In my recent post on Muriel Spark and her uncle Harry Camberg , I mentioned that she states in Curriculum Vitae that “He was buried in a Church of Scotland graveyard at Corstorphine.”
Frances Macrae tried to find the grave to no avail. Since then, I have found a Harry Camberg – on this war grave website, which includes a picture of the grave, and its bilingual inscription (English & Hebrew).
The Harry Camberg listed is buried (if I am reading this correctly) in Sandymount Cemetery in Springboig, Glasgow, in the Jewish section. He died on 30th March, 1922, and was in the HLI (Highland Light Infantry, I’m presuming). This ties in with how he doesn’t seem to be listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, because he died four years too late to be considered a war casualty, and also Spark’s claim that he died of delayed reactions to poison gas.
So what was Spark up to here? Did she genuinely misremember the event? Was she trying to hide/play down her Jewish heritage? The Church of Scotland reference makes sense in that regard.
During my researches, I have found several interesting links between our area and Muriel Spark (1918-2006). Spark is one of my favourite Edinburgh writers – and is best known for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Like Walter Scott, or Robert Louis Stevenson, she probably needs little introduction. The Guardian has described her writing style as “waspishness, its spirit, [with] its curiously posh-Scottish camp”.
Curriculum Vitae (1992) is her autobiography, and has been criticised for the various things which it does not deal with. However, it is also one of her most interesting works, particularly to folk who are interested in her Edinburgh background.
In Chapter 3, we are told:
“…My father’s younger brother, Harry, died of the effects of poison gas to which he had been exposed in the trenches during the First World War. I remember my Uncle Harry only as being first young and merry, next, suddenly thin, bent and ghost-like and very soon afterwards not there at all. He was buried in a Church of Scotland graveyard at Corstorphine. Some of my father’s sisters accompanies his wife, Bessie, and my parents to the funeral; they came afterwards to our house, wearing black clothes.”
WWI still casts a long shadow over our world, and it is one that seems to have grown ever longer since the centenary commemorations. None of its survivors are still with us.
The cover image provided is under “fair use”. I do not own the copyright on it, and trust that the estate, illustrators and publishers shall understand is used in good faith, and for the promotion of said work.