Intrigue grows over mysterious grave

Published on August 23, 2013

Opinions and suggestions about a mysterious grave in Harbour Grace continue to roll in.

On Wednesday, The Telegram published a photo of a grave that involves five grey, concrete surfaces. Two show a skull and crossbones. The others display lambs, crosses and an angel.

The Compass, our sister publication in Bay Roberts, initially ran the image in its Tuesday edition.

It went with a story about a recent cleanup effort involving the local Knights of Columbus group and church parishioners.

The oldest grave at the Roman Catholic cemetery, which is on Bennett’s Lane in Harbour Grace, dates back to 1802.

In Thursday’s edition, The Telegram published a number of reader thoughts on the grave from thetelegram.com.

Today, we offer some more of that, as well this answer to a question about the grave we posed to Gerald Pocius, a folklore professor at Memorial University.

He wrote: “I saw this grave marker first back in 1974. I am certain it is the fragments of a table tomb, almost certainly it came from Ireland. I would say it dates from around 1800. The skull and crossbones is a typical motif at the time, found on English and Irish funerary art ... Obviously the slab with the funerary details is either destroyed or below ground.”

Andrea Vincent emailed in this anecdote: “I first heard about this grave yard about 10 years ago from a book that I believe is called “The history of Pirates and Outlaws of Newfoundland.” I can't remember if that is the exact title and I can't remember the name of the author, but I'll do some digging and try to find out. The book spoke of the grave yard as being a pirate grave yard, so my friends and I, being in high school and loving spooky things went for a road trip to try to find it.

“It took us FOREVER to find the thing! No one in the town would tell us where it was. We got the same response over and over, that we should turn around and leave, because we didn't need to find it. Anyway we finally found an older man who gave us directions. Those grave stones weren't always lined off like that. It was very clearly a cemetery, and all of those head stones were spread out.

“A year ago when a friend was visiting I decided to take her to the ‘pirate graveyard’. And again, the same thing! No one would tell us where it was! Anyway we found it, and even though it was night time, I'd noticed many of the headstones were no longer standing and were placed on the one grave. We got out of there pretty fast because dogs were howling and it was creepy at night!”

• Bob Stacey commented on the web version of the story: “I once lived across the street from this graveyard and remember reading the inscription “Mary Pendergast” as being buried in this grave, Complete with crossbones. That was about 40 years ago.”

• And Russell Lake emailed in this breakdown of the graves’ symbolism: “At first glance, the skull and crossbones suggest piracy, but for a pirate, the bones should pass behind the skull, and pirates would be hung and not buried. This symbol is either Knights Templar, or Freemasonry, and given a very old grave in Newfoundland in a Roman Catholic cemetery, it probably has to do with Knights Templar. Lambs usually mean innocence or children. Horizontal crosses signify somewhere between heaven and earth, and one wonders about purgatory. There are two lambs on two crosses facing different directions? Two children born and died without being baptized — or stillborn? Angel is flying … rising to heaven. Put it all together. Probably some other symbolism?

telegram@thetelegram.com