Volunteering at Keith Cemetery Again

Saturday morning was not so sunny as the day before, but we still had bright hopes that when we returned to the cemetery again we would be able to finish probing the last part of the upper section of the graveyard for buried stones, and possibly locate a couple of buried ones to add to the inventory of all headstones there.

Soon after arriving, Peter Wills, a local resident and volunteer, joined up with us.  He wanted to show Keith and Helen something he had discovered near his home nearby in the old historic original village surrounding the church and churchyard.  He led us across the railroad bridge describing what the old original village would have looked like and where its streets and buildings would have been according to old maps.

As we strolled up a narrow lane, he told us that the route we were following was actually the original road that lead into the village.  Fascinating.  He continued on, explaining as we went, that according to the Chronicles this was the route that Jacobites followed during a squirmish with British Soldiers.

Then we turned into what looked like a narrow alley and he told Keith that he had noticed some very old stones embedded into a neighbor’s house that appear to have been “re-purposed” from an older building somewhere else in the old village and incorporated into a new building at some point in time.

On the way back to the churchyard he also pointed out locations of where other buildings used to be.  For example, up on the hill overlooking the cemetery, there had been the village “Smiddy” (Blacksmith).  When we got back to the outside wall of the cemetery he also pointed out the feature in the wall called the “Kearms” as shown in the photo below.

Notice the Arches along the top of the wall, particularly, the stones that are placed vertically and in an arch.  These would have been 4 small openings with an arched doorway in the wall where merchants or peddlers would have had a permanent “stall” in which to sell their wares from in the market square (which was located where we stood).


The sun was beginning to peek through the clouds about then so we went back into the churchyard and began working on our first assignment, uncovering a buried stone they had partially unearthed on a previous occasion.

I was more than happy to get down in the dirt and start handing the turf that Peter cut to Lindsay to place on the tarp in the exact order that they had been removed.



Below is what we uncovered.  It appeared that the broken stone on the right had originally been a ‘table stone’ sitting upon two legs, but which had collapsed and the top of the stone was shattered when it fell on a large rock on the ground underneath it.  The square stone on the top right had carvings in the shape of ‘legs’ carved into it with a “frame” carved into the stone in the center.  The large stone lying to the left of the broken stone, is cut from “local” stone and could have been a flat (uncarved) headstone possibly as well.

We tried to piece together the puzzle of the shattered pieces, but to no avail.  It had broken into too many pieces to decipher.  All we could make out on the inscription was “Aged” and possibly the first name of “John” but that was all.

Although we tried our best, that’s all we could decipher and then put everything back and covered it over with the sod we had removed.



img_9670-editedHaving finished that task it was time for a break and we all enjoyed tea or coffee and some crisps (potato chips) before resuming our work elsewhere.

Afterward we continued probing and located another large “local” stone that also could possibly be an uncarved headstone or ‘cap’ over a grave.


On the third probing we uncovered this stone that did have carving including a ‘skull’ and lettering.  It took awhile to get it cleaned off with water, daubed dry and then ‘floured’ to reveal the inscription for recording.

It read something like the following below the skull:

“Here lyes en Honst Man Called Iams Vilson and his wife Ann _ _ _ and Margit Vilson His Davghtr She perted this life in _ AR_  _ _ 65”


After a long day in the churchyard, we headed out making one more stop in another nearby churchyard that the MBGRG group has already completed.  Keith needed a couple of photographs from a couple of headstones that had not photographed well the first attempt.  He floured the headstone to make the inscription stand out better.  What a great technique!

After he got the photos he needed he took Lindsay and I around the old church pointing out some interesting aspects as shown below and explained above in the signage.

Below is a very special item, one of the best examples in all of Great Britain, of its kind.  The hole in the center is where the priests would have kept the Sacraments and it is so well preserved.  It’s incredibly intricate and amazing.  The septre type thing that the two angels are holding is what “Holy Relics” would have been carried and transported in.




Behind the church was another tomb plot for a minister, but between it and the church numerous headstones, some of them quite large, had been stacked and piled in a “dump” of sorts.  They had probably fallen over or otherwise dislodged from their original positions in the kirkyard and therefore were dangerous, or inconvenient, so they were moved here by caretakers.  What a shame they weren’t just left in place where they fell.

It was an interesting day, I had fun getting my hands in the dirt and helping out.  Helen mentioned to me that it appeared that I didn’t mind getting in the “clarty dubs” (messy, soggy, mud) and laughed and commented I was lucky it wasn’t “sharney dubs!”  (mud mixed with cow manure (or other various farm yard animals).  I’m learning all kinds of Scottish terms on this trip, and what fun that is – Aye!

It had been a long day and my pants and shoes were soaked and mucky but I had a lot of fun in the clarty dubs finding buried stones. I did manage to find a little sunshine to dry off in when we got back to their caravan though before we enjoyed some yummy fish & chips for “tea” that evening.




Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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