Doors Open Days

at Grange Cemetery, Beaufort Road EH9 1TT

Sat 25 & Sun 26 September 2021

The Grange Association took part in the Doors Open Days events over the last weekend of September 2021 – Saturday September 25, 13:00-17:00, and Sunday September 26, 11:00-17:00.

Grange Cemetery is always open but, over that weekend, volunteers were around to tell visitors about some of the work going on. Helped by some unseasonably warm and sunny weather, more than 200 people visited. There was a Gravestone Walk with information posters, a Tree Trail, a War Graves walk, and, on the Sunday morning, visitors were able to watch some of the Community Payback Order participants restoring smaller fallen stones.

For regular visitors to the Cemetery, you will know that the Council has been keeping the grass well under control in 2021. In addition, some work has been done by volunteers, coordinated by Sue Tritton and with tools supplied by the Council, removing saplings and invasive weeds growing around gravestones. If left unchecked these can cause damage to the monuments, even dislodging them.

Tree Trail

Although not an unusual or spectacular collection, the trees in the Cemetery add a great deal to the general ambience and attract many birds and insects. There is a Tree Trail for visitors to identify and learn about some of the more interesting specimens in the grounds. You can read more about this in Peter Pitkin’s article on page 9 of our September 2021 newsletter , or by opening the leaflet opposite.

Gravestone Walk

Our leaflets, Some Notable Burials and More Notable Burials are available in holders at the East and West Gates.

For the 2021 Doors Open Days, there were also posters placed by 21 gravestones in the Cemetery (some mentioned in the two booklets and some new ones) and a Gravestone Walk leaflet with a map to guide visitors to the 21 gravestones.

The posters gave information on the biography, background and importance of the various “inhabitants” of the graves, researched by Pat Storey and Jenny Dawe. They chose 21 monuments to highlight on Doors Open Days but it could have been more, or less, but that’s the number that fit on a board of Corex for printing!

In deciding who to include, they tried to choose reasonably accessible stones that would avoid steps and keep mainly to paths. They included some for whom research had already been undertaken for Some Notable Burials, though added extra interesting material, others that had not been researched in any detail and a “wild card” that tells the story of the restoration of a family monument. It proved an arduous but really interesting journey into the lives of a wide variety of people – from Ministers to murderers, military men to musicians, architects to authors, supporters of Hearts and of Hibs, and two tragedies – a Titanic victim and an “African slave boy”.

Although the 2021 Doors Open Days have passed, the Gravestone Walk is still available for any visitors, so come along and try it out.

Included in the walk is Colonel Sir George McCrae (1860-1928), a sad omission from the first booklet, he made an appearance in More Notable Burials. Seek him out and you will learn of a man with an unfortunate start in life who, by sheer determination, became a successful businessman, a Town Councillor, an MP and a senior public servant. But he is best known as the founder of “McCrae’s Battalion” in 1914, a volunteer force whose bravery and many losses are commemorated by a memorial cairn in France.

Further south, find Christian Isobel Johnstone (1781-1857), a remarkable person, the first woman to be paid editor of a Victorian periodical, and author of popular fiction and non-fiction books and many contributions to magazines.

A surprise, perhaps, is that Thomas Dick Lauder (1784-1848), owner of the Grange Estate, was much more than just a wealthy landowner. He wrote learned papers on scientific matters, was author of novels and stories, and an accomplished artist.

The most recent stone noted is that for Aileen Francis Paterson (1934-2018) in the Cemetery extension to the west. An artist from childhood and by training, she is the creator of the wonderful Maisie books.

Perhaps the saddest tale is that behind the simple words on a small stone on the ground: Tom an African slave boy, died at Edinburgh April 19th 1884 aged 13. Redeemed with the precious blood of Christ. Erected by children of Rosehall U. P. Church. Tom (born c. 1871) was rescued from slavery and brought from the Congo to Scotland by a missionary. The young boy died of bleeding from a stomach ulcer. Still a mystery is the connection with Rosehall United Presbyterian Church. Perhaps a Doors Open visitor may be able to tell us?

Another worthy of note is David Masson (1822-1907) who gave up training for the ministry for a literary career, becoming Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at Edinburgh University. An active supporter of education for women, the University’s first hall of residence for female students was named after him.

If murder is more your scene, then visit the grave of Michael Taylor (1793-1867) where also lie his wife and daughter, poisoned by Dr Edward Pritchard. Read the story of the murders and a little bit about another murder victim elsewhere in the Cemetery.

There are many more stories that can be found and you may have some to tell us.

War Graves

Initiated by a Grange Association member, Frank Donald, a booklet has been prepared that identifies 22 stones commemorating deceased servicemen.

Ten are official war graves, the others are family memorial stones.

These graves lie around the perimeter of the Cemetery, so make for an easy stroll.

Restoration of monuments

Many headstones have fallen or been laid flat for safety. Since 2016, over 225 headstones have been rebuilt in Grange Cemetery. Smaller headstones are reinstated by Community Payback Order workers, as part of Alan McKinney’s Southside Graveyard Project.

Larger stones require professional restoration by stonemasons financed by the Grange Association. See how to support this work at the “Donate to support our work” tile on our Cemetery page.

LeafletGraveRestoration p2 image

Volunteer gardening

With the support of the City Council, some dedicated volunteers from the neighbourhood have been working throughout Spring and Summer to tidy unwanted growth in parts of the cemetery. We initially homed in on the south-east corner and are now working in other areas. Of particular importance has been the work to cut back and, where possible, remove self-seeded saplings and shrubs growing around and between headstones. These damage and destabilise the headstones with the possibility that some will eventually topple; many have done over the years. The work has also included cutting back branches and ivy obscuring inscriptions with some gravestones (laid flat over a grave) having become completely obscured over the years. Unwanted growth along and within some of the walls has also been cleared to help maintain the stonework.

If you want more information or would like to help, please contact us at cemetery@grangeassociation.com

Preview by Rev Karen Campbell: Note that not all the graves mentioned in this video were included in the 21 monuments listed in the Grave Walk compiled for the 2021 Doors Open Days – but you are welcome to try to find them yourself!