a black and white photo of a tombstone in a cemetery

Bluebonnets for a Scotsman

Moray was either a kingdom of its own or a highly autonomous vassal of Alba. Today, most of what is now Highlands and Aberdeenshire are the vestiges of the proud People of Moray.

Perhaps it is an odd way to start a new blog—the dead. And yet, so much of what life holds is born from something that is no longer there as a young sprout that pushes through to life from the decaying seed shell. The sprouts are not often obvious as they do not show themselves always in the form of direct descendants but are shrouded in stories, memories, and obscure public records. Like wild vines, life, death, and life again that springs from death, they stretch their tendrils to seemingly unlikely places. Such was the life of a young Scot from Aberdeen, Scotland.

My family likes to hike The Picket Trail, running along the San Gabriel River away from The Blue Hole in the charming Georgetown. To the right, there are overhanging cliffs with the river beneath; to the left, there is a thick brush. Too thick to go through but not so much that one cannot see. I can’t help but glance to the left every time we hike. A narrow road runs alongside the woods, and one can just see an old, no longer-used cemetery. The cemetery is referred to as Old Georgetown Cemetery or Old San Gabriel Cemetery and was restored by the Georgetown Historical Survey Committee in 1963.

I wanted to visit. Something beckoned me. For months. I was unsure what or why, as I don’t like cemeteries. And so one of my children and I decided to go and satisfy our curiosity. Well, mine, mainly. In my experience, cemeteries have a sense of peace, occasionally an eerie calmness. Not this one. It feels so forlorn. Most headstones are broken, a couple have fallen over, and some have lost all vestiges of a person in whose memory they were placed. Not even a name remains. Those look particularly desolate as nameless blocks of stone. Some graves have small crosses, and some are completely unmarked, with slightly raised dirt or a few border stones being the only clues. The cemetery was used between the 1840s and early 1900s, as evidenced by some of the writing that still remains. What sort of people are buried there? Based on the quick research that produced a list, I discovered that most people buried in the cemetery were not born in Georgetown or nearby. In fact, most were not even from Texas. One such unusual burial belonged to Colin Munro MacAndrew, the oldest son of Daniel MacAndrew, Aberdeen, Scotland. For an adventurous life that began in Aberdeen in 1852 and brought Collin to Georgetown, Texas, it was a short one and ended abruptly at the age of 23 in 1875.

“Why? How? So young!” my children would later wonder. I wonder also. Although I discovered that a record of his death existed in Scottish records and a grave marker was placed in his memory, I’m certain, considering the time period, that the actual body was buried and remains in Georgetown.

Far from kin and home. Far from anyone who would care for his grave because he was a part of their family. Just far. Instead, he was here in Georgetown, Texas. A blank page. A question. A short life not truly known. After visiting the cemetery and doing additional research, which was but small pickings, the grave wouldn’t leave me alone. And so, I thought, perhaps even the dead can cry out for attention. My children and I bought flowers, bluebonnets, which come with spring and make the fields aglow with deep blue hues. They disappear nearly entirely for the rest of the year, only to turn up again in the spring and remind everyone of new. New something. As we headed for the car after planting the flowers and my children chatted about the unfairness of such early death and the overall homeliness of the cemetery, I took one last glance. And though the day was cheery and the sky blue, the graveyard looked no less pitiful, and it felt as though every grave cried out, ‘Me too, please, remember me.’