On Sunday I was back in Alva Old Kirkyard, by the ruins of the burnt St Serf’s Church, with Ochils Landscape Partnership. I’ve been putting in some time – not much compared with some of the others involved – as part of their project to preserve and catalogue historic kirkyards across Clackmannanshire’s Hillfoot villages. On this particular Sunday it was one of those Scottish autumn days where you go out worrying you’ll get rained on and come back sunburnt.
The local kirkyards were visited by the Mitchells a few decades back in their quest to catalogue the graves of Scotland. While their records have proven invaluable as the sole record of since-damaged stones, there have been occasions where we’ve disagreed with their readings which was quite disconcerting – is it the done thing to disagree with the Mitchells!?
Recently I’ve been in touch with a lady who’s spent a great deal of time researching the families of a village close to Plymouth. She took some trouble when visiting Devon last week to visit a cemetery where I’d discovered some of my ancestors are buried, but we were both disappointed that the graves were in a state of such poor repair that even finding specific headstones proved impossible. Further information lost in a city whose history has already been bombed and burnt.
So that’s why I believe this work in the Hillfoots is of such importance, to discover and record it while it’s still there, to share it with other historians before the stones crumble and weather away. It’s such a great investment in the history of the area.