Sunday, April 28, 2013

Veerle De Keyser would have loved this...

Today I had another one of my adventures!

I have mentioned in a previous post that I am going to doing a masterclass on how to write ghost stories next month at Innerpeffray Library. Librarian Lara Haggerty had kindly printed some posters off for me and I had promised to drop by over the weekend to collect them, time permitting. I also wanted to ask Lara if she knew anything about the fate of the Innerpeffray sundial mentioned in a letter to the Crieff Herald of 1856 (I blogged about this earlier this week).

So this morning I set off with my daughter and drove to the library, but it was not until we pulled into the little carpark in front of the old school house that I realised that the library is shut on Sunday mornings and would not be open until 2pm. Neither of us really fancied driving straight home, so I proposed that we carry on towards Auchterarder and look out for a disused graveyard that Lara had  told me about when we were chatting about the one at Quoig.

We drove for some minutes without seeing anything that looked like a graveyard, and I was beginning to think that maybe I had missed it, or that I had misunderstood where it was. Suddenly, however, my daughter said, "Is that it?" We had found the graveyard. I backed the car up into the muddy entrance, hoping that the wheels would not get stuck in the ruts, and we got out to have a look.

As you will have gathered if you have read some of my previous blog posts, I get inordinately excited about old churches, mausoleums, graveyards, etc. When we went into this graveyard though, even I had to admit that it was probably one for cemetery geeks like me. As far as we could see, the only building was a small mausoleum in the south east corner of the graveyard. Pretty much all the gravestones were so mossy or so weathered that it was impossible to read the inscriptions, and a lot of them were smashed or knocked over. We had a look at the mausoleum, which had "Johnstone" engraved over the door, and then decided to wander along the perimeter, passing behind a large clump of trees.

As we did so, I found myself looking at this:

To say I was surprised would be a major understatement. I had thought that the clump of trees was just that - trees and bushes. Instead I found myself looking at a church. I had had absolutely no idea it was there! In a split second I saw it, as though it had just slid up out of the ground. 

Once we had seen it, it was pretty obvious that there was a church under all that vegetation:

We had been about to go anti-clockwise around it, but I have an entirely irrational aversion to going "widdershins round the kirk", which in the olden days meant that the devil would carry you off! So we reversed our steps and went clockwise around the building until we came to a breach in the north wall and were able to get inside. The nave is open to the sky and has been ruined for so long that great trees are growing up inside its walls. 

A further shock awaited us, and it was this:

That dark patch in the middle of the picture is a doorway leading through into the chancel. The sight of this was so unexpected that I let out a shriek (fool that I am!) and my poor daughter leapt about three feet in the air. The doorway did not look terrifically inviting, but of course I had to see what was inside. 

I couldn't help thinking that Veerle De Keyser, the heroine of Silent Saturday, would have loved this place. It certainly had atmosphere; if I were Spiderman my "spider sense" would have been tingling big time! Here is a photo taken looking through that overgrown doorway:

If you want to see the full set of photographs, they are on my Facebook "Churches I Have Visited" page, here: Ruined Church of St MacKessog

Since I got home again I have done a wee bit of research and the church - of St. MacKessog, as named above - dates back originally to the 1200s although even in its very ruined state you can see that there were more recent additions, such as the 19th century memorials. 

NB There is a notice on the gate to the entrance to this churchyard warning that entry is at your own risk. Very obviously I do not endorse exploring dangerous buildings, and I would not allow my daughter inside the chancel just in case. 

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