Chirpy Musings from a Scottish Graveyard
I am writing this whilst on a train back from Dumfries in Scotland. I have about three and a half hours left to go and am rationing my supplies. I’m like a Chilean miner. “Two Kit Kat fingers down, two to go,” as Jose famously said.
Dumfries was nice. It’s where Robert Burns the famous Scottish poet lived. I had some free time so after hitting all the major tourist attractions like River Island and Londis, I checked out some of the more obscure ones like Burns’ grave, cos that’s what you do to deceased famous people, you stare at their burial plot. I once heard of someone’s elderly mother who was making an exceptional trip down to visit her daughter in London, on the proviso that they could go and visit the graveyard where Jade Goody is buried because “she likes a celebrity grave”.
Whilst in the graveyard I noticed that in the 16th and 17th Century gravestones were massive. Some were the size of single beds, others were approaching proportions of an Ikea King complete with headboard. Clearly it was a status thing. I can only compare it to today’s society where the amount of gadgets you own by Apple are directly proportional to how important you are. (On this note, I am typing this on my massive laptop that looks like something from The Early Learning Centre. I fully expect it to start playing ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’ whenever I turn it on. I have however stuck an Apple logo over the Acer sign on the cover to make people think I am cooler. This only works if the people are at least 20-feet away or have poor vision though.)
But back to the churchyard, where I also noticed how gravestones in the olden days used to feature people’s occupations. This means there are engravings that began ‘Here lies, Gabriel Richardson, Brewer for the town’ and ‘Robert McCracken, Collector of Excise for Dumfries’. I think we should bring back that custom. I like the idea of my grandkids wandering around graveyards in the future seeing headstones that read ‘Here lies Peter Hills, Digital Marketing Manager specialising in Search Engine Optimisation’ or ‘Janet Biggs, She Did Something To Do with Auditing’.
There were also a lot of headstones that featured the graves of whole families, many of whom included numerous children. There was one that particularly struck me which was from 1804 that featured a mother, a father, two teenage sons lost at sea, and then a line that said ‘And their other children John, Elizabeth, John, Elizabeth and John who all did in infancy’. Now I know kids died a lot in those days, but I didn’t realise it was cool to use the same names over and over again like you do with hamsters. Unless the man who engraved the stone got his chisel stuck on repeat.
Anyway, I found Robert Burn’s mausoleum. There was a sign outside saying that when they interred the body of his wife in there with him after he’d been dead a long while, they used this ‘opportunity’ to take a cast of his skull. Now, I’d argue that his cannon of work appreciated the world over was probably legacy enough but hey, if you think seeing a mould of the famous poet’s skull will help you enjoy Auld Lang Syne that little bit more, then Dumfries has it covered.
So that’s the end of this macabre post. Well it is near Halloween after all. BOO! Totes scary, right?
Ok, time to sacrifice my last two Kit Kat fingers to the alter of luke-warm tea as I plunge into some great literature. By that, I mean, I’m about to watch ‘Avatar’.