Coldingham cemetery uproar

The aftermath of a Scottish Borders Council survey at Coldingham cemetery is dozens of gravestones now lying flat.
The aftermath of a Scottish Borders Council survey at Coldingham cemetery is dozens of gravestones now lying flat.

Coldingham residents are still in shock at the state of the village cemetery following a safety inspection by School Borders Council.

Dozens of headstones have been laid flat, one local describing the scene as “something you would only see in some sort of zombie movie”.

Rev. Andrew Haddow has been contacted by a number of people regarding the graveyard, and confirmed that council staff had contacted him to say the survey of memorials was taking place in May.

He said: “The long and short of it is that many of the memorials were deemed unsafe according to the survey, and indeed some so unsafe that the council was required to take immediate action.

“Many of the stones were laid down and they brought in equipment to do this as during the survey some had been so fragile that even in the inspection they had toppled (the poor guys who were doing the inspection had had a few shocks from the looks of them).

“After the initial work, part of the cemetery has been cordoned off while they contact next of kin to deal with unsafe headstones.

“SBC contacted me again at this point so I could inform the congregation that if anyone needed access to cordoned off parts of the cemetery then that can be arranged by contact with SBC cemeteries department.

“As you can imagine the whole thing has been pretty emotive though.”

By Wednesday morning a video of the aftermath at Coldingham Priory had over 22,000 views on Facebook.

One person saying: “This is absolutely shocking and disgusting; a truly terrible

invasion of people’s dear departed love ones memorials, and it has honestly left me bewildered at the complete and utter lack of decent human respect.”

“Shame on them doesn’t even cut it, You just begin to wonder who the people are who make these horrifying decisions in such a sacred place.”

“At no point was any of our family contacted in any way shape or form about any impending removal and desecration of the headstones.”

Scottish Borders Council had issued a statement about the inspection of cemeteries, council leader Shona Haslam acknowledging: “Clearly this is a sensitive matter. We are very sympathetic to the issues and will ensure the work is undertaken with due respect and only where absolutely necessary. Our cemeteries are peaceful, tranquil places but we also have to make sure they are safe places for everyone.

“Unsafe headstones pose a significant risk and we must take all reasonable steps to make these areas as safe as possible.

“While there is no specific funding or obligation on the council to re-instate headstones, various alternative sources of funding could be explored by communities and the council is willing to assist wherever possible.

“It is very unfortunate, and I understand the distress and concern that this action will cause, but the council often has little option but to lay flat unsafe headstones which are not repaired by the owner or their next of kin.”