What is this strange attraction to ancient graveyards? (Or am I the only one?) It isn't that I spend every weekend hunting them out, but when I come across one, as I did a couple of weeks ago, I find it compelling.
In my continuing exploration of my "back yard" I stumbled upon Layde Road, rising high above the coast out of Cushendall and with it the ruins of Layde parish church, sited in a dip between the hills, one mile from the town, visible at a distance only from the sea.
The sun had just risen on a glorious morning. The birds were singing, at last, no doubt relieved that spring had finally arrived. And there wasn't a human soul in sight. The bird song enhanced the silence and the solitude.
The roof is mostly missing. But much of the walls and openings still remain. And scattered around on three sides, interspersed with a few trees, are the graves, many very ancient and some quite contemporary and still tended.
I can idle for a long time amongst grave stones, trying to decipher the crumbling marks of a mason's chisel and wondering about the people buried there and their stories. Is it the sense of human history? A desire for connection? The feeling that it is important to be reminded of my own mortality? Or am I seeking that strange sensation that comes on those occasions where I see 'LENNOX' on the headstone, trying to imagine at what point and in what circumstances our family lines crossed?
The location is a little puzzling. To be so far from the town and difficult to access, especially in the cold, wet weather for which we are famous requires some explaining.
The first mention of the church dates back to the 14th century but it is reckoned to be older than that, perhaps several hundred years older.
One explanation is that the church served the needs of Scottish non-conformists who were finding it difficult to practise their faith in their homeland. If so, it is a symbol of the desire and need for freedom of faith and conscience. It is a stirring thought.
I found this out afterwards. At the time something else attracted my attention. A host of golden daffodils.
They glowed in the warming sunshine and I could imagine them, as Wordsworth saw them at Ullswater, "tossing their heads in sprightly dance". For me, as for the poet, there was a wealth in that. Not just a memory to bring some joy when 'vacant' and 'pensive' as Wordsworth was prone to become. That dance of the heart is real but short lived. The wealth lay somewhere else for me. For this was a graveyard. Hard and soft, rough and smooth, grey and yellow, death and life. Despair and hope.
This church looks dead!!!
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