England’s established church has inelastic rules on what may and may not be put on grave headstones, as the family of an Irish-born pensioner buried in Warwickshire has found.
A Church of England consistory court has ruled that an Irish-language epitaph — ‘In ár gcroíthe go deo’ — can be on the headstone only if it’s accompanied by a translation (‘in our hearts forever’).
The court’s tortured reasoning was that, “given the passions and feelings connected with the use of Irish Gaelic”, the epitaph without a translation risked being misunderstood as a political statement.
The church’s attention might usefully be drawn to a precedent in another English graveyard — in Winchelsea, Sussex — where the great Anglo-Irish comedian Spike Milligan rests in peace beneath a headstone that proclaims ‘Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite’ and, for the avoidance of misunderstanding by those who might fear it’s a provocative political exhortation, a translation: ‘I told you I was ill.’
A compromise that meets the wishes of the woman’s family and the church’s traditions ought, surely, to be possible.