Alice, we hang our heads in shame

ALICE VARLEY had been at rest in a quiet corner of Darwen’s old cemetery for over a hundred years. Her tidy grave was surmounted by a small cross, beautifully crafted with flowers and birds. Alice, the widow of local man George Varley was buried in the late autumn of 1906 and was reunited in death with her two baby boys, both Christened John, who had died within a few months of each other. An inscription below the cross entreated passers by that, of their charity, they might pray for the repose of her soul. No doubt over the years, an occasional passer by did just that.

A quiet prayer for Alice would have been in keeping with the grave’s position, just off the beaten track and sheltered by bushes and where the only sounds would have been the chirping of the birds and the rustling of the trees.

Until the warm, sunny evening of Wednesday, September 8, at about 5pm when a loud crashing noise broke the peaceful tranquility. Three teenagers, one wearing a distinctive black and white check shirt, decided that instead of a quiet prayer it would be fun to push over the delicately engraved cross, smashing it into three pieces. They were seen running towards the top path. Darwen Cemetery has seldom been plagued by young vandals over the years. The only damage to the headstones and crosses came from the Council’s controversial topple-testers a few years ago. So on behalf of all those who enjoy a quiet stroll in the old cemetery and the small band of largely elderly volunteers I would just like to ask that if the lad or lads who didn’t actually destroy the old stone cross would like to “shop” the idiot who did, then Darwen police will be happy to hear from them. Perhaps one of them has a conscience.

(Harold Heys

September 2010)