A NEW “graveyard tsar” is to be tasked with improving the city’s crumbling historic cemeteries.
The new post, funded by Edinburgh World Heritage and the World Monuments Fund along with the Pilgrim Trust, aims to help better promote sites such as Greyfriars Kirkyard, Canongate and St Cuthbert’s Kirkyards, and the Old and New Calton Burial Grounds.
At present several of the graveyards are plagued with antisocial behaviour and drug taking and are prone to neglect and disrepair.
However, it is hoped the new recruit will help to reverse this trend by serving as a central focus for the numerous organisations who wish to restore and preserve the city’s graveyards such as Edinburgh World Heritage, the city council, respective churches and heritage bodies.
Their first task will be to follow-up on the recommendations of a recently completed report addressing the challenges of the city centre sites such as the setting up and running of a Graveyards Trust.
Other key jobs will include better promoting the cemeteries as tourist attractions and highlighting memorials or gravestones that require attention.
Another key task will be to raise extra funding from external bodies to help with repairs and maintenance.
Adam Wilkinson, director of Edinburgh World Heritage, said: “Edinburgh’s graveyards are one of the city’s great heritage assets, important not only for the many famous figures buried there, but also as green oases in the midst of the city.
“This unique post will enable us to properly co-ordinate efforts to conserve and promote them.”
Greyfriars Kirkyard, where the famously loyal Skye terrier rests close to his master Auld Jock, is one the better known and most often visited graveyards.
However, others such as Canongate and St Cuthbert’s Kirkyards, and the Old and New Calton Burial Grounds, where international figures such as the economist Adam Smith and the philosopher David Hume are buried, have in recent years started to fall into disrepair.
Other important characters from the history of the city buried in the graveyards include the poet Robert Fergusson and James Craig, who planned the New Town.
Melissa Marshall, project manager at World Monuments Fund Britain, said: “We are delighted that these evocative sites are getting the support they deserve.
“With focused attention over the next two years, we believe that the graveyards will once again become places where the local community and tourists alike can take a break from the hustle and bustle of city life and enjoy the peaceful views.”
The city’s culture and leisure convener, Councillor Richard Lewis, added: “We are fully committed to preserving Edinburgh’s heritage, including our beautiful and historic graveyards, and the appointment of a dedicated post-holder will help the city towards this.
“Council officers will work closely with the successful candidate, together with Edinburgh World Heritage and representatives from the burial grounds, to ensure that we make the most of this opportunity.”