Category Archives: Canada

Cairns

A cairn is a marker compiled of stacked rocks. Initially it was an ancient custom of burying the dead to protect the body from scavenging animals.

Cairns vary in size related to whether they are used as a marker for the dead, a memorial, or on trails as a guide.

Markers known as Inukshuk are used by the Inuit and other people of the Artic regions of North America for the purpose of navigation. The word ‘inuksuk’ means “something which acts for, or performs the function of a person’. The Inukshuk form has become a modern day custom of tourists to indicate ‘I was here.’

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Vancouver, Canada

Cairns also marked the places where coffin-bearers rested when the walk to the burial ground was a long one e.g. St Cyril’s Church (Cille Choirille), in Glen Spean, near Roy Bridge in Scotland. Gravediggers recited the Gaelic Prayer before filling the grave in this cemetery which has the most incredible view of any in the Highlands.

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Glen Spean

The area around Inverness in Scotland is rife with cairns. The Clava Cairn is a circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of three cairns at Balnuaran of Clava,

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Balnuaran of Clava

The memorial built at the site of the former Aignish Farm on the islands of Lewis and Harris is a a tribute to the people who took action to recover their homes and livelihoods in the land struggles between landlords and crofters in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The design of two stone structures reflects the idea of confrontation. The jagged stones reflect the aggression and tension of the event.

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This ‘new’ cairn, built by John MacKinnon of Arisaig, was erected on the shores of Loch nan Uamh by the Forty Five Association and unveiled on 4 October 1956. The plaque states: This cairn marks the traditional spot from which Prince Charles Edward Stuart embarked for France 20th September 1746. ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ who claimed to be the rightful heir to the thrones of England, Scotland, France and Ireland was supported by many Highland clans both Catholic and Protestant. Supporters known as Jacobites led risings to reinstate him to the throne.

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One of the most famous Scottish cairns commemorates the Battle of Culloden, the last Jacobite rising, fought on Drumossie Moor, to the north east of Inverness in Scotland. The cairn was erected by Duncan Forbes of Culloden in 1881, in memory of the fallen Jacobites. The inscription on the plaque of the 20 foot high cairn reads :
‘The Battle of Culloden was fought on this moor 16th April, 1746. The graves of the Gallant Highlanders who fought for Scotland and Prince Charlie are marked by the names of their clans’

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In ancient Scotland, cairns were rallying points before battles and fights. Each man placed a stone on the ground upon arrival and removed it after the battle. The number of stones left was an account of the number of Clan members lost in the battle.

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David Izatt Photography
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Shells

Actual shell fragments left on gravestones in pioneer cemeteries represent the journey through death and rebirth. Shells that are not part of the gravestone were left there to signify that the deceased had not been forgotten.

In localities near the sea, entire graves were covered with shells because this product was cheap and readily available.

Although not a common symbol the shell most often used is a scallop shell which represents the baptism of Christ. Many baptismal fonts are often built in the form of a scallop shell.

It is also a traditional symbol of the Crusades.

This large scallop shell was designed by the deceased, Ransom Cook, some years before his death.

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The art form of a child cradled in a scallop shell was popular in North America during the 19th century. Sears, Roebuck and Company had a contract with a Vermont marble producer to sell the shell headstone by mail order.

The conch shell was revered by many cultures as a symbol of reincarnation and wisdom. In Buddhism, the shell’s call can awaken one from ignorance, in Chinese Buddhism it signifies a prosperous journey; and in Islam the shell represents hearing the divine word. People in the Bakongo area of Africa believe that the shell encloses the soul (Pagans also held this same belief regarding the shell as a source of life.)

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He Is My Rock

This unusual grave marker in the form of a rock symbolizes Christ (“He is my rock…” Psalm 92:15).

The two symbols carved into the rock signify that the deceased was a member of two fraternities.

  • The Masonic compass and set square are a symbol used to represent the Order of Freemasons who view God as the architect and builder of the universe hence the use of these tools.
  • The three linked rings which signify the chains that bind the Fraternity are synonymous with the International Order of Oddfellows Fraternity (IOOF).

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The rock rests upon a stone base. A slate marker is engraved with two lines which share the same sentiments related in a poem by Robert Richardson.

Sleep Light Dear Heart
Sleep Light
Good Night
Good Night

The poem entitled Annette was published in 1893. The last lines of the poem by Robert Richardson reads

Warm summer sun, shine friendly here 
Warm western wind, blow kindly here; 
Green sod above, rest light, rest light, 
Good-night, Annette! 
Sweetheart, good-night!

Mark Twain also echoed these sentiments when he paraphrased the poem on the grave of his daughter, Olivia Susan Clemens.
Warm summer sun, shine kindly here;
Warm southern wind, blow softly here;
Green sod above, lie light, lie light –
Good night, dear heart, good night, good night.

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Davella Mills Memorial Carillonic Bells and Chime Tower

The David Mills Carillon Tower is located within the gates of the Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Queenston Street, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. It was created by architect Thomas W. Wiley and erected in 1949 in memory of David Bloss Mills and his wife Ella C. Mills.

The 30 foot tall ashlar stone tower contains a set of 86 electronic bells activated by hammers which are controlled by a keyboard. Narrow stained glass windows resembling vertical slits light the internal stairway.

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Known as the Davella Mills Carillon it was recorded on the Register of Canada’s Historic Places in 2009.

Mills was a native of St. Catharines who immigrated to the United States and invented the spark plug used by Buick. After his wife died he donated most of his immense wealth to needy organizations in North America and around the world.

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I have been unable to discover how often the carillon plays. However, I believe it may be hourly on the hour as the bells played at 11a.m. while I was there and did not play again (I left at 11:50a.m.)

St. Mark’s Anglican Churchyard

In the centre of this picturesque and popular tourist town in Niagara-on-the-lake, Ontario, Canada, is St. Mark Anglican church founded in 1792. During The War of 1812, the church was used as a hospital by the British and as a barracks by the Americans. The Americans occupied the town in 1813, destroying Fort George and digging rifle pits in the cemetery surrounding St. Mark’s. The rifle pits can still be seen today.

The church is surrounded on three sides by a graveyard containing some very old stones. Not much character to the cemetery itself but many stones of interest.

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This grave never to be disturbed

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The blessed communion fellowship divine
We feebly struggle
They in glory shine
Yet all are in thee
For all are thine
Alleluia.  1866

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In the silent tomb we leave them
Till the resurrection morn
When our Saviour will receive them
And restore their lovely form
Requiescant in Pace.  1855

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Friends nor physicians could not save
This mortal body from the grave
Nor can the grave confine him here
And Christ shall bid them to appear.  1865

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A stranger to hypocrisy
And ready to reveal his mind
A warmer heart, more open hand
Or noble spirit, few will find.

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The pains of death are passed
Labour and sorrow cease
And life’s long warfare closed at last
His soul is found in peace. 1885

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The trial is ended, thy rest is won.

Jesus in the Cemetery

The representation of Jesus, acknowledged by Christians as the Son of God, is commonly seen within cemeteries in the form of free standing statues or symbols on gravestones. The symbol of a crucified Jesus brings focus to our sins and his desire to save us; whereas the images of a resurrected Jesus with outstretched arms beckons and welcomes us to share in eternal life.

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The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from sin.

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Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris, France

Safe in the arms of Jesus.

An heir of God through Christ.

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Granada, Spain

With Christ which is far better.

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St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Acton, ON, Canada

Christ our life.

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Granada, Spain

Them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring him.

 

Sweet bitter sleep our Father takes
Till in Christ Jesus he awakes
Then will his happy soul rejoice
To hear his blessed Saviour’s voice.  1882

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St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Acton, ON, Canada

Friends and physicians could not save
My mortal body from the grave
Nor can the grave retain it here
When Christ my saviour shall appear.

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Evergreen Cemetery, Milton, ON, Canada

Jesus the very thought of thee.

My hope is in Christ.

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Montmartre Cemetery, Paris, France

Asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep
From which none ever wake to weep.

Be ye also ready for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh. 1888

Asleep in Jesus.

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Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA, USA