Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holar cemetery 100th anniversary

The most unusual aspect of the little cemetery tucked away off a grid road in the Vatnabyggð area of Saskatchewan [Canada] is not immediately obvious.


However, in the Icelandic Holar Cemetery, where, in 1945, the committee members fought bitterly against the idea of holding sessions in English rather than Icelandic, there is only one Icelandic headstone inscription.Jon J. Stefansson (July 24, 1865 – March 24, 1934) is remembered completely in the Icelandic language.

His simple inscription, translated, reads “In memory of.” By contrast, when the headstone was designed for Johann Borgford, who was buried at Holar in 1910, these words were carved in English:

No pain or grief/no anxious fear/can reach the peaceful/sleeper here.” The old cemetery is still active, the final resting place of at least three generations of local Icelandic families.

It is tended by volunteers who gather at least once a year – more, in this year of the unceasing rain – to mow the grass, clip the edges, sweep the graves, and re-arrange bouquets of artificial flowers. This year, in honour of the 100th anniversary, 17 members, another three generations, gathered beside the tombstones after the work was done to share coffee, anniversary cake and ice cream.Information about the cemetery is easy to find.

The record-keeping, from the beginning, was meticulous. Names, date of death, cause of death, are all recorded. The original minutes, in Icelandic until 1946, have been translated by Bina Stefanson Fraser.

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