Wednesday 15 August 2012

The Worsbrough Fisherman

He looked out on brambles, now he sees flowers

John Desmond was a pub entertainer who lived on his wits.
Fishing was his great love. Sadly he died in a fishing accident. Perhaps he died happy.

What a magnificent tomb! It cost six hundred pounds, a sizable sum in 1906. Over the years the vandals stole his fishing rod but they couldn’t take his fish.
His widow still weeps.

John Robert Smith was buried in a manicured cemetery. Over the years it grew into a quite beautiful wood. In later years it became impenetrable, with six foot high brambles. Graves became inaccessible.

When I started working on the garden, it was to be a small demonstration of the then famous Bolton Percy churchyard. The project was intended to be in the less weedy parts of Worsbrough cemetery. Fortunately (or perhaps, unfortunately) we had unexpected help from the probation service! They came and trimmed the lot!

It is not ideal to apply weedkiller when weeds regrow, but it would have been impossible to get amongst the original intact thickets. I sprayed and re-sprayed for a couple of years using glyphosate and brushwood killer. Even then, the brambles did not give up. Blackberry seeds continued to germinate for years.  

The old vaudeville entertainer is in a nicer place now.


  1. Tina Bird, Barnsley17 August 2012 at 15:34

    It's a beautiful cemetery, and a mine of information if you're doing your family history! Walking around among the flowers, peering at grave inscriptions for family history research is a pleasure at Worsbrough.

    1. Thanks Tina, your compliment means a lot to me.
      Curious your surname is Bird, as you probably know the local area is called Birdwell!

    2. Tina Bird, Barnsley21 August 2012 at 15:44

      My family have lived in and around the area for the better part of two centuries. We are just starting to do the family tree! I have always loved the cemetery but now I have a very good excuse to linger there.

  2. We stumbled across this graveyard earlier today during a walk and spent a few pleasurable hours wondering around and reading the headstones. We stood and marvelled at the grave of John Desmond and wondered if he was a music hall entertainer - upon coming home, a bit of research on the internet to find out more led me to this site. It was surprising to find the final resting place of Charlie Williams in the same graveyard as well, not to mention the number of brave soldiers from the Great War and the poignant grave of Isaac who was killed a day before his 21st birthday in the Barrow Pit disaster. I shall be returning to this lovely peaceful place - I love spending hours in old graveyards like this and researching local history.

    1. Isn't modern technology wonderful when you can share your pleasure with others via a google search and visiting a blog!
      I was delighted to hear of your visit to the cemetery. For me it is a lovely place to work, and I only wish more people knew about it and appreciated it.
      Apparently John Desmond was a bit of a rogue and the local rumour is the grave was never paid for!
      I wonder if you have been to Bolton Percy Cemetery?

  3. John Robert Smith was my grandmother's brother - so cool to find this site recently sent to me by a recently found relative. My grandmother was Phebe Alice Smith who was an opera singer and sang under the stage name of Alice Desmond. This is a phenomenal find!! So happy his grave is being taken care of.

    1. Thanks for the thanks anon.
      I appreciate it when such as yourself write comment to show their interest


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