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Sunday, 28 July 2013

Tundergarth - A beautiful Scottish church

The first place we visited on our trip was Tundergarth and it was a lovely place to start.

Tundergarth is a rural village in Scotland, not that far from the border with England. I use the term “village” loosely as it is so rural there are just a few farm cottages scattered amongst rolling hills. I knew before we visited that it was rural, but I hadn’t really considered how rural until I was there. I’m a town girl and as the taxi drove the three miles from the nearest town to Tundergarth parish church, I will admit that I did start to worry we would not be able to call a taxi to come back again – you could see nothing for miles except open beautiful Scottish countryside.

The parish church that stands now was built in 1900 on and beside the ruins of a much older church, and the immaculately kept churchyard has many 18th and early 19th century headstones including one in particular that I had come to see.

The picturesque Tundergarth parish church

My 5 x great grandfather, William Graham, is buried at Tundergarth along with several of his relatives. William was a tenant farmer in Tundergarth and he died in 1827. The family spent a long time in Tundergarth and the area of Dumfries around it before moving on to the North East of England, probably in search of work.

Like many of the graves, weathering has made some of the inscription difficult to read on the family grave but with a bit of perseverance (and a monumental inscription recorded previously) you can make out the following:

"William Graham, tenant in Mosshead, who died March 12th 1827, aged 83 years. Also Mary Johnstone, who died 12th April 1847, aged 87 years. Also James Graham, son to William Graham, in Mosshead, who died August 21st 1792, aged 6 weeks. Also Mary Graham, sister to the above, who died at Mosshead, January 11th 1817, aged 667 years. Also William Graham, son to John Graham in Mosshead, who died 13th February 1837, aged 11 months. Also the above John Graham, who died 6th March 1869, aged 86 years"

As I stood at the grave of my ancestor who lived nearly 300 years ago and farmed the land around me, I felt an amazing sense of belonging. The connection between then and now felt stronger, and I could imagine William’s family standing where I now stood when they buried him.

Me at the grave of William Graham (1744 to 1827) and family, Tundergarth churchyard

Additional info on Tundergarth

As well as the ancestral pull, Tundergarth has its own charm – an idyllic, peaceful piece of rural calm. As we stood in the graveyard, there was no noise except birdsong and the odd “Baaaaaa” from the sheep in the field next to the church. Beautiful on any day, it was especially beautiful on a warm summer’s morning as it bathed in sunlight. It is difficult to imagine that anything could shatter the calmness felt there, but it has seen tragedy a rural parish of it’s size should never see.

I mentioned earlier that Tundergarth is three miles from the nearest town. The town is Lockerbie.

On the evening of 21 December 1988, Pan Am flight 103 came down over Lockerbie. I won’t dwell on the horrors of that evening as I am sure everyone is familiar with the terrorist atrocity. A total of 289 people died – everyone on board, plus some Lockerbie residents on the ground. There is a “famous” photo that has come to symbolise the Lockerbie disaster – the nose cone of the plane lying in a Scottish field. The field is in Tundergarth, just opposite the church.

There is a "memorial room" in the Tundergarth churchyard. A former stone watch room, it has been renovated as a memorial to those who died in the disaster and we visited for some quiet contemplation. There is also a visitors centre at Dryfesdale cemetery, just a few miles away which tells the story of both the Lockerbie air disaster and the wider history of Lockerbie. Dryfesdale Cemetery is also home to the Lockerbie Air Disaster Memorial and Garden of Remembrance, which we also visited. The list of names on the memorial is heartbreaking - there are so many, it looks like a war memorial.

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