Friday, 17 August 2012

Dalkeith Graveyard

As promised here are more pictures of the visit John and I paid to Dalkeith graveyard and St. Nicolas's church. This grave monument is among the most impressive I've come across so far and it dominates the graveyard. It was erected in honour of the Douglas family and they came originally from Spittalhaugh which is a house near West Linton. Synchronicity at its best as some of the members of this family can also be found in West Linton graveyard as you can see on my blog dedicated to that graveyard. The coat of arms of the Douglas family features a heart within a broken pediment and is thus easily recognizable. There is a Latin inscription but it's hard to read because first of all it's high up and secondly getting very worn now.
This is the centre bottom plaque, with two little putti figures holding a scroll and waving palm fronds.There's a skull underneath too. There must have been text on the cartouche but it's completely gone now.
Underneath the mighty pillars there are more images, such as a skull and hour-glass. On the far right one of the puttis of the previous picture can just be seen. There is a wealth of what I think must be acanthus leaves too. This must have been a simply stunning little building when first erected. Sadly bits have started to come down as you can see. According to Islay Donaldson's book Midlothian Gravestones this all dates back to 1722.
Set against the wall nearby is another plaque, again held by 2 putti of which the right hand side one has lost its head. They commemorate TB (the husband) and MM (wife) but there is no date. I would hazard a guess it's from about the same time as the above monument though. Islay Donaldson made a drawing of the cartouche and determined it shows a Green Man three times. The one at the top is hard to see due to that grass but the one at the bottom is clearer. And if you look at the entire cartouche that too could be seen as a Green Man's face. I wish I could have taken a picture straight on but gravestones were in my way!
To the right of the monument shown at the top and again set into the wall is what remains of a complete skeleton. You can see traces of the bottom limbs still on the stone but the actual carved bones have gone. The top which is much higher up however is still complete and very impressive. It has a Memento Mori scroll  above it's skull.  There is no longer any date or other information visible. I think this might be slightly earlier than the 1722 monument. 
The carving is amazing detailed and beautiful.

One of the gravestones shows a remarkable woman's bust attached to what would normally be a winged soul, Again the carving is delicious with the drapings around the theatre of life particularly spectacular. There was text once, but as you can see it's now mostly gone. Only traces remain and thus sadly no date for a beautiful gravestone.

But this is the side of the same stone with more elaborate decoration of skull, crossbones plus crossed scythe and spade, both instruments used by grave diggers and thus symbols of mortality.

And then there is this utterly mystifying but gorgeous stone.There is a floating figure above where the inscription once was. It might at first glance appear to be a woman due to the skirts but this was simply the costume worn by gentlemen in the 18th century and it's more than likely a man wearing a wig fashionable at that time too. It's highly unlikely that such an costly stone would be dedicated to a woman, much as it grieves me to say so! It's probably the deceased looking down from above. There are 2 hour-glasses on which he seems to lean. Two putti are holding up some drapery (probably again representing the Theatre of Life) where in between there was the text and above that a very grumpy looking face which more than likely is another Green Man. If not that an extremely grumpy looking angel. Some sort of fabric folds are on top of it's head.
I'm always finding it very hard to accept that more than likely it is impossible for us from this distance in time to fully comprehend what is going on and obtain more information. All we can do is see and deduce and guess but we'll never know for sure.
Not all the gravestones in Dalkeith graveyard are so mysterious. Sometimes the tragic messages are all too clear. The above monument was erected by grieving parents to their 3 small children all under 10 years old who died in the same month, November 1871. More than likely the same infectious disease carried them all away. What we will again never know is how they coped with such devastating events.

I have no doubt I'll be back in this graveyard before too long. There is much more still to be discovered.


Linda said...

Such artistry in the stones! Wonder if there are people today who do this work, can't imagine there is. To see the Douglas monument when new would be a real treat.

Christine Moon said...

Amazing amazing amazing. They surely do not do carving like that anymore!

I get the same feeling as you - that to stand outside and try to figure out their lives through the distance of time is the puzzle.

Will have to do research on "green man" - I'm not sure what that is and what it symbolizes.

Love the idea of the theater of life -

Thanks for sharing! Chris

Linda said...

truly amazing carvings and photos Frieda-thanks for so generously sharing your wealth of info!


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