Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Salmon makes living out of eye-catching tombs

Published:Tuesday | September 16, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Burchell Salmon examines one of the tombs he designed in May Pen Cemetery, Kingston. Norman Grindley/Chief Photographer

BURCHELL SALMON has been building tombs for more than 20 years; but these final resting places are anything but ordinary.

Some are shaped like aeroplanes, others like ships; there are some that look like cathedrals, castles, and others like houses.

"I ask the people about their choices and then go about the designs ... . It is a gift from the Father, I just think it up and do it," Salmon said. "I don't really sketch anything before I start, I just do it from the brain".

A mason who also makes houses for a living, Salmon told The Gleaner that the demand for his services to spruce up the houses of the dead has been huge.

"The more I build, is the more requests I get," the St Elizabeth native told The Gleaner.

He said, however, that there are people who do not like his style, which involves the shaping of the tombs into eye-catching objects. His latest display is at the May Pen Cemetery on Spanish Town Road, Kingston. There, Salmon gathered lumber, paint, cement and sand and was in the process of bring life to the tomb of Inez Patterson, who was buried in 1991.

Patterson's daughter, Juilet Boothe, was recently buried in the cemetery and, according to Dion Green, Boothe's son-in-law, the family thought it necessary to have both mother and daughter stand out as beacons in the cemetery.

"She was an icon in West Kingston," Green said of Boothe while adding that, because she spent her life mothering an entire community, the family thought it necessary to have her final resting place designed as a house.

He said, too, that Patterson was not only, religious, but she, too, was as motherly as Boothe, and that the church best captures her personality.

"It is to show that the house is a safe place, which Juliet Boothe represents, and the church represents the head of all worship ... the church signifies what she means, it is like a pillar to all," Green said, while adding that deep thought went into the choosing of the symbols.

Salmon, meanwhile, said he is proud of the work he does, saying that he strives to please his customers. "Once they like it, I am all right. So I try to please them and give them what they request," he said.

"If they want any design, they tell me and I put it on," said Salmon, while adding that the longest it has taken him to build such a tomb is five days. He said that the cost of creating such lavish tombs ranges from $30,000 to $200,000.

"I built a car one in St Elizabeth and vehicles that are passing stop and reverse. They just could not believe," Salmon said.