|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