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Selfless volunteers keep county cemeteries tidy


By David G Scott

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VARIOUS Highland councillors and other selfless volunteers in Caithness have been working tirelessly to strim, cut and lift grass in their local cemeteries.

The teams of workers descended upon numerous graveyards – both large and small – with their tools and with official permission from Police Scotland and the council.

Glynis Mackay cutting the grass at Keiss cemetery.
Glynis Mackay cutting the grass at Keiss cemetery.

Wick and East Caithness councillor Raymond Bremner said: “We've been a bit worried that a lot of the work done by the volunteers last year in various local cemeteries might have been undone because of the lockdown with the restrictions on travel and with social distancing.

"However, after a number of discussions with council officials, and looking at the advice from Scottish Government guidelines, we have been able to tend the cemeteries and other local amenity areas in the past few days."

Councillor Bremner worked with volunteers on Thrumster cemetery and had to ensure that travel was kept to a minimum and that social distancing and working in isolation could be undertaken.

Willie Mackay strims away at Keiss cemetery. He worked tirelessly with his wife for over four hours on Tuesday.
Willie Mackay strims away at Keiss cemetery. He worked tirelessly with his wife for over four hours on Tuesday.

"Given the nature of the job this wasn’t too difficult," he said.

"The weather has been fantastic over the past few weeks and we can’t imagine how bad the cemeteries would have become had we not started tending them.

"Some of them are really looking terrific because of the dedication of volunteers. They look even better than where we left off last year."

Across the county, a variety of volunteers worked in this week's sunshine to tackle what has become a chronic issue due to a lack of manpower in the council.

Councillor Bremner was helped by volunteers from the Thrumster Community Development Association to tackle his local patch. Latheron cemetery was tended by Lybster man Ian Sinclair with his ride-on mower.

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Karl Rosie worked with local landscaping contractor Donald MacDonald and his son Jamie to cut the grass at Thurso cemetery. And Caithness civic leader Willie Mackay and his wife Glynis cut and strimmed grass at the Keiss graveyard.

Thrumster cemetery was tended by councillor Raymond Bremner along with volunteers from the Thrumster Community Development Association - part of the Caithness Community Resilience programme.
Thrumster cemetery was tended by councillor Raymond Bremner along with volunteers from the Thrumster Community Development Association - part of the Caithness Community Resilience programme.

In addition, volunteer Donald Harper pledged to tackle Watten cemetery and provisions are being looked into for Canisbay and Castletown (Olrig) cemeteries.

"We raised a concern about Wick cemetery with the amenities manager and I have asked for brown bins to be put there in anticipation of volunteers being able to start there," Councillor Bremner said.

Caithness civic leader and Highland councillor Willie Mackay said he tackled Keiss cemetery with his wife Glynis on Tuesday in glorious sunshine.

"Myself and Glynis coming from the same household had been given clearance from Highland Council and Police Scotland to go in and make the first cut," Councillor Mackay said.

"We strimmed, cut, lifted and brushed down every gravestone.

"It took us close on four hours but we particularly wanted to do it so as not to lose all the wonderful voluntary work done last year from the residents in Keiss village."

Team Mackay reported that there was "a good growth of grass to cut" so they had to keep their mower settings higher than usual.

"We will go back into the cemetery in the next few days for a further cut to get it down to the level we would like."

A statuette in Wick cemetery peeps through long grass before volunteers tackled the issue last year. Picture: DGS
A statuette in Wick cemetery peeps through long grass before volunteers tackled the issue last year. Picture: DGS

Councillor Mackay added: " I'm proud of all the volunteers that are coming out across the county to help with grass-cutting in our cemeteries. The weather has been in our favour, which has been a great help."

Highland Council said at a briefing on Wednesday that it was restarting its grounds maintenance programme but would be "prioritising cutting schedules in accordance with resource availability".

Councillor Bremner said: "We await further information.

"I know that a lot of the volunteer organisations have groups ready to assist over the coming days and weeks throughout the county.

“In the meantime, we should thank all the volunteers that have assisted in keeping up a high standard of maintenance in areas that are really important to our communities.

"What a job they have done in the cemeteries that have been attended to so far.”


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