Dalry Cemetery

A photo essay – Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

It was Autumn, season of the falling away of summer foliage and the start of nature’s melancholy. On the day I happened upon this place, on a walk from Slateford to Tollcross, rays of sunlight lit up corners and features of the deserted graveyard.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

There was sadness there, of course, but also a lightness and positivity. I find beauty in every season, and the shift from one to the other, the inevitable transformation, often calls for contemplation on what is passing, and what may be to come.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘Death dismantled them’ (she was writing about Rumi, Christ, Yogananda). ‘It cannot be undone, it can only be carried’.

Megan Devine
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

 ‘I looked up darkness on the Web…. there is always death. We say death is darkness; and darkness is death’.  

Because of the metaphorical dark, the death dark, we were constantly concerned to banish the natural dark’.

Kathleen Jamie pages 3 and 10 of ‘Findings’
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

There are times when we feel that death is closer than usual, and very often the news is full of it, as it is today. Some block it out because it is too hard to face, others have no choice but to deal with loss and the complicated practicalities it brings. Still others will realise that the proximity of unexpected demise can be a good thing in some ways.

“A close conversing with death … would scum off the gall from our tempers, remove the animosities among us …”

Daniel Dafoe 
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

For five thousand years we have used darkness as the metaphor of our mortality. We are at the mercy of merciless death, which is darkness. When we died, they [neolithic people who built Maes Howe] sent a beam of midwinter light in among our bones. What a tender, potent gesture. In the Christian era, we were laid in our graves to face the rising sun. ‘

Kathleen Jamie, ‘Findings’ p 24
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.’.

The Bible, Isaiah

This is not a religious blog, I am not a church goer, but I do notice that when we know sorrow, it means we will also recognise happiness as its opposite when it returns; when we experience grief, then, too, we will recognise love. Living through the death of someone throws the light on these inevitable aspects of life.

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

English poet and hymnodist, William Cowper, described grief itself as medicine. Grief cleanses the anguish from our souls and sets us back up on the path of life so we can dance. 

Bible Study Tools
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

In these days of Covid-19 (we are still in lockdown in the UK as I write) there are a few more articles about death in the media than normal. The Guardian’s Yuval Noah Harari wrote, ‘Some might well argue that…the crisis should teach us humility. We shouldn’t be so sure of our ability to subdue the forces of nature…..While humanity as a whole becomes ever more powerful, individual people still need to face their fragility…We have to own up to our transience.”

My greatest fear is that my daughters will die, so you can imagine what I felt when I found this grave stone with the eldest’s name on. Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

‘the relentlessness of mortal lives. Even as we spoke the moments were passing.’

Circe, Madeline Miller P. 197
Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

For me, the acknowledgement that I do not know when I will die is something I remind myself of every day. It helps me put things into perspective. I might not live to a ripe old age, so I ask myself, ‘What is the most important thing right now?’

Dalry Cemetery, Edinburgh ©TG

Access to the Dalry Cemetery is on Dundee Street near its join with henderson terrace and it backs onto Dalry Road in Edinburgh. See Find A Grave dot com

Walking Between Worlds

Edinburgh 23.02.20, 3pm – sunset (5.30pm). This event has now taken place but it is hoped that there will be more in the future.

Happily coinciding with Terminalia, Women Who Walk and the Audacious Women Festival

Walk between worlds

Please join me in a circular walking tour (of approx. 2.5 hrs) to muse and meditate on boundaries and borders – between one community of people and another, day and night, life and death and on the cusp of the new moon.

 

A new(ish) moon

We will be visiting the graves of notable women in Rosebank Cemetery, North Leith Burial Ground and South Leith Parish Church. Briefly, at each stopping place, we will face the memorial stones, and have the chance to learn about their incumbents.

The North Leith Burial Ground is ‘the dead centre of Leith’ according to The Spirit of Leithers

Grave stone, North Leith Burial Ground

The steps taken from one to the next, will be equally, if not more important. You might like to walk in memory of a loved one, or muse on your own life and mortality. It will be an opportunity for exchange or silent contemplation on these topics. I hope to make a map after, and of, this event that will contain some of its psychogeography (see below).

Pilrig Church, Leith Walk. At the border between Leith and Edinburgh

Meeting at the join of Pilrig Street and Leith Walk, opposite the location of the Boundary Bar (now renamed as Bier Hoose) which marked the former border between Leith and Edinburgh; and terminating at Robbies (the corner of Iona St and Leith Walk, more or less opposite the start) for libation and conversation about where we have been – both in ourselves and the city. You are welcome to join us at any stage of the walk – contact Tamsin for route details if need be. 

Lady Mackintosh who raised a regiment for Prince Charlie, buried in the North Leith Burial Ground, Edinburgh

Wear hardy shoes or boots for tramping pavements and negotiating sodden grass between stones and at the edge of the Water of Leith. This event is free of charge. 

Psychogeography is ‘The study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organised or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals.’

 

Guy Debord from Making Maps

The annual Terminalia Festival of Psychogeography

Terminus was one of the really old Roman gods – he didn’t have a statue, he was a stone marker – and his origin, associated with a physical object, and lack of the usual stories that go with the gods, may have originated from animalistic religions. He had influence over less physical boundaries too, like that between two months, or between two groups of people. Terminalia was celebrated on the 23rd February – which was the last day of the Roman Year, the boundary between two new years.

Women Who Walk

Tamsin Grainger is a member of Women Who Walk. The network is for women who use walking in their creative or academic practice. It includes artists, writers, field historians and archaeologists, psychogeographers, academics and more.

Please note that there is no religious content to this event. Dogs and children are welcome. There are no flights of steps.

Eventbrite ticket (free)

Walking Between Worlds 1 an account of the walk

Walking Between Worlds 2 the second part of an account of the walk

Walking Between Worlds – 3 the third part of an account of the walk