I see a petition is circulating online for fixing the gravestones in HIgh Blantyre Cemetery. That’s a good cause and if an MSP can intervene to do something, even better. Two years ago, a few Blantyre residents including myself decided to do something about it. Unfortunately though, we were advised by the council that the stones are private property of the owners who purchased them and don’t pass over to the council until 100 years after the last trace of a relative can be found.
It’s a misconception that the stones were all deliberately vandalised. There was an abhorrent act in Jun 2008 when approximately 130 of the stones were damaged by vandalism. The story made National news and Councillors John McNamee and Bert Thomson received many signatures on a petition then in protest for something to be done. The police responded by considering CCTV and the closure of the cemetery beyond 8pm by the gates actually being locked. However, vandalism represents a third of the fallen stones. The majority are weather related. Only speaking up as i don’t like to see children of recent years blamed for this.
Exceptional winds, in two particular storms, one in 2011 and another at New Year 2012 were largely responsible for the stones falling over. In early 2012, after the second storm, i counted 346 toppled stones in the graveyard, yet only two months before, there were 298. (Counted whilst i walked my dog one evening). When i first became interested in the toppled stones 170 were fallen around Summer 2011. I don’t know how many it is today, but it must be in excess of 350.
The council did take action then. In fact they launched an anti social initiative between July to October 2012 painting anti vandal paint and planting many, many aggressively growing thorny plants to impede access. The action was a success with a marked reduction in the instances of vandalism and complaints from nearby residents. Weather was responsible for knocking down the vast majority of stones. As can be seen today, the newer gravestones survived and still stand, fixed by modern reliable methods with keystones underneath to reduce toppling. These stones still stand, thankfully as a comfort to the living relatives and is the same method used to place stones as in the modern nearby cemeteries where no stones have toppled. It’s the older pre 1930’s stones, cracked and worn that have toppled, mainly through to corrosion of the steel bars below.
In 2013, Blantyre Community Committee took an action to see if we could do something about them, but the costs proved too prohibitive at several hundred pounds for each grave. I sincerely wish this current campaign all the best and hope they have better success than when we tried. I’m all for support en masse, but with the council having no legal obligation for the stones themselves i think funding and fixing will require to come from another source, sympathetic to this cause. You can sign the current petition (not hosted by Blantyre project) here