Ideas for Scottish Headstone Inscriptions

by Natalie Smith
The thistle is the national symbol of Scotland; it often appears on gravestones.

The thistle is the national symbol of Scotland; it often appears on gravestones.

People of Scottish descent worldwide are very proud of their heritage; so proud, in fact, that some plan to take this love of all things Scottish to the grave. A popular way to showcase the deceased's love for her home country is to inscribe her headstone with a popular Scottish saying, poem, proverb or symbol. Fortunately, there are many to choose from.

Traditional Scottish Proverbs and Sayings

Traditional Scottish proverbs are often displayed on headstones in Scotland, and there are many proverbs that are appropriate for the occasion. Examples include: "Fools look to tomorrow; wise men use tonight," "Learn young, learn fair; learn old, learn more," "Our business in this world is not to succeed, but to continue to fail in good spirits," or "Time and tide will tarry on nae man."

Scottish Poets

A verse from a poem addressing death is always appropriate. Among Scotland's poets, Robert Burns is the most well-known. One verse that might be appropriate comes from Robert Burns' poem "The Death and Dying Words of Poor Mailie" is "And now, my bairns, wi' my last breath, I lea'e my blessin wi' you baith: An' when you think upo' your mither, Mind to be kind to ane anither." If Burns' words are not to your taste, there are hundreds of Scottish poets and thousands of appropriate verses to choose from.

Tongue-in-Cheek Inscriptions

The Scots are famous for their dry, tongue-in-cheek humor. Those who appreciate this aspect of Scottish culture might select a headstone inscription that reflects their sense of humor. Examples of Scottish proverbs that may be appropriate are: "The best-laid schemes of mice and men often go astray," "He goes long barefoot that waits for dead men's shoes," and "Scottish by birth, British by law, a Highlander by the grace of God."

Scottish Symbols

In addition to the inscription, Scots often feature traditional symbols on their headstones that are associated with death, Scottish culture or Christianity. Some examples are the thistle, which is the national symbol of Scotland, or the Celtic cross, which is most often associated with Ireland but is still very common in Scotland as well.

About the Author

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.

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