Friday, May 09, 2008

Church going

Kilbride Church door
Originally uploaded by goforchris.
I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?

Philip Larkin's great poem, Church Going, was very much in my mind yesterday as we visited this sad, quiet church in the midst of its orderly, green graveyard, still mown and tended but with a creaking iron gate which is obviously little used and this grim little warning note on the door (you can read it if you click on the photo)

The gravestones told of lives bound into a close community - the blacksmith, the soldier killed on The Somme, the soldier who died - why? - in 1919. And one huge stone seemed way out of proportion to the small life it commemorated, but perhaps symbolised the enormity of the loss of a six-year-old son. Actually, there were many, many stones which told of infant death; we thought of the parents coming to church every week past their graves and wondered if the community was a comfort to them, if death was any easier to bear when so many died at what we would consider an early age.

I don't know when the congregation of this church finally closed its doors and boarded up the windows. There was no sign of vandalism; it was merely empty and sad. But I like old graveyards where the birds sing and mortality seems comprehensible - If only that so many dead lie round.


  1. I couldn't read the notice - even on the larger photo.

    I'm not sure that mortality is ever comprehensible.

    OK, I accept that a belief in God means that the death merely is a translation from one life to another when that soul has completed the work it had to do.

    That is acceptance, not comprehension.

  2. It says: Any unauthorised person entering this building does so at their own risk - I can make it out in the biggest version of the pic. I thought that really it might go for any church...

  3. Anonymous11:31 PM

    This is a lovely bit of writing Chris... I may use it with the odd class or two if you are agreeable (Speaking personally, I've always found you very agreeable!)


  4. Neil, flattery will get you (almost) anywhere. I'd be happy for you to do that (she said, agreeably).

  5. Oh, I love that sign. And, it should indeed be hung on every church door! YES!

    In thinking about the 6 year old child, I was taken back to 1984, when a dear friend lost her 6 year old daughter when a motorcycle struck her as she crossed a busy highway. I do not think parents ever "resolve" such a death....there are constant memories and reminders and the pain eases, but never actually goes away, I think...In seeing my friend a couple of summers ago, we still talked about Lindsay.

    Thank you for this lovely tour. Even though a cemetary isn't the most lively place, your words have once again caused me to ponder...and I do so appreciate that!

  6. Anonymous12:08 AM

    So, so loved the poem, Chris. Stirred my soul x