Cemetery Of The Forgotten

This is the time of year when the act of remembering seems to take precedent, whatever your persuasion. From a pagan perspective there was Halloween/Samhain yesterday. For those of a Christian mind today is All Saints Day, followed by tomorrow’s All Souls Day. Even if you don’t wear either of these labels, Remembrance Sunday is also almost upon us.

Maybe it’s when we see see the seasonal decay of the world around us, combined with the shortened hours of daylight, that we instinctively turn inward, thinking about our own mortality and of the roots from which we have sprung.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Yesterday, my daughter and I visited an old cemetery in Harpurhey, Manchester. It’s one of those old cemeteries where it seems burials no longer take place, and to see flowers placed upon a grave is a rare thing indeed.

It’s a cemetery of the forgotten, a cemetery where the dead who reside there have nobody left in the world who can enshrine them in remembrance.

There, among the mouldering rows was a particular grave that we were seeking out. A grave that held the remains of ten people that had connections to us both. Ancestors of four generations.

I remember the first time that I stood on this spot with my father. I asked him who the John Murray was that was listed on the headstone, curious as this man was the one who shared my surname and went the furthest back in time.

“I’m not sure,” my Dad replied. “I think he was an uncle of your Granddad’s.”

Once I began my family history research I soon discovered that this man was actually my Dad’s grandfather.

How easily things become forgotten. Lost.

Not long after that day I began my search, born of curiosity and an undefinable sense of belonging. Of the ten people listed on that headstone, three of them I had known in life. Seven, (possibly eight), I now have photographs of.

Mindful of both the responsibility I have acquired and of the passing years, yesterday I brought my eleven year old daughter with me to Harpurhey. The next generation. To her I will eventually pass the baton.

I have since learnt the stories of each of my listed ancestors, of the lives, struggles and triumphs unheralded by these simple dates and names.

Their stories I have recorded, and tell to my children.  In this way I keep these people alive.

In regard to my blog, these stories are for another time. For now, I list the people here.
May they be forever remembered.
Charles Hewitt 1847-1884

Amelia Hewitt (née Wolfenden) 1847-1901

John Murray 1862-1926

Kate Amelia Murray 1903-1926

Frank Murray 1912-1928

Kate Ann Murray (née Hewitt) 1872-1939

Frank Murray 1950-1954

Millicent Murray 1899-1989

Margaret Murray 1914-1990

Fred Murray 1915-1992



a hollowed out,
    rictus grin
    placed prominently
    at this liminal time

a curious crossroads 
    of old and new
    with but a cursory nod
    to the peaceful host 

frail shelter
    from this Samhain storm
    a rail of russet leaves
    and borne
    the broken limbs
    of oak

and scorned
    a single flame,

©Andrew James Murray

The October Tone

I make no bones about it. The only reason I was reading Before You Sleep was because it was free on Amazon. I’d never heard of the author, Adam L.G Nevill, but I saw this three-story collection promoted as a taster for his anthology of horror/supernatural short fiction and thought I’d give it a go.

I’m glad I did. The two latter stories were okay, but the first, Where Angels Come In, was superb. A tale of two children who brave to enter a reputedly haunted house that stands on a hill in a town where children and pets disappear. A place ‘where angels come in’.

You know the kind of collection it comes from. You know the kids should have just stayed home watching tv.

Creepy and grotesque, it was my kind of thing.


I sat outside with a coffee and read all three stories, undisturbed in the late, afternoon sunshine of a mild October day. October: I’m reminded that this is the time for ghost stories; ancestor stories. A time when I often reach for my favourite Sheridan Le Fanu tales, or perhaps that latest supernatural anthology.

A local priest, a couple of years ago, put on a ‘Party of Light’ to counter the many Halloween parties that were taking place. She reasoned that this was to teach the children that no, it wasn’t okay to be frightened. It was not acceptable to be confronted at every turn by ghouls and zombies and goodness knows that else (and this was before the current clown craze).

As a father I get that, and concur. And yet . . . and yet . . .

Some kids like the thrill of it all. I was a child that loved to be scared. Well, I take that back. How I should put it is that I loved scary things, for I was never truly scared by them. I grew up watching Hammer films, reading James Herbert novels (despite my teacher’s reservations voiced during a parent’s evening discussion with my mother). I don’t think it had any adverse affect on me. (Of course my wife vehemently disagrees.)

Instead it fuelled my imagination, made me think that there was more to the world that we knew of,  furthered my love of books.

Helped me to write.

It is difficult when it comes to my own children. I accept that not all kids are like I was, (warped, my wife chips in again), though I did find others of similar interests that gravitated towards me in school. I am unsure about how to monitor my children’s reading material.

I read recently that Stephen King, who read the same kind of stuff as I did when he was a kid, refused to censor his own children’s tastes.

I haven’t given much thought to this. Should I ensure they stick to the children’s section of the library, unlike I did? But, then again, is there anything more darker than the likes of Grimm’s fairy tales? Is horror sanitised early on by the television images of Tom chasing Jerry while clutching a cleaver? Pre-dating the “Here’s Johnny!” sequence of The Shining.

I don’t know. I’ll leave these questions for another day.

In the meanwhile-it’s October. I’m reaching for In A Glass Darkly, seeking out the beautiful but mysterious Carmilla, and perhaps that freaky, red-eyed monkey in Green Tea.

Stocking up on old favourites for when the weather begins to turn.



Halloween:Three Personal, Family Ghost Storiese

All families have their stories, and these are three of ours. Happy Halloween.

City Jackdaw

Two components of Halloween/Samhain celebrations, from both a pagan and a non-pagan perspective, are ancestors, and ghosts. So I thought I would combine the two in this post with three stories from my own family, two of them passed down, one of them recounted to me personally.

For any serious paranormal investigators out there, you can file them under the headings of Death Bed Visitation, Ghost Sighting, and Near Death Experience respectively. I am not claiming them to be true, supernatural experiences beyond all rational explanation, but neither am I dismissing them as anecdotal events that are grounded in purely biological and physical laws as we know them. I’m just passing them onto you as I received them. Make up your own mind on the cause. And the effect.

Death Bed Visitation

My Gran had a sister named Margaret who, being eleven years old, was three years younger than my…

View original post 880 more words

Ghosts Of The Falls

I have been reading Empire Falls by Richard Russo, the only Pulitzer Prize Winner that I’ve read apart from To Kill A Mockingbird.

Perhaps because we are almost on the threshold of Halloween, a certain passage caught my eye that referred to ghosts, but not to ghosts of the living, more the wraith-like relationship between a mother and daughter, as observed by a peripheral, recurring character named Grace:

Grace was glad not to have to share her thoughts about one of the sadder human relationships she’d ever encountered. It was as if mother and daughter had somehow managed to disappoint each other so thoroughly that neither one was at all vested in the other anymore. They were like ghosts, each inhabiting different dimensions of the same physical space, so different that Grace half expected to see one pass through the other when their paths crossed.

What a home this passage suggests. What a mausoleum.


Graveyard Crows, poem by Ja Lorian Young (Mythic Poetry Series)

One final, Halloween themed post. Jackdaw likes Graveyard Crows-a great, atmospheric poem. Enjoy the rest of the night, Winter looms large.

Silver Birch Press

by Ja Lorian Young

What is it, do you suppose,
that goes on in the heads of crows
that sit upon the graveyard gate
and patiently commence to wait
for spirits gone awandering;
these crows in solemn pondering.
They sit together, wing to wing,
and sometimes they begin to sing
in cawing cries the living hear
as pestilence upon the ear.
But spirits drifting to and fro
are savvy to the words of crow.

“The leaves are gone, the trees are bare,
a chill has settled on the air
and here we are, past Samhain’s gate
and so the hour has gotten late.
Come on, come on, it’s time to go
if we’re to beat the coming snow!”

But spirits rambling toward the door
are hesitant, all wanting more
of all the things they leave behind
and fearful of what they may find;
what fate awaits them where…

View original post 304 more words

Halloween:Three Personal, Family Ghost Stories

Two components of Halloween/Samhain celebrations, from both a pagan and a non-pagan perspective, are ancestors, and ghosts. So I thought I would combine the two in this post with three stories from my own family, two of them passed down, one of them recounted to me personally.

For any serious paranormal investigators out there, you can file them under the headings of Death Bed Visitation, Ghost Sighting, and Near Death Experience respectively. I am not claiming them to be true, supernatural experiences beyond all rational explanation, but neither am I dismissing them as anecdotal events that are grounded in purely biological and physical laws as we know them. I’m just passing them onto you as I received them. Make up your own mind on the cause. And the effect.

Death Bed Visitation

My Gran had a sister named Margaret who, being eleven years old, was three years younger than my Gran. One day, around 1924, the sister was in Queen’s Park, which is a public park in Harpurhey, Manchester. In a built up area, this was one of the few green spaces that families could visit to escape the bleak, polluted streets of the industrial, run down city suburbs of the time. While she was there, like so many others, Margaret drank water from one of the water taps. Who could have foreseen that such a casual act was to cost her her life, as in doing so she caught diptheria.

She soon became very ill, and her family gathered around her bed as her condition worsened. In those days it seemed that so many people died at home, as opposed to the modern custom of removing the act of death to hospices and hospitals. As she became weaker, and her end drew near, she suddenly reached out, her arms spread before her, and exclaimed “I’m coming, Mama!” looking into the empty air above her bed. With those final words, Margaret died.

On the day of her funeral, in the manner of how so often life’s occurrences can be perverse, a letter arrived informing everybody that poor Margaret had passed her eleven plus at school. While other young scholars throughout the country were being congratulated on their achievements, Margaret was buried in the same grave as her parents.

Ghost Sighting

One day, sometime after 1927, my teenage great aunt came flying recklessly down the stairs of her home, in such a speed as to risk life and limb. Her stepfather, (who had married her mother, now deceased, after her real father was killed in the First World War), was sat at a table downstairs and startled by the girl’s sudden, breakneck flight.

“Whatever’s to do?” he asked the frightened girl.

“I’ve just seen my Mam!” she exclaimed.

Her stepfather said “Don’t ever be scared of your mother. She loved you and would never harm you. What was she doing?”

My great aunt went on to tell him that she had saw her mother just standing there, looking at her, while shaking her head. She never spoke, nor attempted to speak. Perhaps she would have done if the girl had not bolted in fear.

Not long after this episode my my great aunt’s stepfather died. My great aunt, as so often happened in those days, abandoned her education to become a mother figure to her siblings. She always said afterwards, when recounting her extraordinary occurrence, that she thought that the reason her mother’s apparition was shaking her head was because she was aware that her widowed husband would soon be joining her, and could foresee the life of struggle that lay in store for her eldest daughter, having such responsibility and struggle thrust upon her at such a young age.

Near Death Experience

Around a year before my Dad’s death in 2003, he was sat watching the tv at home in the lounge. The video player on the shelf beneath the tv was connected to another television in the bedroom upstairs, and my brother had put a football cassette in the video player and then gone up to watch it.

After a while my Dad began to struggle with his breathing, in pain (it transpired later that he had had a heart attack), he reached for his inhaler to try and find relief, but on taking a few puffs found it did not work. Barely able to move and desperately wondering what to do next to summon help, he thought that his only hope lay in if he could manage to turn the video player off so my brother would come downstairs to see why his viewing had been interrupted.

He reached for the remote control, struggling to breathe, then suddenly-he was gone.

He said that he was no longer in the room, but ‘somewhere else’. Surrounded by pink-tinged cloud, he was aware of people being around him though he couldn’t see them. Then, up ahead, he saw the figure of a man. He told me “I’m not saying it was Jesus. But it was a man with a beard, and his skin looked like he was Mediterranean. My language was terrible-if God would have been there he would have struck me down. I was saying ‘You can **** right off! I’m not ******* coming! you ****!’ “

All the while that my Dad railed at him, the man just faced him, smiling silently, until the figure moved his head at an angle to look behind my Dad, looking beyond him, a puzzled expression on his face. My Dad then ‘shot backwards’ and found himself back in his armchair before the tv. But stood beside him now was his father, my granddad, who had died ten years previously. His father said “Don’t worry, I will see you again one day, son.” To which, still in fate-fighting character, my Dad replied “Not for a ******* long time you won’t!”

At that point my Mum walked in through the front door, took one look at my Dad’s ashen, stricken face, and remarked “Have you had a wash today?”

There you go: all families have their stories, and these are just three of ours.

Happy Halloween to you all. Keep the light on.

Halloween Retrospective:Jubilee Walk

I don’t normally post a lot of photographs (apart from the old, black and white ones that I try to breathe new life into).  But I do enjoy seeing the ones that other people share, particularly the bloggers in other countries. It gives me a limited sense of their communities. Their lifestyles.

So I thought I would reciprocate. No fancy camera or technique, just a temperamental phone.

On Halloween I went for a walk with my son, ostensibly to give my wife space as she finished cooking food for our buffet, but in reality I think we both were in need of some autumn air. Us guys can only be cooped up so long, you know?

2013-10-31 15.34.11 (1)

We went to Jubilee Park, which is a small park in the center of the town in which I live. I don’t know whether it is the exact, geographical center of the town, but it has always felt that way to me. That is how I regard it. Here is the Victorian bandstand, scene of many a trumpeted triumph.

2013-10-31 15.37.13

The building in the background is Middleton library, a building I think I have spent most of my life escaping to and in.

2013-10-31 15.38.04

This is the exedra designed by Edgar Wood. Sounds exotic doesn’t it?

Wood was an architect who now lies buried in Italian soil. There are many buildings locally designed by him that survive. Looming large above it is St.Leonard’s church-the place where my wife and I were married.

2013-10-31 15.40.12

View from the top. At the top of these steps there used to be a fountain, but nobody knows, neither layman nor official, where it now is. Always check your pockets.

2013-10-31 15.41.49

Looking towards the monument which is a memorial to the three people killed in the flood of 1927. (A future post, dear reader.)

2013-10-31 15.42.43

Lost in Autumn. Fun before the fall.

2013-10-31 15.42.09 (1)

Fairwell, faltering sun.

2013-10-31 16.18.05

I remember visiting the park with my primary school class. After the flood memorial we were shown this rock. I could not remember the significance of it-the visit was decades ago after all, and the plaque is no longer on it. Pockets again?

My line of thinking was that it was another marker connected to the flood, perhaps an indicator of how high the water rose, or how far it travelled. But I have since been persuaded that it is a rock that has been transported by glaciers in the last ice age. Sounds right..but we could do with a replacement plaque, though, to aid us ignorant people.

2013-10-31 15.46.08

We went into the Old Cemetery above the park-it was Halloween after all.

2013-10-31 15.48.17

Old highways and dieways

2013-10-31 15.57.06

Don’t let night catch you here.

2013-10-31 16.00.13

The forgotten lie underfoot.

2013-10-31 15.55.59

Celtic Circle of Life.

2013-10-31 15.59.14

A hint of heralded Winter.

2013-10-31 15.50.47

The Sam Bamford memorial, a local Radical/Reformer/Poet.

2013-10-31 15.51.21

Damn vandals! They have painted his eyes white and given him black eyelashes. I cannot say it is a generational thing though-I recall seeing this face when I was a teen and some wag had written ‘Dracula Lives’ on his forehead.

2013-10-31 16.02.45

There was an old saying about  the people of Middleton in regard to this church-wooden steeple, stubborn people.

If you were born within earshot of the Nowster bell, you could class yourself as a true Moonraker, a true Middletonian. The mythological term ‘Moonraker‘ came from a folklore tale of two local men trying to rake the reflection of the moon from a pond. Obviously two of the more brighter ones.

St.Leonard’s church is said to date to around the 1100’s, but is thought to be built on the site of an earlier, wooden, Saxon church. Perhaps if you peel back all the layers of Christian worship you would also come to pre-Christian ritual at a pagan temple, as the Christianisation of pagan sites was the custom. Before Christ and his Father God were worshipped here, I wonder who the local Gods and Goddesses were?

There is a hill nearby where it has been suggested a Roman beacon was kept.

Not only do I look at this area as the center point of the town, but also as its most ancient  anchor too.

2013-10-31 16.02.49

Looking towards the cemetery.

2013-10-31 16.03.49

Looking towards The Ring O’Bells pub, reputedly haunted by the sad cavalier.

2013-10-31 16.19.01

Opposite the library, down the hill from the church, is the oldest pub in town, the Olde Boar’s Head, an old 16th century coaching inn. Rumours have always persisted of a tunnel leading from this pub up to the church on the hill, and also from the church to the Ring O’ Bells. (There must be that many passages criss-crossing beneath our feet, we best not jump up and down too often if an orchestra should suddenly strike up in the bandstand.)

Bamford wrote about his father, in the 1800’s, taking part in the stand up fights that frequently occurred in this place. These days you can catch a pub quiz.

Continuing the Halloween theme, there are stories of hauntings associated with this pub too, as there are with any historic building worth its salt.

There are a few other notably old buildings in this immediate area, but for us twilight quickly began to descend, tummies were rumbling, and James insisted he wanted to go home for his ‘Halloween Tea‘ so we called it a day.

As we made to leave, James found a discarded mask on one of the park benches.

2013-10-31 16.14.40

Had Michael Myers nipped into the library to check his Facebook notifications online? Maybe he fancied picking up an Enid Blyton.

James had a great time scaring his poor Dad, but once Dad had a turn, well, let’s just say the peace of the park was suddenly shattered.