The Bram Stoker Connection

Bram Stoker 1847-1912

Bram Stoker, author of the classic gothic horror novel “Dracula” and other works, has connections with St. John’s Church where his mother’s family were parishioners. His maternal grandmother’s grave is in the churchyard, close to the wall adjacent to the Cathedral main door.

It is believed that his mother’s accounts of her harrowing experiences during a devastating cholera epidemic in Sligo in 1832 (when more than 1500 townspeople died) inspired Bram Stoker to write his classic novel.

Bram Stoker was born in Clontarf, Dublin on 8th Nov 1847 and died in London on 20th Apr 1912. His father was Abraham Stoker (1799-1876), a civil servant at Dublin Castle, and his mother was Charlotte Matilda Blake Thornley, who was born in Sligo in 1818 and died in Dublin in 1901.

When Bram was a sickly infant, his mother recounted her memories of the 1832 cholera outbreak in Sligo. At that time, the disease was so rampant that carpenters ran out of wood for making simple coffins, and many of the dead were wrapped in pitched sheets and rolled into mass graves. Local legend has it that some people were buried alive, so great was the haste to dispose of the diseased bodies. It is believed that this burying of the “undead” may have sparked the idea in young Bram’s mind for his enduring classic horror story, featuring Count Dracula!

Bram Stoker’s maternal grandparents were Captain Thomas Thornley (1797-1850), a British Army officer and later a member of the Irish police force, and Matilda Blake, who came from a relatively affluent background, with roots in Co. Mayo. They were married in St. Anne’s Church, Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, on 3rd October 1817.  In addition to Charlotte, they had 2 sons….Richard Blake Thornley and Thomas Blake Thornley.

 Richard died in his 14th year (possibly from cholera) and is buried alongside his mother in the Thornley family tomb in St. John’s churchyard.

SC 2013