John Young, who lived to be old but died young

I was walking through Headington in the north east of Oxford the other day, passing some time before the time came for my reservation at the Black Boy gastropub (that makes me sound terribly posh), and came across an old church – St Andrews. The graveyard in front was a bit of a mix of stones, some newer ones from the early twentieth or late nineteenth century at the end and older, lichen covered, barely legible ones closer to the church. One of the gravestones stood out as being a clean, clear carving. Looking at the epitaph, it had the riddle-like one below.

Here lyeth John
Who to ye king did belong
He lived to be old
And yet dyed young

Grave

The other grave marker clarifies this.

In memory
of John Young
Who died Nov
19 1688
Aged 100 years old

Grave 2

That’s a fair old age and quite an achievement for someone who (I would guess from the epitaph) fought in the Civil War. I’m sure there’s some interesting tale there, now possibly lost to history. Apologies for the photo quality, I’m not the greatest photographer at the best of times and they were taken on my phone.


According to Headington.co.uk the church itself is the oldest surviving building in the area, dating from the 12th century. It also quotes from the diary of one Thomas Hearne in 1725 …

About 30 Years agoe died at Heddington one John Young, who was an Hundred Years old, & chearfull to the last. He is buried in the Church-Yard, where, at the East End of his Grave, we have a little Stone with this Inscription:-

IN MEMORY
OF JOHN YOUNG,
WHO DYED NOV.
19th, 1688,
AGED 100 YEARS.

And at the West End of his Grave, is another small Stone, with the following Inscription:–

HERE LYETH JOHN
WHO TO THE KING DID BELONG.
HE LIV’D TO BE OLD
AND YET DYED YOUNG

I made some Inquiry about a farther Account concerning the said John Young. But not meeting with any of the Seniors of the Place, I could not be satisfied. For which reason, I must remember to make farther Inquiry hereafter.

I imagine if he’d been able, Mr Hearne would have posted that on his own history blog back in the day. It’s quite cool to see someone from almost three hundred years ago having such a similar reaction to this notable gravestone. Unfortunately, the website doesn’t mention if he did ever make further inquiries.

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