A good day for gravestones

Needing a change of scene yesterday, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the peaceful countryside of Angus.

It was a muggy sort of day, not cold, but not sunny; the sort of day when, if feeling slightly out of sorts or under the weather, refreshment could be gained from a slow amble around quiet places.

En route to a lunch stop, we were diverted by a nice little church with an interesting looking graveyard:

Carmyllie Parish Church, originally built in 1609 (various alterations and additions have been made since). Inside, there’s said to be a pew dating back to 1657 but the building was locked so we couldn’t get in to take a peek.

There were some splendid gravestones to be seen, several of which had an agricultural theme.

This one, as well as having the most impressive stone carved rope I think I’ve ever seen on a headstone, had the motto, “We plow in hope”:


Over 200 years old and still very clear.

Not all of the headstones were in quite such good nick, but this one from 1799 possessed unusual shaping across the top:


A headstone inspired by a bat? That’s what the little peaks at the top made me think of.

It also had an open pair of scissors ย and what looked like an iron carved into one side. The burial spot of a tailor, perhaps?


I couldn’t make out a date on this next one, but I would guess it was erected in the late 1700s. It had some notable features:


Near the top there was a little sort of tableau featuring a lady in the centre with an angel or cherub on either side of her:


The little chap on the right appears to be flying, while the little chap on the left appears to be affecting a teapot-like pose.

I thought she was wearing a crown, and there certainly was something above her head that seemed to be the right sort of shape, but beneath that and encircling her head there was what could have been a halo. She was cradling an infant, although whether or not said infant also had a halo was hard to tell. This wasn’t a Roman Catholic graveyard and so I think it unlikely that the lady pictured was the Blessed Virgin, but perhaps she was, or maybe the headstone marked the burial place of a mother who died along with her small child. Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher the inscription beneath the picture.


In any case, she looked serene:


Some of the stones featured fancy swirls and flourishes, like the one on the left of the picture below:


And one was bedecked with magnificently carved foliage:


Fabulous foliage on a carved stone cross at Carmyllie Parish Church.

As it turned out, this was only the first of two fascinating graveyards visited yesterday.

If you think you can stomach another post along the same lines, tune in next time for several skulls and a host of cherubs.


36 thoughts on “A good day for gravestones

  1. Some of those carvings are remarkable – I think the rope surrounding the first one is incredible, and so are the flowers on the cross. Gravestones can tell such sad stories – I was looking at some recently, in Kilmory. I wonder if the ‘iron’ symbol is something to do with wool carding or spinning, and the scissors are shears? I have seen the same symbols both together at Skipness on Kintyre. A shame you couldn’t see inside the church – in fact it’s a shame that there is a need to lock churches at all these days.

    • I was amazed by the rope, and the flowers, they were both in such good condition. You could be right about the iron and shears, I’m really not sure what they symbolise. It was a pity that the door was locked, but I noticed a sign attached to the building warning against thieves in the area, so I wasn’t too surprised we couldn’t get in. As you say, a shame that doors need to be locked these days, I’m sure it used to be the case that churches were always open.

  2. Can’t beat a touch of the macabre! I don’t often linger in them but you have found some good headstones, Lorna. It’s a change from scones. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. I do so enjoy a stroll around a graveyard. Not too sure if “enjoy” is the appropriate word but I certainly feel blessed upon leaving.

    • Thanks Scott, I think the reason for the clarity was, at least partly, due to the situation of the stone. Both the flowers on the cross and the rope in that second picture were facing in the same direction, no doubt in the lee of the prevailing wind. It was remarkable how clean that one was though, because others nearby had a lot more lichen on them. I wonder if someone had scrubbed it off.

  4. Gorgeous. Gravestones and tranquil surrounds! Did I ever tell you I filmed a movie in a graveyard on Halloween? That was some time ago but I haven’t forgotten that evening! Lol, since then, whoever I see a tomb I always think of that job ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Interesting as these gravestones are, the post was lacking pictures of cakes I felt. Presumably the tour of the churchyard stimulated some sort of appetite for light refreshment. Or will that be in the next post?

    • Sorry about that, there was some refreshment after this graveyard, but no cakes. I had a tummy bug for several days that made me lose my appetite (quite worrying, I can tell you, I didn’t even want to think about scones). I’m almost back to normal now, although I think it’s 5 days since my last scone. I need to address that post haste.

    • Very true, I often wish there were notes at the entrance to a graveyard, pointing out the graves of interest. In fact, I have been to one or two graveyards that had signs up about particularly interesting headstones, but it’s quite unusual.

  6. I was wondering about the lack of food photos. Is there a part two? I love the picture of the church. It looks quite intact and most welcoming.

    • There will be a part two, but it wasn’t going to contain food either. In response to comments I think I might have to slip a little edible in though, don’t want to keep disappointing my readers.

    • Thanks Darlene, this was a cracker. Incidentally, I saw a photo recently of the inside of a church in Canada that was absolutely stunning. I wish I could remember where it was now, it was all blues and rich colours, quite magnificent.

      • We do have some nice churches here too, they are just not as old or have the history that your churches have. It possibly was achurch in the eastern part of Canada. I don’t think we have one that magnificent here on the west coast.

  7. I’m also fascinated by old graveyards. They have a beauty about them, and they give us a tangible link to the past. Being from New England (in the States, as you know), we have quite a few “historic” cemeteries, and there was one right up the street from my house when I was a girl. My friend and I would putter around reading the gravestones. We were particularly intrigued by the ones that dated back to the 1600s, which is quite ancient by Yank standards :0). Aaanyway, during one jaunt I managed to contract a horrendous case of poison ivy that gave me terrible blisters. I missed 3 days of school and had to be put on steroids! I still knock around historic cemeteries from time to time — but you better believe I keep my eyes open for any growth that looks suspect.

    • 1600s is pretty ancient, were they anything like the ones here? The earliest I found in this graveyard was 17-something, although there were some I couldn’t read. Your poison ivy incident sounds quite traumatic, I’m going to be more careful from now on, although I’m usually well wrapped up. I’m glad it didn’t put you off cemeteries altogether.

        • I don’t know how they did it, the skill is amazing. I wonder if there’s anyone left who can carve stone like that, I certainly haven’t seen any modern gravestones with anything like this sort of carving.

  8. Very cool! I love walking through old graveyards. This place reminds me of the tiny cemeteries tucked into Boston/Cambridge, MA. Headstones were much more interesting and creative – like reading stories – back then…

    • Exactly, they seem to tell a tale with their details and symbols. I would be very interested to see your old graveyards. In fact, now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve mooched around graveyards anywhere outside the UK, how remiss of me.

  9. Ah, nothing beats a good graveyard. I love this post! Is that an iron underneath the scissors? Perhaps the gravestone of a tailor? I also wondered whether, on the plow gravestone, the compass might have been a symbol of the Masons, but were farmers Masons? Lastly, I do think that the lady with angels either side is the Blessed Virgin Mary. So interesting.

    • Thanks, Christine. That is an iron under the scissors, or so I thought anyway. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the compass was a Masonic symbol, I saw several other symbols around the graveyard that I associate with Masons. The organisation seems to attract qutie a variety of professions, so I’m sure there must be a few farmers amongst them.

  10. Fantastic gravestones and in such good condition. Down here it’s usually impossible to read ones before around 1850. I guess the stone up your way is different and the air a lot cleaner too. Looking forward to the next instalment!

    • Thanks, Finn, the stone does vary from place to place, I suppose because local stone is, or was, generally used. The clean air possibly helps, and I think the amount of shelter has an impact. I’ve noticed that stones in exposed positions, e.g. rising above walls or facing the prevailing wind, weather more quickly than those with even a little more protection. There’s the lichen too of course, that can completely obliterate everything.

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