Guide To Gravestone Carvings

by William E. Wolsey



This interpretation of the symbols is intended to assist the viewer who is unfamiliar with the meanings of some of the carved emblems and also to supply items of additional information, where relevant.

It applies directly to the carvings as found in Tuliallan graveyards, taking into account individual context and local knowledge. As such it is not intended as a universal guide to all graveyards as there can be variations dependant upon the locality and the context of the stone.

It should also be understood that although the earlier stones were carved for symbolic meaning rather than decoration, this was not the case throughout the 19th Century. The era of the Victorian monumental mason offered a choice of designs and embellishments which indicates current fashion rather than individuality.

For a general guide to the meanings of tombstone symbols I would firmly recommend Betty Willsher's 'Understanding Scottish Graveyards' published by W & R Chambers 1985.



Quick Symbol Index: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



Anchor
In the context of this graveyard the anchor is an emblem of trade or profession and indicates a 'mariner'.
Stone 187 portrays the dual trades of Mariner and Weaver.
Stone 277 portrays the dual trades of Mariner and Cooper.

Much of Kincardine's overseas trade was with the Baltic and this would be restricted during the winter months because of ice bound ports. Consequently a second occupation was desirable.

Anchor (Upside down)

In the case of stone 258 the anchor is a religious symbol of 'Hope'. Taken from the Bible :- "There is a Hope both strong and steadfast which is the Anchor of my soul"
Hebrews Chap 6 verse 19.

Fouled Anchor

A fouled anchor, usually within a shield denotes retired Royal Navy.

Axe

On Stone 367 the axe, shown on the reverse side of a shiprights stone, is intended as a trade symbol.

Baker's Tools

The Baker's Peel (a flat wooden shovel), the brush and the draw hook indicate a Baker or 'Baxter'.

Crossed Bones

Crossed Bones, single bones and skulls are all emblems of mortality or death.

Cooper's Tools

The symbol of a cooper is the 'cooper's adze' (a combined hammer and adze).
It would appear that the cooper's work tended to be seasonal as both Stone 277 and Stone 287 indicates dual trades, that of Cooper and Mariner; and Cooper and Farmer, respectively.

Cordiner's Tools

The symbol of the cordiner is the half moon leather worker's knife, which, together with the Crown indicates a member of the Cordiner's Guild see 'Crown'.

Collier's Tools

Large hammer, Wedges and Pickaxe. Note the smaller, straight tined pickaxe as used for working in confined areas such as narrow coal seams.

Compass

Often accompanied by a sextant and/or an anchor indicates a master mariner but not necessarily a ship master.
Stone 305 shows a large hand-held compass as used underground by a coal mine overseer. This is known as a 'Collier's Dial'.

Cross

A Christian cross, not often seen on earlier Scottish stones because of its association with Roman catholicism. It was considered a "Papish emblem!"

Crown

The crown and hammer is the symbol of the Hammerman's Guild. The motto was "By Hammer and Hand, All arts do stand" and its membership embraced all crafts which used a hammer on metal.

The crown and Cordiner's knife is the symbol of the Cordiners (or Leather workers) guild, which of course included shoemakers.

A crown on its own can be a religious symbol, "The crown of righteousness" - not found in Tulliallan graveyard.

Dove

Stone 152 is a Turcan family lair covering several generations of shipowners and shipmasters. In this context the Dove, the 17 gun frigate and the plough is symbolic of the phrase 'Ploughing the seas in Peace and in War'.

Eagles Head

This carving, together with the motto 'Profundo Lerno' or 'Depth with discernement' can only be a tribute to Rev. Simpson's long and devoted service as a Minister of Tulliallan.

Faces

Usually stylised portraits of husband and wife on a family lair. In the case of stone 68, the portrait is of the husband only although twin skulls and twin hourglasses are shown.

Farrier's Tools

Most general Blacksmiths would also shoe horses but a recognised Farrier would normally be indicated by a horseshoe in addition to the hammerman's guild symbol.

Fisherman's Tools

Stone 11 indicates dual trades, the ploughshare and coulter of the tenant farmer together with what appears to be a long handled spade and two shells ( razor back and a clam) of a shell fisherman.
Stone 294 shows a three pronged trident of the type used for catching flounders in shallow water.
Ancient shell middens indicate that this section of the River Forth had extensive shell fish beds before they were inundated and choked by the moss clearance projects in the valley of the upper Forth.

Flowers, Foliage and Fruit

Garlands of fruit and flowers; and cornucopia of exotic fruit symbolises eternal or heavenly bliss.

Palm fronds and laurel leaves indicate Victory over Death.
The rose is a symbol of love and harmony.
The marigold is the common symbol of Grief.
On stones self chosen and installed by the occupant it is not uncommon to find the Michaelmas Daisy, a symbol of 'Afterthought' or 'Fairwell!'
The six petaled garlic flower is a 'hex' symbol believed to be a protection against evil. See also 'Stars'

Flesher's Tools

The knife and cleaver are the tools of the Flesher or Butcher.

Gardener's Tools

The garden broom, rake, spade and scythe are self evident but Stone 94 is worthy of comment. Together with the tools is a fine carving of the Tree of knowledge with an entwined serpent and also the words: - "None can: Few know." This is a summarised version of a quotation from Milton's 'Paradise Lost'. In an era when literacy was uncommon and books, with the exception of the Bible were comparatively rare it is refreshing to find a gardener who studies 'Milton'

Hammernan's Tools

See 'Crown'

Hammer and Wedges

Used by both Colliers and by Quarrymen but the type of pickaxe used by the Colliers is different - see 'Collier's Tools'
Stone 308 and 345 are Colliers
Stone 58 is a Quarryman

Heart

A Heart on its own is an emblem of immortality signifying the soul. See also 'Scales'. The small heart between the initials of the husband and wife signifies 'matrimonial love'.

An upside down heart normally signifies death and is similar to the mortality emblem of the heart pieced by Death's dart.

Hourglass (upright and on its side)

The common epitaph:-
"My Glass is run, and yours is running
Mind Death for Judgement's coming."
offers an explanation of the position of the hourglass. The 'run' glass placed on its side in an emblem of mortality. The upright or 'running' glass is a reminder of the remorseless passage of time and as such has a similar message to the latin phrase 'Memento Mori' - 'Remember you must die'.

Maltster's Tools

Malting the barley or grain is a process required for the production of small ale, either for consumption or for the purpose of distillation. The tools of the Maltster or Maltsman are the large grain shovel, the broom or 'mash oar' used for stirring the mash and sometimes the 'weedock', a tool used to assist the even germination of the grain.

Mason's Guild

The Three Castles are the symbol of the Mason' Guild and would normally indicate a master mason.

Mason's Tools

The square dividers and stone mason's chisels and Mell (a heavy, round-headed hand hammer) are the tools of a stone mason but this does not indicate membership of the Guild.

Masonic

The distinctive crossed square and compasses of the 'Free mason' is not a trade symbol and should not be confused with the square and dividers of the 'Wright' or Carpenter'.

Memento Mori

Literally 'Remember you must die' is a grim reminder from beyond the grave of the pressing need for repentance before it is too late. It can be observed that in many cases these words have been added to the stone at a later date and by a different hand, often by someone that is unused to working in stone. It appears that, in this area in the 1770's, it became the practice to add the phrase to existing stones, presumably when the lair was opened for a later interment.

Mill Rind

The mill rind is the recognised symbol of the Miller. It is a four pronged metal plate with a square centre hole, secured to the mill stone to act as a torsion point.
Stone 243 is an unusual stone showing a mill rind and a sword. Possibly indicating the compatible occupations of miller and blade sharpener. However the sword was also the insignia of an officer so it is quite possible that this miller was also an officer in the local militia.

Ploughshare

The ploughshare and coulter, the basic essentials of a plough, indicates a person who farms the land, usually a tenant or 'feu' farmer rather than a landowner.

Quarryman's Tools

Stone 58 - In this case only the hammer and wedges are shown without the customary pickaxe.

Resurrection Angels

Angels or cherubs blowing trumpets to indicate the Day of Judgement or Resurrection day.

Ropemakers Tools

A unique stone portraying a short section of rope and also the feeder plate to guide the individual strands into the twist of the rope.

Salter's Tools

The tools of a Salter are the shovel and drawhook, used to obtain an even five bed which was essential for the production of a reasonably good quality salt. Low grade coal seams were plentiful but too costly to transport. Used for the evaporation of sea water in open pans it offered an economical method of producing salt as a saleable commodity.

Scales

The scales and heart portray the ultimate judgement when the heart, as the symbol of the soul is weighed on the celestial balance. Stone 255 shows an unevenly loaded scales holding a point of equilibrium, presumably an indication that a small portion of godliness can counterbalance a multitude of sins.

Serpent

A serpent swallowing its own tail is a symbol of eternity. On stone 94 the serpent is entwined in the Tree of knowledge representing the Garden of Eden. Usually on this type of stone the figures of Adam and Eve are also included.

Scythes

Crossed scythes, spades and Sexton's tools are all emblems of mortality.

Sextant

An instrument of navigation indicating a master mariner. See also 'Compass'

Shells

The scallop shell was the accepted badge of the pilgrim but as these are 19th century stones it can be accepted that these emblems are mainly decorative, indicating a pilgrimage of Christian faith rather than actuality.
For stone 11 see 'Fisherman's tools'.

Shield

A fouled Anchor within a shield indicated retired Royal Navy.
Stone 55 portrays a shield with crossed flags, lances and pendants together with an anchor indicating the great naval Battle of Trafalgar. The stone was erected to William Greig by his widow May Shaw. Admiral Lord Keith, owner of Tulliallan estate was at that time senior Admiral commanding the Mediterranean fleet. The quality and design of the stone is far in excess of what could be expected from the young widow. It is extremely probably that it was commissioned and paid for by Lord Keith to honour one of his tenants who died in his service of wounds received during the Battle.
Stone 102 bears the shield and heraldic arms of the Callender family but the only details of burial are shown on stone 101 to William Walker who was related to the Callenders.

Ships

The ship in this context is the symbol of a Shipmaster. Although the majority of the ships shown are single masted coastal vessels, close scrutiny reveals that they all differ in varying details of construction, rigging etc. This indicates that the ship is actually a pictorial representation of the shipmaster's own vessel and as such provides a grahic dated record of the individual ships during that period.

The fact that nearly 50% of the mast head flags or pendants appear to be flying against the wind indicates the relative sailing modes of 'sailing before the wind' or 'tacking into the wind'. Possibly the portrayal of a ship 'tacking into the wind' is intended not only as the symbol of a shipmaster but also as a tribute to his skill as a master mariner.

Ships (in ordinary)

The hull of a ship without masts or rigging denotes a shipbuilder.

Shipwrights (at work)

Stone 231 bears little information but is a fine example of folk art portraying the details, dress and attire of the master shipwright and his assistant.
Stone 367 - The figure of a shipwright and tools together with a single masted ship sailing before the wind indicates that he had built his own vessel.

Skull

An indication of mortality or death. See also 'Crossed Bones'

Spirals

Although now mainly decorative the spiral is found on early celtic stones and its exact meaning is uncertain and lost in obscurity.

Stars

The five pointed star and also the six petaled Garlic flower were 'hex' symbols of protection against evil. Along the coast of Fife the 17th and early 18th century was a period of superstitious fears with a record of witch trials and witch burnings. Consequently it is not uncommon to find one or other of these symbols, not only on the gravestones but also on the lower corners of the roof coping stones (the chub scrolls) on buildings of that period.

Sword

For stone 243 see Mill Rind

Tailor's Tools

The scissors and goose-necked iron of the Tailor are self explanatory. Stone 401 indicates the dual trades of Tailor and Maltster which at first sight appear incompatible. However in a rural community it was not uncommon for Tailors to travel during the summer months with bales of cloth executing orders as required. During Winter when travel was difficult a second occupation would be desirable.

Trees

For stone 94 see 'Gardeners Tools'.
Stone 175 shows a woodcutter at work making the first cut in the direction of fall, together with the approximate Biblical quotation "As the tree falls so must it ly", taken from Ecclesiastes Ch 11 verse 3.

It should be noted that the current Tulliallan cemetery contains a modern duplicate of this stone with contemporary style of axe and clothing for a present day Forester.

Trident

For stone 294 see 'Fisherman's Tools'

Weaver's Tools

The shuttle, carding comb and stretchers (or tenterhooks) are the symbols of the weaver's trade.

Woodcutter

For stone 175 see 'Trees'.

Winged Soul

The winged soul, basically an angel's head and wings is a symbol of the immortality of the human soul.

Wright's Tools

The square and the dividers which are the symbol of a Wright or Carpenter should not be confused with the distinctive crossed square and compasses of the Free mason.
Stone 193 portrays the dual trades of Wright and Leather worker although not a member of the Cordiner's Guild. In this case he probably acted as a part time assistant to his father who was a member of the Cordiner's Guild. See stone 183.

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