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Search for Britain's most remarkable epitaph
The Telegraph ^ | 7/25/2007 | Caroline Davies

Posted on 07/24/2007 8:10:42 PM PDT by bruinbirdman

Some choose their own. Others think it too morbid. Some boast of achievement. Others want to be modest.

They can be witty or doom-laden, long or short, informative or tell you very little that's useful. Epitaphs, from the ancient Greek literally meaning "on the gravestone" and the text that honours the deceased commonly inscribed on a tombstone, come in many forms.


Bette Davis: ‘She did it the hard way’

But in Britain they have one thing in common - they are in danger of being lost for ever. So serious is the situation that today a campaign is being launched to try to record as many as possible before it is too late.

Each year in England 25,000 gravestones are lost and with them the important historical information they contain.

"People want nice tidy churchyards and don't want to mow around higgledy, piggledy gravestones so they move them and they break, or they lay them face down and they get forgotten then broken up for paving stones," said Richard Stuart, the director of the National Archive of Memorial Inscriptions who has made it his mission to record details of as many as possible.

"These inscriptions contain unique information not found anywhere else before the 1840s," he said. "Some people put a lot of effort into thinking exactly what they want on their tombstone. It's their last words on earth and they want them to be just right."

There are an estimated eight million graves in England but so far the details of only two million have been recorded. The number of graves in the whole of Britain could be as high as 20 million.

"The first census where records were extensively preserved was in 1841, and the first Births, Deaths and Marriages register was in 1837," said Mr Stuart. "Before that, there are only the parish registers and some of those don't contain any more information than name and date of death. For those tracing their family, they can't tell whether it's a brother, son or father. A gravestone almost always says 'beloved brother of' or 'beloved son of' ."

The archive, with BBC History Magazine, is launching the Mysterious Memorials competition to get readers to submit the "most surprising, enigmatic or bizarre" historical British gravestone epitaphs. "We have to record this information before it dies out before our eyes," said Mr Stuart.


Comic Spike Milligan:
“I told you I was ill” [in Gaelic]

Contenders so far include one from Eshness in the Shetlands that reads: "Donald Robertson, born 14th January 1785. Died 14th June aged 63. He was a peaceable, quiet man, and to all appearances a sincere Christian. His death was much regretted which was caused by the stupidity of Laurence Tulloch of Clothister (Sullom) who sold him nitre instead of Epsom Salts by which he was killed in the space of five hours after taking a dose of it."

Another from All Saints Church, Darfield, Barnsley, states simply: "The mortal remains of Robert Millthorp who died September 13th 1826 aged 19 years. He lost his life by inadvertently throwing this stone upon himself whilst in the service of James Raywood or Ardsley, who erected it in his memory".

On a darker note is an entry from All Saints, Wilstead, Beds, which reads: "I you see as you pass by, As you are so once was I, As I am so must you be, Therefore prepare to follow me."

Dave Musgrove, the editor of BBC History Magazine, said: "Gravestones are vital to learning about our family and local history. From accounts of bizarre deaths and witty last words, to highlights of lives lived, personal assaults and biting social commentary, they tell us some fascinating stories of past human life, and that's exactly what we're asking people to find for us".

The best entry will be announced in October's edition of the magazine.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Political Humor/Cartoons
KEYWORDS:

1 posted on 07/24/2007 8:10:45 PM PDT by bruinbirdman
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To: bruinbirdman

I’d rather not be remembered for something that reads like a bumper sticker.


2 posted on 07/24/2007 8:14:31 PM PDT by SteveMcKing
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To: SteveMcKing

“He died peacefully in his sleep, unlike the screaming passengers in his car.”


3 posted on 07/24/2007 8:15:04 PM PDT by dfwgator (The University of Florida - Still Championship U)
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To: bruinbirdman

Oh this is really timely for me- I was just thinking about how we need this kind of project in America— I was at Lexington Cemetary in Lexington KY this weekend and came upon a grave from the 1850s telling about a boy that had died trying to save his little playmate— he was aged 9 years, 9 months. Totally fascinating.


4 posted on 07/24/2007 8:18:45 PM PDT by lawgirl (She comes on like thunder and she's more right than rain)
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To: bruinbirdman

5 posted on 07/24/2007 8:20:04 PM PDT by Old Sarge (This tagline in memory of FReeper 68-69TonkinGulfYachtClub)
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To: dfwgator
My PC at home has the link...

Epitaph on a willing girl:

Here lies entombed
Beneath these bricks
the scabbard of
ten thousand p***ks

Cheers!

6 posted on 07/24/2007 8:20:08 PM PDT by grey_whiskers (The opinions are solely those of the author and are subject to change without notice.)
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To: bruinbirdman

Sir John Strange; Here lies an honest lawyer, And that is Strange.
— Tombstone in England


7 posted on 07/24/2007 8:20:23 PM PDT by operation clinton cleanup
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To: bruinbirdman
and don't want to mow around higgledy, piggledy gravestones

Exactly the kind of stone I want!

8 posted on 07/24/2007 8:24:08 PM PDT by Graybeard58 (Remember and pray for SSgt. Matt Maupin - MIA/POW- Iraq since 04/09/04)
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To: bruinbirdman
"I you see as you pass by, As you are so once was I, As I am so must you be, Therefore prepare to follow me."

To which someone allegedly wrote, "To follow you I'll not consent, until I know which way you went!"

9 posted on 07/24/2007 8:27:02 PM PDT by Nea Wood (I'm not a bad Christian because I refuse to join you in giving other people's stuff away.)
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To: bruinbirdman
Stop, my friend, as you pass by
For as you are now, so once was I
And as I am now, you soon will be
So prepare, my friend, to follow me

Scribbled underneath

To follow you I'm not content
'Til I'm quite sure which way you went

10 posted on 07/24/2007 8:27:55 PM PDT by DeaconBenjamin
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To: bruinbirdman

“People want nice tidy churchyards and don’t want to mow around higgledy, piggledy gravestones ...”

Haven’t they heard of a weedeater? Or maybe a goat?


11 posted on 07/24/2007 8:36:25 PM PDT by Kirkwood
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To: bruinbirdman

William Shakespeare’s:
GOOD FREND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE TO
DIGG THE DUST ENCLOASED HEARE.
BLEST BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES AND
CURST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES


12 posted on 07/24/2007 8:38:32 PM PDT by LexBaird (Tyrannosaurus Lex, unapologetic carnivore)
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To: bruinbirdman
REPUIEM by Robert Louis Stevenson Under a wide and starry sky Dig the grave and let me lie: Glad did I live and gladly die, And I lay me down with a will. This be the verse you grave for me: Here he lies where he long’d to be; Home is the sailor, home from the sea, And the hunter home from the hill.
13 posted on 07/24/2007 8:38:40 PM PDT by fish hawk (The religion of Darwinism = Monkey Intellect)
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To: SteveMcKing
I’d rather not be remembered for something that reads like a bumper sticker.

Sir Christopher Wren, the architect of St.Paul's Cathedral in London, is buried there. His epitaph reads in Latin:

Reader, if you would seek his monument, look around you.

14 posted on 07/24/2007 8:51:25 PM PDT by LexBaird (Tyrannosaurus Lex, unapologetic carnivore)
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To: bruinbirdman

I want this on mine.

“Ad Astra Per Aspera”


15 posted on 07/24/2007 8:52:43 PM PDT by BigCinBigD (You "abort" bad missile launches and carrier landings. Not babies.)
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To: bruinbirdman

My wife and I have some joke tombstones that we put out on Halloween.
One says “Here lies Cecilia, cold as ever”.
The other says “Here lies Frank, stiff at last”.


16 posted on 07/24/2007 8:55:53 PM PDT by mozarky2 (Ya never stand so tall as when ya stoop to stomp a statist!)
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To: LexBaird

Not bad. Perhaps my own inscription should read like my post...


17 posted on 07/24/2007 8:57:25 PM PDT by SteveMcKing
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To: bruinbirdman
"Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite" - Spike Milligan
("I told you I was ill")

Says it all
18 posted on 07/24/2007 9:11:17 PM PDT by Oztrich Boy (You have to read between the lines)
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To: Yehuda

19 posted on 07/24/2007 9:16:32 PM PDT by Yehuda ("Land of the free, THANKS TO THE BRAVE!" (Choke on it, pinkos!))
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To: LexBaird
William Shakespeare’s:

GOOD FREND FOR JESUS SAKE FORBEARE TO

DIGG THE DUST ENCLOASED HEARE.

BLEST BE YE MAN YT SPARES THES STONES AND

CURST BE HE YT MOVES MY BONES

Hmmm - a little sing songy - doesn't have the ring of the writer of "Shakespeare" = One might expect that someone who wrote such tongue in cheek witticisms would have, as his last words - forever - to the world, to have a bit more jocoseness - and a different meter.

Makes me tend to lean more towards the Baconians

...

20 posted on 07/24/2007 9:16:57 PM PDT by maine-iac7 ( "...but you can't fool all of the people all the time." LINCOLN)
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To: bruinbirdman
"Beneath these stones repose the bones of Ebenezer Prym. He took his beer from year to year, and then his bier took him."

Initially, I thought the article was about an epitaph for England herself.

21 posted on 07/24/2007 9:22:13 PM PDT by caspera
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To: bruinbirdman

“I told you I was sick!”


22 posted on 07/24/2007 10:32:42 PM PDT by skepsel
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To: maine-iac7
They told him he could chose his own poison.

He chose old age.

yitbos

23 posted on 07/24/2007 10:33:48 PM PDT by bruinbirdman ("Those who control language control minds." -- Ayn Rand)
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To: Graybeard58
and don’t want to mow around higgledy, piggledy gravestones

Exactly the kind of stone I want!


Anybody can have a higgledy, piggledy gravestone.

I insist on a hoggledy, poggledy one. They’re really the best kind, you know!

24 posted on 07/24/2007 10:40:19 PM PDT by Grizzled Bear ("Does not play well with others.")
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