A Further Development in the Kirkyard Headstones Fiasco

By Bernie Bell

At first, Orkney Islands Council paid people to pull over, or knock down, headstones in kirkyards, in case they might fall on people.  Then, after they made an almighty mess of doing this, and folk complained, they will now have to pay another lot of people, to put the headstones up again.

I wonder – did the people who carried out the initial instruction, not question it?  Or even think to say “No”, and refuse to do it?  Normally, if someone did this, and was caught, they would be prosecuted for vandalism, and what is seen as a particularly shame-full form of vandalism, too.

Respect for ancestors, is basic to most cultures.  What is happening in a society, when people are told to pull down the marker stones of their neighbours families, and they don’t refuse to do so?

I won’t go into what I make of all this – enough has been said about it – and apologies have been made.  Too little thought, too late.

So, the next thing was….Mike took a walk down to our local kirkyard, where folk have been buried, and left in peace, for many, many years, and many, many people come to that kirkyard,  some from very far away, to find where their ancestors were laid to rest, and are stunned, and pleased, to find them in such a lovely spot. I wrote of this kirkyard, previously, in The Orkney News………….


Mike found that this sign had been erected.

sign in cemetary M Bell

I presume that this is the next stage in the fiasco –  OIC are now paying for a load of signs, and for people to erect these signs in kirkyards.  Is the right word ‘erect’, or ‘desecrate’?   By doing this,  they will feel that they are ‘covered’ and that they are no longer responsible for anything untoward, which happens in the kirkyard.

I genuinely hope that folk will ignore this, let their children play there,  read the headstones, and put together the stories they will find.  It’s history, right there, in their local kirkyard.  And I hope they take their dogs in, too – folk do that, take a well-loved pet, to ‘visit’ their well-loved human, who has passed from this life.  Or, it’s part of the route of a regular walk.  We had many happy visits there, with Ben-The-Dog, us sitting on the kerb of William McKay’s grave, eating our sandwiches, while Ben had a much needed drink of water from his dish.

Kirkyards are for people, past and present – they are part of the community. They shouldn’t be places with ‘don’t do this’ and ‘don’t do that’ signs.  A bit of common sense is all that’s needed, which most folk do have, but, apparently, collectively, OIC,  doesn’t.

What non-sense this all is, but such costly nonsense. OIC, allegedly, don’t have money for wardens for old folk, or for special need schools for children, yet they do have money to pay for knocking headstones down, then putting them up again, and erecting daft signs.

This reminds me of another, similar case……………

This is a picture of Glencar waterfall in County Sligo, Ireland.  My sister lived near here, and we’ve visited it many times over the years. In 2004, we found that this sign had been erected.  It’s because the Council are worried that ‘someone’ (the ubiquitous ‘someone’) might go too near the edge, fall in, sue etc, etc. Glencar is a beautiful place, W.B.Yeats wrote ‘The Stolen Child’ about it, so, what do they do?  Block the view of the falls with this sign…..

Glencar B Bell

The irony is, that now, if someone wants to take a picture of the falls (which people always do), they have to lean over, off the path to do so, which IS dangerous!  Instead of people being taught to have common sense, and expected to use common sense, they have to be nannied all the time.  I asked my Uncle Anthony, who lived in the area all his life, if there ever has been an accident at Glencar. No, nothing has ever happened there, his opinion being that anyone with any sense doesn’t lean over, and if they do, they get what they deserve and might have more sense next time!

Except, it’s worse when it’s in a kirkyard, full of the families of people,  people who go there to pay their respects, have a chat, maybe apologise for something  – who knows?  But kirkyards should be places of peace and are often places of beauty.  R-E-S-P-E-C-T that’s what’s needed.  And thought.

And – I’m going to say it – A DIFFERENT SET OF PEOPLE IN CHARGE!


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3 replies »

  1. Hello Tim Flanders Gillott
    I’m not on Facebook, so I can’t respond to your comment, there.
    Fact is – at first, I wrote “A different set of Councillors”, then as you rightly point out, I realised that the folk who make these decisions, and who give the orders, aren’t Councillors, so I changed it.
    I don’t know who they are, lesser minions of the Council, I suppose. What used to be known as ‘Little Hitlers’. Hiding behind anonymity, while Harvey Johnston is told to apologise for their actions.
    I hope they’re ashamed of themselves – whoever they are.
    I suppose, really, what I mean to say is – OIC, needs an enema! A good old clear-out, at all levels.

  2. Ah Bernie, that old hot potato once again, ‘COMMON SENSE’. Do you know that there is not one University in the world where you can study for a ‘Degree in Common Sense’? As OIC are so strapped for cash this sounds like someone looking for jobs for idle hands!!!!!

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