Graveyard Mooching

The weather of late in my part of the world has been somewhat damp, cold and a bit on the miserable side.

My view may be coloured by being laid low by a winter bug (which, I must admit,  isn’t too bad, just a little tiresome on the sore throat front), but on the up side, it’s the perfect sort of weather for wrapping up warmly and mooching around graveyards.

As it happens, the graveyard I mooched around the other day was, for a few moments, bathed in late afternoon sunshine.

This is the entrance to the church and graveyard of Bendochy Parish Church, just outside the Perthshire town of Blairgowrie. The bell apparently dates to 1608:

Bendochy Parish Church

The eagle-eyed might have spotted a curious stone lump to the left of the entrance arch. This is, I believe, a cheese press, although what it’s doing outside the church gates I have no idea:

Bendochy cheese press

Inside the churchyard there are quite a few headstones dating back to the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Some of them have fallen over and a few others, that are in the process of falling over, have yellow and black tape on them to warn visitors that they might fall over at any minute. Most of them, however are hanging in there even if looking slightly unstable, as in the case of this one on legs:

Gravestone on legs

One that particularly interested me had a carving of what looked to me at first glance like a robot. On closer inspection I saw that it was a skeleton with some sort of yoke across its shoulders, possibly with buckets hanging down on either side (they seem too long to be the arms).

I don’t know if there’s any religious significance to this, something to do with taking water into the afterlife in order to dowse the flames of hell perhaps? Seems a bit of an assumption on the part of the person commissioning the stone, if that’s the case.


Another stone that caught my eye had rather an unusual shape and what looked to me like a jolly sort of skull wearing a bowler hat:

Jolly bowler-hatted skull

Headstones these days seem to me to lack the variety of shapes of those from past centuries. You do get some interesting design features, such as the ones I wrote about here, but on the whole the headstone nowadays is almost always a basic slab of stone, sticking up from a flat base.

I was quite taken by this one at Bendochy, made to look like a pile of stones with a scroll at the front. I think it shows a bit of artistry on the part of the designer, not to say skill on the part of the carver:

Artistry in stonemasonry

A combination of textures in a headstone

The forecast for the next couple of days here is for colder weather and snow showers. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this winter so far, with very little snow, which is just the way I like it.

Thankfully, I’m stocked up for cossetting myself indoors, with what remains of kind donations of chocolate received from wellwishers at Christmas:



40 thoughts on “Graveyard Mooching

  1. As in many other cases, headstones were a lot more interesting and creative back in the day! I want a skelly w/ a bowler hat!

    A popular motif here in the US was a tree stump covered in ivy. Always thought that was pretty cool.

    • You’re so right Annie, and a bowler hat’s quite a nice touch isn’t it? Maybe one of those tall white chef’s hats would be nice for you? 🙂 You do see ivy-covered tree stumps carved in stone here too, but perhaps it’s not as common as it is over your way.

  2. That is one heck of a cheese press. Did worshippers in former times leave their cheese to be pressed during Evensong, and collect it afterwards? I love your ponderings about the possible quenching of the fires of hell! I’d never seen gravestone carvings like these until we came to Scotland. They seemed rather ghoulish to someone who had only ever seen Latin inscriptions or a few guardian angels, but since then I’ve come across quite a few and I think they’re fascinating. I’d like to know what the ‘bowler hat’ actually represents.

    I am sorry to hear you’re under the weather – hope you’re feeling better soon! That is a magnificent stash of chocolate by the way.

    • Ha ha, I know, can you imagine how well pressed the cheese would be? I really don’t know what the connection between cheese presses and religion is but I have a vague feeling that this isn’t the only time I’ve seen such a thing next to a church, I’ll have to keep an eye out for others.

      I’m interested to find out that carvings like this might be peculiar to Scotland, I would have assumed they’d exist all over the UK. I obviously need to mooch around some graveyards south of the border to see what’s on offer there.

      Thank you for your kind wishes Jo, the cold is gradually subsiding (and the chocolate is excellent medicine).

    • Thank you Boyd, what a beautiful description, “like walking through a sculpture garden”. I must remember that, thank you for the comment, and I agree with you about the mysteries. All very mysterious!

  3. OK, now I know you wrote this post just for me as you knew how much I would LOVE these photos. Oh my, this is just the sort of graveyard I relish. Canada is such a new country that we don’t have wonderful old gravesites like this. I remember visiting the graveyard at Whitby Abbey a few years ago and was blown away. Thanks so much.

    • Aw, Darlene, I’m delighted at the thought of writing it just for you, thank you! I can imagine Whitby Abbey must hold lots of interesting gravestones. I forget how fortunate we are in the UK to have all these records of human history, it’s a fascinating part of our culture.

  4. I too love mooching around Graveyards Lorna, some in outback Australia leave you wondering what happened to the deceased as they died quite young.
    A fascinating graveyard in Scotland is near ROSLYN CHAPEL—-said to contain the remains of Crusaders. One memorial, not a Crusader is of a Tailor, with his two sons standing side by side, each sculpted separately—must have been a rich Tailor!! If you go when fruit is ripening, a large apple tree overhangs the wall and the apples are delicious!

    • I would imagine you could feel pretty close to death in the Australian outback Davey, with all that emptiness for miles around. It’s years since I’ve been to Rossyln Chapel and I’ve been wanting to go back. Your description of the graveyard makes it even more tempting (especially if I go in apple ripening season!).

  5. Hi Lorna, I hope you’re feeling better soon. Surprisingly enough, (I find) sometimes it’s really lovely to get out and fill those stuffy lungs with some fresh air (when I feel sick.) im sure, without a doubt that the air in Scotland is many times better than the over heated city air in Sydney!

    Lol, that grave with the skull & crossbones looks like a pirate was buried there, or his treasure perhaps?

    • Thank you Alice, I do think a bit of fresh air can help – psychologically, if not always physically (not sure the cold air helped my throat, but I could be wrong). What a great idea about the pirate being buried there, I hadn’t thought of that, and having the crossed spades there could point to digging up treasure! 🙂

  6. Lorna, you are surrounded by some fascinating historical avenues. Hats off to you for being adventurous and curious. Tombstones definitively tell a lot about the bygone era. Architectural, social and cultural aspects can be learned. Nice pictures too.

    • Thank you Aparna, there are so many stories in a graveyard, dealing with all manner of human history, as you say. I only wish I knew more about them, but I still enjoy them with my very limited knowledge. The skill of some of these old stonemasons was amazing.

  7. Loved this post and photographs! Imagine all of the stories that could be told about individuals and families, along with their struggles and challenges they faced. It seems, death is the last story of all…xx Annie from Willow Cottage

    • Thank you Annie, yes you’re right, so many stories collected together in a graveyard, you can’t help but wonder about those people. Very well put, death is the last story of all…..or is it? We just don’t know do we? It’s intriguing.

  8. What interesting graveyards, so artistic, it is like walking through a sculpture garden…with the most interesting stories behind each one I’m sure. Seems over the years that families put more effort into commemorating the resting place of their loved ones than today.

    • That’s a good point and it’s odd, isn’t it, that it should be that way. I have the impression that people were more familiar with death in previous centuries because of a lower life expectancy, high infant mortality, etc.and yet they put more effort into commemorating their dead. Mind you, perhaps it was only the more well off ones who could afford to pay for a burial and headstone.

  9. I was intrigued by the headstone with the scroll. Do you know what a Joiner Couttie is? also, do you know why the mother and father had different last names? is it possible that they put maiden names on the stones?

    • Interesting questions! When I was writing the post I searched dictionaries and the internet to find the meaning of ‘Couttie’ but all I came up with is that it’s a surname. Then I wondered if it could be a place name, but even that didn’t yield anything. I really don’t understand it at all.

      As regards the different names, my guess is that the mother remarried after her first husband had died, since the gap between their deaths is 46 years. You do sometimes see maiden names on gravestones, but usually in addition to the married name.

  10. Lovely post, there’s graveyard near me with a beautiful view of the city…you’ve inspired me to take a walk there this weekend. Beautiful photos (as always!), such curious things gravestones, really interesting!

    • It’s true that so many of the stones mark the graves of children, or indeed adults who didn’t live very long lives by current standards. Your tombstones with flowers makes for a lovely image, thank you for sharing it.

  11. Hello Lorna, I’m glad the lurg didn’t do it’s worst and you’re still able to explore. You’re dead right about the gravestones, it would be fascinating to know the origin of the yoked skeleton, also the bowler hatted skull and crossbones with the crossed shovels – maybe he was the local gravedigger 🙂 . The scroll is a real work of art, and Betty Petrie lived to ripe old age!

    • Thank you Finn, I think there’s always something of interest to be found in a graveyard, they are fascinating places. I’m sometimes quite astonished by the length of life some people had in times gone past. I’ve seen quite a few headstones of people who died in the Victorian era having lived into their 90s.

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