A Quiet Place

In which I share two not-so-guilty pleasures.

Any one who has read this blog over the past twelve years knows that I have a fondness for visiting cemeteries. Not through any sense of the macabre or romantic fatalism but because they are often lovely spots of quiet in the middle of madness. They may be a hidden away in a overgrown woods (I’ve been sitting on those photos of the Yankee Hill Cemetery for too long now) or beside a small country church. Where ever they are they reflect the stories of a place, a time, and the lives, and deaths, of people.

I also love to travel both in reality and as an armchair passenger. And one of my favourite guides should it be the latter mode is my dear David over at I’ll Think of Something Later. It seems that David is forever on the go – either at home in London or in wonderful exotic places in Europe. Where ever his wandering takes him he manages to take me along with his wonderful photo essays. This past week I was able to travel with David as he took a walk through the Brompton Cemetery near his home in “West Ken”.

I thought I’d like to share that walk with my readers and a left click on the detail from Charles Booth’s 1889 Poverty map of London will allow you to join us.

We were fortunate that on our last trip to London back in 2016 – has it really been that long? – to be able to have brunch with David and J, his diplomate husband. Then we spent the afternoon wandering through Chelsea with David with our final destination the beautiful Chelsea Physic Garden – a true “hidden gem” in the heart of the city. I wrote about our visit and posted a slideshow of the pleasures of the Garden in the late fall. I made a vow then to return to see it at other times of the year and I really should fulfill it. And besides that would give me the chance to wander with David in real time.

On this day in 1907: The Mud March is the first large procession organised by the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Recorded in Stone

In which three tombstones tell their story.

I have always freely admitted to being a taphophile – I have a fondness for visiting cemeteries and looking at graves. Often they are a revealing snapshot of a time in the history of a place and its people. The stories of peoples’ lives, their loves, their achievements and their family are traced in many ways:  carved on stone, in elaborate iron work,  simple wooden crosses, ornate marble vaults or unadorned plaques.  What ever the form a story is told.  It may be a simple one: they were born, they had a name, they died; or it maybe a fulsome description of their life and achievements. Laurent and I still chuckle over an overblown epitaph of a British consul at San Michele in Venice.

On our recent visit to Halifax The Old Burying Ground proved my point and revealed a wealth of history of the city and its people during the near to a century (1749-1844) the Ground served as the first cemetery for the Colony.  As you enter the Triumphal Arch commemorating the British victories in the Crimea and two Haligonians, Major Welsford and Captain Parker, who died in the Siege of Sevastopol, is impressive but was built in 1860, sixteen years after the cemetery was closed and speaks to European history.  It is the rows of stone markers – many of them overgrown with moss and lichen, or battered and worn by time and the elements – that tell the story of the people of Halifax.

There are some 1200 headstones in the Old Burying Ground but I found three in particular intriguing.

Many gravestones record names, dates and include a memorial epitaph requesting peace, prayers or suggesting penance for the departed in the afterlife. However some bear admonitions to the living to give pause for thought.  One such is on the stone “Sacred to the Memory of Zerviah Barratt”.  Zerviah, a variation on the name of King David’s sister Zeruiah, departed life on October 11, 1815 at the age of 72 and left behind these words of warning:

Barratt-tombstone
Your Parents and your friends are gone
My Children know this Doom your own
Feeble as ours your Mortal Frame
The same your way your House the same
From vital air from chearful light
To the cold Graves perpetual night
From scenes of duty means of grace
You must to God’s tribunal pass

Perhaps one of the saddest gravestones in the Old Burying Ground records just names, dates and ages.  It is the resting place of the four Wright children whose combined ages were 3 years and 11 months.  It speaks to the harshness of life in the military post of Halifax in the 1790s- early 1800s.  At the foot of the memorial is a second smaller stone simply incised with the children’s initials.

Wright-Children

The large stone records their passing and perhaps a little of their parents grief. That strange short hand that often appears on monumental masonry of the time omits their father’s full name (In?) but we know that Barbara, a military wife, buried Mary, Charles, Maria and Isabella between 1795 and 1803.

Wright-Children-2
In Memory of 4 Children of In.& Barbara
Wright of the R. Artil. Mary
Depard her life the 3rd Aug.
1795 Aged 1 Year & 4 Months.
Charles Depard his life Sep
3 1798 Aged 2 Months. Maria
Depard her life 11 Nov. 1800
Aged 1 year & 3 Months. Isabella
Depardher life 14 March 1803
Aged 1 years & 2 Months.
Farewell dear Babes
While Nature prompts A tear
Parents love shall pay the tribute here

An intriguing epitaph on Captain John Westmacott’s tombstone brings to light a strange story of a bag of stolen salted mackerel, murder, a large reward, a snitching fence, a botched execution, and perhaps an innocent man hanged. The legend tells us that Westmacott:

Died May 4, 1816 in the 29th year of his Age
His death was occasioned by
Wounds he received from two
Villains in possession of Stolen Goods
Whom he attempted to Secure
While he was doing Military
Duty in Halifax early in the
Morning of 17th April 1816.

Westmacott’s story is one of those vignettes that we can only wish had been in our history books at school.  The full story is told in Dianna Marshall’s True Stories from Nova Scotia’s Past and is more than worth the read.

While downloading the photos of the Old Burying Ground I found – as one often does – that an oversensitive iPhone had taken an unintended photograph.  But in this case perhaps not an inappropriate one.

Gravedigger

On this day in 1995: Quebec citizens narrowly vote (50.58% to 49.42%) in favour of remaining a province of Canada in their second referendum on national sovereignty.

Cat Amongst the Angels

Last Saturday was the first full day of sunshine we had since all week so, morning marketing done, Laurent and I decided to explore our neighbourhood.

The main cemetery for the city, Cimitero del Verano, is located a 10 minute walk along Viale Regina Margherita from our place; so we decided to hike down to Piazza San Lorenzo and give a look see. I have mentioned in the past that we both enjoy visiting cemeteries – when I said this to an Italian friend he thought it was morbid in the extreme. But we find it a great chance to explore another part of our adopted city’s history.

Like any cemetery Campo Verano has its share of kitschy monuments and this reclining angel must be amongst the kitschiest.
And being a Roman cemetery it also has to have cats – and if this sleek and well fed feline is anything to go by there must be a cat lady or ladies who feed and look after them regularly.At first she approached us with great interest but when there was no food forthcoming decided we were best ignored.Though her disdain for the treatless humans was nothing compared to her opinion of that angel.And I tend to agree with her.

23 gennaio – Sant’Emerenziana