Three weeks of glorious autumn in the UK and my photo album is bursting with shots that would fulfill Ailsa’s Travel Theme brief this week.
Most of my time was spent in Scotland and the Northeast of England; much of it doing family history research.
That meant lots of wandering around cemeteries and churchyards in search of ancestors’ headstones. I found a few – including a couple in tiny, isolated places – and felt a sense of connectedness to my past that I really didn’t expect.
I also noticed that Scottish headstones (or perhaps just the Lowland Presbyterian headstones from the eras I was interested in) are quite different to those I’m used to seeing in New Zealand cemeteries. Perhaps because there are more “flavours” of Christianity in NZ, and our earliest headstones date from Victorian times, they are often much more elaborate and include angels, cherubs, and crosses. Those I saw in Fife, Perthshire and Edinburgh were Church of Scotland (or Free Church) and even those from the 19th century were often very plain, and usually carved of sandstone. Many have no epitaph, and in fact, very little information about those interred beneath. The most elaborate, and the largest, were in Canongate Kirkyard in Edinburgh, but from reading them, I think that is because they belonged to wealthier, more prominent citizens than those buried in the smaller, often rural churchyards.
I found myself photographing them, singly and in clusters. Not because they belonged to my past, but because I found a stark beauty in the jumbles of crooked, fallen and weathered stones in Auchtermuchty, Kinglassie, Dysart, Kirkmichael, Abbotshall and Canongate on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.