Council accused of ‘official vandalism’

One relative visited from Fraserburgh accuses Scottish Borders Council of destroying the history and heritage of the Borders.
One relative visited from Fraserburgh accuses Scottish Borders Council of destroying the history and heritage of the Borders.

The anger of people who have family members buried in Coldingham cemetery continues unabated after council staff laid many of the stones flat.

Relatives claim that a number of the stones were damaged in the process of being laid vertically on the ground for “safety reasons” and one relative who visited last week from Fraserburgh accused Scottish Borders Council of “desecrating the graves of my family”.

John Black went on: “There hasn’t been this much destruction since Oliver Cromwell laid siege to Coldingham Priory in 1648.

“In 2001, one of Thomas Innes Black’s descendants Robert Corrigan visited Scotland. We made a pilgrimage to Coldingham in search of family connections. I had earlier found the gravestone of Jean Innes. The adjacent stone had fallen face down. I arranged for the council to turn it over.

“The fallen stone was restored by the Dodds family and a small stone in memory of Mary Hamilton Watt (Nee Dodds) added.

“These gravestones were not neglected. The family paid for their restoration. The Dodds/Black family stone has been destroyed in an act of vandalism.

“The stone has two metal rods as reinforcement. These have been broken by the application of brute force to the gravestone.”

Another relative added: “What visitors must think of us for allowing such, official, vandalism and desecration to take place, hardly bears thinking about.

“This messing with Coldingham’s past, ancient and modern, and people’s emotions, is down to the council, and therefore equally down to the council to sort-out; and I would respectfully suggest as a matter of great urgency.”

Questions have been raised about maintenance of the headstones and a number of people have contacted their local councillors, Jim Fullarton, Carol Hamilton and Helen Laing.

Councillor Hamilton said: “The council has cordoned off the area that poses a risk of falling gravestones and given six weeks’ notice for members of the public, who have an interest in a particular stone, to contact the council to see how the best way to make the gravestone safe. So I urge anyone concerned to please make contact either through their local councillors or staff at the council.

“I appreciate it has been a difficult time for families involved and I thank the Coldingham community for their patience and understanding.”