitions and a coffee shop here as well.”
You can watch a performance from the charismatic Shane Mac Thomáís in the video below. Shot in his beloved Glasnevin Cemetery, Mac Thomáis stands in the tomb of Daniel O‘Connell to tell the story of the Great Liberator.