Phoneography Challenge: fade to black (and white)

Four weeks ago I was in Scotland; in the Perthshire village of Kirkmichael to be precise.

I was there because I knew that a distant branch of my family had lived in the village for most of the nineteenth century (and most likely well back beyond that), and I wanted to see if I could find any trace of them.

It took a couple of attempts to find the local cemetery – signposts for the church took me to one long abandoned and apparently without a churchyard.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Abandoned church, Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

Eventually, back in the village I found what I was looking for. It’s not a large cemetery; but an old one full of the plain headstones apparently favoured by Scots Presbyterians. I spend quite a lot of time in cemeteries these days, and have noticed definite “fashions” (or at least trends) in headstones. Not only are the Scots’ headstones usually quite simple shapes and largely unadorned with carving; they also seemed to me to contain very straightforward epitaphs. Whilst in Scotland, I didn’t see any of the “fell asleep in the arms of Jesus”-type inscriptions that are quite common in New Zealand.

kirkmichael headstone not family

One of the few ornate headstones in Kirkmichael cemetery; a beautifully carved Celtic cross.

But back to Kirkmichael. It was a very wet, grey day and I wasn’t wearing particularly robust shoes, so I was briefly tempted not to explore the cemetery with it’s slightly abandoned, overgrown feel. Thankfully, the feeling was very short-lived, for at the very bottom of the graveyard, close to the boundary wall and alongside the River Ardle, I found the headstone of my 3x great grandparents James Wallace and Anne Cunnison. Born in 1801 and 1807 respectively, James and Anne represent the oldest of my ancestors I have found an actual physical connection to, and it was a very special moment for me to stand in that little churchyard and know that I was touching something so connected to me.

The churchyard of Kirkmichael, Perthshire. In the foreground, the headstone of my great, great, great grandparents James Wallace and Anne Cunnison. The Wallace family lived in Kirkmichael throughout the nineteenth century.

river kirkmichael

The river Ardle as it flows through Kirkmichael, Perthshire, Scotland.

As far as I know James and Anne lived their entire lives in Kirkmichael. This stands in complete contrast to their grand-daughter, Isabella Wallace who was born in St Madoes – also in Perthshire, but moved to Dundee as a child when her father died. She married my great grandfather Stewart Cruden in Dundee, then lived in several Fife villages before ending up in Dysart for a time before emigrating to the United States. Stewart and Isabella lived for 10 years in New Jersey before returning to Dysart in the early 1930s.

I had hoped that there would still be family members in the village, but it was a bleak day and even the pub was closed. I did try the cafe/general store/petrol station, but found it owned by a family from Coleshill, near Birmingham. They were fairly recent “incomers” and weren’t much help on the family history front. They did however serve a decent cup of coffee and quite nice lemon drizzle cake. And we had a pleasant chat about Coleshill; a village I know well from having worked there in the early nineties.

Ironic really to travel half way around the world in search of ancestors only to find a piece of my own past in the most unexpected place.

All photos taken on iPhone 4 and edited with Aviary Ultimate Photo Editor.

The theme of this week’s Phonography Challenge from Sally and Lens and Pens by Sally is black and white.

Here are some more posts you might enjoy:

A Phoneographic Philm Noir

Phoneography Challenge: Black and White

15 thoughts on “Phoneography Challenge: fade to black (and white)

  1. These are absolutely stunning photos, and using black and white is perfect.
    That must have been such an incredible feeling to be in that cemetery and see the grave of your great 3x grandparents.


    • Thank you so much Angeline. It was a really special moment, partly because I’d been disappointed in looking for other ancestors’ burial sites and wasn’t really expecting to find that one either. Because they lived in the village all their lives, I’ve been able to trace back even further to their parents and now have knowledge of ancestors from the 18th century. Very cool for a genealogy geek like me. 🙂


  2. I was totally engaged in your images and story. Since I am working on a family narrative, I know the joy that you felt in such a discovery. The monochrome worked so well for your experience and the sight of the ancestors’ resting place. It all fit into this week’s theme.


  3. Pingback: Phoneography Challenge, the Phone as Your Lens: Black and White | Lens and Pens by Sally

    • Thank you for your kind comments. I haven’t investigated the Wallace line forwards from my ggg grandparents, except for my own line. My gg Wallace grandfather died at 39 and his widow remarried which confused me with names for a while. My great grandmother married into the Cruden family and members of that family certainly did emigrate to New Jersey in the 1920s, but they weren’t Wallaces by then. Hope you manage to find your ancestors!


    • Thank you so much for visiting my blog; and for your kind comments. It really was a very cool moment. I would have liked to share it with my mother, who, when I told her where I’d been said “oh, I stayed in the hotel there once.” It’s a tiny village and the hotel is directly across the road from the cemetery. I think I need another trip back to the UK to take my mum on a road trip with me.


  4. Pingback: Treasures from the past | Shaking the tree

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