Highland Councils Consider the Recycling of Graves Every 25 Years

Taking care of graves in perpetuity carries a cost, not terribly high, but a cost nonetheless. Graves also take up space – space that in some cases is in short supply. The recycling of graves has been popular in many areas of Europe for centuries – based on the idea that after 25 years or so, a body will have decomposed to the point where the few bones that might be left can be dug up, disposed of, and another body can take its place. What happens to the gravestones? They’re usually pulled up, carted off, and disposed of as just so much trash.

I oppose the recycling idea for a couple reasons. First, I firmly believe that we should let our ancestors rest in peace. Recycling of the grave is the ultimate desecration in my book. Second, the headstone is a memorial, important to family, genealogists, and historians. Granted, some graves may not be visited regularly, if at all. But although centuries may go by, it’s my contention that the grave and it’s memorial should be left in place.

Following is an excerpt from an article in The Press and Journal.

COUNCIL bosses in the Highlands have come under fire for providing a £10.5 million centre to help people trace their family trees while posing a question mark over the future of thousands of gravestones which provide vital genealogy information.

The dispute has arisen over a council review of management rules for burial grounds which could see the sale of cemetery plots in perpetuity replaced by a system of 25-year leases.

However, the proposal has met with “huge concerns” among people who fear that a “rent-a-lair” arrangement could lead to vacant spaces in old family plots being reused for new burials, a claim denied by council officials.

There has also been criticism from Highland historians who have called for the month-long consultation period, which ended on October 16, to be further extended. They fear that a substantial amount of genealogical and historical information could be lost forever if the council scheme is approved.

Morvern historian Iain Thornber, of Knock House, Lochaline, queries what will happen to the original headstone if a plot was resold to another family. He said: “The simple answer is that it will be carted off by the local authority and dumped and the information on it lost. It is all very well for burial registers to be computerised but that is not the point.

Read the full article in the October 27, 2009 edition of The Press and Journal.

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