Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Fire and Headstone

As the smoke curled under the beech canopy that separates our daughter’s garden from the dense woodland beyond, I had no regrets. This was a necessary cremation. Yes, the uninvited Datura stramonium, along with its hallucinogenic properties and fatal toxicity, was well and truly torched. According the Royal Horticultural Society, burning is one of the safest means of disposal, after the seeds have formed.

I’ve been reminded that the plant is steeped in folklore, and perhaps I did disturb the balance a little with my actions, as the electricity went off shortly after the fire died down. Although the upside to that particular twist was a trip to our favourite pub for a family lunch.

En route home from the pub, I decided to visit a local village churchyard. No, not to seek sanctuary from ancient curse of the murdered thorn apple, but to check the details of a headstone. When she first moved to the area, our daughter spotted a familiar name among the ranks of weathered stones, during an exploratory walk around All Saints.

She had accidentally discovered the last resting place of her 3 x great grandmother, Emma Gregory. I’ve checked and double-checked our family history records, and everything fits. Emma was born in Poxwell, Dorset, in 1832, and married Asher Gregory in 1848. We know that she and her husband moved to Hampshire some time after 1881. Asher had previously worked as a farm bailiff, but in 1887 he was the tenant farmer of a local manor farm. Sadly for him, 1887 was also the year of Emma’s death, aged 55.

I intend to plant something pretty in Emma’s memory…and to ease my conscience a little over the blessed thorn apple.


WHO DIED MARCH 19th 1887





  1. You are well rid of it, especially with little ones around - I don't think you should let your conscience prick you!

    What a wonderful find - Emma's resting place.

    1. That's exactly how I felt, Teresa. Yesterday we witnessed matter of life and death, in an odd kind of way.

  2. Quite right to destroy such a potentially dangerous plant. In my last headship I had to deal with the felling of a rather pretty Laburnum which stood in the school grounds. Nobody else was aware of the dangers its pods posed and probably thought I was mad, but you can’t take chances where children are concerned.

    1. Many people fall in love with the look of Laburnum, not fully realising the potential dangers. You're absolutely right, you can't take chances where children are concerned.

  3. A very interesting turn of events! But any excuse to go the pub will do :)

  4. What a find! And what will you plant on Emma's grave?


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