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"THE HOWFF"


TO THE EDITOR OF THE DUNDEE ADVERTISER,
"To honor ye Sepvltlr ve may be bald--
Ve lerne of Abraham ovr Father avld."
(From D. Zeaman's tombstone in Howff, 1610.)


SIR,-Permit me to express the pleasure I felt in observing in your paper of Friday last that the matter of beautifying the
interesting old burial-place of "the Howff" had been brought before the Town Council. Having long had a mind myself to bring the subject before the public, I need not say that I feel all the more delighted that it has emanated from gentlemen of influence and good taste, being convinced that the best results will follow.
While highly approving of the recommendation to the Magistrates to plant flowers and shrubs in the grounds, permit me humbly to suggest some other improvements (which I do with the utmost deference), as well as the hope that, since there is a probability of the town being honoured next year by a visit from the British Association, the matter be set about with all speed.
I feel that the suggestions which I am about to make are so obvious that most, if not all of them, will be anticipated by the
authorities ; still, believing that they can do no harm, I beg to trouble you with the following remarks:- In the first instance,
it appears to me that a wolk should be made along the east side of the cemetery-that the many low of hollow parts throughout the enclosure should be made up to a level with the surrounding ground- that the broken, fallen, and failing monuments should be decently repaired and replaced, and such of the curious and interesting old stones as are now sunk in the ground, and their margins overgrown with turf, be raised above the level of the grass, and fully exposed to view. It may also be found advisable to remove the discarded monuments which lie against the west wall, together with those in the footpaths, and have them arranged upon the south and east walls. Many of those in the walks (among which is the famous one of "Epity Pye"), bear interesting inscriptions, and carvings of rare armorial bearings, which, from being daily trodden upon, are fast becoming illegible, and valueless, whether as records of the departed, or as objects of curiosity.
In carrying out the proposed improvement, it may also be found advisable to uproot misthriven and unshapely trees; and, for the safety of the west all, some of the larger trees may require to be replaced by others, probably yew trees, at a greater distance from the masonry. It will, of course, be imperative to have the tree prunings and the ugly wooden shed removed; and, if the shed is absolutely required as a depository of mattocks and shovels, &c, it could be re-erected on the south wall, in a line with the Superintendent's office. Probably the west wall, as also the south and east walls, ought to be clad with ivy, or some such plant, which could be so trained and cultivated as to form (in the case of the west wall, at least) natural and fantastic curtains over each of the recesses or niches, by which the monotony of the wall is at so present relieved.
Probably these now barren, but, picturesque niches, ought to be appropriated to some useful purpose. If thought advisable, they could be occupied by Cenotaphs, either raised by public or by private expense, in memory of such of the natives of Dundee as have excelled in scientific, literary, or artistic pursuits; also of such as have been eminently useful in conducting the civil interests of the burgh, in advancing the cause of its educational institutions, or in alleviating human misery and distress, as well as of those who have acquired a name for honourable and straight forward dealing in business. Of such men Dundee has had a fair proportion--Hector Boyce, the first Principle of King's College, Aberdeen; the celebrated Provosts Halliburton; Sir Peter Young, jointalmoner, along with Buchanan, to James VI; David Lindsay, rector of the Grammer School, afterwards Bishop, first of Brechin, then of Edinburgh; Patrick Goldman, an eminent Latin poet; Lord Inverpeffer; Admiral Duncan; Mr Willison, author of "The Afflicted Man's Companion;" Mr Glass, the founder of the Glasites; Mr Dempster, of Dunnichen; and Mr Morgan, the founder of the Orphan Hospital, now about to be erected. The memory of these, and of many more Dundee men, both of the past and present times- and, it is hoped, of ages yet to come- are, and may be, deserving of being perpetuated by their fellow townsmen, as noble examples of patient perserverence, crowned with lasting esteem and success. I can not help thinking monuments raised to such men, however plain in their design, with a brief narrative of their respective excellencies, would not only contribute to beautify "the Howff", and render it still more attractive as a place of meditation and resort, but that those memorials would also be productive of such good, and tend to incite the young to persevere in laudable studies, with the view of being useful in their day and generation. As we know that imitation is one of the first indications of the presence of reason in mankind, probably nothing better calculated to stimulate youth in the acquirement of an honourable reputation than to have monitors daily before them in favourite places of resort, bearing the unmistakable and proud testimony that patience and perserverance, in any good cause is ultimately successful, and that it is appreciated and commemorated by their compeers, and the really intelligent men of their native place.I ought to add that, on more occasions than one, I have characterised "the Howff" of Dundee, whether in regard to the antiquity of its tombstones, their elaborate and curious carvings, or their quaint inscriptions, as one of the most interesting places of its kind in Scotland. Having spent much of my leisure in it, during occasional visits to Dundee in the course of the past ten of fifteen years, I am naturally familiar with most of the tombstones, and know something of the history and character of many of those who sleep below-pieces of obscure information which, so soon as leisure permits, I hope to do myself the pleasure of laying before the public, in connection with the more valuable and curious of the inscriptions.
While speaking of these mottoes, it may be interesting to know that, having compared those now existing in "the Howff" with those in the collection which was made by Monteith, first published in 1713, in the second part of his valuble and curious work, entitled An Theater of Mortality, I find that very few of them are now in an entire state, while others have altogether disappeared. Probably the mutilation is owing less to the soft nature of the stone employed than to the want of attention in keeping the stones in order; while the total disappearance of many of them is cheifly owing to the disgraceful practice- which has long been common here- of effacing the old, and inscribing new mottoes, in praise of more modern individuals. I regret much to say that this shameful practice has been followed here for a greater length of time, and with more success, than in any place in Scotland with which I am acquainted. It is to be hoped, however, for the good feeling and credit of the community of Dundee that the days of this reprehensible practice are past, and rather that everything in the future to preserve those interesting relics and monuments, some of which (as that of Bailie George Brown, who died of wounds received in defence of the town, at its merciless sack by General Monk) certainly deserve well both of kinsmen and townsmen.
But there are other, and much more ancient funeral monuments in Dundee than those in "the Howff", which also claim notice. I refer to the collection of magnificently carved "coffin slabs" (as they are termed by antiquarians), which are now lying in the bottom of the Bell Tower of the Church of St Mary. Than these, no better specimens of the class of antiquaries to which they belong, exist in Scotland; and with the prospect, as above remarked, of the British Association visiting Dundee, probably it might be well to have them removed from their present dingy abode, and placed upon suitable basements on the grass plot in front of the Churches, where they would be safe from violation, and could be seen at all times.With the view of preparing those interesting relics to stand the weather, so to speak, two of three good coats of boiled linseed oil would be necessary. This, it is believed, goes far to preserve free-stone against the inclemency of the weather, and might also be used, with good effect, in the cxase of many of the stones in "the Howff."
As a matter of course these improvements will cost money; but, if fairly set on foot, those having relatives buried in "the
Howff", and thers, who can appreciate so rational a project, will not surely be backward to subscribe liberally to the cause,so that "the Howff" may still be made a still more pleasing place of resort than it is now; and, since the legislature has closed it for ever as a place of interment, it might be made to form an important adjunct to the Baxter Park, now in progress of formation.
Compared to Aberdeen, so lately visited, and so highly applaUded for its many interesting features by members of the British Association, it must be admitted that Dundee possesses few objects either of literary or antiquarian interest; hence the propriety of making the most of what it has, an undertaking which, I feel convinced, requires nothing more to ensure its success than perseverence on the part of the public authorities, since the improvements in question are so well calculated not only to do honour to the town, but to improve the habits and tastes of the mass of the population.- I am, &c.,
ANDREW JERVISE.

 

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