New York, North Carolina, Celebrating Candelmas in Yorkshire UK
Feb 04, 2009 21:51 PST
Yorkshire, UK; North Carolina; New York
The Star South Yorkshire UK
Taking a shine to graves
Snowy wastes: Ian Roberts, right, with Laurence Craig
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By Martin Dawes
IAN Roberts grips his storm lantern and strides off into the snowy wastes of Sheffield's General Cemetery.
It had seemed such a good idea at the time, to join the annual torchlight tour of the cemetery on February 2 to celebrate the Christian festival of Candlemas. That was before it snowed.
"I shall try not to go off piste," jokes Ian, a trustee of the Friends of the General Cemetery which organises the event.
Bring a torch they said so the Diary brought a wind-up pink piggy one.
"Candlemas is 40 days from Christmas, the end of Epiphany. From now on you don't look back to Christmas but forward to Easter so it's quite a turning point in the calendar," says Ian.
There was also a more secular importance. "It was also half-year rent day for tenants of the Norfolk estate."
Outside the cemetery, the last resting place of some 87,000 souls, another half a million more alert ones were unmoved by twilight Candlemas strolls.
There was just one person waiting for Ian – the Diary, about to negotiate a let's go home deal – until local resident Laurence Craig turned up. And he was keen to walk.
We walk by the catacombs, a 19th century version of the 21st century city centre apartment building. Most of them, like apartment blocks, are empty.
"Yorkshiremen are canny types and don't like spending brass and they were too expensive. And being non-conformists they preferred to be laid in the ground," says Ian.
Some of the others were later filled by bodies displaced from cemeteries during the building of the Inner Ring Road.
And after this the notes get rather sparse because Star ballpoint pens dislike working in cold, snowy, damp surroundings on wet notebook pages.
It soon becomes apparent that this tour is more about the cemetery than Candlemas. In fact, it doesn't get another look in until the end.
It does look rather magical in the snowy moonlight. Ian prefers the cemetery in the winter because with the lack of foliage you can see how the Victorians planned it.
"This would all have been green fields," he says as we walk down wide carriage paths and descend steep steps,m explaining the cemetery was needed because grave space in the city was filling up and cholera raged.
We do the tombs and monuments of luminaries like the Cole Brothers and industrialist Mark Firth, go off piste to do homage at the grave of Chartist Samuel Holberry, who died on the treadmill for wanting one man, one vote, and share a delicious joke at the tomb of Alderman Burch.
This tall, phallic column commemorates a man who married a rich heiress and took her name.
It rears up alongside the solid, more modest chest freezer-sized resting place of his father-in-law.
Ian can't be sure, of course, but looking at that rock solid column, could the good Alderman be making an allusion to his real name of Mycock?
"It depends whether women are present which version I give of that story," he smiles.
Every tour deserves a mystery and Ian shines his laser pen at a gravestone half-hidden by bushes.
"Everyone asks when the last burial was held and officially it was in 1976. But that gravestone was put up, I think, in 1992. We don't believe there is a body buried, just a gravestone, and flowers are still put there."
Fifty minutes and the cold has set in but, happily, we return to the gatehouse where we started. "I've not said much about Candlemas, have I?" says Ian cheerfully.
"Now if this were America you know what day it would be? Goundhog Day."
Oh no, we're not going to do it all again tomorrow. . . are we?
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Asheville Citizen Times
1st abandoned public cemetery adopted
Rob Neufeld • published February 4, 2009 12:15 am
Revered patriarchs and matriarchs lie with unfortunate babes and unidentified souls in 100-yard-long hump of land that comprises the Old Broad River cemetery in southeast Buncombe County. In the wake of state legislation that preserves gravesites, county commissioners have made the place its first adopted abandoned public cemetery.
As development, neglect and vandalism rage like a storm in the 21st century, the remains of 1770s pioneer John Ownbey may now receive protection.
In 1938, Thomas Ledbetter deeded the graveyard, which sat on property he'd bought years before, to Mitchell Ownbey, Mitchell's nephew Ben Ownbey and Losier Warren, acting as trustees “for the purpose of a burying place only, and it shall be a public burying ground.”
When the last surviving trustee, Ben Ownbey, passed away, there was no legal entity or individual to serve as caretaker, though family members live nearby and visit. A home built at the base of the cemetery removed the public access.
Lorraine Wheeler, Ben Ownbey's daughter, has done extensive family history research and is concerned about protecting the trees and shrubs that prevent erosion. She'd like to see gravestones lifted, grass planted and the stones repositioned, but she is afraid the stones might break.
On Jan. 6, county-appointed cemetery committee members became the trustees of the Old Broad River Cemetery, also called the Old Field Cemetery by locals. They represent a resurrection of public interest in some of our ancestors.
Ruth Dilling, trustee for abandoned cemeteries, reported to the county that she “found more than 75 named markers on graves …(and) at least that many or more graves marked only with field stones” in the Old Broad River cemetery. Regulations stipulate the creation of a public trust fund for cemetery care.
To some, the unnamed dead cry loudest. When the Tennessee Valley Authority proceeded with plans to build the Tellico Dam, it wasn't only protectors of the snail darter who protested. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians made an outcry, for the dam's lake would inundate the Overhill Cherokees' sacred burial ground.
Ultimately, the TVA had remains of an estimated 191 Cherokee removed and reburied, and contributed money and land toward the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, near the newly constructed burial mound.
How many more forgotten gravesites might be rescued in WNC? Author Gary Carden, of Sylva, wonders about “the nameless dead who were buried on the hill behind the old Jackson County Home for the Aged.” Recently, a dowser went up there and found 40 unmarked graves. It has given folks pause, as they remember the forgotten.
Rob Neufeld writes the local history feature, “Visiting Our Past,” for the Citizen-Times. He is the author of “A Popular History of Western North Carolina” and “Asheville's River Arts District.” Contact him at RNeuemail@example.com or 768-2665.
02/03/09 06:59 AM
Operation Dignity targets hospital’s burial site
OLEAN — Volunteers are invited to meet at 7 p. m. Feb. 11 in the Cattaraugus County Mental Health Association office to join Operation Dignity, a nationwide effort to restore psychiatric cemeteries to a level of respect and dignity.
The local efforts will focus on the former Gowanda Psychiatric Center’s Wheater Road cemetery. It is the burial ground for 1,200 deceased patients whose graves were left untended after the hospital closed, marked only by small numbered headstones.
The effort is led by the Cattaraugus County Mental Health Association, Compeer and Friendship Club to enlist youth, colleges and volunteers from the community.
Organizers say the project is an innovative and worthwhile cause to place a memorial at the cemetery and identify the names of those buried in the numbered graves.
Operation Dignity is also raising funds to bring the Mental Health Bell from Alexandria, Va., to Olean. The bell was forged from old chains and shackles that restrained patients held in psychiatric hospitals across the nation..
Volunteers can work at the site, sponsor specific graves or donate materials.
The Mental Health Association is at 502 Delaware Park Centre, in the Big Lots Plaza in Olean. Volunteers are asked to contact Tammy in advance of the meeting at 372-0208, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .