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Highgate: Thornton, H. (1918)

London's Highgate Cemetery. Taken in January 1977. Marker for William Henry "Harry" Thornton (1883 to 1918), who was a classical pianist and played music for the troops in World War One. A photograph of this same grave marker taken in 2007 (by someone else (Andy Vortex) and posted on Flickr) shows the area is much more overgrown and the lid of the piano is completely missing. Another photograph taken in 2000 also shows the lid is missing. A photo taken in 1979 shows that lid lying flat with the arm holding the lid up still standing. Just barely visible on the lid of the piano is the name, "Harry Thornton." Mr. Thornton died during the influenza pandemic of 1918. According to "Find-a-Grave" this marker is located in the East Side of Highgate Cemetery. Two things I really like about this photograph are (1) what a great sculpture it is and (2) how many gravestones you can see in the background. This was an old color photograph that I dug out of my closet and scanned so I could post it on Flickr.

 

Mr. Thornton's great-great-grandnephew tells me that this monument was erected shortly after Mr. Thornton passed away.

 

For a better photograph of this gravemarker, which provides some scale as to its size and was taken in the early 1970's, go to Bill in DC's photograph:

www.flickr.com/photos/65211201@N00/3446891222

 

For another great photograph of the gravemarker, largely intact, taken in 1962 by G Frangs:

www.flickr.com/photos/69389735@N04/6309145841/in/photostream

 

Link to photograph of the man himself and his wife, supplied by Mr. Thornton's grandniece: www.flickr.com/photos/johnncox/4743645453/in/set-72157622...

 

On May 14, 1974, this memorial was put on Britain's Statutory List of Buildings of Special Architectual or Historical Significance, Grade II.

 

The writing on the side of the piano is, "Sweet thou art sleeping; cradled on my heart; safe in god's keeping; while I must weep apart." This is an approximate English translation of the Italian lyrics from Puccini's opera, "Madame Butterfly." (Actually the lyrics were by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, not Puccini. Puccini wrote the music. And, not that it matters, but I once played one of The Bonze's thugs in the Pittsburgh Opera's production of "Madame Butterfly." I got to hit Lt. Pinkerton and, along with another supernumerary, drag him off stage.)

 

I am very pleased to report that as of April 2013, the Thornton Piano has been partially restored with a new lid and lid prop. I'll link a photo as soon as I find one. And in the comments section, Michiel2005 has linked such a photo.

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Taken in January 1977