Baby death bereavement charity boss stands down

Dorothy Maitland has been involved with Sands Lothian for 29 years. Picture: Greg Macvean
Dorothy Maitland has been involved with Sands Lothian for 29 years. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THE leader of a charity which exposed the Mortonhall babies ashes scandal and the appalling practices at the ­crematorium is to retire.

Dorothy Maitland, who has been operations manager of Sands Lothians for nearly two decades, is stepping down.

Her retirement comes two years after the charity revealed that while parents had been told for decades no ashes were recovered from their children’s cremations, staff had been burying them in unmarked ground.

The scandal led to a major inquiry and new legislation governing the practices of dealing with the cremation of still-born babies and those of infants who died just days after birth.

Ms Maitland will be replaced by Nicola Welsh, who has been running the West Lothian branch of the charity – whose main aim is to support bereaved parents – for two years.

Today, Ms Maitland said: “I have been involved with Sands for 29 years after I lost my daughter, Kaelen. I had no idea it would become such a huge part of my life, but I went on to become manager 19 years ago. It has been a privilege to help support so many parents through what is one of the darkest times of their lives, when they lose a baby. It’s been a pleasure to help the long-ago bereaved trace where their children were buried.

“It has also been a privilege to work with so many doctors, nurses and midwives over the years to help them understand better the grieving process of parents.

“However, I’ll be 60 next year and I have had a number of health issues to deal with. The toll of dealing with Mortonhall has also been difficult. So I have decided it’s now time to step down.”

Ms Maitland lost one of her twin daughters, Kaelen, in 1986 when she was just nine days old, as she suffered from an untreatable heart defect.

She added: “Sands Lothians was a huge support to me, and it has been for so many people, even though it’s always been quite a small organisation and reliant on many volunteers to fundraise. It is on a much more professional footing these days and I think will go on to help many, many more parents.

“It was quite emotional when I told the staff, I’ve worked with them for a long time. Nicola is taking over from me and she’ll do a great job. She’s even giving up teaching to take on the job. We have a lot of respect for each other.

“It’s been a huge part of my life and I will miss it. It will be a big adjustment but I’ll still support Sands and I’m still going to be on the ­Mortonhall Action Group with the ­council. The Christmas remembrance service we’re holding on December 7 will be my last official job. It will be very ­emotional.”

Ms Welsh, 39, lost her son Theo in 2009 due to a rare medical condition, exomphalos, meaning the liver and abdomen grow outside the body. He was born prematurely and was just three weeks old when he died. The Linlithgow-based teacher, who has two young sons, will take over officially in January.

Sands Lothians director and trustee Yuill Irvine said: “Dorothy has been a passionate ­stalwart for Sands Lothian’s for so many years it is hard to really capture the many achievements and developments that she has overseen.

“Suffice to say that her involvement has greatly enriched the services of the organisation and on behalf of all the directors and trustees with whom she has worked over the years we offer her our greatest thanks and appreciation for all she has done.”

He added: “Nicola Welsh will be our new operations manager.

“She has, in a relatively short period of time, established quite excellent services in West Lothian and she has an infectious enthusiasm in everything she does.

“She has accepted the appointment and takes up the role having given up her teaching career which we see as a wonderful commitment to the organisation.”

gina.davidson@edinburghnews.com