Gina Davidson: Ashes parents deserve closure

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TONIGHT, in the small but cosy offices of a charity which counsels and gives succour to bereaved parents, the beginnings of the truth about what really happened to babies’ ashes at Mortonhall Crematorium might start to be revealed.

Parents affected by the scandal, going back decades, are expected to turn up at an open meeting being held by Sands Lothians and tell their tragic stories of lives lost in the womb, or shortly after birth.

There will also be much anger as they talk about discovering they were lied to by staff who said that there were no ashes when a baby was cremated. For they now know that some at least were buried in a patch of ground next to the Garden of Remembrance. What happened to the rest is still anyone’s guess.

They will want answers to the question “where is my child?” They will want to lay the blame at the door of someone. They will want some form of apology and a pledge that this will never happen again to anyone unfortunate enough to suffer the loss of a child through a stillbirth or a neonatal death.

While they’re likely to hear the latter, their other demands could, in the main, still go unanswered. There will be a senior council official there, doing his best to field the questions, to soak up the anger, but he won’t be able to. He’ll repeat the council’s apologies, be full of sympathy and empathy, but ultimately it’s likely that most parents will leave the Craiglockhart offices unfulfilled.

But it’s a start. And from there the council’s investigation should be in earnest. Crematorium staff, past and present, will be questioned about practices and policies which no-one higher up the tree appears to have sanctioned. Explanations will be sought and even if there can be no remedy in terms of those staff responsible who are now beyond council employ, ultimately there could well be an answer to why all this happened. And then, only then, can these babies’ final resting place be properly marked. Not with insensitive spray paint, but with a lasting memorial to the dead babies and the grief of their parents.

Closure is an overused word, but it’s one which couldn’t be more apt when applied to them. They need it. They deserve it.

On thin ice

LYNSEY Sharp is a brilliant athlete who did herself and this city proud at the London Olympics. Getting to the 800m semi-finals was no mean achievement and the fact that she lives and trains in Edinburgh is something which this city should shout about.

But this week she had a complete strop unbefitting an Olympian. She wanted to train at Meadowbank but was told she couldn’t because of a frozen track, an absent groundsman and a grass area deemed unsafe.

So Lynsey let her ire be known. Of course she’s right that Edinburgh should have first-class athletic facilities. But it doesn’t. There have been too many years of under-investment, so much so that Edinburgh Leisure, in its need to balance the books, is forced to hire Meadowbank out for antique fairs at times when athletes want to pound the track.

But that argument aside, I’m quite glad that the “jobsworth” staff at Meadowbank wouldn’t let her train on Tuesday. Imagine if they’d said “go ahead” then she’d slipped and fallen, perhaps twisted an ankle or worse? What would we all be saying today if one of Edinburgh’s brightest athletic hopes had been injured?

Not being able to train is obviously frustrating, but perhaps it was for the best. Please moan about the state of Meadowbank and campaign to have it changed as much as you like, Lynsey, but don’t put your career and hopes of a Commonwealth gold in jeopardy by the slip of a stomping foot.

No time to smile

CHRISTMAS is a wonderful time of year. Family and friends get together, pull a few crackers, raise a glass to each other, and bask in the love they share for each other.

Of course, as the WRVS has shown, it’s not like that for everyone and loneliness can be amplified to extreme levels when it seems that everyone else is having a good time. And this Christmas, in particular, will prove extremely hard for one Edinburgh family which has just suffered a huge loss.

Gavin Fulton died last weekend after being hit by a car as he walked along the pavement. The 43-year-old was an accomplished squash player and an engineer. Most importantly, he was a husband and a father of two young girls. I knew his wife, Jill, years ago at school. I had never heard where life had taken her since, but now I know. Because her husband is dead, their life together has been thrown into sharp focus.

My memory of Jill is of a friendly girl with a ready smile. No doubt it’s what attracted Gavin. Now she has a great sadness with which to live, and two daughters – Mia and Faye – to raise on her own. Her smile is unlikely to be making many appearances soon.

A man has been arrested in connection with Gavin’s death. We will hear in due course just what happened.

In the meantime, though, Christmas is going to be incredibly hard for the Fultons. My thoughts are with them.