the old burying ground

I had to re-read Anne of the Island, book 3 in the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery this week. In this book, Anne attends “Redmond College” (Dalhousie University) and Halifax is called Kingsport. Here is a section describing the city:

Kingsport is a quaint old town, hearking back to early Colonial days, and wrapped in its ancient atmosphere, as some fine old dame in garments fashioned like those of her youth. Here and there it sprouts out into modernity, but at heart it is still unspoiled; it is full of curious relics, and haloed by the romance of many legends of the past. Once it was a mere frontier station on the fringe of the wilderness, and those were the days when Indians kept life from being monotonous to the settlers. Then it grew to be a bone of contention between the British and the French, being occupied now by the one and now by the other, emerging from each occupation with some fresh scar of battling nations branded on it.

It has in its park a martello tower, autographed all over by tourists, a dismantled old French fort on the hills beyond the town, and several antiquated cannon in its public squares. It has other historic spots also, which may be hunted out by the curious, and none is more quaint and delightful than Old St. John’s Cemetery at the very core of the town, with streets of quiet, old-time houses on two sides, and busy, bustling, modern thoroughfares on the others. Every citizen of Kingsport feels a thrill of possessive pride in Old St. John’s, for, if he be of any pretensions at all, he has an ancestor buried there, with a queer, crooked slab at his head, or else sprawling protectively over the grave, on which all the main facts of his history are recorded. For the most part no great art or skill was lavished on those old tombstones. The larger number are of roughly chiselled brown or gray native stone, and only in a few cases is there any attempt at ornamentation. Some are adorned with skull and cross-bones, and this grizzly decoration is frequently coupled with a cherub’s head. Many are prostrate and in ruins. Into almost all Time’s tooth has been gnawing, until some inscriptions have been completely effaced, and others can only be deciphered with difficulty. The graveyard is very full and very bowery, for it is surrounded and intersected by rows of elms and willows, beneath whose shade the sleepers must lie very dreamlessly, forever crooned to by the winds and leaves over them, and quite undisturbed by the clamor of traffic just beyond.

“I’m going across to Old St. John’s after lunch,” said Anne. “I don’t know that a graveyard is a very good place to go to get cheered up, but it seems the only get-at-able place where there are trees, and trees I must have. I’ll sit on one of those old slabs and shut my eyes and imagine I’m in the Avonlea woods.”

Anne did not do that, however, for she found enough of interest in Old St. John’s to keep her eyes wide open. They went in by the entrance gates, past the simple, massive, stone arch surmounted by the great lion of England.

In the previous chapter, Anne’s friend Priscilla Grant, had described the Old Burial Ground (Called St. John’s Cemetery in the book)

Old St. John’s is a darling place… a few years ago they put up a beautiful monument to the memory of Nova Scotian soldiers who fell in the Crimean War. It is just opposite the entrance gates and there’s `scope for imagination’ in it, as you used to say. (Anne of the Island, Chapters 3 and 4, Lucy Maud Montgomery)

Here is the very monument Anne Shirley is describing!

I looked up the old burial ground in Wikipedia to find out more about the ‘lion’s gate’ entrance, and found tit is called The Welsford-Parker Monument, a memorial standing at the entrance to the cemetery.  The memorial, commemorating the Crimean War was built in 1860 and is named after two Haligonians, Major Welsford and Captain Parker, who both died in the battle at Redan in 1855 during the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855).

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