VISIT TO MIDMAR KIRK
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
In July 2006 Karen and I traveled to Scotland to participate in the North Atlantic Fiddlers Convention in Aberdeen.  
We arrived a week ahead of time and set out to see a bit of the Northeast of Scotland before the festival.  I’ve
visited, Midmar Kirk, just a few miles south of Monymusk.


Midmar Kirk (“kirk” is Scots dialect for “church”) was built in 1797, and the present graveyard was laid out in 1914.  
When we encountered it, we were in search of a prehistoric stone circle located near Midmar on our map.  Driving
along a ridge, we passed a church with an attractive cemetery in the churchyard.  We usually stop for churches
and nearly always for cemeteries, so we pulled over.  As it turns out, Midmar Kirk was sited along the ridge in the
same location where there was a prehistoric stone circle – the very stone circle we had set out to find – and when
the graveyard was added, it was built right up to and surrounding the stone circle.  It is a wonderful example of
what is known as a recumbent stone circle – a circle dominated by a very large recumbent stone (20 tons) flanked
by two large vertical stones that anchor a circle of vertically positioned stones.  We saw other stone circles
elsewhere in the Northeast of Scotland, but Midmar is one of the most awe-inspiring.

Part of what is awe-inspiring is the juxtaposition of modern kirk and ancient stone circle.  It may at first strike some
viewers as strange and disconcerting.  But what fascinated us was a sense of the continuity between prehistoric
and modern values as regards this plot of land.  Stone circles seem to have had multiple religious functions, but
one function of the plot in prehistoric times was as a burial ground, and throughout Scotland there is a continuing
sense of awe and reverence for these stone circle sites as sacred ground.  Midmar is not the only place where a
church was built at or next to an ancient stone site.  Indeed, there is a sort of visual continuity between the old
vertical stones and the modern vertical gravestones.  Whole cultures have been swept away and are next to
unknowable to us today – and yet we sense and honor the same sacred ground.

As we were pondering all this, a couple arrived on the sacred ground with flowers to decorate the grave of a
friend.  Leaving the stone circle behind, we introduced ourselves and described our interest in cemeteries and
decoration practices, and they welcomed us into their circle to make some photographs.
3. Recumbent stone & vertical flanking stones, Midmar Kirk, Midmar,
Aberdeenshire
7. John & Mary Stanton decorating a friend’s grave, Midmar Kirk, Midmar,
Aberdeenshire
6. Decorated grave, Midmar Kirk, Midmar, Aberdeenshire
5. Stone circle, Midmar Kirk, Midmar, Aberdeenshire
4. Recumbent stone & vertical flanking stones, Midmar Kirk, Midmar,
Aberdeenshire
2. Midmar Kirk graveyard, Midmar, Aberdeenshire
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour
Photo by Karen Singer Jabbour