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Surgeon Commander

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

My (and my siblings') uncle, Surgeon Commander (what a wonderful title) Austin Sinclair-Loutit, was born in 1882 and died in Ramsgate, where he lived in retirement, in 1970. I met him only a few times because we lived abroad. Our father Kenneth went alone to arrange his funeral and to my shame I have never visited his grave.

This feeling of loss and regret at not having known him better lingered with me, as some of the treasured items we have here at home come from him – his naval officer's sword, a beautiful tantalus, and the knotted rope key-rings he used to make.

Earlier this year, I decided to find his grave and do something about it. I even wondered about perhaps arranging a reburial up here in our ancestral home of Orkney.

Finding him proved not nearly as arduous as I had expected, thank to the wonderfully generous help of a kind lady in Ramsgate Town Council (now a friend) who actually went out and walked cemeteries to find him.

I was afraid that Austin might have been buried in some sad municipal cemetery but that was happily not the case. He is buried in the rather lovely St Augustine's Abbey in a graveyard overlooking the sea. The immediate decision was to leave him (and his mother) besides whom he is buried, to rest on in peace.

However, the grave, untouched and uncared for for fifty years, looked very sad. A grimy cross of stone or concrete and nearly illegible lettering. Here are a couple of the photos she sent me:




So he is in a lovely Victorian churchyard overlooking the sea. This is the view from his grave:


The first part of doing him honour has now been carried out. A local stonemason told me he could do a restoration and has just sent up a before-and-after pic of the finished job – what appeared to be concrete has been returned 50 years on to the white marble it originally was.

There now only remains to get the memorial tablet made here in Orkney to add at the foot of the grave. This will be hand-cut into a piece of Orkney bluestone and installed at the foot of the grave:


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David
David
Nov 16, 2020

@Stephen Budge. How about this for a coincidence? God's own truth: I was in the middle of reading your message when the phone rang – at 9:30pm. It was the man from the quarry with where I left a request over 4 months ago for a piece of bluestone to be cut (and had long given up getting anywhere) with a question about how I wanted the stone shaped!! A true lesson in Orkney time!!!

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Stephen Budge
Stephen Budge
Nov 16, 2020

Being a stone carver, I know the perils of dealing with different types of stone. While white marble is relatively easy to get a beautifull result, it tends not to hold up over time. I was given and older piece to try; the results were bot pretty. Good to see your uncle's stone was of a better quality. What was meant by referencing Canada in your new piece? Have you a local carver as yet? If not, I know one there I can suggest.

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David
David
Nov 14, 2020

It never occurred to me, Steve, but I imagine they are. Up here in Orkney, because of the weather, they gravestones are usually Orkney sandstone (which does not age too well), or granite. The great thing about the sandstone, however, is the way the lichen growns on it in our clean air. I might do a post with some graveyard views.

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Good job. Wonder if the other gravestones are also white marble, think so cos I can see one other white one in background of the "before" photo. Stephan


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