Plot Twists at Annapolis Royal

The evening after our candlelight graveyard tour, E.g. and I decided to visit Fort Anne again. It was a calm, cloudless evening. With the fort and its adjacent Garrison Cemetery practically across the street from our B&B, we stepped back to our room after supper for jackets and cameras. I pocketed the key and adjusted the camera bag on my belt.

“Wait for me, E.g.!”

“Of course.”

There it is.

Much of the graveyard above ground is simply lawn, because before the 1700s, Nova Scotian graves were marked with biodegradable wooden crosses.  There are no early French-Canadian tombstones here; the earliest one is that of an Anglo woman from 1720, ten years after the English took the Fort from the French and refused to return it.

In those early times, headstones were carved by Bostonians. Maybe the Puritan influence still hung heavy, because the adornment was usually a death’s head with wings. Here are two examples:

"Here lyes ye body of Me. ..."

"Here lyeth the body of Margaret..."

Worthy of gracing any Harley, n’est-ce pas?

As time went on, some mourners preferred kinder, gentler imagery, especially if the lyething body was that of a child.

"In this grave..."

"In memory of..."

I think the second head looks less like a flower and more like a lion.

I wish now I’d written down the history of headstone trends when our tour guide, Alan Melanson, enumerated them. He spoke of the weeping willows, the fingers pointing skyward, the seraphim and cherubim, and other symbols and their eras of favour.

You’re going to have to be satisfied with the knowledge that these are old tombstones from Canada’s earliest English graveyard. Please come and wander the grounds with me. I could use a little company…


 Pointing forefinger. Sometimes they pointed to a word in a book, as perhaps this one is. “See? I told you it’s spelled with a u!”


 Handclasp. Someone cared.

"10th November 1852..."

Victorian “weeper” or mourning band. Someone was rich.


Copperplate italics praising a mother.  Someone was rich and didn’t write home enough.

"To the memory of..."

A mason — whether by trade or pinky ring, I don’t know.


Weeping willow. ‘Nuff said.

(Note the protective lead edging.)

Seraph. “Aw, pipe down already. That bugling is enough to wake the dead!”

Finally, it was too dark to stay any longer. E.g. passed through the turnstile, patting her pocket, reassuring herself that the key was in it. She gave one final, wistful glance at the graveyard, and headed for the B&B.

“Wait for me, E.g.! E.g.? Hello, E.g. …”

16 Responses to Plot Twists at Annapolis Royal

  1. eyegillian says:

    “…of course.”

  2. Jayne says:

    Woot, loved that tour, thanks 🙂
    I’m partial to a grave, a cemetery, the odd headstone, you get the picture 😉

  3. Hmmm…So if you pocketed the key when you went out, how did it end up with E.g. on the way back?
    Really like those death skulls and the seraphim

  4. lavenderbay says:

    Now, now, Eyegillian, you can’t go around editing someone else’s ghost story. Tsk.

    Glad you liked it, Jayne! You’re in good company as concerns headstone fans; the markers at the Garrison Cemetery are wrapped in board and blanket every Autumn to stave off winter damage.

    Hurrah for Barefootheart! I love a close reader. (E.g. missed the ghost story entirely the first time through. I was afraid my story wasn’t well-enough written.)

  5. I’ve got a thing for old graveyards. Very nice. I like the old turnstile and wonder if it creaks around by itself at night when no one is visiting.

  6. S. Le says:

    I’m sorry. I nearly spewed my coffee thinking that was a turnstile in the people garden. I’m imagining the ghosts and ghouls passing through there whilst heading in and out of the cemetery to visit their relatives in the real world. It made me feel a bit unusual.

    The photos are lovely, as always.

  7. That turnstile is neat.
    Those old school tombstones are something else.

  8. Graveyards and headstones always entertain me.

  9. lavenderbay says:

    S. Le and Stephanie,
    By the looks of the accompanying fence, I’m guessing the turnstile was a Victorian item. Such a thing doesn’t make me feel nearly as unusual as the Victorian practice of making shadowbox wreaths from locks of hair of their deceased relatives.

    Love your choice of verb, Gallowaygrave!

  10. Alyson says:

    The old turnstile got me too…and the lovely skulls on the headstones. I like ’em.

  11. lavenderbay says:

    Makes me wonder how we can define “culture”, Alyson, when the practices and ideas of our ancestors of such a short time ago differed surprisingly from ours.

  12. livingisdetail says:

    I enjoyed the tour LB and the gentle ghost story. Oh, shivers, the turnstile creaking around alone. What a suggestion. I have a taken a photo of a turnstile from one of our local graveyards, but it isn’t as sweet and dainty as this one. Actually, it looks quite threatening – one of those enclosed types and I think it is disused now.

  13. lavenderbay says:

    Hey there, Livingisdetail! I’m so glad you’ve put in an apparition. 😛
    You have a photo of a cemetery turnstile? Oo, is it one of those turnstiles that only goes one way? That is creepy.

  14. livingisdetail says:

    One way! Brilliant. Oh, I will post the turnstile v soon. You have started something now LB.

  15. lavenderbay says:

    Looking forward to it!

  16. […] recently wrote a fascinating post about an old graveyard in Nova Scotia, and one of the things that caught the imagination of many of […]

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