Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Learn a New Skill - Recording Gravestone Inscriptions

In May last year, a group of volunteers from the Society met to record the gravestone inscriptions at Minto church, near Denholm.

This was a training event for volunteers new to recording gravestones, and something of an experiment for the Society. There were 11 of us working on Saturday, and 8 on Sunday.  There are 214 gravestones in the churchyard, and we divided ourselves into 5 pairs to record stones. One person entered inscriptions straight into our recording database on a laptop set up next to the church.

It was an unusually hot and very sunny day, which proved slightly difficult for those trying to read faded inscriptions.  Reading inscriptions on the older stones was harder than I expected. We spent a lot of time gently rubbing the weathered lichen converting inscriptions to uncover them, and almost as much time trying to puzzle out the inscriptions. It is greatly tempting to guess what the inscription is, and a huge mistake. One stone took us nearly an hour, as we tried to decipher the text.

Here's an example of one of the inscriptions:
In loving memory of ELIZABETH NORMAN wife of THOS INGLIS who died Teviotbank Cottages 8?.7.18?? aged 68 years. Also the above THOMAS INGLIS who died at Denholm 15.7.18?? Aged 60 years.

Having entered all the inscriptions, they were printed out for us to check, most of which was done on the Sunday. We found a few mistakes, which we corrected.  Apart from several people adding to their skills, we also managed to record most of the inscriptions and check some of them, we had a picnic at lunch-time, and we all found it a fun day out. There is other work to be done, like taking photographs of the stones, compiling historical notes, and transcribing the militia list, hearth tax list, and the list of ministers, however, we hope to publish the results soon.

We are going to repeat these training and recording days at Stobo Church, Peeblesshire, this coming weekend (8th and 9th May), from 10am to 3.30 pm on Saturday, and on Sunday from 1pm to 3.30 pm.

Stobo Church is situated in the village of Stobo on the B712 off the A92 (signposted Broughton) approximately 6 miles south west of Peebles. See this map for directions.

The Church is about two miles from the recently refurbished award winning Dawyck Botanic Garden Visitor Centre with its own Tea Room – unfortunately also the site of the nearest toilet. Even if you have not been involved in transcribing stones before, do consider joining us, as training will be given. Please also bring along a notebook and a pencil and also it can be helpful if you have a soft brush, chalk, water spray and a kneeling mat.

If you would like to take part at Stobo on one or both days, even for a few hours on either day, please contact our organiser, Ronald Morrison either on 01361 882166, or via our Contacts page and send us a message, choosing the contact type Gravestone Recording. This will allow us to coordinate the work, confirm to you more precisely what is involved and advise in the event of any change in the arrangements.

To comment on this article, please click the 'comments' link below. 


Barbara Macintyre said...

What a wonderful idea !

I'd really like to come and do that, but I'm busy this weekend.

However, as a charity, I think you're missing an opportunity. You could charge for this, after all, people will be learning a new skill, and presumably you have expenses.

Peter Munro said...

Thanks for your suggestion, which we'll consider.

My immediate thought is that as a Society we want to get as many graveyards recorded as quickly as possible. However, for us, attention to detail is paramount; working to our very rigorous quality standards and maintaining the standard of our publications is overwhelmingly more important than speed.

The more people we train to record graveyards to our high standards, the larger the pool of volunteers to call upon in the future.

If we were to charge we might get fewer volunteers. I would rather be inclusive and get more people interested, than charge and deter people that could not afford to pay from joining in.

Peter Munro said...

So that you can plan ahead we expect to be holding 3 more gravestone inscription weekends this year:

Jedburgh Abbey on 19th and 20th June.
Coldingham on 14th. and 15th August.
Stow on 11th and 12th September.

There's more information on our What's On page.

We hope that you will join us for one of these weekends.

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