John McCullagh February 24, 2008
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The late Gerry Davey was a stonemason supreme – an art that is lost in these days of mechanical devices. 

In his 56 years as a professional, he crafted and shaped literally thousands of pieces. But more than forty years after he created it one piece in particular still stands out more than the rest. It is photographed here.

Gerry was well used to making headstones of all shapes and sizes; sometimes they were simple rectangular blocks of granite, sometimes more ornate pieces such as Celtic crosses. But none was as remarkable as the granite headstone an English customer requested way back in the early 1960s. The headstone, he insisted, had to resemble a tree trunk with thinner granite trunks marking the perimeters of the grave. This was a challenge.

‘In those days, said Gerry, ‘There was not the machinery there is now! There was none of these fancy saws and things!’

Gerry set about his task with a hammer and points and with a vision in his head of the customer’s requirements. He didn’t even have a picture or a sketch. The square block of granite had been quarried from Slieve Donard. Yet three weeks later that block had been transformed. The photo here is old and just a scan of a photograph yet still you can get some idea of the intricacy. Gerry has captured the gnarled, knotted surface of the tree’s bole in intricate lines and cracks.

In the middle of the grave sits an urn meticulously crafted into the shape of a small block of wood.

Gerry started to work for I Hamilton and Sons at the age of 16 and finally retired just six years ago at the age of seventy-two. Four decades on that headstone is still a source of wonder and of conversation.

‘I wouldn’t say it’s that remarkable’, he said modestly.

‘I just worked away and passed no remarks.  There was other men in the yard who could have done it just as well.’

May God be merciful to his soul.

… visit to Chester …

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