forbidden fruit

Adam and Eve Stones

The naked figures of Adam and Eve to mark a grave – this is very much 18th century thinking.

Fruit is not one of the first thoughts that spring to mind when it comes to cemeteries.

Forbidden fruit is a different matter for it is part of Christian belief. Once taken from the tree of the knowledge of the good and the evil, it might not be deadly it but ends all things happy and beautiful

The naked figures of Adam and Eve to mark a grave – this is very much 18th century thinking. Generally they were not depicted utterly naked; it would have seemed out-of-place on a grave. Essential part of the design were the tree and the serpent.

memento mori

As a memento mori the Adam and Eve symbolism must have appealed to many. The intricate and rich carving the symbol needed, made it a rare treat on Scottish graveyards, only few could afford it.

. The intricate and rich carving the symbol needed makes it a rare treat on Scottish graveyards, only few could afford

The Garden of Eden, Paradise, man before the fall, all highly desirable states to be in; in that sense a very positive design choice if it weren’t for the fall of Adam and the temptation of Eve, for the serpent and the shame that came with it.


Adam and Eve stones are a warning, a bad example set in stone. Do not be tempted, stay strong and true, it says.

There are two fine examples of Adam and Eve stones in Little Dunkeld Churchyard, one dates back to 1744, the other to 1762.

More Adam and Eve stones can be found in Logierait Churchyard: The serpent beguiled Eve.


In both cases the figures depicting Adam and Eve, the prototype Christian man and woman, in a rather desexualised way.  Adam does not look particularly masculine, nor does Eve look very feminine. Decency is a major part of gravestone design and certainly has been in 18th century Scotland. After all, a graveyard is a place of mourning.

Niel Gow

Just a few yards away from the Adam and Eve stones in Little Dunkeld Churchyard, a man was buried, whose lament for the death of his second wife has become famous: Niel Gow, the famous Scottish fiddler of the 18th century. He stopped playing after his second wife died but took the instrument up again with the famous lament: more beautiful a memento than any carving on a stone could be.

Niel Gow died soon after his second wife, he was 80 years old. His gravestone was taken to Dunkeld Cathedral in 1986, a new one was erected over his grave in Little Dunkeld Churchyard, commemorating the famous Scottish fiddler, both his wives and one of his fives sons.

More on Niel Gow:

Liked the read? There’s more here...

Scotland for Quiet Moments is available as ebook and paperback on Amazon. 

Scotland is a country full of history, stories and secrets. Often, the three cannot be separated. That is what makes this country so wonderful and unique. The stories of this book have been discovered and gathered for Erkenbach’s blog, Graveyards of Scotland, over many years. 

Her main sources were historical travel guides from the 18th and 19th centuries, where the finds were scary, beautiful, funny, and sometimes, cruel.This unusual approach to a country’s history has produced amazing results. You don’t have to share the author’s passion for cemeteries to enjoy this book; only a small number of the stories in this collection take place in graveyards, though they do all end in them, so perhaps it helps.

The fairy hill in Inverness, a nitrate murder on Shetland, a family of left-handers, wolves, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace shown in a new light, the secret bay of the writer Gavin Maxwell, a murdering poet and so many things you didn’t know about Scotland, its clans and its history.

2 thoughts on “forbidden fruit

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  1. This is a great blog, very informative, i must thank you for the mention of Neil Gow’s resting place. I have long been an admirer of his music, but was unaware of his grave location. This will now turn into a visit for myself the next time i’m passing Dunkeld. I will be having a look at the Adam and Eve’s stones too. Thanks again.

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