Residents dig in to fix headstones wrecked by thugs

MORE than 50 headstones vandalised during a wrecking spree at a West Lothian graveyard are to be restored by the end of the year.

A committee has been set up to raise funds for the restoration of the 51 damaged headstones at East Calder Cemetery.

It hopes to raise £15,000 to cover the work and is appealing to local residents, schools and businesses to offer their support.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

East Calder and Wilkieston Community Council, the gala committee and local churches have also agreed to come on board with the project.

Three eight-year-old boys were charged over the vandalism spree in August, which saw gravestones knocked over and flowers scattered across the cemetery. When news of the vandalism filtered through the village, many locals rushed down to the cemetery to check if graves belonging to relatives had been targeted.

Molly Hamilton, whose mother and father are buried in the cemetery, was distressed to find their headstone had been toppled. Mrs Hamilton, who lives next to the cemetery, said: “I was really upset because my parents’ headstone was toppled, and I had put flowers down the day before and they were all over the place. The headstone is all wobbly now and the cement is out from the foundation.

“It was so distressing to see all those headstones like that. I was in shock – I couldn’t believe it. I think it’s great that they’re trying to raise funds, it is really nice of them.”

Members of the East Calder Cemetery Restoration Committee, which is supported by West Lothian Council, have placed 24 collection tins in local shops, pubs and clubs, with councillors Carl John and Dave King each donating £300 to the appeal.

Carl John, SNP councillor for East Livingston and East Calder, said some of the relatives of the people whose graves were affected were now dead or had moved away from the local area. He said: “The families we’ve managed to get in touch with to tell them about the committee are delighted. I think they’re very much appreciative of what we are all doing as a community.”

Cllr John, who is also encouraging local schools to get involved in fundraising, added: “Setting up the committee seemed to be the right thing to do as local councillors.

“What happened was absolutely terrible but it was really heartwarming to see so many people – even people whose relatives’ graves weren’t affected –helping with these other graves. It’s sad, but that brought the community together a bit.”

If all goes well with the fundraising, the committee hopes to have the work finished by Christmas. Councillor John said: “The work will start as early as we can after raising the money and will take two or three days. I would like to see it done before Christmas, but it depends on the weather.”

Some of the funds raised at a Miss West Lothian event on Friday will be donated to the restoration appeal.

The fancy dress fundraiser will be held at Grand Central in Livingston from 7.30pm to midnight.

A spokesman for West Lothian Council said: “The vandalism to East Calder cemetery was appalling, and it’s great to see the local community rallying round to help in this way.”