Graveyard safety

ANDREW HN Gray (Letters, 11 October) seems not to have accepted the facts of graveyard maintenance.

Contrary to his statement that “a child in England had been injured by a gravestone which had allegedly fallen over”, the statistics, in a paper entitled Managing the Safety of Burial Ground Memorials issued by the UK Minister of Justice in 2009, states that, over a period of 30 years, eight people have been killed by falling monuments in Britain’s cemeteries.

In fact, there was a tragic death in the Newington cemetery here in Edinburgh.

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The responsibility for the safety of memorials actually lies with the descendants of the lair holder but inevitably, with the passage of time, this responsibility had been ignored and graveyards were becoming increasing unsafe places to visit.

With the descendants ignoring their responsibilities, it then fell to the local authorities to take the appropriate action and this resulted in the testing of all graveyard monuments.

When a monument was deemed unsafe it was then lifted and laid in such a way as to enable the inscriptions still to be read. In Edinburgh alone this resulted in some 9,500 headstones being lifted and laid in this manner.

For Mr Gray to claim that “machines were used to push over gravestones” is quite frankly an insult to the dedicated staff who tend to these graveyards and one which runs contrary to all my dealings with them.

At Liberton cemetery, using those undertaking Community Payback Orders under the supervision of trained council staff, some 200 headstones have now been rebuilt and such work is also being undertaken at the Grange and Portobello cemeteries.

So, rather than denigrating the City of Edinburgh Council staff, I have nothing but praise for their dedication and willingness to be constructive and positive about the manner in which the city’s graveyards are tended.

Alan McKinney