Douglas Swan, Resurrector

Douglas Swan

For the common good

My name is Douglas Swan. I spend my life around cemeteries making monuments to the dead, though I’m not myself a religious man.

We make them and we also repair them – that’s what we’re doing here at Abney Park, for the Cemetery Trust. 29 monuments in ten days. That’s 29 that have been deemed a danger to the public. That’s 29 out of more than twenty two thousand. But if one of these big ’uns falls on you, I’m afraid you’re a gonner. You’ll be needing your own monument then.

We’re repairing them or we’re laying them down flat. If we can’t repair them we lay ’em down. Laying ’em down is what we do when we take the top off, split the sides and lay the inscription on the ground, face up. But we prefer to repair them.  In fact, we can repair them all, but it takes time and we’ve only got ten days.

I’m the fourth generation Swan in the business, a sculptural mason by training. My great grandfather, James Swan, started the business in Kirkcudbright in 1864 and we’re still there – in fact, just expanded with a new showroom. Do you know where Kirkcudbright is? It’s in the Scottish Lowlands, right there next to Dumfries. 1864 was when the railway came to Kirkudbright and you could get the stone cheaper. That’s the reason James Swan started the business back then. Did you know that Gary?

Gary’s my nephew and helps out on these bigger jobs. This is Eddie, he’s a local builder who also helps out, an expert with lime mortar aren’t you Eddie, and this is Tony, who knows all about the trees. A lot of the problems you get in this cemetery is because of the trees, because of the roots. Tony helps us work out what’s going on and what we need to do.

But this cross here, this is not one of the 29.  This one’s a freebie for the Trust.

Some bugger pushed the cross over and smashed it to bits. We found the last bit of the cross in the undergrowth this morning and we’re going to mend it. We’re going to mend it because we can.

We’re fed up with taking them down. We like to fix them up. They can all be fixed up but it takes time. We’re going to fix it up because that’s what we can do. It’s a freebie.

God only knows what’ll happen on the Day of the Resurrection. That’s going to be busy, when they all come out of their graves. It’ll be mayhem. But plenty of business for Swan and Sons.

And in the meantime, a little bit of respect for the lady.

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