Category Archives: Ireland

Premature Burial

 

In 16th century England, land for burial was sparse. Coffins were dug up and bones taken to the bone-house so that the grave could be reused. Upon opening the coffins, it was noticed that several had scratch marks on the inside. The realization that people were being buried whilst still alive led to the practise of tying a string on the wrist of the corpse, which was attached to a bell above ground, while a sentry sat in the cemetery overnight. This procedure generated several expressions which we use today: ‘saved by the bell’, ‘dead ringer’ and ‘the graveyard shift’.

It also led to a legend known as the ‘Lady with the Ring’. The story relates that a woman was buried while wearing a valuable wedding ring. Shortly after the burial, a grave robber intent on stealing the ring opened the grave. Unable to remove the ring he decided to cut off the finger with a knife, which caused the woman to awaken, surprising the robber. Versions of the story have been found to exist in almost every European country.

In Shankill Graveyard, Lurgan, County Armagh, Northern Ireland is the grave of Margorie McCall who it is believed was the victim of a premature burial. Margorie was wed to Dr. John McCall. They lived in Church Place, Lurgan.

margorie-mccall-gravestone

Margorie fell ill and died in 1705 and was hastily buried to prevent the spread of the disease. The story continues with the attempted theft of the ring……when the robbers fled, Margorie climbed out of the grave and returned home. When she knocked on the door, her husband dropped dead of shock and was buried in the very grave she had just vacated.

The Public Records Office in Northern Ireland (PRONI) contains death records for nine Margorie McCalls in Lurgan, three of whom were married to a John McCall. However, no record is held of the death in 1705.

In the 1860s a local stonemason by the name of William Graham created a marker bearing the inscription Margorie McCall Lived Once, Buried Twice. The marker was erected at the base of Dr. John McCall’s gravestone in Shankill cemetery.

margorie-mccall-grave

Died Once Buried Twice

There lowly beneath lonely sod,
A lady twice entombed,
Tradition has it noised abroad,
She was exhumed alive.

Her precious ring her finger bore,
From her bright wedding day;
And in death likewise wore
When buried in the clay.

But a foul thief to steal the ring,
Did cast the clay aside
And he to life did quickly bring
She who lately died.

For he should cut the finger round,
To gain the golden prize,
But when the blood flowed from the wound
She spoke and did arise.

And straight away to her home did go
In her dead robes so white;
Like a wandering spirit free from woe,
But doomed to roam at night.

And when she reached her husbands door,
She gave her well known knock
An he fell senseless to the floor,
Un-nerved by the strange shock.

Her children knew here gentle voice
And flew to her embrace;
And all the neighbours did rejoice,
But marvelled at the case.

But death at last took here away,
As he will sure take all
And not again to Judgement Day
Shall Rise Margery McCaull.. 

 

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CWGC Graves

Following the two World Wars, discussion and agreement by Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom (member countries of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) on the burial of the dead created a standardized format encompassing burial sites, layout and size of the gravestones, and the legend on headstones.

Commonwealth countries built burial sites close to combat zones to preserve the link with the battlefield, whereas the United States and France created huge regional cemeteries intended to make a significant impression on people’s minds.

national-cemetery
National Cemetery, Los Angeles, USA

The graves were arranged in straight rows and designed to be perpetual and permanent. The material used in the headstones varied due to the requirement of a weather resistant substance or occurrence of earthquakes.

The standard used ensured that every grave was marked with a headstone, originally 76 centimetres (30”) tall, 38 cm (15”) wide, and 7.6cm (3.0”) thick,  with upper case lettering designed by MacDonald Gill.

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Graves in Germany. Image Source: thebignote.com

Each stone contained the national emblem or regimental badge, rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty. In the case of burials of Victoria Cross or George Cross recipients, the regimental badge was supplemented by the Victoria Cross or George Cross emblem.

bignote_australia
Image Source: thebignote.com

An appropriate religious symbol was included; most often a cross denoting Christianity, and sometimes a personal dedication chosen by relatives.

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Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind. J. F. Kennedy

Far away in a distant land,
Suddenly struck by death’s strong hand
A loving son, strong and brave,
Lies buried in a soldier’s grave.

bignote1
Image Source: thebignote.com

No one knows the silent heartache,
Only those can tell
Who have lost their loved ones
Without saying one farewell.
We pictured him safely returning,
We longed to clasp his hand,
But God has postponed the meeting,
Till we meet in a better land.

bignote3
Image Source: thebignote.com

No one knows the silent heartache, 
only those that have lost can tell
Of the grief that’s borne in silence
For the one we loved so well. 

bignote5
Image Source: the bignote.com

And when he gets to Heaven,
To Saint Peter he will tell:
‘Just another soldier reporting, Sir.
I’ve served my time in Hell.’ Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland

roslin

Do not ask us if we miss him,
There is such a vacant place;
Can we e’er forget that footstep,
And that dear familiar face.

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Image Source: thebignote.com

No loved one stood beside him to bid a last farewell,
No word of comfort could he leave to those he loved so well.
We little thought his time so short in this world to remain,
Nor that from when his home he went he would never return again.

pte-william-allen

He marched away so bravely, His young head proudly held;
His footsteps never faltered, His courage never failed,
There on the field of battle, He calmly took his place,
He fought for King and Country, And the honour of his race.

…And decades later, the men and women who served are still remembered and accorded the same burial.

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Musical Themes

The graves of musicians almost always display symbols of music such as musical instruments, or notes of a song which may represent a favourite hymn or a song written by the deceased.

LYRE/HARP
Historically, a lyre or harp was representative of heavenly music. When displayed with a broken string it symbolized the end of life.
harp

This gravestone in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, marks the burial place for Professor George Edward Percy Careless, a pioneer of 1864. He led the Salt Lake Theatre orchestra and was appointed Tabernacle choir leader.

HARP utah
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=27200407&PIpi=47812981

Ebenezer Beesley succeeded George Careless as the Conductor of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

HARP beesely
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=27200438

A harp also indicates Irish heritage as in this example of an elaborately decorated Celtic cross in the graveyard at Bonamargy Friary in Ballycastle, Co. Antrim, Ireland.
HARP ireland

GUITAR
Cindy Walker was an American songwriter responsible for a large number of popular and enduring songs recorded by many different artists. She was also a country music singer and dancer. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1997. This attractive memorial is located in Mexia City Cemetery, Texas, USA.
GUITAR abcnews_cindy_walker

As an American musician and singer-songwriter Charles Hardin Holley, known as Buddy Holly, was influential in the rock and roll scene. In 1959, at the age of 22 when his career was taking off, he was tragically killed in a plane crash. He is buried in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas. The flat gravestone is engraved with a depiction of his Fender Stratocaster.
GUITAR paste

Johnny Ramone was the third member of the punk rock sensations, The Ramones, to pass away. He is memorialized with a bronze statue. The 50 year old Johnny (aka John Cummings) joined dead Ramones Joey and Dee Dee on September 15, 2004 after succumbing to prostate cancer. The $100,000 statue depicts the beloved NYC mophead with his Mosrite guitar in hand. It was sculpted by artist Wayne Toth. The memorial is located in Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, USA.
CA_Los Angeles_Johnny Ramone

MUSICAL STAFFS
The almost illegible gravestone located in Brompton Cemetery, London, England, is marked with musical notes. I searched for a long time trying to match the few visible words to a verse or lyric, but without any luck.

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Colonel Sanford C. Faulkner was a businessman and politician in Arkansas, USA. As a tribute to his life and his talent as a fiddle player (he composed the tune “The Arkansas Traveler”, which was the State song of Arkansas from 1949 to 1963), a marker was placed at his grave in 1954 by the Pulaski County Historical Society. The gravestone is inscribed; Known to his friends as Sandy known to fame as the Composer of the Arkansas Traveler.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This example of a standard CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) gravestone honours Second Lieutenant Hugh Gordon Langton, a talented violinist who died in 1917 while serving with the 4th Batallion London Regiment Royal Fusiliers. This is the only CWGC gravestone to be inscribed with a musical staff. It is believed to echo notes from an old American song called After The Ball. It is located in Poelcapelle British Cemetery, West Flanders, Belgium.

BARS findagrave
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=pv&GRid=12117383&PIpi=49542913

PIANO
William Henry Thornton was a classical pianist who played music for the troops in World War One. He died during the influenza pandemic of 1918. The lid of the unusual piano memorial was originally engraved with his name, Harry Thornton. An inscription on the side is attributed to Puccini’s opera, Madame Butterfly; “Sweet thou art sleeping; cradled on my heart; safe in god’s keeping; while I must weep apart.” It is located in Highgate Cemetery, London, England.

PIANO flickr 1962
Status 1962. Source: http://cordgrass.blogspot.ca/2009/08/london-cemeteries.html
PIANO cordgrass
Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/69389735@N04/

Frederic Chopin was born in Poland to a French immigrant father. A Polish composer and virtuoso pianist he lived most of his life in Paris until he died from Tuberculosis in 1849. His grave which is located in Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France, contains his body. However, in accordance with his wishes, his heart was interred at Holy Cross Church, Warsaw, Poland.
France_Paris_Pere lachaise_Chopin

findagrave chopin
Source: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=198

And in a fitting conclusion, we see a gravestone displaying the words from a song by the British rock band, Queen; ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST.
queen

Anchored in Death

When we think of an anchor we think of the sea and sailors, and this symbol signifying hope and steadfastness is often found on the graves of sailors.

He is anchored home.

On Christian graves, the anchor represents Christ and also St. Clement who was bound to an anchor and dropped into the sea. Early Christians used the anchor as a disguised cross and marker to guide one another to secret worship places. The symbol of an anchor wrapped in vines represents a firm Christian faith.

uniedu
Image Source: http://www.uni.edu/connors/symbolism.html

Milton evergreen

Milton Anchor

Houston maybe
Image Source: http://historichouston1836.com/cemetery-iconography-and-symbolism/
deadireland
Image Source: http://www.deadireland.com/anchors.htm

Anchor rope

Anchor chain

Aberdeen
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ruu/7914797220/

Anchors may also be found on the graves of Masons as they are a Masonic symbol for hope.

Source: http://tngenweb.org/darkside/masonic.html
Image Source: http://tngenweb.org/darkside/masonic.html
Image Source: http://sharonscrapbook.blogspot.ca/2012/12/tombstone-tuesday-cemetery-art.html

An anchor with a broken chain is symbolic of the cessation of life.

Source: http://www.deadireland.com/anchors.htm
Image Source: http://www.deadireland.com/anchors.htm

A woman holding an anchor represents hope.

https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/189969375/woman-anchor-gravestone-real-photo?ref=market
Image Source: https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/189969375/woman-anchor-gravestone-real-photo?ref=market

Woman anchor

A cross with an anchor is an Early Christian symbol referring to Christ as “hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sincere and steadfast” (Hebrews 6:19).

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/60139144@N00/5494627680
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/60139144@N00/5494627680

Milton evergreen (2)

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alansaxman/5612556862/
Image Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alansaxman/5612556862/
Image Source: http://www.frogsonice.com/photos/mt-auburn/

When the top part of an anchor is in the shape of a cross, it symbolizes Christ as the sure hope for our lives – something strong and secure amid the stormy seas of life.

cross shape

Source: http://callmetaphy.blogspot.ca/2012/01/sailing-into-afterlife-anchored-by.html
Image Source: http://callmetaphy.blogspot.ca/2012/01/sailing-into-afterlife-anchored-by.html