Friday, 29 July 2011

The lazy sexton

How many times have you seen it? A family grave, refreshed two or three times over 20 years or so with a newcomer, and two trades within the funeral business give each other a bad name as the one ton block crashed in to pulverise the mortal remains of all three of the occupants as it has above.

There was an old trick played by the grave diggers in order to save themselves a bit of effort when they knew that they would be digging down six feet through hard soil only a year or two later to reunite husband and wife in the afterlife. Instead of filling the grave with earth after the ceremony, they put wooden planks about 6 inches under the turf, then covered them in soil for the mason to place the stone on. This was more common in 'table' tombs which stood three or four feet above ground and had 4 walls and a roof, but - in this case - they did it with a flat one.

After a few years, the boards rot and can no longer hold the enormous weight, so the stone goes down to join the occupants of the grave.

When I was a kid, me and a friend went into a graveyard and found a table-tomb which had one panel missing from the side, and my mate decided he was going to crawl in to investigate. He went in and laid down flat. In one second he fell 6 feet through the thin layer of soil and rotten wood, then fell through the rotten lid of top coffin beneath, finding himself lying amongst the bones of the last person to be interred there, about 150 years before.

I have never seen someone get out of a deep hole so quickly.


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  2. Great story - I could just imagine it happening and felt my heart miss a beat as though it was me.

  3. Whenever I think that you have now told your best story, you go on to top it with another one. I don't know of anyone else out there who has seen and experienced as much as you have in so many different areas. I never get tired of reading about it.

  4. Gee Tom, that was so disturbing but I do agree with Iris. You are a very intereting person to read.

  5. Tom, you need to write a book. You have had a very interesting life.

    I think I am asking now for cremation.......

  6. Those same type of 'table' graves exist here (often with strange greenhouses over them), but they simply take one side out, pop in grandpa, then cement it up again. No 6 ft hole!

  7. I'm glad that you found this little tale entertaining, and thanks for your comments. That grave in the photo is in South Wraxall, where I was yesterday, and it reminded me of my childhood experience. These days, cemetery regulations are so strict that it could (almost) never happen again with new graves. They go around nudging old stones so hard that they fall over, so the church cannot be sued for any injury from a toppling one.

    Re cremation, Raz, I think it was Socrates who was asked what he wanted them to do with him after his death. He replied, "If you can find me, you can do what you like with me."