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Did Edward Gorey Visit Here?! by artwhiz47

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Did Edward Gorey Visit Here?! by 

In a word, no. But any fan of the Master Draughtsman of the Macabre & Offbeat cannot fail, when confronted by this interesting stone, to think of the late, lamented Ted.

This marker is one of a line of similar pieces that marches straight through the middle of the churchyard at the Canonbie (Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland) United Parish Church. They are distinctive for their simplicity, & while I realize that the concept of the ‘grinning skull’ is hardly a new one, these all had what I thought were singularly benign expressions. This one appears to be showing off his new teeth. And speaking of benign, note the sweet little Orangutan face up top…. Inscriptions were illegible on most, & we had difficulty dating them, but I would guess, despite their ancient & eldritch aspects, that they were 18th Century products. A little digging, to coin a phrase, would probably turn up (to coin another phrase… sorry) more.

More on Edward Gorey here. Images of his work galore on Google Images.

A short bio, eh? I am Sheila, & I am short.

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  • Tom Gomez
    Tom Gomezover 3 years ago

    Old gravestones are quite fascinating and always worth looking for. Tell me if ypu like these examples

  • You just KNEW I would… have visited & commented. We were able to make out a 17-something date on one of these Canonbie markers, which led us to the 18th-Century conclusion, at least for some. They look older to me, but the skill of the monument maker & the type of stone used often tell the tale. New England is full of 17th-Century cemeteries with plain slate markers (frequently), sometimes so badly spalled that there is nothing left to read. But most are intact & have wonderful little faces & curlicues. They do not, however, contain anything like the family histories that are commonly found on Scottish stones. Ray has learned a lot about his ancestors via these carved-in-stone notes from the past. One major example (though not in any way connected to our families) stands in the churchyard at Sweetheart Abbey in New Abbey, Dumfries & Galloway. It is a fairly recent, enormous stone with an extensive pedigree chart carved into its polished granite surface! I’ve never seen anything like it. Thanks, Tom.

    – artwhiz47

  • JKKimball
    JKKimballover 3 years ago

    Fantastic! I love finding these relics Sheila, great find my friend!

  • Many thanks, John, & I appreciate the favorite! These stones (must’ve been fifteen or twenty of them) captured the imagination. The stones around them were hardly new, but most had a clean & polished look compared to these old fellows!

    – artwhiz47

  • deb cole
    deb coleover 3 years ago

    Wow, Sheila! Ever creepy. An awesome find and very interesting info, too! ;o)

  • Thanks, Deb. i’ve been meaning to post this for ages; finally got around to it now that Hallowe’en is lurking. Plan to buy a couple of cards from myself with this in mind…. BOO!

    – artwhiz47

  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyover 3 years ago

    A delightfully weathered stone, Sheila. A very interesting find and photie. A very common find, too, in the Tof EO, this area being the home of the Empire Loyalists et al. and, of course, Caribou Cameron. His missus is interred in a beauty wee church called Salem in Summerstown. A number of the local boneyards have similar stones, although I can’t remember if the wee smiley face was on any. The one out back of my place has a number of famous local families, some with ostentatious markers, some with nondescript. A great place to wander and close by should anything arise requiring a hasty retreat. There’s one stone in particular at the Blue Church near Prescott that is quite poignant. Inscribed is “Mother. She tried her best.”
    Meanwhile, once I’d checked out your link, I remebered Gorey, mainly due to the intro to the PBS Mystery series.
    This caught my eye : Although Gorey’s books were popular with children, he did not associate with children much and had no particular fondness for them.

  • Thanks for reminding me that I need to get a UEL pic posted… Ray with an ancestor or two over near Queenston. Anyway, thanks, Mike. And thanks for that CariBOO marker (yes, that’s how it’s spelled, it seems). Bet he’s haunting folks out in BC. Isn’t that wee smiley face a hoot? Makes being buried worthwhile after all, wouldn’t you say? As for Ted Gorey… I am a collector & have quite a number of intriguing items. In fact, I started collecting his little books back in the ‘60s, when no one much had heard of him. That quote about sums it up, though his books are aimed at adults, & semi-adults like myself. They obviously appeal to children, especially perverse children with agendas…. That’s ‘perverse’, not necessarily ‘perverted’. He was an extremely eccentric man, but his eccentricities were wholly benign. When Ray & I were in New York City for my 50th birthday (lo, those many years ago), we went to the now defunct (unhappily) Gotham Book Mart, the owner of which knew Gorey well & carried a wide range of signed Gorey products, including artwork. There was a nifty Gorey Gallery on the second floor, & we spent an entire afternoon in there. The woman who showed us around was terrific, & she told the tale (among others) of Gorey’s now-famous house on Cape Cod, which was often visited by her & by the Gotham’s owner, Andy. One day Andy, was there, seated in the living room by himself while Ted went off to get something. Andy noticed that there was greenery climbing in from the outside through a hole in the wall, & upon closer inspection, he discovered that it was poison ivy. When Ted returned, Andy pointed this out to him. Ted’s response: Do you want to remove it? No? Well, that’s all right then…. And the poison ivy grew apace. This phenomenon was also noted by a neighbor, Alexander Theroux (brother of the more famous Paul), who included it in his neighborly ‘memoir’ of Ted & his vagaries. To see how Gorey related to children, see this animated version of The Gashlycrumb Tinies. Of course, Gorey’s original was just the Alphabet Book without dialogue or actuation, but this guy did a good job of bringing it to ‘life’(?), you might say.

    – artwhiz47

  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyover 3 years ago

    One can see that Ted didn’t really have much of a soft spot for les enfants, eh? Quite the alphabet lesson. My choice of cartoonist/illustrator back in the time was Ronald Searle. Nigel Molesworth rules!

  • Ronald Searle! Right at the top of my heap, too. I suppose it all started early on with Alastair Sim in ‘The Belles of St. Trinian’s’ & went downhill (?) from there. Another BRILLIANT artist; have a number of books he illustrated (including Nigel), but I covet a signed etching. Expensive, very.

    – artwhiz47

  • Mike Oxley
    Mike Oxleyover 3 years ago

    The Belles is a classic – anything with Mr. Sim is, of course. But my introduction, way back in the dark ages, was Whizz for Atomms which got lost, along with the others, in the Great Trek Westwards. Also lost were a number of Giles annuals that I’ve slowly been able to replace and add to over the years. Still far from complete, though.

  • When I saw the title, I didn’t recognize it, but the cover looked familiar. Can’t say; a long time ago….

    – artwhiz47

  • Guendalyn
    Guendalynover 3 years ago

    affascinante !!!

  • Thank you kindly, Guenda. It is an interesting stone. And thanks for the favorite, too!

    – artwhiz47

  • Photography by Mathilde
    Photography by...over 3 years ago

    Super capture – I love these old headstones – have you see the book “Grave Humour” -??

  • Thanks, GM. I have seen this book, & in fact, I have an earlier book of just epitaphs (no photos) that has been in the family for years. Wonder where that is……….

    – artwhiz47

  • Cindy Schnackel
    Cindy Schnackelover 3 years ago

    Great find!

  • They were all over the place, these little rogues. Thanks, Cindy.

    – artwhiz47

  • Deborah Lazarus
    Deborah Lazarusover 3 years ago

    Fascinating!!! I am willing to bet that this marker marks the grave of a young child and a grandparent.

  • You could be right ~ no way to tell at this point. These stones, all similar in size, shape & overall configuration, had been removed from other sites & placed in a row in the middle of the graveyard, & I just don’t know if records were kept concerning their provenance. Other displaced stones can be seen here, lining the roadside like a kind of fence. The churchyard runs right down to the river, & there is some erosion all along the high bank ~ possible that some of these gravemarkers (& their graves) were victims of the meanders of the river. Thanks, Deborah, & for the favorite!

    – artwhiz47

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