Kelso Memorial Garden has won a place in people’s heart, not least the man who helped realise the dream

Memorial...Harry and Olenka at the tribute to Jan and Christina Tomczyk. Harry's parents' names were among the first to be included on the stone, which now bears 20 inscriptions with several more pending.
Memorial...Harry and Olenka at the tribute to Jan and Christina Tomczyk. Harry's parents' names were among the first to be included on the stone, which now bears 20 inscriptions with several more pending.

The memorial garden in Kelso’s Rosebank Cemetery has been open for a little over three months.

But it has already won a place in local hearts.

Grand unveiling...the partners who helped turn the memorial garden from a dream into a reality pictured in October at the garden's official opening.

Grand unveiling...the partners who helped turn the memorial garden from a dream into a reality pictured in October at the garden's official opening.

When it was unveiled last October, just seven names adorned the garden’s memorial stone.

Now it bears 20 inscriptions, with several other tributes also pending.

The Kelso Community Council project, conceived by former member John King, was championed by Harry Tomczyk for five years.

So he is delighted with the public’s response.

And his own family story ably reflects the need for a memorial garden in Kelso.

Indeed, Harry’s parents’ names were among the first to adorn the memorial stone.

He explained: “I was born in France but was brought up in Kelso and went to high school here.

“My parents, Jan and Christina, lived here for more than 20 years. They loved Kelso and were very happy here.

“My uncle was a teacher at the high school and he told dad there was work here, which is how we ended up coming to the town.

“Dad was a victim of the war, leaving his native Poland and his family farm during the First World War.

“Having been involved in getting the memorial garden established, I thought it sensible to include my parents’ names.

“In a way, it illustrates how it can be used.

“My father was Born in Blizanow, Poland and died in Edinburgh.

“My mother was born in Edinburgh and died in King’s Stanley, Gloucestershire.

“Their ashes were scattered, dad at Warriston Crematorium and mum on Kinnoull Hill in Perth.

“I thought it would be nice to remember them here, in the town they called home for so long.

“It is exactly the kind of use the community council originally had in mind.

“These days, people come to the town from all over.

“Often their families live elsewhere, meaning there is no-one to tend their grave.

“With more and more people also being cremated and their ashes scattered in a place which means something to them, the garden and memorial stone serves as a quiet place of reflection for their families to remember them.”

Harry also left Kelso, only to return after retirement.

After graduating from Edinburgh University, he worked as a marketing manager in Edinburgh, Sussex and Gloucestershire.

But 11 years ago, Harry and his wife Olenka – who have three children and six grandchildren – decided to return to Kelso.

“We lived in a three-storey Cotswold stone house in Gloucestershire for 30 years,” said Harry.

“We had a large garden and wanted a more manageable home.

“When I left Kelso in my 20s, I always intended to come back so we decided to retire here.”

Within two years, the 71-year-old had joined the community council. And in 2014, he was appointed to oversee the group’s memorial garden project.

While it took five years to realise, Harry has little doubt the garden will be here for many years to come.

He said: “When the existing memorial was constructed, we installed concrete foundations for it and two further stones.

“So the story won’t end when the existing memorial is fully inscribed.

“We will be able to erect two additional stones, enabling people to add names to the memorial for many years to come.

“I’m sure it will be used long after I’m gone.”

The community council will retain responsibility for the upkeep of the memorial, which is why it has a low maintenance design.

However, there are already plans to make some minor improvements.

Harry explained: “We would like to replace the existing fence with something a bit more modern and install a memorial bench.”

Harry has nothing but praise for those who helped to ensure the memorial garden became a reality.

They included Scottish Borders Council, councillors Tom Weatherston and Alex Nicol, Morrison Construction, Blinkbonny Quarry, Forbes Technologies and Robertson Memorials.

Robertson’s will have a continuing role in the project, managing the addition of inscriptions on the memorial stone.

Harry added: “Including a name on our memorial costs a fraction of what is charged at the crematorium or for an individual headstone.

“We also oversee its upkeep so it’s ideal for people who can’t regularly visit their loved one’s grave.”

To find out more, contact Robertson’s on 01573 224772 or email kelso@robertsonmemorials.co.uk.