ST JAMES CEMETERY, TOXTETH


The graveyard had been a sand stone quarry

before Victorian memento mori

filled it. Here were held the obsequies

of gentry and skivvies, cotton kings

and seamen. In the ‘60s, it was unkempt,

the unfinished Anglican Cathedral,

in machine cut sand stone, pristine above it.

 

The bell ringing practice would start at 9.00

every Saturday morning – the heaviest

eight bell peal in the world.  It’s oh so English

chiming cacophony filled the houses

of Liverpool 8’s grand Victorian streets.

So there was never a chance of an

undisturbed lie-in and, anyway, that day,

in an emollient and yet enticing

late May, I was revising for an exam

on teleology or ontology,

epistemology, eschatology

or whatever. Fifty years on I forget –

but I do remember that the intense

silence, which usually accompanied

the end of the practice at noon, never

occurred. Instead, there was a murmur –

like pages turned or dried leaves rustled.

Curious, I went out. The cemetery

and the pavements above were filled with

excited children. There were scores of them.

‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘Why are you here?’

‘West Derby, Everton Heights, The Dingle –

for the monsters, the fairies, the spirits.’

They were excited but gentle, answering

my questions willingly – exploring

the cemetery with enthusiasm

and care. By twilight, they had all gone.

There was no mention in the local press

and none of the neighbours seemed aware.

 

Now the cemetery has been largely

landscaped – in effect, evacuated.

A natural spring in the east wall still

pours forth, rising in Edge Hill, emptying

into the river, running beneath

and cleansing the temples of mammon.

 

 

 

 

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  1. #1 by John Huddart - July 22nd, 2013 at 08:30

    There is an engaging mystery at the heart of the poem – with its booming bells and a cemetery filled with Kingsleyesque children. It is both real and dreamlike. And a fine elegy to memory and memories.

  2. #2 by David Selzer - July 22nd, 2013 at 14:56

    Ah, ‘The Water-Babies’! And the said babies oblivious of Kingsley’s being casually anti-American, anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-semitic but being a fervent and articulate supporter of Charles Darwin’s ‘The Origin of the Species.

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