Fritz Spiegl trawled Britain’s graveyards and collected a mass of comic and curious memorial inscriptions. They were collated into A Small Book of Grave Humour, first published in 1971. Among the entries was: ‘Here lays John Tyrwitt, / A learned Divine, / He died in a Fit, / Through drinking Port Wine.’ Spike Milligan famously wanted his epigraph to say, ‘I told them I was ill’. The inscription had to be carved in Gaelic to get the approval of the Chichester Diocese.
The humour is sometimes unintentional. There is a gravestone in San Michele Cemetery, Venice, that simply says, ‘He left us in peace’. These two stones in Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Berlin, Maryland, USA, raised wry smiles. The name Coffin is all too appropriate; and Indiana Jones plainly faced a mortality not shared with his cinematic namesake.
Photos: Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church Cemetery, Berlin, Maryland, USA, April 2011