Child graves in Kirkcaldy: Young lives cut so short

“He was a bright plant cropt in the bud.”
Abbotshall Chuch gravestone for a childAbbotshall Chuch gravestone for a child
Abbotshall Chuch gravestone for a child

The small stone angel is easy to miss. It sits against one of the perimeter walls of the graveyard at Abbotshall Church, its arms clasped, perched on the most modest of plinths.

It is in memory of a Christina Johnson, who died on March 26, 1927, aged just six years and seven months, but the angel could easily represent the resting places of the many children which can be found across our historic graveyards.

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They are reminders of a time when families retired into grief, the curtains drawn, mourning clothes looked out once again for lives that had barely begun.At Abbotshall, child graves are placed among the merchants, the great and the good, and those killed in war.

Abbotshall Church, Kirkcaldy - gravestone of child diarist Marjory Fleming, known as Pet MarjoryAbbotshall Church, Kirkcaldy - gravestone of child diarist Marjory Fleming, known as Pet Marjory
Abbotshall Church, Kirkcaldy - gravestone of child diarist Marjory Fleming, known as Pet Marjory

A simple stone marks the lives of Nellie and Robert Brown, who both died in infancy, while you can only wonder at the sense of grief which descended on the Windsor house where Colin and Agnes lost three children in four years – Agnes, aged three in 1879; Jane, aged six, in 1880 and then Maggie, a two-year old, in 1882.

Six years later they lost another child, Mary, aged just five.

Tombstones record the death of little Henry Stark, aged just 10 weeks, on Sepember 6 1878 and David, at 15 and a half months on July 21 1882.David Henderson’s burial ground reunites him with the three children he lost before they were old enough to walk and talk – son David, aged 23 months in October 1853; Mary, aged one year, in 1857, and a second boy, also christened David, at 12 months in 1863.

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One of the most prominent resting places at Abbotshall also belongs to a child – Marjorie Fleming.

The Kirkcaldy girl kept a diary of the last 18 months of her life, and her writings impressed the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson who proclaimed she was “one of the noblest from God.”

Fleming grew up in Edinburgh, the third child of an accountant, whose uncle was minister at Kirkcaldy Parish, and whose family had links to a young Walter Scott.

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She returned to Kirkcaldy when the town was in the grip of a measles epidemic – we are surrounded by measles on every side” she wrote.

She contracted the illness, recovered and then died on December 19, 1811, from “water on the head” – meningitis would seem the most likely modern-day diagnosis. She was eight years 11 months old.

“The youngest immortal in the world of letters” reads the inscription on her gravestone which sits behind the church.

But, perhaps the most moving tribute can be found at the Old Kirk on another modest gravestone easily overlooked amid the vast tributes to the town’s finest.

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The headstone is for James Cran, who died aged just 12. It simply states: “He was a bright plant cropt in the bud.”

It could easily be said for every infant and child buried in the graveyards in the shadow of two historic churches.

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