Daily Archives: August 16, 2012

Not the guide to Britain, Ireland, and Scotland I was hoping for

Who Lies Where: A Guide To Famous GravesWho Lies Where: A Guide To Famous Graves by Michael Kerrigan

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

While the title doesn’t offer a clue, this is a book about the “famous” dead buried in the United Kingdom. The famous include Lord Tweedmore, Dame Clara Butt, Sir Anthony Eden, among many more, whose names were unfamiliar even after I read about them.

Even when the names are familiar, the book offers very little information about them. Roald Dahl is summed up as “the unrivaled master of the grotesque and ghoulish in children’s fiction,” without identifying him as the author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It continues to confide that he’s buried in the churchyard of St. Peter and Paul in Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, but without any description of the grave or where it lies or how it’s marked, I’m not sure what good the listing does you.

The book is organized into sections for England, London, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland, then subdivided by county. The counties are broken into towns, then further minced into specific churches or graveyards. I might like this book more if I had more familiarity with the nooks and crannies of the United Kingdom. As it is, I don’t know my Avon from my Yorkshire West and there’s no map in these pages to help me. There’s an index of people mentioned in the book, but not of the cemeteries covered.

The descriptions are too brief. The book reports that, “In the choir (reviewer’s note: not quire, as Salisbury Cathedral calls it) lies Mary Herbert, Countess of Pembroke” who died in 1621. She was an author and translator, as the book notes, but more importantly, she was the first English woman recognized as a poet in her own right. Her name numbers among those floated to be the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. Who Lies Where quotes a biographer who claims she “was very salacious” and liked to watch her stallions mount her mares, then sport with the stallions herself. Talk about TMI.

The book ignores everyone else buried in the cathedral, including a crusader who was half-brother to Richard the Lionhearted and the man responsible for distributing copies of the Magna Carta around England. It condenses Highgate Cemetery in fewer than 4 pages. The listing for Kensal Green spans 4-1/2 pages and ends with the cremation of Freddie Mercury, whose ashes were scattered at Lake Geneva, although you wouldn’t know that from reading this book.

I was hoping to find a graveyard book that would guide me beyond London’s reasonably well-documented cemeteries. This one is no help at all.

You can see for yourself, if you must, but ordering a copy from Amazon: Who Lies Where: A Guide to Famous Graves.

Some of the cemeteries in the book that I’ve featured on Cemetery Travel:

Cemetery of the Week #2: Highgate Cemetery in London, England

Cemetery of the Week #63: Westminster Abbey, London, England

Cemetery of the Week #70: Kensal Green Cemetery, London, England

Cemetery of the Week #71: Salisbury Cathedral, Salisbury, England

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