Soldiers Stones, St Michael's on Wyre

In the grounds of St Michael’s Church at St Michaels on Wyre are three ancient and peculiar grave stones. They are called ‘coped body stones’, of which two have a square head and the third has a rounded top. Local tradition says that the two square ones belong to a couple of Spanish sailors or soldiers whose vessel was stranded in the Wyre estuary in 1643 while arms-running to the Spanish Netherlands. Both Parliamentary and Cavalier factions raced to the site in order to extract the canons and musket that they might be used against the other in the civil war. It is said that the sailors were set at their liberty, but in times of war, and hostility to Catholics, they were unlikely to have fared well.

Two of them, reduced to vagrancy, are said to have been buried here, ‘near the yew tree in St Michael’s churchyard’. I find it hard to believe that a population beginning to feel the pangs and pains of war would have either the kindness or the economic power to provide several impressive gravestones for a couple of hapless foreigners, and papists at that. Indeed, similar gravestones I found at St Michael’s church at Cockerham; more Spanish sailors? Or just a local custom? I would like to think that Spanish seamen were indeed given decent burial- and ideally, food and clothing prior to this- but the civil war was raging in brutal, desperate times. Even the wicked kings of Judah ‘rested with their fathers’, which surely means interment in the family vault rather than a pleasant place in Sheol, awaiting Christ’s victory. It is a mark of respect to the great God that we bury with respect those who were made in His image, regardless of the lifestyles  and views held. In 14:20 of Isaiah's prophecy is the King of Babylon, who is previously associated with the fallen Lucifer, informed:

You will not be joined with them in burial,

Because you have destroyed your land

And slain your people.

The unfortunate Spaniards who were set loose in Lancashire may have longed for the own, balmy shores, but I pray they heard the gospel which their own land certainly denied them. Respectable burial, even if it happened, is of no import. The grandeur of one’s tomb, the affectation of the eulogy, the volume of the funerary hymns- such things matter not. The issue is whether one accepted the gospel. When we this day remember soldiers, seamen and airmen of all nations who fell in wars, let us look forward to the conclusion of the age:

And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2, NKJV.