An Old Jewish Cemetery
There Harold Pollins were removed to a new resting-place. A little while ago, the remains of seventeen human beings whose burials were recorded by two old tombstones: they came from an old Jewish cemetery - unique among its kind - that has stood broken down and unheeded, for more than a hundred years on the outskirts of a small village near North Shields. This strange burial place, measuring approximately twenty square feet, contained, as I have said, two tombstones, a photograph of which is here reproduced and which one gathered, despite the worn condition of the inscription., stood over the graves of Hart Samuel, aged seventy-seven years, who was buried in 1806 and of his wife, Rachael Samuel who died in her seventy-fourth year, the inscription is not sufficiently legible to show whether Hart Samuel was pre-deceased by his wife or not. There is no civil record of these burials, and for over a century and a quarter these tombstones have stood out as representatives of Judaism in a village where, within living memory, no Jew has ever made his home.
Some years ago, the local Corporation acquired the land, including this miniature cemetery, as a building site. It was, however, only a few weeks ago that this plot of land was dug up, and instead of two skeletons, as suggested by the two tombstones, there were found the remains of seventeen human skeletons. Nothing is known of the additional fifteen human beings who were buried here, save that the size of some of the skeletons suggests that they are the remains of young children.
When the local authority bought the land, no mention was made in the deeds of this strange burial place it included. Nor is there any references in the records of North Shields of any local Jewish cemetery in the early years of the last century. It appears that this cemetery was situated in a field belonging to an estate known as Balkwell Farm, the property of a Freeman until purchased by the Tynemouth Corporation for building purposes. When the estate was sold, these graves passed as part of a field in it; they were not mentioned. One is inclined to conjecture that some owner of Balkwell Farm may have given this little piece to a Jew for a burial-place as a privilege or sign of friendship in the days when privileges for Jews were few and almost unconsciously, the story of Abraham and the cave of Machpelah is called to mind.
There was a certain pathetic beauty in that graveyard, with its broken-down walls and unattended graves. Stones from the walls remained where they fell - but the two tombstones stood out despite crumbling walls and neglect perhaps as emblematic of a great nation, that likewise has withstood the vicissitudes of Time. It is gratifying to know that these tombstones and the human remains have now been removed to a better tended resting place; it is however to be regretted that any cemetery should have been so neglected; their care should be, one would think, a matter of communal interest. The site of this interesting graveyard has now been built upon, and so, there has been removed this reminder - this memorial to those Jews and Jewesses who kept up the spirit of Judaism in the little known village so many years ago.
[Note. Benjamin Kyanski was born in 1905 and was then an undergraduate at Downing College, Cambridge. His father was Rabbi Julius Kyanski of the Leazes Park Road Synagogue, Newcastle.]
Page created: 22 October 2007
Formatting by David Shulman
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