Tag Archives: Dalkeith

More Questions Than Answers

This gravestone is located in St. Nicholas Churchyard in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland. The inscription has disappeared due to weather erosion which is also attacking the sculptured effigies. Although this stone hosts common mortality symbols of Memento Mori in the hourglass, arrows and the skull the remainder is difficult to interpret.

Dalkeith_St Nicholas_men

On a humourous note, the skull on the bottom left appears to be wearing sunglasses.

Is the floating image a mother looking down from Heaven on her children? Note how this figure seems to be casually resting on her hand. Is this actually a female or a male as period dress may indicate? What is the triangular shape the figure is holding in the left hand? Are the cherubs below children or representative of angels?

What are the cherubs holding onto? Is it the wings of a winged effigy or a shroud/drape which denotes mourning and often borders a dedication? Or is the entire scene related to a Fraternity?

What is the boat shaped item? A similar symbol is found in the Old Town Cemeteries in Stirling, Scotland.


Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/europealacarte/2245476877/in/dateposted/

12th Century Church

This historic Church of Scotland is located on the High Street in Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland. It is believed that a chapel dedicated to St. Nicholas has existed there since the early 12th Century.

High St East_St. Nicholas 1

In 1406, Sir James Douglas built and founded a Collegiate Church in the same location. The church and graveyard were located in the centre of town on the north side of the High Street ensuring that no individual living within the parish of Dalkeith was required to walk further than three miles to worship.

The ruined apse and chancel (areas containing the altar and the choir) contained two recumbent stone effigies marking the burial locations of Sir James Douglas, 1st Earl of Morton, and his wife Joanna, daughter of King James I.

Considered monuments of idolatry by the Reformation, the apse was abandoned and sealed from the rest of the church by a wall in 1592. Some parts of the building were allowed to fall into decay following the Reformation and eventually the roof collapsed. The old section of the church remains without a roof.

High St N_St Nicholas

In 1650 Oliver Cromwell and his troops crossed the border into Scotland with the intention of capturing the city of Edinburgh and set up headquarters in the parish church. Soldiers broke open the poor box, set fire to furniture and used the space to stable their horses. The sacristy (a room where vestments and other things of worship are kept) was used as a prison.

In the early 18th century, the sacristy which had continued to be used as a jail became a burial vault for the Buccleuch family (Scottish peerage and local landowners).

High St East_St. Nicholas_vault

The church was greatly altered in 1854, and the walls of the original church were embedded within the present building. A fire which destroyed the steeple in 1885 caused two 300 years old bells to crash to the ground.

The church was restored once more in the 1930s, and in 1979 the church was renamed St. Nicholas Buccleuch.

In 2005, the 21st Earl of Morton unveiled the newly-repaired Morton Monument. The 16th century figures had been carefully restored and looked magnificent. Morton said at the ceremony: “I think this has been a great achievement for all the people concerned in putting this together. It is a great achievement for the people of Dalkeith.”

The Alms Collection House, adjacent to the main gate, is thought to be the only building of its kind: built specifically for the purpose of collecting alms.


The attached graveyard was blogged previously, see https://wordsonstone.wordpress.com/2016/08/01/st-nicholas-churchyard/




Memorial to Miners

Easthouses is a suburb of the town of Dalkeith in Midlothian, Scotland. The Easthouses pit, now closed,  was owned by the Marquess of Lothian.

Memorial to Miners killed in Easthouses Pit
Memorial to Miners killed in Easthouses Pit

In Memoriam

This memorial is dedicated to the memory of those miners who died in accidents at Easthouses Drift Mine between 1906 and 1969.

John Smith, a pumper aged 67, died on 19 November 1960. Owing to repairs in the shaft he was unable to descend and went to go to work a pump, of which he had charge, by an in-going-eye from the surface; he did not get to the pump, and was missed for a day and search was made, when he was found at the entrance to the in-going-eye quite dead; his death was due to natural causes. (IN-GOING-EYE: a drift or mine starting from the surface of the ground; also the end of the mine at the surface.)

James Knight was killed on 2 February 1926.

Thomas McQue was killed on 14 January 1930 by a fall of material from the roof. M’Que was 45 years of age, and resided at Montieth’s Close, High Street, Dalkeith. He left a widow and a son aged 4 years.

Alexander Fulton, a miner aged 40, died on 18 May 1935 in hospital after being injured several days earlier when a fall of coal occurred in the underground workings. Fulton, who resided at 5 Elmfield Bank, Dalkeith, leaves a widow and three children.

John Taylor, an oversman aged 45, was killed by a fall of stone on 20 November 1938. (OVERSMAN: A person subordinate to the manager, in charge of underground operations.)

John Fairgrieve, a coal crusher attendant aged 31, was caught in a coal-cutting machine on 23 November 1944.

James Galloway, a colliery engineman aged 58, died of heart failure after being struck by a carriage on 25 November 1944.

Murdoch Mckenzie, a coal miner aged 32, was struck by material from shot and killed on 31 December 1946. (SHOT: A blast of gunpowder, or other explosive.)

Thomas Docherty, a brusher aged 51, was killed by a fall of stone on 5 August 1952. (BRUSHER: a person who removes part of the roof or pavement by blasting or otherwise in order to heighten the roadway.)

Frank Watkins, a coal miner aged 47, was killed on 3 October 1952 when he was crushed by two moving hutches. (HUTCH: A small wagon for conveying mineral.)

William Hay Hill, an oncostman aged 46 was killed on 9 June 1956 when he fell from a roof. (ONCOSTMEN: All workmen other than miners paid by days’ wages.)

Alexander Johnston Farquhar, a mine driver aged 36, was killed on 20 December 1957 when scaffolding collapsed and he fell down the pit shaft. (MINE DRIVER: a person who cuts or excavates.)

John Hall Bald, a face worker aged 47, died on 11 September 1958 when he was struck by a steel prop and crushed against a steel arch. (FACE WORKER: a miner who works a wall of mineral.)

David Hogg, a brusher aged 51, was killed by a fall of stone on 9 August 1961. (BRUSHER: a person who removes part of the roof or pavement by blasting or otherwise in order to heighten the roadway.)

Rudolf Robert Rother, a faceman aged 35 years, was killed when he fell from a roof on 18 June 1963. (FACE WORKER: a miner who works a wall of mineral.)

Alexander Shirkie, aged 23, killed on 9 February 1965.

Ne obliviscaris (Latin meaning Forget Not)

Erected by Mayfield and Easthouse Retired Branch of the National Union of Mineworkers & Midlothian Council.

Unveiled by Provost Sam Campbell
28 May 2006






Mining Tragedies

It’s dark as a dungeon and damp as the dew,
Where danger is doubled and pleasures are few,
Where the rain never falls and the sun never shines
It’s dark as a dungeon way down in the mine.

~Merle Travis~

Aberfan, Wales

On 21 October 1966 in the Welsh village of Aberfan people were going about their business until a sudden thunderous noise alerted them to the collapse of the colliery tip caused by a build-up of water in the accumulated rock and shale. Over 40,000 cubic metres of debris suddenly slid downhill and engulfed the Pantglas Junior School and about 20 houses in the village before coming to rest.

Rescue efforts, which were hampered by more debris coming down the mountain, lasted for a week.The catastrophe claimed the lives of 116 children and 28 adults who died from impact or suffocation. The official inquiry blamed the National Coal Board for extreme negligence, and parliament passed new legislation about public safety in relation to mines and quarries.

Stone memorials were erected in Aberfan Cemetery for the majority of the victims after the disaster.

Benxihu, China

The worst coal mining disaster in history occurred on 26 April 1942 in the coal mine, located near Benxi in the Liaoning province of China. It was caused by a mixture of gas and coal dust which created a fatal explosion underground shooting fire out of the mine shaft entrance. To deprive the fire of oxygen, the ventilation system was shut off and the pit head was sealed. An electric fence was erected around the pit to prevent relatives of the miners from entering. The catastrophe claimed 1,549 lives. It took workers ten days to remove all the corpses and rubble from the shaft. The dead were buried in a mass grave nearby. Later, the Japanese erected a monument to the dead which stated the number of dead to be 1327.

Courrieres, France

The second deadliest coal mining disaster in history occurred in France. The catastrophe occurred on 10 March 1906 due to a massive explosion sparked by an underground fire in one of the pits of the Courrieres Colliery.

The underground fire was detected the day before the explosion and ground openings were closed to starve the fire of oxygen. The following morning a huge underground explosion caused a blast on the surface that killed 1,099 comprised of miners as well as people on the surface.

The disaster led to strikes demonstrating against the mining company who continued to operate when the fire had been discovered, and the managers who stop searching for survivors after only three days.


Fraterville, TN, USA

On May 19, 1902 at 7:30am near Fraterville, Tennessee, an oil lamp sparked a methane explosion which killed 216 men (until that point there had been a total of 219 men in the town.) Hundreds of women were widowed, and approximately a thousand children were left fatherless.

A large monument containing the names of 184 identified miners killed in the explosion is encircled by concentric circles of 89 graves. It is known as the Fraterville Miners’ Circle and is located at Leach Cemetery in the nearby town of Coal Creek.

The bodies of 30 unidentified miners were buried in a mass grave not far from the mine. It is marked with a historical plaque on Slatestone Road in Briceville.

Route 116 which connects Fraterville and Briceville has been renamed “Fraterville Miners Memorial Highway” in honor of the victims of the mine explosion.




Madeley, Shropshire, England

Nine miners were killed when the chain attached to the winding apparatus gave away during their ascension from the Lane Pit. They died at the end of their shift on 27 September 1864. Four of the dead were boys under the age of 16.

Monongah, WV, USA

The Monongah Coal Mine Disaster which occurred on 6 December 1907 was caused by a firedamp and coal dust explosion in two mines at the Monogah mine facility operated by Fairmont Coal Company. The explosion devastated the ventilation system, boiler-house, fan and the openings of an additional mine. Italian immigrants were the majority of the 362 victims.

monongah_mining technology

Durham, Northumberland, England

A memorial to Thomas Hepburn, miners’ champion and trade union leader. He worked as a minor from the age of 8 and later intiated the first great union of Northern Miners in 1831 and conducted the strike of 1832. With great forbearance and ability his life was spent in advocating shorter hours of labour and extended education for miners.

Plymouth, PA, USA

On September 6, 1869, a massive fire at the Avondale Colliery started when the wooden lining of the mine shaft caught fire and ignited the coal processing plant built directly overhead. The fire trapped and suffocated 108 of the workers. Two rescuers also died bringing the death toll to 110.

avondale mine disaster

Pretoria, Lancashire, England

The Hulton Colliery, known locally as Pretoria Pit, employed 2500 local men and boys, many from the same family. The day before the disaster occurred, a large fall of roof caused a build-up of gas and miners had complained of gas in the mine and also sparking on a conveyor switch.

On 21st of December 1910, 900 men clocked on for the morning shift. A tremendous explosion that travelled a mile underground killed 344 men and boys who were comprised of miners and colliery employees.

Wakefield, Nottinghamshire, England

A national pit strike in 1984 drew miners from around the country to the picket lines. David Jones, a Wakefield miner, was picketing at Ollerton colliery when he was hit by a brick on March 15th 1984. He died from chest injuries several hours later.

Whitesville, WV, USA

The Upper Big Branch Mine disaster occurred on April 5, 2010 as a result of a high methane levels causing a coal dust explosion in Montcoal, West Virginia. 29 men were killed.

The Upper Big Branch Miners Memorial in Whitesville, WV which was dedicated in 2012 consists of a 48-foot black granite monument with life-size etched silhouettes of twenty-nine miners. The names of all twenty-nine miners killed and the two survivors are listed on the reverse side of the monument which also gives a brief summary of the coal industry in West Virginia. The memorial also includes a bronze sculpture and plaque recognizing the local first responders and mine rescue teams from West Virginia and neighboring states that aided in recovery efforts.




A miner stood at the Golden Gate
His head was bent and low.
He meekly asked the man of fate
The way that he should go.
“What have you done,” Saint Peter said,
“To gain admission here?”
“I merely mined for coal,” he said,
“For many and many a year.”
St. Peter opened wide the gate,
And softly tolled the bell.
“Come and choose your harp,” he said
“You’ve had your share of hell.”

Easthouses, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
Easthouses, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland


These gravestones have been wiped clean due to weather erosion, or from damage. A life once lived, now even the words of memorium are erased from the stone…

St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith,  Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Meek and gentle was her spirit
Prudence did her life adorn
Modest she disclaimed all merit
Tell me am not I forlorn
Yet I must and will resign her
She’s in better hands than mine
But I hope again to join her
In the realms of love divine.

St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith,  Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Of such is the kingdom of Heaven
Often I stood as you stand now
To view the dead as you do me
Ere long, and you shall lie as low
And others stand and look on thee.

St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith,  Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Tho’ lost to sight
To memory clear.

St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith,  Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas Church, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Tis but a little tear is shed
For one to mem’ry dear
The tribute of my childhood days
Is but a little tear.

Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland
Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland

As you were, you will always be
Treasured forever in our memory.

Copps Hill,  Boston, MA, USA
Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA

Come near my friends and cast and eye
Then go your way, prepare to die,
Learn your doom, and know you must
One day like me be turned to dust. 1876

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A frequent feature on gravestones, the skull is a symbol of death, mortality, penitence, and sin. It appears in several formats.

Symbolic of crucifixion, death, and mortality.
The fear which this ancient symbol of death inspires led pirates to adopt it as an emblem upon their black flags and chemists to use it to denote poison. The combination when it appears on tombstones means, “He  is dead.”

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

See yonder flower that scents the air
How sweet it blooms
How swift it fades!
Just such is man in youth how fair
How chang’d his form when death invades!
Yet fades the flower to bloom again
And we shall rise with Christ to reign.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

As measured notes of set music we pass in fast or slow marches to the grave.

St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland
St. Nicholas, Dalkeith, Midlothian, Scotland

Gently this spot in solemn silence tread
Let none disturb the relics of these dead
Their souls have waft themselves to God on high
But here all round this stone their bodies lie.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

In my Father’s house are many mansions.

It is interesting to note that this skull is accompanied with only one bone. Curious and puzzling.

Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian,  Scotland
Athelstaneford Parish Churchyard, East Lothian, Scotland

Lo!  Lost remembrance drops a pious tear
And holy friendship stands a mourner here.

This sculptured panel contains only the crossbones, and they are intersected with workman’s tools; a pick, a shovel, and a spade.

Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland
Greyfriars Cemetery, Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland

Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord
They rest from their labours and their works do follow them.

The skull represented here also displays crossed arrows and an hourglass, both of which symbolize mortality.

Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland
Lasswade Cemetery, Lasswade, Midlothian, Scotland

I am the Resurrection and the Life
He that believeth in me though he were dead yet shall he live.

The badly eroded stone displays a dove flying above a skull and represents the resurrection of the soul.

Campbellville Burying Ground, Campbellville, ON, Canada

A winged skull symbolizes the ascension into heaven, and the flight of the soul from mortal man.
Sometimes called death’s heads or winged death, it represents the fleeting nature of life and impending death. It was once a common motif on New England tombstones.

80% of the carvings on gravestones in Copps Hill Cemetery, Boston, bear the winged skull symbol.

Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA
Copps Hill, Boston, MA, USA

Skull lyes

No flat ring marble rules the traveler here
The spot is sacred to affections dear
He was in life what artful men pretend
Companion, parent, neighbour, Christian, friend. 1802

Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA
Burial Hill, Plymouth, MA

Hail sweet repose not shall we rest
No more with sickness be distressed
Here from all sorrows find release
Our souls shall dwell in endless peace. 1789

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

No longer was my  life
No longer was my breath
God called me home in early life
Because he thought it best. 1805

King's Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA
King’s Chapel Burying Ground, Boston, MA

Though far from home in distant land
My flesh returns to dust
In hopes to rise when Jesus calls
And dwell among the just. 1808

Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA
Old Burial Ground, Brewster, MA

Life’s painful toils are over
Its pilgrimage is ended
And to a  purer happier shore
Her spirit hath ascended. 1808