8 May 2014

Deathliness

Gravestone detail - Wardsend Cemetery
Last evening on television, comedian and professional Scotsman Billy Connolly was exploring death rituals – mostly around Los Angeles - which is his adopted city. Billy’s looking old and frail himself these days as if The Grim Reaper has already got his number.

Today I had to take my car to Earl John Gray’s old stomping ground – Hillsborough - which is a populous northern suburb of the city of Sheffield. I left my car at the “Seat” dealer on Middlewood Road and with walking boots on strolled along to the Hillsborough football stadium – home ground of Sheffield Wednesday – where I stopped to look at a simple stone monument to the ninety six football fans who were tragically crushed to death in the spring of 1989. There were various scarves and jottings, pictures and candles – like a Buddhist shrine in Thailand.
Memorial to the 96 at Hillsborough
Then I hiked past the leisure centre, the liquorice allsorts factory, Napoleon’s Casino and the Owlerton Greyhound Stadium - then past the relatively new Hillsborough College – with its uninspirational cladding and little gatherings of furtive cigarette smokers – standing as they must do these days – just outside the college entrance. Round the corner and over a little bridge that crosses the River Don and I had reached my destination. Not the scrapyard on the left but the woods ahead which conceal an old Victorian graveyard – known as Wardsend Cemetery.
In Wardsend Cemetery trees may sprout from graves
It has been disused for many years but from 1859 to 1968, it witnessed the interment of many hundreds of Sheffield people – from babies and small children to victims of the Sheffield Flood of 1864 and soldiers from nearby Hillsborough Barracks. All human life is buried there and the gravestones left behind are like a window upon the way things were – especially in the second half of the nineteenth century. Even the darkness of the stones speaks of Sheffield’s industrial past when the Don Valley was a smoky open air workshop filled with sounds of furnaces and hammers, the coughing of steel workers and the clattering of clogs on cobblestones.
Death is black and white
I wandered through the trees, the ivy and the knotweed, hoping to find a few graves of Sheffield Flood victims – though I couldn't find a single one. Some graves had trees growing right out of them - as if fed by mortal remains and a few others had received the unwelcome attention of vandals. On a path I spotted the corpse of a young blackbird. Why it had died I do not know but very gently I lifted its body to the grass at the side.

There’s an organization called “Friends of Wardsend Cemetery” and if the weather’s okay on Saturday morning, Shirley and I may return to the graveyard for a guided tour which will hopefully lead us to where some of the flood victims rest.

I had a simple lunch in “The Old Crown” on Penistone Road, investigated new bedroom curtains at Park View Soft Furnishings, sauntered round B&M and Wilco before getting back to the “Seat” dealership to discover to my delight that my car was A1 and had consequently passed its annual MOT test with flying colours.
"The Old Crown", Penistone Road

28 comments:

  1. How can I resist a post that begins with one of my very favorite actors, Billy Connolly? I did see him on the street when I was visiting New York two years ago; he must have been ducking out for a break after a matinee. He was in some show on Broadway that year.
    Fascinating tour, by the way, and it sounds as though your pensive day ended on a productive note!

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    1. I saw him "in concert" in Sheffield - a very funny man who could hold a helpless audience in the palm of his hand.

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  2. I lived on wynyard road...just off middle wood road....
    I miss it

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    1. Of course I walked by Wynyard Road today. Before coming to Banner Cross, Shirley and I nearly moved to Vainor Road off Marlcliffe Road which is just up the hill from Wynyard Road.

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  3. Mr. Pudding, I am really not in love with Hillsborough, as you know. Even if it is a place where the famous (aka....John Gray) have lived before. But, the name of the football team and what occurred there in their stadium is very interesting! Who calls a sports team Wednesday? Really?? Really!! But the tragedy that occurred there is not to be made fun of. Reminds me of something that would occur in the States.....BSE......Blame Someone Else!!

    But, actually, when you study the occurrences, the exact same thing occurred during the Great Flood!~ BSE!

    Anyhow, it is a beautiful resting place and your car now works fine. Could you ask for anything more?

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    1. Yes I could ask for something more MT - a nice fresh sausage roll for example - still slightly warm. The name "Wednesday" relates to the formation of the football club when it split from the cricket club which spawned it. As most of the players were industrial workers they could only play on a Wednesday when they were allowed to leave work earlier than usual.

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  4. What a wonderful way to spent a day while the car is repaired. Thanks for the post.

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    1. Yes Reamus, it was much better than just sitting around at the car dealership or catching two buses to cross the city n get back home. Thanks for calling by again sir.

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  5. Not an area I would have considered for a walk but the cemetery does look interesting. I find them fascinating.

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    1. Reading some of the gravestones was fascinating - bits of poetry, old fashioned names, the ages and circumstance of death. I also admired the skilful stone carving on some graves.

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  6. I think Billy Connolly has recently been diagnosed with Parkinsons and he had a cancer scare as well last year so that's probably why he's exploring "death". Did I mention that his grandmother and mine were sisters? I have never met him though.

    I haven't seen much of Sheffield (apart from seeing the inside of Don Valley Stadium for a Stones' concert a couple of times). I think I'd like the tour of the spooky old graveyard.

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    1. No I didn't know that you are in effect related to the Big Yin - this might explain your Caledonian sense of humour! Sheffield has many lovely secrets and here in the south west of the city we are on the very doorstep of The Peak District.

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  7. Not only are Sheffield Wednesday one 8f the oldest clubs in the league and the most decorated in Yorkshire as a cricket club they ard one of the oldest organised sports clubs in the world and before that it is even rumoured that a Wednesday sports club was organised for affluent artisan workers as far back as 1812. So in terms of modern day organised sports, especially football, but also cricket, athletics and gymnastics you look no further than Sheffield itself. Hillsborough was built in 1899 after Wednesday were kicked out of their Olive Grove ground by the rail company, residing on pasture land where Buffalo Bill had brought his wild west show, incidentally.

    The ground itself has hosted some memorable games over the years and pre war has fine tradition and Wednesday were famous long before other upstarts decided to hijack the gamd and reap the benefits of z mord commercia sport. The whole reason Sheffield United was formed was to play in a professional league with the money grabbing upstarts from the notrth west. Wednesday refused, as one of the biggest clubs in the land, to get involved and wanted to keep the game amateur knowing the problems professional sport would bring with capitalism.

    It is sad that the only memory people the world over will have about a bona fide sporting institution is a disaster that was caused by incompetent policing of ticketless fans who were deliberately treated like animals before and after the disaster by a political that despised the working class.

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    1. Were the Liverpool fans at the back of the middle terrace entirely blameless? It will be interesting to see if this finally comes out in the current inquiry. Sounds like you are an Owl to me. As the landlady of our local often shouts "We're all Wednesday aren't we?" and I reply "No we're not!"

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  8. I will fix the typos when I have a keyboard...

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    1. So did you write the first comment telepathically disv2002? And may I call you Jeremy?

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  9. Well you turned a chore into a very pleasant day YP. Well done. My question about Sheffield Wednesday has already been answered. The cemetery was quite moody and so be looking- but with its own beauty too.

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    1. Not exactly Italy's Amalfi Coast though is it Helen? Is Tony back from the pizza place yet?

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  10. I think I've mentioned before that I was one of the team brought in to deal with the aftermaths at both Hillsborough and the 1985 Bradford fire. Such things never left me as a professional, so I can only contemplate the horrors that must still haunt the dreams of those that were present...

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    1. I know that we are not meant to ask this Elizabeth but I wonder if any of those Liverpool fans who arrived late for the match and muscled in at the back of the middle terrace also have haunted dreams.

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  11. That looked like a pleasant walk, mind you, all your rambles look very pleasant. I am looking forward to going for a few long walks now that I am back here.

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    1. Do the hospital staff know that that's what you are planning? The nurses might have to tie you to the bed!

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  12. I love Billy Connolly...his sense of humour; sense of the ridiculous is brilliant!

    He now suffers from Parkinson's Disease...but it will take a lot to keep him down. :

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    1. He's seventy one now. Sad that his body is no longer in tune with his witty and observant mind.

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  13. The picture of the tree and tombstone at Wardsend Cemetery has that heart-tugging quality for me that abandoned/neglected/ruined/empty places always have for me. It almost looks like magic, not something you come across in real life.
    During my week away at the second part of my Data Protection Officer course I went for walks every day after lessons, to give my poor crammed brain an airing before retreating to my hotel room. I will post about those walks, but I have not found anything as fascinating as Wardsend Cemetery.

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    1. I am so pleased that that feeling transmitted itself to you Miss Arian. There is something both fascinating and melancholic about Wardsend Cemetery. It is a good place to gauge your own life. I look forward to more of your walking tales.

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  14. I saw Billy Connolly in the flesh in New Zealand last month and I have to say that physically he was looking a darn sight fitter than many people of his age despite his various ailments. That evening he was on stage in Napier where he performed for several hours standing up and non-stop. He hid neither his physical nor mental afflictions and appeared all the stronger for it.

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  15. Hi I'm part of the wards end cemetery and love this photo of the trees from the grave. I've put it on our Instagram account. References it to your blog. If your not happy with that let me know and I'll pull it. Thanks.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.