Saturday, 17 December 2011

Old Pentland Cemetary

It was very strange to leave the winter whiteness of Macbiehill today to venture forth to Edinburgh. All would have been well had I not met the snowplough in our already very narrow one-track lane but the snow shovelled the previous day made it even narrower. There was nothing for it but for me to reverse, around several bends , till I could manoeuvre the car into a farm entrance. This made me regret we only have winter tyres on our front wheels. But heyho, I did it (no choice!) and was given the thumbs up for my reversing by the driver. Not something I want to repeat anytime soon though. And then you drive to Edinburgh and discover there is no sign of snow whatsoever, nothing!! After the Christmas party of the Thistle Quilters I gave myself another treat and made a small diversion to visit Old Pentland Cemetary. This too hadn't suffered any snowfall and was in prime condition for such an old graveyard. It appears to be in the hands of a conservation society.

There used to be a church here dating back to the 13th Century, now long gone as the church fell into disrepair and then vanished alltogether when Rosslyn Chapel was built nearby. There are some very ancient stones here, as well as a watchhouse where the family of the diseased watched over the remains to stop the so-called body snatchers digging the bodies up again and taking them to Edinburgh to sell to the medical students. A gruesome affair which was wide-spread in the 18th Century. In fact a sign in the graveyard (sponsored by IKEA!) told me that a child was actually stolen from this very cemetary. To stop such things from happening again the family kept watch till the corpse was no longer fresh enough to be used for dissections.

The above stone is a real beauty and at the top there is a quite unusual feature for gravestones, a green man. The gravestone dates from 1762 and is also adorned with the letters TSIH (perhaps initials of the buried?), a skull and crossbones and an hour-glass laying on it's side as well as a spade and shovel (tools of the gravedigger). It's worth remembering that Rosslyn Chapel is nearby and there is a true wealth of Green Men sculptures there so perhaps one of the masons who worked on the chapel, also produced this stone. This was my blip for today.

Above one of the oldest gravestones I've come across, dating back to 1624. The text is disappearing fast but from the top I could just see: Here lys Robert Umpherston, tenant in Pentland who died March 2nd, 1624, aged ???

A very elaborate gravestone (you might have glimpsed it already on the previous picture. It's carving is delicious, a wealth of flowers, a flower basket, leaves and buds as well as S-scrolls. Such fine work I have never seen before. The gravestone dates back to 1765 and belongs to George Brown, farmer at Westerbalprow, who died in that year, his son John, a wright, who died in 1736 and his son Charles a druggist (now there's a word long disappeared from use) who died in 1767. There is also a verse and it reads:

This Modest stone (some fine false modesty there)

What few gay marbles can

may truly say

here lye three honest men

Such a shame to discover a beautiful stone which has fallen over and fallen to bits. Does the snake symbol on either side mean this grave belonged to a doctor, or is it simply a symbol for the snake that caused men to leave paradise? I have no idea but on the edge you can just discern the word virtue. This gravestone dates from 1750.

Just before you go out you come past this beautifully engraved gravestone from where you
view the rest of the graveyard as well as in the far distance the Pentland hills. It was erected by James Barrowman smith Rad Combes to the memory of Isabell Fowler, his spouse, who died Dec. 15th 1788, aged 43 years. Also Margaret Carens, his second spouse, who died March 18th, 1806, aged 47 years. Also four of his children who died young. Also two of his grandchildren... and after that it becomes almost impossible to read anymore.

A concise family history to remember after I left the graveyard (I will return!) and went back to the snowy hills of Macbiehill. Coming back proved a lot less problematic than going out.


arts4all said...

Looks almost like group of summer scenes with all the bright green grass - bet you were surprised to see the snow disappear. Love these head stones. 1624 and still readable is quite amazing.

Glad you were able to attend the quilt guild party!!

Freespiral said...

What a wealth of interesting gravestones - it would be fascinating to do a study of the symbolism used - all that seems long lost sadly. The green man is particularly interesting. And Rossyln has all sorts of interesting connections. And no snow!!

Lenna Young Andrews said...

wow, what a history you are unfolding and one stone from the 1600's! I am glad you got to go to the quilt party and your way back home was easier. The Pentland graveyard looks like one to visit! I love the elaborate vine filled one you found.
Continue! xo

Christine I said...

Hi Freda, glad you found Old Pentland.
This is the cemetery I have been conserving for the last 20 odd years ! There used to be a few of us but now only my husband and myself take an active interest.
I will post you a booklet if you would like some more information.
A lot of work reading all the gravestones etc. Have a look at website for Recording Angels who helped us with research.
Rosslyn have 2 of our best stones displayed in the vault.
Enjoyed the Thistle party.

Archie Young said...

Inside the old Watch House at the gates are Knights Templar Grave Slabs about three, they were discovered in the 1800's by a man just browsing through the Graveyard.
there are two in Rosslyn Chapelone of which is a Knight Templar they beside the one I found at Temple in 2006, it is in an Alcove in the Crypt.



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