Heartfelt plea for action on grave shambles

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An American visitor with family roots in Carriden was horrified to find gravestones in the local cemetery collapsed and fallen – in one case damaging the perimeter of a grave site – and is demanding action.

But in keeping with its existing policy Falkirk Council says it will only step in if there’s a safety consideration, and that responsibility for gravestones lies completely with relatives.

Bob Silmser from Valrico, Florida, was in Carriden to visit family and the graves of his inlaws, Matthew and Jane Nimmo of Cuffabouts, who died in 2001 and 1995. and was shocked at what he found.

What should have been a poignant and reflective visit to remember loved ones was ruined, and he fears others – perhaps, like him, travelling from far afield to pay their respects – will be equally horrified and disappointed at the jumble of stones in the old cemetery.

He said: “I have been told that the people who own the property are responsible for its upkeep, but it looks like no-one cares for those who have passed ... please do something to have this graveyard brought back to the way it should look.”

Mr Silmser says that as church members grow older they can’t realistically be expected to take full responsibility for maintaining grave sites – and can’t take on the difficult and possibly expensive job of resetting stones.

He also argues it’s unfair to pass the problem to perhaps elderly relatives of the deceased when the problem may be due to vandalism.

Mr Silmser added: “I do understand there was some sort of mischief, but there is also a lot of non-caring going on there as well.

“Hopefully some sort of solution can be found to reset the stones and maintain the property for future generations – I was appalled to find this graveyard in such disarray.”

When we forwarded Mr Silmser’s pictures to the council we were told the damage caused to the perimeter around one grave by a large fallen stone would be the responsibility of the site’s owners.

It means surviving relatives are responsible for what could be considerable repair costs when an old stone falls on to it and causes damage.

We were also told that it was typical of the problems encountered in older cemeteries.

However the authority certainly steps in where it’s considered there’s an ongoing safety risk.

Councils already had established safety policies even before a Glasgow tragedy in which a boy was killed by a falling stone.

But Bo’ness and Blackness councillor Ann Ritchie says she will do what she can to remedy the situation in Carriden’s old churchyard.

She said: “I’m fairly sure this is not due to vandalism – I’ve heard no reports of any, and I am pretty sure this has been down to wear and tear – but I think something probably can be done about these stones.

“The problem is the old churchyard – the newer section is still in use, as layers are often in the family for many years.

“I will certainly look into this.”