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  • Nineteenth-Century Gravegoods in Somerset July 6, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Nineteenth-Century Gravegoods in Somerset

    The burial of children is always extremely melancholy. The very tragedy of putting a loved child in the ground – memories of an Anglo-Saxon grave in Oxfordshire covered previously by this blog – leads relations, siblings and particularly parents to an unusual pitch of grief and in that grief they sometimes make unusual decisions. Certainly, […]

    The Place of Still Born Children November 24, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern, Prehistoric
    The Place of Still Born Children

    Skeaf is a small townland in County Cork in the wild west of Ireland. Looking for information about this little patch of green on the internet gives almost nothing: there are, for example, no houses for sale in Skeaf and no singles looking for ‘hot encounters’, no farmers’ markets and no entries in Craigs List. […]

    Bread and Drowning October 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Bread and Drowning

    People drown, almost by definition, in large bodies of water: very few people end their lives in baths or ponds or puddles. This means that there is the problem of how to find any missing bodies. Our ancestor pragmatically used magic to find these lost bodies and it is interesting just how late the magic […]

    Funeral Fights October 5, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Funeral Fights

    ***A dear old friend of this blog, Chris from Haunted Ohio Books has just brought out her latest haunting book: the Ghost Wore Black, if it is anywhere near as good as her last offering expect a review here in the proximate future. To celebrate this funforal (Joycean word?) tale is dedicated to Chris and […]

    Church Porch Devilry October 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Church Porch Devilry

    Midsummer’s eve doubtless had significance to our distant pagan ancestors, yoked to the land and to the seasons like oxen. What is striking is how often these traditions survived Christianity, the Reformation and even industrialisation. Take one of Beach’s favourite: looking for the dead-to-come on Midsummer’s Eve. Tradition claimed – traditions that still survive in […]

    The Greatest Curse: Epitaphs for Dead Children July 11, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    The Greatest Curse: Epitaphs for Dead Children

    A very delicate subject this, but one that Beach couldn’t get out of his head having spoken last night to a woman who had lost her only daughter while in her 50s. If the nightmare of all nightmares should happen and a child die what might be written on the gravestone? A 1930s letter page […]

    Suicide and Historical Loopholes April 7, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Ancient, Contemporary, Modern
    Suicide and Historical Loopholes

    Suicide has proved abhorrent to most spiritual traditions. Certainly, the great monotheistic religions and most of the far Eastern religions have condemned ‘self-murder’: cue lots of pulpit bashing and descriptions of hell or unpleasant reincarnations. This begs the question though of what you can do if you live in 500 BC or 500 AD or […]

    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England March 9, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Romani Mystery in Eleventh-Century England

    ***Dedicated to Stephen D*** Our knowledge of the ancient and medieval movements of peoples depends on extraordinarily inadequate contemporary sources and the  deadly (and often unsupported) prejudices of historians and archaeologists. But now, with the use of DNA sampling and other techniques, including isotope analysis, science is coming to the rescue: giving us surprising insights […]

    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple March 5, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Gravestones: The Disparate Couple

    Beachcombing has a thing about Italian cemeteries, which tend to be far more gaudy than their British equivalents, but are often also more moving. There the visitor will find paper or fabric flowers on every tomb, photographs of the resident dead, the graves cared for on an almost weekly basis by relatives, the ‘Christmas lights’ […]

    Witty Gravestones February 26, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern
    Witty Gravestones

    One of those difficult days. Two of Beachcombing three sources of income have wobbled in a single six hour span and Beach answered an obnoxious email from one of his ‘managers’ with an even more obnoxious email. Anyway, quite how he got from these troubles to gravestones he can’t remember. But he did spend a […]

    Rhyming with Death December 8, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    Rhyming with Death

      Death concentrates the mind wonderfully and, at least in the east, a longstanding custom has been to pen a final poem: a last communiqué to the world. This custom stretches far back into the Middle Ages  and perhaps the greatest thing to recommend it is the brevity of the works in question So we […]

    Last Words: Last Lies May 14, 2011

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern

    Beachcombing has wasted literally days of his life looking at last words of the famous, the infamous and the simply anonymous. There is something so fascinating about utterances from the edge of the cliff. But how many of these gilded sentences are genuine? And how many simply the blather of post-mortem spin? Take Voltaire (obit […]