There is something special and sad about the first body interred in a graveyard.
Local legend has it, that the first body in the graveyard of Quarff on Shetland Mainland was a stranger. Nobody knew who he was. A dead body the sea had brought in. The local fishermen buried him more or less where he was found. That was in the late 1820s. Until then, the dead of Quarff had been buried in Papil on Burra, to the West of Shetland. But now Quarff had its own graveyard and Quarff had its first corpse.
Legend has it, that one of the fishermen commented on the sad fact, that the stranger was all alone in his final resting place. The man who had commented was next to die and be buried right beside the body of the stranger.
The first body remains nameless to this day.
Hi there. Is there anymore information on this first grave or the stranger found? Is there any wording still visible on the stone?
Hi Samantha, I am afraid I do not have any more information on that first grave, I never saw a stone and I never expected one for a stranger on a strange shore. A tombstone would probably have been too much of an expense. A few stones on the graveyard are so covered in moss and lichen that it is impossible to decipher any writing whatsoever. I guess there is still some margin for doubt. Are you looking for a certain sailor lost?
Thanks so much for coming back to me so promptly. I am writing a novel and before coming across your site have been working on part of the plot based on a stranger brought from the sea and buried with no local history or background on a Scottish Island so was intrigued! Many thanks again and will keep any eye on your site as find it very interesting.
You are welcome. Thanks. Unfortunately these stories on not well documented. On Shetland it must have happens quite a lot. You can also check my post on the “field of the unknown dead”. Good luck with your novel, after having written two travel guides I have now started with a crime novel myself.
Thanks and will do! All the best with your novel too!!