Eassie Old Church: Gravestones

Whilst looking at the Pictish Stone in this churchyard I had to take a look at the unusual headstones, including a series of tablestones.

I am always curious to see what symbols have been used on the headstones. Here the hourglass is used which symbolises a short life or swiftness of time. The cross and skulls as well as angel wings are common. But my favourite was the pressing iron and shears that indicate the grave was that of a tailor.

Sometimes the dates indicate some illness struck a family; above the two children died within a month of each other. The son only 4 days short of his 7th birthday and his sister not even 5½ years old. What illness struck them down? Measles? Smallpox? Influenza?

The grounds of this cemetery appear to be well looked after, the grass is short and the area around the stones is cleared, but it is sad to see some of the old headstones broken and discarded, some in piles, others propped up against the walls of the ruined church. Lichens and moss make some of them illegible.

A war grave stands proud in the cemetery. Though it too raises questions. How did the young soldier die? And what is 3/5th Black Watch? ¹

When we take such great care to protect one ancient stone (the Pictish Stone) we also need to protect stones that in the future would also relate our history.

Thursday’s Special | Traces of the Past

¹ 3/4th, 3/5th, 3/6th and 3/7th Battalions
Formed at home bases in March and April 1915. All moved to Bridge of Earn and later in 1915 to Ripon.
8 April 1916 : renamed 4th to 7th Reserve Bns; on 1 September 1916 4th absorbed all others.
Moved to Edinburgh in May 1918.

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

45 thoughts on “Eassie Old Church: Gravestones”

  1. Never knew that about the hourglass – fascinating. Incredible the amount of work (& money) that has gone into these.

    1. I find the older headstones so much more interesting than the modern black smooth, shiny granite ones. The carvings and the decorative details are so interesting.

      1. With you on that. I’m also always intrigued by the ones you find on their own on a hill or in the middle of a wood. There is one in Surrey which was erected by local villagers in memory of a stranger who was murdered, and then there is the one in Winchester of the soldier who died of cold beer!

        1. Is the Surrey one the soldier/sailor killed at Hindhead? I have a photo of that somewhere. We used to walk up to Gibbet Hill often.

        2. Haha… You could be right. I said to my daughter that it is because of my age, but she said even her children are complaining that time is going so fast.

  2. I find them a bit morbid, Jude. I would struggle to live next door to one. From a historian’s point of view they’re interesting, of course, but always tinged with sadness. I don’t mind a peaceful wander on a bright day though. 🙂 🙂 Speaking of bright- it isn’t! Super showers of sleet. I’m delighted 🙂 Been to the doctor yet?

    1. I don’t find them in the least but morbid Jo. From an historians view there is so much to discover about the lives of the people and I love to discover what all the symbols mean. I hadn’t realised that some relate to the trade of the person. From a photographer’s viewpoint there is lots to zoom in on. Windy and sunny here – had hailstones last night though!

  3. I love wandering through cemeteries and churchyards; so much history but so intensely personal. Children’s headstones are the worst. I wonder too about the Pattullo children. I found a similar occurrence in my family history at about the same time. It was scarlet fever I think that took two of my 2x great grandfather’s children — and three others within two weeks in the same small rural settlement.

    1. I agree with you about the children’s headstones, always tugs the heart. Yes, scarlet fever could explain it. Epidemics wiped out a lot of children. We are very lucky to have been born when antibiotics and vaccinations were improving, though as a young child I knew several children who had suffered from polio.

      1. We’re seeing a resurgence of so many childhood illnesses here. It’s generally blamed on “low vaccination rates” but I suspect that if we didn’t have so many children living in poverty, those diseases wouldn’t have such terrible consequences if kids did catch them.

        1. Seems to be a low vaccination rate here in Cornwall too. I don’t understand it. As someone who caught several childhood diseases (we only had polio and DWT vaccinations) I wouldn’t wish them on anyone. And some, like measles, can be very dangerous.

  4. I find it fascinating and a little sad when wandering through a cemetery. It’s hard to imagine how devastating it must have been to lose two children in such a short time. Helen had a good long life though. I hope she had some happy times.

    1. I don’t find it particularly sad because they are not related to me I suppose, but I do find that I would like to know more about their lives and their stories. And I hope that the older headstones are recorded and preserved if possible. There is a lot of history there.

  5. Unlike Jo, I never find anything about those peaceful graveyards morbid. I relish the history, and the way that the names live on down the centuries. I would love to live close to one like this.
    The use of symbols to denote occupation is quite rare, and you were lucky to find some. The young soldier who died in 1916 may have died in a training accident, or been sent home wounded, after service at the front. I expect his story can be found in online military records. Though it might have been something as ‘routine’ as tetanus after a cut, or appendicitis. Simple things that killed so many people before the discovery of modern drugs.
    Loved this post!
    Best wishes, Pete.

    1. Thanks Pete, glad you enjoyed this post. I did look up the young soldier and discovered nothing more than he died from war injuries, although I don’t think he went to the Front. As you say, maybe from a training exercise gone wrong.

  6. It is interesting to see old gravestones and think of how they compare to modern ones. The older ones definitely took more time to create.

    1. I love wandering around an older graveyard, just reading the engravings and looking at the carvings; they are usually very peaceful places and I enjoy the solitude.

  7. Wow Jude, those symbols are fascinating, especially the scissors and pressing iron. I think you can spend ages in a place like that trying to imagine the life of generations before us. I’m blown away by how well preserved they are given the elements.

  8. Old graveyards like this are fascinating, Jude. It’s good to see the grounds cared for, but there is so much history in the gravestones as you indicate that will be lost with time. But it’s inevitable as weathering occurs, and I wouldn’t want to see the headstone of an “ordinary person” removed from the grave for the sake of preservation.

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