Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Headstones safety work update

Headstones safety work update
04 October 2018

The first phase of work to make safe headstones found to be in a dangerous condition has been completed at four kirkyards in Orkney.

This follows a survey of cemeteries across the county, which found that in the interests of safety, some headstones need to be lowered to lie flat on the ground.

Work has so far been undertaken at the Stenness, St Olaf, St Magnus Cathedral and Hoy burial grounds.

Over the weeks and months ahead, this will continue in Shapinsay and Birsay followed by the other cemeteries on the Mainland and in the isles.

“Like other local authorities, we have a responsibility to inspect burial grounds and make sure they can be visited safely,” said Darren Richardson, Orkney Islands Council’s Head of Infrastructure and Strategic Projects.

“We need to make sure our kirkyards are safe for people to visit and where required we are using a specialist contractor to lower the headstones so that they lie flat on the ground. The current phase of work is focussed on the headstones that are in the most unsteady condition, but other stones requiring urgent attention will also be addressed when the specialist team is on hand.

“We are also in the process of installing signs at cemeteries which give additional safety information and explain why this work is necessary.”

Orkney's kirkyards date back over a considerable period and some of the headstones are extremely old. Others have been affected over the years by the wind, rain and frost.

If records allow, the Council will attempt to contact family members and advise them of the action that has taken place or is planned.

Darren Richardson added: “We’re aware that some families will want to re-erect headstones at a later date. There may also be interest from families and local communities in repair work being carried out in advance so that headstones no longer need to be laid down. We are happy to discuss this and the costs that would be involved.

“We would also ask that people do not attempt to raise headstones without first making contact with us, as it is important that these are re-erected in a manner which does not present an ongoing risk.”

OIC has provided an update for Community Councils this week and plans to keep Community Councils informed ahead of work taking place in their areas.