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: