In previous blogs I have discussed the intramural memorials in Dyserth church, and the early and later memorials and monuments in the churchyard. In this fourth and final helping of Dyserth, I want to point out some of the ways in which churchyards are situated in relation to wider networks of memorials. Usually in the UK these focus around war memorials, parks and gardens, but in this instance I want to flag up two memorial zones immediately adjacent to the church at Dyserth that connect remembrance with water.
In Wales at least, waterfalls are places associated with remembrance, as discussed in another recent blog. The waterfalls at Dyserth are right beside the church, possibly a key component of the sacred topography motivating the church’s placing there sometime in the early medieval period.
Notable for its surviving industrial archaeology: the remains of a large water mill were located here: a principal reason why the historic settlement thrived in this location.
Along the walks up to and above the falls, are the usual memorial benches. Immediately adjacent to the churchyard and its car park, where the stream flows from the waterfalls is a memorial garden. Here one can find a millennium oak and various benches, some with dedications.
An early twentieth-century vicar’s dog also has a watery memorial. The stream from the waterfalls composes the western churchyard boundary before heading under the road. It is here that the memorial is located, one of many I have heard of demonstrating the animal-loving nature of the Anglican clergy. According to the church guidebook, it was the dog of the Rev. John Owen. The inscription reads:
BLAME NOT THE TRIBUTE
OF A PASSING TEAR.
HERE LIES POOR ADDY
TO US ALL SO DEAR.
OF DOGS THE NOBLEST,
GENTLEST AND THE BEST.
GONE NOW FOR EVER
TO HIS LAST REST
Now I have seen many pet cemeteries and memorials, as for example, I discussed at Bodnant Gardens. What is interesting here is that the pillar is a unique memorial form, almost a pillar. I am not quite sure what the inspiration for this memorial is, but it marks this out as ‘different’ from the memorials of the dead in the churchyard.
Are dead people and animals are supposed to appreciate the sounds of water in the afterlife? As discussed previously, the aesthetics of memorials need not reflect a clear and singular vision of afterlife destination or the spiritual presence of the dead at these locations. Instead, within a Christian and secular context, I suspect they operate as ways of connecting the sensory experiences of the living with those anticipated/imagined as soothing or consoling for the dead.