St Woolos Cemetery - The Haunted Holy Ground

From the book "The Haunted Holy Ground" by Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame published in 1988.



Meet the Authors

Richard Frame

Mike Buckingham


By Alexander Cordell

© Mike Buckingham and Richard Frame 2012

I often wonder why our graveyards are so sepulchral; are we as a nation inclined to the morbid with a love of black plumed funeral horses and mourning cards?

The Chinese have got it right, of course, for they’ll have none of it. In Hong Kong they still employ professional mourners to do the official grieving, wear white at funerals and send their dear departed off to the Afterworld with Bank of Hell notes for fabulous amounts and a ceremony verging on pomp.

Thereafter they annually visit the graves (a tomb in Hong Kong is mortgaged - you are in it for seven years) for the celebration of Ching Ming, which is a sweeping clean of the grave and the opportunity to a picnic to which the deceased is invited.

Not so with we British. We grieve, of course, and deeply, for our loved ones: I myself believe the death of a beloved wife or husband is the worst event in human life, including death by fire.

But since time heals all we eventually accept that the dead are irrevocably departed and will play no further part in our lives save for memories and gentle and deep persuasions.

We try to get on with the business of living despite economic troubles and warring factions and governments at home and abroad so I find it refreshing that there exists people who refuse to allow the vast concourse of the dead to hide in their dusty archives.

Two such people, Richard Frame and Mike Buckingham, have breathed movement into a selection of the occupants of St. Woolos Cemetery - in their own words ‘the forgotten and the desolate who left no epitaph’ and they walk again in these pages, vividly and gloriously alive. The detailed and meticulous research by Richard Frame is expressed by Mike Buckingham, whose ebullience brings the narrative to life - a necessity with so dead a subject!

For my part I wonder what the dead find to talk about while the living sleep for I am convinced what happens up there around about midnight must be an Irish Parliament. Does Colour Sergeant John Byrne, V.C, D.C.M of the 68th Light Infantry enlighten his neighbour as to the reason for his suicide?

Does Collier Jones regret his stupidity by entering a mineshaft with a naked flame, and does the heroic Constable Rodaway, the improvident policeman who left ten children, tell of the drunken sailor whose actions led to a watery grave?

All of this, let me tell you, is achieved by a happy knack without once entering the realms of flippancy.

The military adopt the same approach, and rightly. They carry the deceased processionally to the strains of the Dead March in Saul then return to barracks to the jollity of Colonel Bogey. There is an art in making dying commonplace and this is what this book achieves.

So, I disagree with poor John Dicks who had a horror of the paupers’ grave he considered to be a fate worse than death. When my time comes (and having already seen threescore years and ten this cannot be far distant) rather than incur a debt to my relatives through grasping undertakers, they can put me down in an orange box, having once been in love with a girl who wore orange box rope garters, or, like the three sailors in The Corpses and the Cold North Wind lay me snug in three feet of permafrost, for as Taliver Trueblade, my boyhood hero, once declared “I care not what happens to this carcass after the soul has fled”. I truly don’t. For death is a joke to the Welsh, anyway, and I am sufficiently Welsh to believe it having like most disappointed Englishmen had a gran who came from the Rhondda. Read this book. You will not be disappointed.

Be seeing you,

Alexander Cordell Rosddu, Wrexham 1988