A Member of The Association of Graveyard Rabbits


Wednesday 30 June 2010

Grave Humour


On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence.
One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight,
And began dividing the nuts.
'One for you, one for me One for you, one for me,' said one boy.
Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence.

Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle.
As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery.
He slowed down to investigate..
Sure enough, he heard, 'One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.'
He just knew what it was.. He jumped back on his bike and rode off.

Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.
'Come here quick,' said the boy, 'you won't believe what I heard!
Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls.'

The man said, 'Beat it kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk.'
When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery.
Standing by the fence they heard ,
'One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.'

The old man whispered, 'Boy, you've been tellin' me the truth.
Let's see if we can see the Lord.'
Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything.
The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter
As they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord.
At last they heard, 'One for you, one for me. That's all.
Now let's go get those nuts by the fence and we' ll be done.'

They say the old man made it back to town a full 5 minutes ahead of the kid on the bike.

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Submarine Tragedy ~ An Anchor Update

In my last post on Anchors, I knew that I had another one that could have joined the collection, it comes from San Michele, Venice.
I'm not sure why I held it back from joining the others, but as I flicked through the pages of 'Stories in Stone, a guide to cemetary symbols and iconography' I saw a symbol that I recognised immediately as that of a dolphin.
I had only believed it to be an insignia that related to this particular monument, for around the circle that frames the dolphin, is the word sommergibili (submarine).

However the dolphin represents Salvation, Transformation and Love and this seems a most appropriate symbol given the circumstances.
The anchor is a real one, maybe even from submarine F14 (if they have them that is) and the story is a real tragedy.
For on the 6th Aug. 1928 the F14 was on manoeuvres with student engineers and at 8.40am was accidentally hit and sunk by the ship 'Missori' that was also engaged in the exercise.

The F14 sank in waters of 40 metres in depth and so a rescue of the vessel began. Telegraph contact was maintained between the rescuers and the submarine, but as the oxygen ran out and carbon dioxide increased, battery acid that had escaped became chlorine gas and by 10.50pm all communications had ceased.

Eventually the F14 was brought to the surface and the bodies of all 27 crew members were recovered.
It was said that the bodies of two sailors were found hugging each other and as their tombs show, they will forever more remain by each others side.


The F14 Captain Leuitenant Commodore Isador Wiel wrote in his notebook :
"God , Family, Fatherland. And this will be our Gospel. We will bring our hearts, the impact on your graves because everyone knows how to die as the sailors of Italy."


Two Horses

I have seen two identical horses on the graves of 'Travellers' elsewhere and at the time I wondered whether it had been just as a personal preference or if it has a more symbolic meaning for these nomads.
Throughout history, the Romany Gypsies have always been one of the greatest traders in Horses and the Appleby Horse Fair is still one of the biggest events on their calendar.
So maybe it is because of this close lifetime bond with the horse, that Travellers adorn the graves of their loved ones with their image.  
Today whilse visiting Chelmsford Cemetery, Essex, in the section for 'Showmen' and other travellers, I found more examples of the two horses used there.

Click on the bold type link above for more info and some amazing photos

The Graveyard Rabbit

In the white moonlight, where the willow waves,
He halfway gallops among the graves—
A tiny ghost in the gloom and gleam,
Content to dwell where the dead men dream,
But wary still: For they plot him ill;
For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm (May God defend us!) to shield from harm!
Over the shimmering slabs he goes—
Every grave in the dark he knows;
But his nest is hidden from human eye,
Where headstones broken on old graves lie.
Wary still! For they plot him ill:

For the graveyard rabbit, though skeptics scoff,
Charmeth the witch and the wizard off!
The black man creeps, when the night is dim,
Fearful, still, on the track of him;
Or fleety follows the way he runs,
For he heals the hurts of the conjured ones.
Wary still! For they plot him ill;

The soul’s bewitched that would find release,
To the graveyard rabbit go for peace!
He holds their secret—he brings a boon,
Where winds moan wild in the dark o’ the moon;
And gold shall glitter and love smile sweet,
To whoever shall sever his furry feet!
Wary still! For they plot him ill:

For the graveyard rabbit hath a charm(May God defend us!) to shield from harm.

   by Frank Lebby Stanton

Friday 25 June 2010


On my recent trip to the cemetery at Southend-on-Sea, I noticed quite a few Anchor memorials, in fact I noticed more here than perhaps you would see elsewhere.
At the time, I just assumed that as we were by the coast, there would for obvious reasons, be a larger number of sea-faring folk buried here and the Anchor would represent their connection with the sea.
I have since found out, that the Anchor is a symbol of Hope and assurance that the person awaits safely in heaven.

However, I did find a Master Mariners grave........

that belongs to Master Mariner John Page, whose headstone says that he died 'of pneumonia after only three days of illness' at the age of 55 years on 2nd April 1900.

The Anchor above is in memory of Ronald James Hockley, who lost his life on board P&O S.S. Baradine in Syndey Harbour on 26th Sept 19?? aged 18 years.
The S.S Baradine was a secondary one-class service to Australia via Cape Town and offered departures every two weeks. By 1926, the third class emigrant trade was collapsing, and in 1929 the route via Capetown was abandoned. The ship was scrapped in 1936 after only 15 years in service.
Was poor Ronald a passenger or a member of the crew ?

Another Anchor below is for William George ( Boy ) Chorvil, born 15th Aug. 1915 who died aged 8 years on 21st Jan. 1923 and also his twin sister, Marjorie Florence Chorvil who died aged 17 years on 7th March 1932. Her epitaph says that she 'Attained her desire' - 'God rest their sweet souls'  

Tuesday 22 June 2010

Stairways to Heaven

San Michele Cemetery, Venice, Italy 

Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Chelmsford, Essex

Chelmsford, Essex

Chelmsford, Essex

Stairways and Steps are symbolic of the pathway between Heaven and Earth, which the deceased will ascend as they travel from one realm to another.


Ghostly Trees

The trees lining the avenues in Sutton Road Cemetery, Southend-on-Sea, Essex, appear a ghostly white, with their branches stripped bare of any foliage and incased in a shroud of white caterpillar silk, which has the texture of cling film. The trees look like a snow covered scene from the Chronicles of Narnia, but this is June and the summer sun is shining.     

It's all due to the work of the work of the Bird cherry tree ermine moth, which has cocooned the trees for the protection of the caterpillars ~ known as web worms ~ until they become adult moths.
An entomologist in the area said that it has happened before on a much smaller scale, but this year has obviously had perfect conditions for them and that the overnight spectacle would be a once in a lifetime occurrence. He said the reason they have covered the ground and surrounding monuments and benches, is due to them starving and falling to the ground in search of food once the supply of leaves had run out.
The local authority has decided not to spray the trees with anything, but to monitor the progress and the moths are expected to hatch in July.

Monday 21 June 2010

Moat Farm Murder

The Final Resting place of Camille Cecile Holland in Saffron Walden Cemetery

The inscription on the memorial above reads as:
‘In sympathetic memory of Camille Cecile Holland, of Maida Vale, London, who died at Clavering under distressing circumstances on the 19th May, 1899, aged 56 years.’

As the grave used to appear.

The distressing circumstances of which Miss Holland's memorial speak, were due to one Samuel Herbert Dougal, who had shot Camille at close range and then dumped her body in a ditch on Moat Farm where the unmarried couple had lived. However, Camille's body and indeed her murder were not discovered until some 4 years later, as a result of Dougal being found guilty of fraudulently forging a cheque in Miss Holland's name.

Dougal had been a Sergeant in the Royal Engineers when he married his first wife, Lovenia Martha in Nova Scotia who had died at the age of 37 on June 29th 1885, six weeks later he married Mary Herberta Boyd, who by the Oct 6th of that same year had also died aged 28.
With the loss of two wives in under 4 months, if anyone had suspicions, they had kept it to themselves.......
Dougal was fifty-two, a former soldier, a womaniser and a convicted forger who had been sentenced to 12 months hard labour, but had served only two months when he tried to kill himself and spent the remaining time in an asylum.

The ill-fated Miss Holland met Dougal in 1898, she was an independant fifty-five year old spinster with a small fortune of her own.
He was a charmer who soon overcame Miss Holland’s religious, moral and social scruples. Within three months they were living together as man and wife, however they never married.
There is no doubt that Dougal's motives were entirely mercenary, as he persuaded
Miss Holland to use nearly a quarter of her capital in buying Moat Farm, for which Dougal had the contract put in his sole name. However Miss Holland insisted that it be put in her name instead, perhaps she hoped that Dougal would settle down and farm; that he would stop his lecherous ways with other women and from drinking too much brandy.

Perhaps she felt she had finally found a man to love her or perhaps she believed her reputation was now so compromised she had to make the best of what she had.
In any case, she was not to know what his plans for her were and that her last attempt to assert herself might have been the very reason why she had to die – because Dougal knew he had not fully mastered her.  

On 27 April 1899, Samuel Dougal and Miss Holland moved to Moat Farm, an isolated place surrounded by farmland between the village of Clavering and the hamlet of Rickling and so Miss Holland brought her little dog, Jacko with her to whom she was devoted.
The farm was at the end of a muddy cart track; the house, only accessible by a footbridge over the moat. The post was left in a box at the far end of the lane and every morning Dougal would walk down to collect it. No tradesmen ever called – everything was fetched in the trap.

On the 16th May several days after their new maid joined them, Dougal made inappropriate advances towards her and tried to enter her bedroom, she called to Camille who then slept with her for the next few nights.
On Friday 19 May, Miss Holland told the maid that Mr Dougal was taking her shopping in the trap, but a few minutes later as she waited by the bridge over the moat, Dougal shot her with his revolver. He then buried her in a disused ditch between the farmyard and the moat.

Later that evening Dougal returned alone. He told the maid that ‘Mrs Dougal’ had decided to go to London. The following morning, he claimed to have had a letter from his ‘wife’ (though the post had not arrived), saying that she had gone to stay with a friend.
This was of little consquence to the maid who had arranged for her mother to collect her that morning, after collecting her wages she promptly left.

On the same day he sent a telegram to his real wife ~ his third ~ inviting her down to the farm. He introduced her to the local clergyman as his daughter. The real Mrs Dougal was soon wearing some of Miss Holland’s clothes and jewellery, and generously gave the clergyman’s wife a shawl and some sheet music that had once belonged to her.

A few months later, Jacko, Camille's dearly beloved dog, turned up at the home of Mrs Wiskens, the Saffron Walden landlady that Miss Holland had resided with prior to moving into Moat Farm, whilst it was being made ready for her to move into. Mrs Wiskens, had been surprised and hurt that Camille had not said goodbye to her, so she wrote to Moat Farm, where upon Dougal eventually collected the dog. He avoided questions on the whereabouts of Miss Holland.

As the years passed, Dougal gradually sold Camille's shares and withdrew her money, it was easy for him to forge Miss Holland’s signature and so he transferred the ownership of the farm to himself. At first he was a popular addition to the neighbourhood – genial, talkative, an excellent shot; always ready to stand a drink or contribute to a good cause. He was noteworthy too for having one of the few bicycles in the neighbourhood, and also the very first car ~ which he referred to as his ‘locomobile’.

His biggest vice was women, for he had a succession of affairs close to home and barely
bothered to conceal them, this included a simultaneous relationship with two sisters and their Mother. He then denied paternity when served with affiliation orders.

People began to talk about Moat Farm. Stories circulated about Dougal giving bicycling lessons to naked girls in the meadow to the north of the house. ‘What a picture,’ wrote F. Tennyson Jesse in mounting excitement, ‘in that clayey, lumpy field, the clayey, lumpy girls, naked, astride that unromantic object, a bicycle, and Dougal, gross and vital, cheering on these bucolic improprieties...!’

People began to remember the past and started to ask questions about what had happened to Camille. Amongst them was the real Mrs Dougal, who had run off with another man, and whom Dougal was now trying to divorce.
Doubts soon turned into suspicions, and in March 1903, a trail of forgeries came to light after a close examination of Miss Holland's finances since May 1899. It soon became apparent that Dougal's invented story of Camille's departure was shown to be false and this led to a full-blown police investigation into Miss Holland’s disappearance.

But even before the body was found, the case aroused widespread interest. Police took up residence in the house, they drained the moat and dug up many parts of the surrounding land.
According to The Times, six thousand ‘excursionists’ swooped on the farm during the Easter Bank holiday of 1903. Souvenir hunters were armed with ‘Kodaks’. Food vendors sold peanuts and other snacks. An enterprising photographer printed postcards of the scene and sold them to the tourists.

At last they found the body of a woman. The corpse had become quite decayed. But enough of the clothing remained for Camille's shoes to be indentified by her shoemaker as belonging to her. The pathologist remarked that had Dougal concealed her on the farmyard midden, the acidic nature of it would have left little or nothing to indentify.

On the 22nd June 1903, Dougal was charged that he did feloniously, willfully and with malice aforethought, kill and murder Camille Cecile Holland at Clavering.
Dougal pleaded his innocence saying that it had been a dreadful accident and blamed the excesses of too much brandy.
The jury took less than an hour to return their verdict of guilty, where the Judge sentenced Dougal to execution by hanging.
On the 14th July 1903 Dougal was hanged and buried in an unmarked grave in the confines of Chelmsford Prison. 

As for Jacko, Camille's much loved dog, he was given a home by the landlady Mrs Wiskens, and even after the dog's own demise, he remained an object of admiring curiousity when he was stuffed and placed on a side table in the parlour where Miss Holland used to sit.
- He is now to be seen on display in the Essex Police Museum.

Friday 18 June 2010

House in the Cemetery

My local cemetery ( Saffron Walden, Essex, England ) is only a stone's throw away and quite recently the residence that is within the cemetery grounds came up for sale to the public.
The cemetery was established in 1834 and the Gothic style property would originally have been the accommodation for the Cemetery Superintendant.
In 1974 the property was put up for sale by the Local council who owned it, where it was then bought and became a private residential home.

The recent selling price was originally £350,000, but dropped to £250,000 as it was in a poor state and needed total renovation work done to retore it to its former glory.
Its rooms are very small and so several rambling wooden lean-tos had been added over time to the back of the property to afford more living space. These have now been removed and restoration work is under way.
With only the absolute basic amenities of electricty and water,what the property lacked in facilities, it more than makes up for in character and atomsphere.

Wednesday 16 June 2010

Wings of Flight

The picture below is my favourite from this selection, with its poignant broken wing. The following winged memorials are all to be found in the section of graves for pilots and aviators and is from S. Michele, Venice, Italy.

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