An unusual graveyard

While out and about on my tearoom travels, if I see an interesting looking graveyard, I find it very difficult to pass by without taking a look. I don’t know why I, and so many other people, find graveyards fascinating, but they do have a strange appeal.

During various conversations with my dear parents over the past year or so, on more than one occasion they had mentioned a graveyard just outside the Angus village of Edzell. Although I have visited Edzell quite a few times over the years (it has an excellent tearoom), up until recently I had never seen this graveyard. It’s on a little country road that I had never been along before, and I had been thinking for a while that I must make a deliberate effort to go and visit it.

Last week I got round to it.

It was a beautiful sunny day, and I had delightful assistant no.1 with me as my guide.

One of the first things I noticed on entering the gate was a rain butt with a kettle on top of it:

There being no way of heating the water, I suspect this kettle was placed there to be used as a watering can for flowers, rather than as a container for making tea (a pity – a small, discreet tearoom might have enchanced this already attractive graveyard).

I had no idea that this graveyard would hold so many firsts for me. As far as I can recall, I had never seen a rain butt with a kettle in a graveyard before.

I don’t think I had ever seen a headstone fashioned out of iron, either:

Nor had I seen a gravestone made of cobbled together lumps of rock:

As is often the case, the older gravestones were mostly grouped together in the main section of the graveyard, while newer ones inhabited a different area. This was one of the older ones, displaying some beautiful stone carvings:

It was interesting to compare the old method of decoration with its modern day equivalent:

There were quite a few headstones sporting photographs, which is certainly something I’ve seen elsewhere, but in keeping with the other oddities aforementioned, this new area also held some surprises.

I don’t know if it’s clear in this picture, but this one had a sort of bas-relief image carved into the top, which is something I don’t remember ever seeing before:

And this one had the same sort of thing coloured in:

I liked this one with the curly ‘W’ at the top and the little anvil at the bottom, a fitting headstone for a blacksmith:

Looking at all these different gravestones, I began to wonder if I should consider designing my own, and felt a slight sense of panic that I hadn’t given it any thought up till that point.

I asked my delightful assistant if she’d considered what she’d like on a gravestone and she said she hadn’t, but she knew where she’d like to be put (cremated and then scattered in the graveyards of two little churches in Scotland’s south-west where she’s enjoyed many lovely holidays) (the holidays weren’t mainly spent in the graveyards, just to be clear). A bench seat in one of her favourite gardens would seem very fitting, too.

My father, being the extremely well organised sort of chap that he is, has already given his own demise some considerable thought. He is very keen to be donated to medical science, and has even written to Dundee University to register his desire to be put to good use. He lodged a copy of the forms he had to fill in for this with his lawyer, who warned him that there was a possibility the University might not be able to take him if they happened to be (to quote him verbatim) ‘awash with bodies’ at the time of death. In that event, however, I believe it is possible to contact another university instead. I’m not entirely sure how the body gets to the university, but I hope they have some sort of collection arrangement.

It’s a bit morbid this, isn’t it? Sorry about that, I do hope I haven’t offended anyone.

Back to the gravestones, my assistant and I were particularly interested in this one:

It wasn’t so much the headstone that caught our attention, as the jam jars at the foot of the stone. One of them contained a very cheerful looking teddy bear:

Two other jars contained letters, written by young members of the family:

One of the letters was very clear to read, and I hope the people concerned won’t mind me quoting it, but it seems such an excellent way of helping children to deal with death:

“To Uncle Berty, Granny Edzell, Grandad Edzell, I’m 14 now, Sarah is 3. We have been travelling over Edzell today – exploring all the rivers and skimming stones where my dad played when he was little. Hope you are all getting on fine up in the clouds and staying healthy. Lots of love from all the family.”

Reading that letter and sitting quietly next to that gravestone gave me a great sense of peace and contentment, and I thought how lovely it was that this granddaughter had written a letter to her dearly departed relatives, remembering them and wanting to share her news with them.

The grandparents I knew best are buried in a graveyard in Edinburgh and it’s many years since I went to their grave. I’ve only been there a few times and found it a bit upsetting, but perhaps if I’d visited it more often I might feel more at peace with it. Somehow, when I saw their names on the stone, it seemed cold and very final.

I think if I was planning this for myself, I would prefer a little plaque attached to a park bench. Then, anyone wanting to come and visit me would have somewhere to sit and have a wee chat (and perhaps a nice cup of tea, that would be ideal), and hopefully there would be a lovely peaceful view for them to enjoy while they sat there.

I wouldn’t particularly want to be buried in Edzell, since I have no real connection with the place, but as graveyards go, if I was going to be interred in one, I could do a lot worse:

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Categories: Angus, Architecture, Churchyards, Edzell, Gardens, Photography, Scotland, Tea, Tearooms | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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43 thoughts on “An unusual graveyard

  1. very interesting – many things I had not seen before and some very touching mementos

  2. Whoa.. graveyards remind us of the inevitable too… rest in peace all of you departed souls!

  3. Graveyards are often beautiful and fascinating places. I like the thoughts you have given to your own final resting place–a peaceful place for a chat and a cup of tea.

  4. Love the cheerful yellow teddy in a jam jar!

  5. I do share your interest in graveyards, as you know! I love the handwritten letter and the teddy bear – what a lovely thing to do. I’ve never seen landscape scenes like those on gravestones before. I love the second to last photo in particular – such beautiful countryside, so green, and sunshine too!!

    • Thank you Jo, and interestingly enough that photo made me think of you, with the Celtic cross made of stone. Graveyards can be a little depressing sometimes, at least I have occasionally felt gloomy in them, but on the whole I, like you, tend to find them peaceful and fascinating places. Perhaps there’s something about the people buried there that creates an atmosphere.

  6. Hello Lorna, fascinating post! Lots of firsts indeed, I’ve never seen a cast iron tombstone either. This one looks as though the back has been screwed on like some kind of box. I wonder if it does have something inside?

    The jars are a lovely idea too. My father in law died in May and my daughter wrote a poem for him which she read out at his funeral, a jar on his grave would be a nice place to put it. I may well suggest it.

    I hope it’s not required for a very long time, but I reckon your memorial could be a giant stone teapot with a doorway and seats inside that folk can sit on and sip a cup of darjeeling (or a nip of malt) in your memory ;-)

    • Finn, you really made me laugh this morning! That vision of the giant teapot keeps coming back to me and making me laugh all over again. I think it’s a brilliant idea, I wonder how I can implement it…

      I’m very sorry to hear about your father in law, but what a lovely tribute your daughter paid to him.

      As far as I’m aware, there wasn’t anything in the iron headstone. I did have a peek in through the crack and it looked to me like an empty shell.

      • :-)

        It made me chuckle too! I like the idea of ‘interactive’ memorials. My daughter did a great performance that day, I wondered if she’d pull it off. She did, and got a huge round of applause from a packed crem. It was an amazing moment.

        • You must have been very proud of her! I think it showed great strength on her part to be able to do it on such on occasion in front of lots of people, perhaps she’s destined for a life on the stage? I’m still laughing about that teapot. I directed my dad to your comment because I thought he would enjoy it and he nearly fell of his chair with laughter. You’ve scored a great hit with your excellent idea! :-)

  7. Hi Lorna. I must say I was tearing up a little towards the end! The letter from the little girl to her relatives (kind of) reminded me of a message in a bottle to that effect. It was a very beautiful and tranquil place of resting from which I gather. My grandparents (on dad’s side) rest in a Buddhist temple in Hong Kong province. They rest with a whole wall of my ancestors which dated back hundreds of years. So different to a western cemetery but the feeling of calm & tranquility was somewhat the same :)

    • What a fascinating place that Buddhist temple sounds, I would love to visit somewhere like that. It is very sad for children when they lose their grandparents, but the little letter in the jar was so positive that it made me feel happy, despite the sadness.

  8. What a very interesting post! I like Edzell, but haven’t been to the graveyard. (The Open Gardens day that the village does is fun to go to – it’s already over this year, I believe.) Whenever I see a graveyard, I think of a story I read by Norman Vincent Peale, father of Positive Thinking. A very stressed and worried man came to him for advice about his problems, and NVP said, “Do you want me to take you to a place where no-one has problems?” Of course that place was the cemetery. So I, too, have that sense of peacefulness and release from worry in a graveyard.

    Oddly, my 14-year-old daughter and I were talking about funeral arrangements, memorials, cremation vs. burial, etc day before yesterday. We ended up picking out a song from The Wanted to play at my funeral! It’s good to have a laugh but also good that death isn’t a completely taboo subject. I favour the idea of a memorial bench in a garden. (The teapot idea of Finn’s is brilliant too.)

    Interesting too about your Dad’s wishes. My Granny had numerous health problems during her lifetime and wanted to thank the medical profession by donating her body to research, which she did. My Grampa’s ashes were scattered at the ranch of his best friend. So there isn’t a place to “visit” either of them, but I feel their presence and love close to me wherever I am.

    • I noticed that I’d missed that open gardens day in Edzell, but I’d like to go – maybe next year.

      I liked the NVP story, how very true that is. I agree that it’s good for death not to be a taboo subject, although for many people it is quite difficult to talk about. How interesting that you and the Dafter were discussing funeral arrangments! I think she might have had something to do with you picking a song by The Wanted… :-)

      Just this morning I was thinking the very thing you’ve mentioned about having places to visit. Despite almost never visiting my grandparents’ graves, I think of them often in Blairgowrie, a place they never lived in. As you say about your grandparents, their presence is with you wherever you are, not just where their mortal remains were laid after death. Your grandmother is with you in that green cardigan you have of hers which is, to my mind, much better than a tombstone.

  9. Lorna, as I design headstones for a living, I find it fascinating what people put on their stones. I really like to design the black granite ones with the laser etching because it lets me tell a full story about someones life by combining several photographic images together. My favorite was when a teenage boy died and everyone signed a big heart at his funeral with their final words to him and we etched it into the back of his stone.
    Have fun designing your bench!

    • Thank you for such an interesting comment Ann, what an unusual job you have! That was a most unique idea with the heart. Do you find that most people know how they want a headstone to look? Do they get very involved, or do most of them want you to come up with the whole design yourself? I’m intrigued to know more about your work.

      • Sadly enough most people don’t want to think about it. Mostly I’m afraid because of the sadness. I find that the ones that are the most creative are the ones for children. Parents want everyone to remember their child as most adults are more simplified, for lack of better words, when it comes to the lives of their parent. Most really should wait at least a year before creating one so the pain isn’t as intense and the fond memories can play a better part in the design. In light of the hottest thing with Ancestry.com now, many are putting more thought into it by listing childrens names on them as well. More and more I’m seeing the favorite sayings of the deceased. My favorite “That’s Showbiz”

        • I’ve just discovered that I forgot to reply to this earlier, sorry! I think that’s a great idea, to wait until you’re less upset and then decide on a design. There really is no rush after all, is there? I like the ones that have a bit of humour in them, such as your ‘That’s Showbiz’ example. Something that can make you smile as you remember the person is definitely worth aiming for.

  10. katiewritesagain

    Lorna
    Thank you for the lovely post and photos.. The graveyards are peaceful and evoke meaningful memories. They give many of us a sense of our lineage, and not just of blood relations. Rather than thinking of it as cold and final, it feels calm and settled. It might be a good tihng for more of us to spend time in places as beautiful and serene as the photos you posted. Thank you again.
    Kathleen

    • Thank you Kathleen, I agree that graveyards give us a sense of place in this world, a link with the past and the thought that there’s a future. The flow of time is evident and that is very reassuring somehow.

  11. I love old cemeteries! The county I grew up in in New Jersey has a really cool old cemetery that is the resting place for the victims and captain of the original shark attack that was the basis of Jaws! So cool!

  12. I was just reading yesterday about how it’s good to take time out to be quiet and to reflect. it’s good to go to the places that bring comfort to us and just sit there for a while. I also was interested to see the relief pictures on the tombstones.

    • I wholeheartedly agree with that ajb, a bit of stillness and quiet does wonders for the soul! I’ll be looking out for more of those reliefs on tombstones now, they must surely exist elsewhere too.

  13. hey your live on the reader Lorna :-)

    • Thanks Scott but what’s the reader?

      • Top left of the management tool bar in the W (indicating WordPress) open that tab 2 down says reader, then you get the Reader option – you can look at Blogs I Follow or specific TAGS that u set up I look at #Photography you would set up what u fancy – it is a really helpful tool for visiting recent blog posts without visiting each and every one of them.

        • Ah yes, I know what you mean, I use that when I want to look for posts on a certain subject. I guess this means you’re getting my updates now? Strangely, I have a couple of blogs appearing on there that I don’t get emails for, I don’t know why.

  14. How sweet — I’ve never seen anyone leave a letter in a jar at the cemetery. I love cemeteries; they are so peaceful.

  15. A very interesting graveyard, more varied in so many ways than most.
    And a peaceful setting.
    Never thought about this before, but a tearoom would make a splendid addition to a graveyard. Not likely to happy, certainly not here in the US but one can imagine.

    • That’s true, it’s quite unlikely that a tearoom and a graveyard will become a common pairing, but I think there are plenty of people who would like the idea. Just a small, quiet sort of tearoom where quiet reflection was encouraged, would be lovely.

  16. Thanks for a really interesting story! And I think it’s a great day for some awards! Here’s the link: http://megtraveling.com/2012/07/09/awards-in-july/

  17. Love the old stones… the lichen growing across the rounded edges … very compelling post! thanks for sharing!

  18. seabeediver

    I love the designs on the newer stones…. but I wonder how they will hold up and if they will still be visible in a hundred years or so???

    • That’s an interesting point, will they last in the way the older ones have? One downside with the carved stones, at least those carved in sandstone, is that they’ve weathered over the years so that some of them are now indiscernible. I suppose only time will tell! Thank you for your comment.

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