Monday, 7 May 2012

Lasswade Graveyard

What better way to spend a Bank Holiday Monday than to visit a "new" old graveyard, and I mean that most sincerely. Opening the gate to see the beautiful gravestones and ruined buildings of Lasswade Graveyard facing us made my heart skip a beat with delight. Lasswade was once a very rich and well-to-do parish where many wealthy people lived rather than the small place it is now, laying on the outskirts of Edinburgh. There are so many treasures to be found in this graveyard that I have decided to concentrate on just one gravestone in this post and feed you the rest of the pictures in the coming days.

The first recorded church on this site was dedicated on the 5th May 1240 (so more than 772 years ago!). Over time there have been many alterations and additions to the building but now only ruins are left apart from the Drummond Aisle the roof of which you can see above. It's roof construction reminded me of St. Mary's Aisle we had seen on a visit to Carnwath graveyard.

I'm indebted to Islay Donaldson's book Midlothian Gravestones (published in 1994) for most of the information about the gravestone that took my breath away today although I remain in doubt about whether or not she got all her facts right.

Above is one side of the gravestone You can tell it belongs to a wright as his tools are shown strung out along the pediment at the top; here are dividers, a plumb line, a T square, a set square and right in the centre a heart. And this is not surprising as this stone was erected originally in 1739 for his wife. Some of the text can still be read, enough to certify with my own eyes that it is the stone mentioned by Islay Donaldson and fortunately in her day the inscription was still readable. It starts with: hear layes Lain (?) Laidlaw, spouse to Thomas Train who dayed May 13 1739 aged 49 (spelling as is). Then according to Donaldson the text used to say (and she too has quoted the spelling as it must have been):

Hear Layes a Loving Wife
and a Mother kind
a frind to all
in honestie of mind
But ah strong Death
that Heroe haeth hir bound
into the Grave
till the last Trump sounds

The first time I've seen Death referred to as a hero!

I'm completed stumped as to the meaning of the carving of the two what look like heads on either side at the top of the pillars. Esoteric is one way to describe them. Pagan also comes to mind. Islay Donaldson doesn't even mention them in her book and I'm assuming she too could not think of any plausible explanation for them.It seems to be quite primitive compared to the carving on both this and the other side of the stone
Then we come to the reverse of this stone which is simply stunning. in its carving (and thus this became my blip for today). But what do all the figures on this side mean? The skull and crossbones with their Memento Mori banner above are self-evident.

There is a winged soul with drapery coming from it's mouth, pulled down by 2 rather chubby (or should that be pot-bellied) cherubs. Donaldson thinks the drapery comes from behind the winged soul in the centre but to my eye it comes out of it's mouth in a scene reminiscent of Green Men. I guess we're never know for sure.

But what to make of the little figures in the top part. Yes, there is a skull and an hour-glass, but what of the rest. Islay Donaldson would have us believe that they might be the three fates; Clotho to the left, drawing from her distaff the thread of life, on the right (seen above) Lachesis, spinning this thread and determining its lenght and in the centre with the fearsome scythe Atropos, ready to sever it. I wonder if a stonemason would be aware of this legend ,although perhaps the patron who paid the bill might given the necessary information and instruction. I can't come up with an other or better explanation.

On both top sides of this gravestone there are very fierce looking skulls!

One last look at the graveyard but I promise to be back with more pictures before too long.


Lenna Young Andrews said...

It looks like there is so much to see here, all full of interest. The graveyard itself is very appealing with it's stone walls and everything is so very old here -just not possible where I live now! i will enjoy through your eyes . . .

Linda said...

wow Frieda-this is positively captivating and fascinating!!! The photo of the whole "cherub" looks "primitive" to me. I'm looking forward to more :)

Jewels said...

Wow fantastic Frieda - what an interesting place and yes don't you wish you could meet the original person(s) who carved that gravestone and get answers to all your questions?

Archie Young said...

A very old area I have a sketch of the Church before the Tower was blown down, the early Priest there was called Blackadder and his family owned what is now the Police Training College at Tullyallan.



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