(One of the oldest gravestones with the sunburst motif)
On Friday morning when I should have been packing (more about that later…) I was in a graveyard listening to a woman with a passion. It was Delgany graveyard and the woman was Lally de Buitlear. I want to be Lally when I grow up… For those of you who haven’t wandered as a child among old gravestones, it’s never too late to start.
(Formerly a spade… )
Last week was heritage week and there were lots of talks around Ireland. Lally introduced a group of thirty of us (including five very attentive children) to gravestones. We learned about the apprenticeship of a gravestone mason, the fashion for the sunburst design up to the 1700’s when it was replaced by the letters IHS. The fact that all the stones face the rising sun. The oldest ones are made of layers of slate, the old church (in ruins) was also made of slate, shipped over from Wales.Then there were the stories. About the odd-looking modern stone – the woman decided well before she died to get rid of her family gravestone and put up a “nice” new one…. About an old bicycle half hidden under the trees. About the power of a Buddleia tree to slowly topple a huge granite gravestone.
(Gravestone with IHS motif, notice the layers of slate)
But my favourite story was about Lally herself. When she was younger she decided to go on a photography course and one of her assignments was to visit a graveyard and capture the gravestones. She went to Delgany graveyard and filled her portfolio. Years later when she was committed to the restoration of this graveyard she took out her portfolio and used the photographs to apply for a grant to help with the work. What’s more there was some ruling that said you could only raise fallen gravestones if you had proof that they had been standing. Lally had the proof in her portfolio and her team were able to raise those who had fallen!
(Frost damage to the outer layer of slate)
It reminds me that nothing in our lifetime is without value. We may have started ten different jobs and finished none, we may have dropped out of college, we may have stayed in a job we hated, we may have taken time off to raise a child, we may have indulged in baking cakes, in learning karate, in playing board games. It all counts and it all adds up and it’s all valuable. It never too late to indulge your passions. Do the courses you are drawn to and fill your life with the things that make your heart sing. It may even lengthen your life! Thank you Lally de Buitlear, you are an inspiration and a mine of information. (By the way the team of volunteers at Delgany graveyard are always looking for more helpers.)
(The little church is in ruins but this floor tile survived)
Right.. the packing… we’re in Toronto! More about that tomorrow, Mairead.