Thursday, 26 January 2012

Old Carrington Cemetary

What would your ideal graveyard look like? This is probably a question you've not really asked yourself but with my increasingly frequent visits to a large variety of these resting places, I have been contemplating that. Today I was in one that had everything I could ever ask. First of all it's old, very old. And it can only be approached along a long (about 1/2 mile) footpath, bordered by tall beech hedges on either side. You could almost imagine a funereal procession with the coffin on a horse drawn cart in the front, followed by a long line of mourners, dressed in sober black, behind! The graveyard is referred to as Old Carrington in the book Midlothian Gravestones (by Islay Donaldson) but the sign now reads: Whitehill Aisle and is tucked away on a little country lane near Carrington, itself a minuscule village. There was once a church here (dating back to 1243), although there is now no sign of that left, but there is a little building, equipped with some hefty modern padlocks. It's the Ramsay family mausoleum which has in fact not been entered since 1998 (as you can read here).

There was a wealth of fabulous stones, arranged all higgledy-piggledy, all slowly sinking into the ground, covered in mosses and lichen, that is if they remain standing at all. Quite a few have fallen over. I'm not even trying to cover them all now, look out for posts in the future. I'm concentrating my efforts today on the above tablestone grave. There is no longer any text visible nor was there at the time (1994) when Islay Donaldson wrote her book, but it is shocking to see how much more was above ground when she visited this graveyard.

The only still visible side of the stone has two little cherubs holding a banner (which once had the text) with lovely carved greenery above them.

All very lovely and relatively innocent looking till you walk around to the side of the stone and encounter

this luscious vision? An extremely strange apparition in a Scottish Protestant graveyard! I have no proof so this is simply a guess but she seems to hark back to pagan times and fertility goddesses. Her hair is braided and interwoven with leaves which seems to confirm this opinion

but if you creep back to the cherub side of the stone you can see that she does in fact have wings (shown at the top of the picture above) so she has been up or down graded (depending on your religious point of view) to some sort of angelic creature. There were originally 4 of her, one on each corner, but only two are still visible. I'm simply stunned, both by the fact that apparently no-one (such as the minister) took exception to her, and by the magnificent carving in such a small, out of the way, relatively insignificant graveyard. We no longer know who lies buried under this stone or when it was carved (my guess would be early 18th Century) which is such a shame as that might explain this apparition.

And the carving on other stones is also exquisite. Just check out the winged soul above. Yes, I know she looks quite rude too, but in fact those are scrolls, not parts of her body! She does look very worried though!

And finally my ideal graveyard should have yews (there were very old ones present here) as well as flowering snowdrops. I hadn't thought about that before but seeing them here they suit so well.

In the midst of death we are in life!

I was quite pleased though that I was the only living human being around as I kept exclaiming with delight, crouching in the grass and having a conversation with myself about the many mystifying stones. Mad as a hatter is what it must have looked like!


Lenna Young Andrews said...

I agree with you on the beauty of that graveyard in so many ways. Also with what you said -In the midst of death we are in life! Just yesterday Steven and I were having a conversation about my dad and how much a part he still is of our daily lives -especially so for Steven. Everyday he uses dad's tools and the skills he taught him to create paddles and tables and fix boats. I still hear my dad 'saying things' to me too and I tell him we are doing okay.
: ) this old Carrington graveyard is a beautiful find and I look forward to more photos.

Linda said...

such beautiful photos Frieda, and I have to say that I find the cemeteries in Europe really are special.

Archie Young said...

The early Church on the site was called St. Kentigern they believe that he built a Church here. He was an early Monk and would have been possibly a Culdee.
This Church may also have been in the hands of Newbattle Abbey
Yes it is a fair walk the next time I go I will drive the car up to it instead of walking.



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