A remarkable instance of initial-inscription exists in the Houff burying-ground, Dundee, which so far as known to me has never been published, but may be worthy of preservation. It is recorded in Thomson's MS. Book of the Houff, a copy of which is preserved in the Dundee Free Library, but with some slight errors, which are here corrected. Thomson does not tell how he arrived at the expansion, but he lived in the early part of the last century, and it is just possible it was then common knowledge in the town.
The tombstone, which is a plain upright slab lettered on both sides, is No. 321 in the register.
On the east side it bears :—
"Erected by William Clark, Jailer, Dundee, and Isabel McGilveray his spouse in memory of
their children, viz. Nicholas died the 15th Feby. 1797, aged 5 months; Isabel died llth Novr. 1808,
aged 5 years & 10 months; Daniel died 17th Novr. 1812, aged 14 years and 8 months; Alexr. died
at Jamaica, 27th May, 1817, aged 17 years; John died 13th Novr. 1826, aged 18 years; Sophia died
17th Sept. 1827, aged 22 years; and the mother of 5 sons and 5 daughters died 7th Jany. 1830,
aged 53 years."
On a small brass plate inserted on west side of stone appear the following letters :—
" T. S. &. T. W. B. W. T. I. W. T. R. A. C. F. S. D. Y. P."
Then below in an arched form cut in the face of the stone are the following letters and verse :—
" I. W. C. D. 0. T. O. S. C. T. D. I. O. 1793. T. I. H. M.
S. A. N. O. I. A. L. O. A. G. P. A. A. H. O. A. H. B. R.
Cuimhich am Bas.
Now we have reached the heavenly shore
These mortal frames we need no more,
Their work is done, the grave devours,
And now these frames are no more ours.
Reader, this is certain;
Dost thou believe it?"
The explanation is prosaic enough, and seems something like a joke for the benefit of the grave digger, Thomas Shepherd, and his assistants—" the working band," who were to explain the mysterious letters for- "your pleasure " ! The expansions have been variously interpreted, but the following are as given by Thomson.
The first line on the brass plate:—" Thomas Shepherd & The Working Band Will Thee Instruct
What This Koyal Arch Contains, For So Doing Your Pleasure."
The arched line :—" I William Clark Designed On The Other Side Came To Dundee In October
1793 Then In His Majesty's Service A Native Of Inverness A Lover Of All Good People And A
Hater Of And Hated By Rogues." Gaelic:—" Remember Death."
A consideration of the inscription- shows that the monument having been erected by husband and spouse in memory of their children, was probably put up sometime between 1827, the date of the last recorded of the family, and 1830, when " the mother of ten " died. Mrs Clark seems to have been survived by four of her family and by her husband, whose death does not appear on the stone. So that William Clark, who doubtless was responsible for the whole inscription, may have for several years enjoyed the mystifications of its message to the living, so very inappropriate to accompany his thirty-three years' record of family vicissitudes. It is worth noting, as shown by the dates, that Mrs Clark was only eighteen years of age when married, and nineteen when her son Nicholas was born.
Reproduced courtesy of the Lamb Collection, copyright Dundee Central Library