Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Innerleithen Graveyard

As part of our The Artist's Way class we need to go on an Artist's Away Day every week. In fact I have tried to do this ever since I first read Julia Cameron's book back in 2003. She predicts that you will find to resist this but I cannot remember any longer if I found that to be the case when I first started. Now however I've long realized how much good such outings do me. Specially if I wake up with a bad headache or in a bad mood, I know to take myself away somewhere, even it it's only to go for a drive and I always return recovered and refreshed.

Not many people would choose to go to graveyards for their fun day out but roaming around these usually beautiful places makes me feel peaceful. The people there have lived their lives and the only trace they left are their gravestones. Whatever troubles me, this tells me it will pass and in the great scheme of things (if there is a scheme, that is!!) it won't matter at all. So after a visit to a tapestry exhibition in Peebles (very colourful and enjoyable!) I made my way to Innerleithen Graveyard. At first I found myself in the new graveyard but after some searching I finally arrived at the old one. There was never as far as I could tell a church there so officially it's a cemetary rather than a graveyard, but that's just a matter of semantics. I made many wonderful discoveries.

Here is an overview of the old graveyard at Innerleiten which is set along the road by the side of the river Leithen in a beautiful setting. Sadly the graveyard itself is in a sad state of disrepair with many of the gravestones damaged, broken in to parts or in the process of tumbling. Some have fallen down completely and vegetation is covering them. It looks scenic but really it's just sad.

This is another of the very unusual skulls you can find on old gravestones. The actual way they were portrayed was no doubt left to whoever carved the stones and these masons seem to have left their imaginations run riot. This is a detail of the stone at the very top (also my blip for today) which as you can see has fallen over. It also has other symbols of mortality such as the crossbones, the pillars and the hour-glass and carries two inscriptions to remind us that time is passing and we will soon be in our graves too i.e. Memento Mori (Remember the Dead as well as Remember you will die) and Fugit Hora (the hours fly by). The text is on the other side of this now fallen over stone so I couldn't read it, but according to Sheila Scott's book it belongs to John Thomson (the initials IT at the top of the stone), tenant here who died 24.1.1766, aged 72, his wife Isobel Tait, died 10.6.1764, aged 82, their son James, died 10.5.1743 aged 24, their son John, died 21.7.1789, aged 68 and also to Elison Thomson daughter of Thomas Thomson, died Cardrona 6.5.1766 aged 2 years and 9 months.

This is a very unusual gravestone in that it's made of metal rather than stone. It's so deceptive that I hadn't actually noticed this at all till I was alerted to it when I passed by it's side. It has a massive crack going through it and when I stuck my hand in, to my surprise it turned out to be metal. This was then confirmed by Sheila Scott's notes in her book. It's the gravestone of John Mathison of Innerleithen who died 15.2.1879 aged 76 and his wife Jane Henderson, died 7.5.1859, aged 50 and their children John died 3.11.1845, aged 5 years and 6 months, Jane, died 16.1.1852, aged 3.1/2 years and Helen, died 14.8.1852, aged 1. At the bottom (which is stone) it says very poignantly: "Lord, teach our hearts to say thy will be done".

This stone is set into the wall of the graveyard, to your immediate left as you enter. It's not a particularly spectacular one but I couldn't leave it out as it belonged to a dyer. The text is just about still readable but it helped enormously that I already knew what I should say thanks to Sheila A Scott's book Peeblesshire Monumental Inscriptions pre-1855. Here is what it says:

Here lyes Thomas Turnbull late dyer in Innerleithen factory who left the world on 8th January 1803 in the 72nd year of his age. He was a man of much ingenuity unrivalled in his art and had the merit of being the first in Scotland who taught the use of woad in dying blue. In social life his faults were few and accidental, his virtues many and habitual. The dyers in Gala and Innerleithen factory inscribe this stone to his memory in gratitude for the many benefits derived from his skill.

This cheerful looking grim reaper brandishing a spade is someone I haven't come across before. Skeletons, yes. Spades, yes. But in combination this is my first one. It's on the side of a table grave which is now completely unreadable but which Sheila Scott's book deciphered partly as belonging to Euphan Gray, wife of George Clark, who died 14.7.1743, also James.....

In my many books about graveyards (see the side bar) I have found references to the angels of the resurrection but this is the very first gravestone on which I have seen them in person so to speak. These angels blow their trumpets to wake the dead, and to let them know it's time to get up again (or resurrect!). There seem to be streamers coming out of their trumpets. And of course the requisite skull and crossbones (symbols of mortality) are also present. There was text on the other side of this stone once upon a time but it has long gone.

By the time I was done it was way past lunchtime so as this was an Away day I decided to do something I normally never indulge in and stopped in a lay-by with a snack van and treated myself to chips with mayonaise (I refused salt because it's unhealthy!!! Sometimes I think I must be slightly mad at the very least). I could almost feel my arteries slipping shut but it was very tasty and a lot of fun. Specially as the lay-by looked out over the lovely Tweed river and the views were outstanding in the sunshine.

Time enough for repentance when I too am in my grave!

1 comment:

Monica said...

we are getting close to November 1 an2 when the Mexican (well really Latino community) celebrate Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. It is a joyous celebration not at all like Halloween.


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