Council urged to look again at policy for infant burial

Elgin Cemetery is the only one in Moray where infant plots are available
Elgin Cemetery is the only one in Moray where infant plots are available

A FUNERAL DIRECTOR has urged Moray Council to change their policy on dealing with bereaved parents who suffer the loss of a baby.

Acting recently on behalf of a bereaved Buckie couple, Dave Lawrence, from Joe Dawson Funeral Directors in the town, approached the Council for advice.

Mr Lawrence explained how he wished to check with the local authority on affordable arrangements for infant burials at a cemetery close to the couple’s home.

“The couple’s child was sadly stillborn, and they approached us to find out if we would handle interment at a local cemetery. This is a particularly sad side of our job so we checked with the Moray Council’s registrars department on the best way to meet the couple’s wishes.

“We were told that a burial plot would be provided free of charge and interment would also be free. However, the burial plot would have to be in the Elgin Cemetery.”

Mr Lawrence was told that if the couple wished interment at any other Moray cemetery, they would need to purchase a lair at a cost of £615 – although the cost of interment would still be free of charge.

The funeral director added: “I raised a query with our local councillors in Buckie and that produced responses from two different sources providing excuses but no satisfactory reason or solution.

“I did suggest that perhaps the Council might consider making an area available for interments of this nature in all cemeteries, making it much easier for grieving parents to visit.

“So far that suggestion has not been taken up to my knowledge, so with no apparent solution coming from the Council the couple were faced with the difficult choice of finding the funds or having their child buried in Elgin.”

Council Comment

A spokesman for Moray Council confirmed that a section of the Elgin cemetery is reserved for the interment of babies and for that there was not charge or interment fee.

He added: “The lairs are approximately 1m by 1m and are solely for the interment of babies and cannot be used for the burial of parents or siblings who, in the fullness of time, may also want to be buried there alongside the deceased baby.

“Parents who prefer to have their deceased baby buried in the main part of Elgin cemetery, or any other cemetery in Moray, would have to pay the full lair fee which is £615, although the interment itself would be free of charge.

“Clearly that would mean that they too, again in the fullness of time, could be buried in the same lair.

“My understanding is that the couple in question opted, quite understandably, not to have their baby buried in Elgin because they live in Buckie. Elgin is the only cemetery in Moray to have a section reserved for babies and that has been the case since the cemetery extension was opened in 1990.”

Mr Lawrence said: “I understand that the Council has reserved an area for the interment of Babies in Elgin – but what I don’t understand is why they cannot do the same at other cemeteries in Moray.

“In this case the couple had little option but to purchase a plot in Buckie and could not wait on the council making a decision, so they went ahead with interment.

“The couple in this case managed somehow to put the funds together to pay for a plot but it is sad that they had to go through added heartache at what was already a very difficult time for them.

“Surely Moray Council can do more – they are always facing claims that their decisions are too centralised on Elgin, but this has to be an area where they need to demonstrate the same rules throughout the region.”