Northumberland, Durham Family History Society

View of Chatton'Picture by Jane Coltman
View of Chatton'Picture by Jane Coltman

Northumberland and Durham Family History Society North Northumberland branch

Members forum on death and dying. This topic might sound gloomy but brought forth some interesting items and even more amazing stories.

Among the items were a beautiful black silk mourning apron from Victorian times, ebony mourning brooch and a photograph of the Flanders grave of a great-uncle with precise directions to its location poignantly written on the reverse.

We were reminded of the well-known song on hearing an actual event of a grandfather clock stopping on two occasions when its owner died. The present owner has decided not to rewind it!

Mysterious tales abounded, such as that of the gravestone which had floated down the Tweed eventually appearing in the structure of an old fishing shiel only to disappear again some years later.

Sometimes gravestones seem to disappear even though they have been recorded and even listed. Is “Health and Safety” to blame?

A vivid account from a member’s grandmother of her great-grandmother’s funeral in Ayrshire was given, with a black carriage being driven 20 miles over hills through a snowstorm.

A discussion followed about old funeral traditions some of which have almost died out such as the non-attendance of women at funerals, closing the curtains after a death and selection of persons for the honour of holding the cords of the coffin.

One of the most bizarre stories was told by someone tasked with interviewing a man who had apparently lost his memory.

After much investigation it was discovered that he was prone to adopting the persona of a recently-deceased person in the hospital where he worked, resulting in wasting police time and causing much distress to the bereaved.

He had committed this offence many times and on this occasion when confronted with the evidence assaulted those present at the interview, ran off and although recaptured managed to escape again.

The transportation of coffins inspired more tales of coffins falling unnoticed from carts en route to the church, of a man judged the “best shot” in the county taken back to his home appropriately on a game-cart still bearing feathers of spoils and of a farmer who vowed he would never live away from the Waren Burn who now lies in a grave at Lucker in a very wet spot.

Our next meeting will be on Saturday, November 21, 10am at Bell View, Belford when we welcome back Tony Barrow whose subject will be “Smuggling on the Northeast Coast”. Everyone welcome.