Dumfries and Galloway City Council to carry out controversial dismantling of gravestones in 16 more cemeteries

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The controversial dismantling of headstones could continue in 16 more cemeteries in Dumfries and Galloway, despite a huge outcry from upset relatives.

Council chiefs propose that socketing of ancient gravestones continue for reasons of public safety.

When this was done to 1,140 memorials in 2020 and 2021, it provoked a furious reaction from relatives of those buried.

And it prompted one, David Drife of Penpont, to order his lawyer to take legal action against the authority for damage to family headstones at Sanquhar Cemetery.

The retiree was surprised yesterday to hear that the council plans to use the same methods to remove headstones, saying digging up headstones prevents families from burying relatives on the same plot.

He said: “This is shocking. Who is going to be doing the work?

“I have been in regular contact with a professional who says they are disturbing human remains with this work.

“And they are blocking future burials by driving headstones into the ground at the burial site.

“In the cemetery last year, I saw an old woman crying by a grave saying, ‘This is where my coffin was going to be, now there is no place.'”

Despite the furor, a report will be presented to the community committee next Thursday asking councilors to allow the plugs to continue when the security project resumes.

The report states: “The safety of our communities and our staff is paramount and it is necessary to ensure that this project is fully completed as soon as possible and that the necessary preparatory work proceeds in the remaining cemeteries.”

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These cemeteries are: Sanquhar Cemetery; New Abbey; Old Newton Stewart Cemetery; Stranraer Sheuchan; Whithorn, Saint Ninian; Old Castle Douglas Cemetery; Old Dalbeattie Cemetery; Old Kirkcudbright Cemetery; Minnigaff Cemetery; Newton Stewart, St. Couans; Old Portpatrick Cemetery; Portpatrick San Andres; Stranraer, Glebe; Stranraer, San Andres; Whithorn Cemetery; and Wigtown, San Machutus.

David Drife next to one of his relative's memorial headstones in Sanquhar Cemetery.
David Drife next to one of his relative’s memorial headstones in Sanquhar Cemetery.

Work is underway in cemeteries across Scotland to make old headstones safe following the death of an eight-year-old boy in 2015 due to a falling headstone.

An assessment of the 205 cemeteries in Dumfries and Galloway showed that 31 of them were high or very high risk.

Remediation work was carried out in 15 cemeteries in phases one and two, however, poor communication with relatives and the methods used have caused much controversy.

Signs were posted at the cemetery entrances, however council chiefs admitted no efforts were made to contact relatives directly.

In response to the complaints, major changes are proposed in the treatment of the remaining 16 cemeteries.

It is proposed that relatives be written in advance and if the owners of the den cannot be located, funeral directors or masons will be contacted to try to locate them.

Discussions will also be held with the relevant district councilors to discuss the cemetery projects, the next steps involved, and monthly progress updates will be provided.

Notification letters will also be sent to community councils, local organizations and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to inform them of the project and the reasons for the progress of the work.

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The council report states: “Signs will be displayed in cemeteries at entrances, water areas and benches etc. to confirm that work is due to start, this will include details of the job and contact details for further information.

“This will be at least 28 days before the start of any work.”

It is also proposed to create a dedicated web page, which will include work in progress and photos of work carried out where appropriate.



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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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