Monday, 22 September 2014

finding the prophet's grave: a walk near Largs

My youngest daughter has got to that age where she's dropped her last day time nap, but she can't quite make it through the afternoon without it yet.

I've been taking her out for some fresh air after lunch. 

One day recently, she was really tired, so I popped her in the bike trailer, in the hopes that she'd nod off, and cycled up Brisbane Glen Road. I say 'cycled'. Truth be told, I'm out of practice, and she is four and awfy heavy, so there was a lot of walking done. It was while I was walking that I spotted this gate.  It's on the left, on your way out of Largs up Brisbane Glen Road.

The Writing on the gate reads: Prophet's Grave: 1857 - 1955

There is a grassy path behind the gate, so I pulled the bike off the road, and left it with the hedge (to the right behind the gate), and got the little girl out to see where the path led.

It leads toward some trees, and there are benches to sit on and enjoy the view if you wish, but really, it isn't far from the road, before you reach the trees, where the path doubles back and you see this gorgeous wee bridge.

The bridge is tiny, and the walls are the kind that come across as more of a trip hazard than a safety feature. But isn't it cute?

You cross the bridge, and just go a tiny bit further before you get the the grave itself.

It's in a lovely setting, but looking a bit dilapidated. No matter, there is a plaque, which explains a bit about the grave (with some lovely old style spelling which I've reproduced). There is a bit in Latin too, which I've reproduced as it is currently written:
Heir layeth M William Smith, Minister of Larges. A faithfull minister of the gospell removed by the pestilence 1647.
Conditus in tumulo hoc jaceo juvenisque senexque, nempe annis juvenis sed pietate senex divino eloquio coelestia dogmata vidi, abstersi tenebras mentibus ore tonans. Attonitoque haesit animo pervera mallorum colluvies verbis improba facta meis.
"Buried in this tomb I lie, at the same time a youth and an old man - young in years and old in piety. By the divine spirit I have seen divine truths, and have dispersed darkness from the mind, thundering with loud voice. There cleaved to my feelings a very horror of wickedness, and to my words reproach of wicked deeds." Latin translation from Wikipedia.

We cannot be quite clear if this is exactly what was written on the original tomb, as it was renewed in 1710 and 1760, and then the original tombstone was copied when the site was restored in 1956.

So, why is Rev Smith referred to as a prophet?

The story goes that a plague (probably typhus, spread by human lice) hit Largs in 1647. Rev Smith had been a Minister in Largs since 1644, and was one of many people who moved outwith the town (many living in ramshackle huts) to avoid contracting the illness, but sadly to no avail. He carried on tending to his parishioners and found that he, himself contracted the illness, which brought agonising stomach pains, high fever, and confusion. When he knew he was dying he asked that two yew trees be placed either end of his grave. He said that should the trees ever meet,  the plague would return. William Smith was 28 when he died.

There is some discussion as to whether the trees in question were yew trees or holly trees. Both are at the site.

Local people have, since then, trimmed the trees to ensure that does not happen.  There was a period when the grave was forgotten by many, and there were outbreaks of cholera in the town, but it is now maintained again.

My Latin is truly horrible, but I do wonder if there is a suggestion that this might be the grave of more victims of the plague that befell Largs, and not just Rev Smith?

For more on this, check out this really useful website, and also this one.

I've also recently discovered Roger Griffith's videos on You Tube. He's got one on the prophet's grave, which is here:

Roger found the holly trees to be intertwined at high summer 2014, which is interesting. Let's hope it's the yew trees we need to worry about.

What walks have you discovered near you?

Other posts you might like:

Update on the broken arm: The little girl is doing amazingly well, and we have an appointment tomorrow at the hospital, so we'll know then if she's to keep the cast on a bit longer or not.  Fingers crossed!