Sunday in Ballymena

Moravian graveyard 7

It’s been a very intense sort of week this last week.  A visit to Northern Ireland, a family funeral, then home and a therapy treatment that made me detox so much it felt like the worst hangover I’ve ever had, multiplied by five, and lasting three days.  It hasn’t made for regular blog entries, that’s for sure.

While we were in Northern Ireland we visited a village called Gracehill, near Ballymena (it’s one of the very few things to do in Ballymena, on a Sunday).  It was founded by a religious community of Moravians and there’s an old graveyard there that dates back to the mid-1700s.  If you imagine what might once have been a small field, long and thin, with a thick hedge around it and a tree-lined path down the centre, then you’ll have an idea what it was like.  The Moravians had a very strict social structure which they extended even to their dead, and all the men are buried on one side and the women on the other, and all the stones are the same size and shape to reflect their belief in everyone being of equal importance.

The graves are arranged in chronological order, with the oldest ones being near the entrance and the latest ones at the far end.  Further down, they spread over the whole area, but the older stones are all together and line each side of the path.  The story is that the gardener got fed up trying to mow between all the stones and so he placed them all together to make it easier for himself – true? I’m not sure.  Most of them are covered in moss and indecipherable, but the occasional one is clear – presumably someone must have cleared the moss off for some reason.

Moravian graveyard 1

Moravian graveyard 3

Moravian graveyard 2

Moravian graveyard 6

Moravian graveyard 5

Faux roses

The weather was poor when we were there, with flat, dull light and intermittent drizzle, but I think that maybe it suits the subject matter.  It was a very peaceful, calm place, with a tinge of melancholy to it as well.  I’ve always liked cemeteries – I like to ponder about who these people were, and wonder about why this one died at the age of 23, and what sort of character that one turned into, having lived to 87.  I like looking at the names, to see how names have changed in popularity over the years.  And there are always small and interesting things to puzzle over, like who left this bunch of faded artificial roses for a loved one and why they never replaced them with a fresher bunch .