Howff Cemetery in Dundee

I was recently contacted by Georgia Goodman, a student studying art and design at Dundee University.

A recent project she had to undertake as part of her studies involved creating a guide for the wonderful city of Dundee and she’s got me sold on visiting Howff Cemetery in 2019.

Flash Cards Project

Georgia created a set of beautiful flash cards detailing the Memento Mori symbols found in Howff Cemetery and wrote to us to let us know that she had credited Headstone Symbols within her project and she also sent us images of Howff Cemetery.

As a thank you to Georgia for letting us know about her project and this wonderful cemetery, I asked her if she would like to be interviewed for an article on Headstone Symbols and the answer was yes. I asked her to send me three of her favourite images of Howff Cemetery and tell me why in particular, these three fascinated her so much and the meanings she learned from them.

Howff Cemetery Memento Mori

What sparked your interest in graveyards and their symbology?

I have an interest for the weird, grotesque and macabre, especially in art, as they’re much more intriguing and have more hidden meanings that typical subjects. Just from my few visits to the Howff in Dundee, I weirdly enjoyed the peacefullness of the graveyard; I was shocked at how quiet it was for such a centrally-placed burial ground.

What if anything during your project, has been the most important piece of information you have learned to take forward with you in life?

I never understood the beauty and skill behind the imagery and typography in headstones so I have really grown to the types of art made possible by carving stone. Also to remember to ‘live’, I think a lot of people do not understand the value of their life until they realise it isn’t infinite.

What do you plan to do with your flash cards, because I think they are absolutely brilliant and I’ll be very happy to promote these for you if required?

That’s so kind, thank you very much! Well this was only a small two week project for my studies and it was also a way for me to easily learn what these symbols meant. It would be amazing to have something I’ve made in production however I think for this one, I will cherish it as a handmade one-off!

What are your top three images and what did you learn from their symbols?

Winged Heads and Three Kings

Weavers Headstone Howff Cemetery
Weaver’s headstone showing three crowned heads with shuttles in their mouths

I absolutely love this one. The weeping face of the angel and the three kings with strange mouths. It was also great to illustrate for my guide as the faces were unique to the Howff.

Omnes Eodem Cogimur

OMNES EODEM COGIMUR translates to WE ARE ALL DRAWN TO THE SAME PLACE
OMNES EODEM COGIMUR translates to WE ARE ALL DRAWN TO THE SAME PLACE

The skulls are so crisp and vibrant on the grave, the moss is a great addition also. My main reason for this one is the phrase “omnes eodem cogimur” meaning We Are All Drawn To The Same Place. Its such a chilling quote to remind you that we all inevitably die so live your life fully and also treat everyone equal as we all end up in the same place.

Glover/Skinner Tools

Gloves Skinners Tools Howff Cemetery
Gloves Skinners Tools Howff Cemetery

The Nine Trades in Dundee covered all of the different occupations in the city during the 19th/early 20th century. I found out the meaning from this from the small chunk of information the cemetery gives you on the noticeboard. I really love the patina and clarity of these shapes even though the tombs are so old. The hands especially intrigue me because of their peculiar shapes.

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