Unsteady headstones to be marked in advance of safety work

Unsteady headstones to be marked in advance of safety work
05 February 2019

The Council is to identify headstones assessed as unstable in local kirkyards to give families advanced notice that these are scheduled to be laid flat.

Blue pegs will be placed alongside graves a number of weeks before a specialist contractor carries out the work to make the stones safe.

Pegs will be placed shortly at Warebeth cemetery in Stromness.

“We’re responding to feedback from community councils and local people encouraging us to give families the opportunity to find out where headstone safety work is planned and which stones are affected,” said Darren Richardson, OIC’s head of Infrastructure and Strategic Projects.

“Blue pegs will be used to identify unsteady headstones. We’d encourage families to look out for these and contact the Council if they would like to discuss carrying out repair work that would remove the need to lay the stones flat on the ground.

“If families decide to do that, we would recommend that this is carried out by a specialist contractor with experience of this type of work. The initial repairs could be temporary in nature – but sufficient to make the headstone safe – before a more permanent fix is put in place.”

Like other local authorities, OIC has a duty to make sure kirkyards are safe for people to visit.

Following a fatal accident involving an eight-year-old child at a cemetery in Glasgow, the Scottish Government asked councils to ensure that a robust inspection regime is in place. Inspections of Orkney’s kirkyards took place last year.

If there is a risk of a headstone or memorial falling over, these are then laid flat by the specialist contractor.

Orkney's kirkyards date back over a considerable period and in many cases there are few if any records of current lair owners, or of descendants or family members the Council could contact. In the limited number of cases where records exist, an attempt is made to get in touch with families.

To keep people in Orkney informed about the work and the reasons for it, regular updates are provided via local media and signs providing information have been placed at every kirkyard.

As with Warebeth cemetery, the Council will announce in advance where blue pegs will be placed next.

  • The toppled headstone pictured at Warebeth in last week’s Orcadian had fallen by itself and had not been laid flat as part of the ongoing safety work. It provides an illustration of the need for the safety work.

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Email: customerservice@orkney.gov.uk

Orkney Islands Council: BOREAS DOMUS MARE AMICUS