Work begins on memorial to Mortonhall ashes babies

Artist's impression of one of the four possible designs for the memorial garden dedicated to the cremated babies, whose ashes were lost, at Mortonhall Crematorium.
Artist's impression of one of the four possible designs for the memorial garden dedicated to the cremated babies, whose ashes were lost, at Mortonhall Crematorium.
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WORK was set to begin today on a permanent memorial to the infants at the heart of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal.

A secluded walled garden with a water feature was chosen by parents from four different designs aimed at providing a lasting tribute to the infants.

Bereaved parents have said the move would help with the “healing process” – even if it could never bring closure.

The garden, which will include a plaque recording the names of individual babies, is set to feature beech hedges, birch trees, a stone ball water feature and seating – and will be located within easy reach of the main chapel.

The memorial is expected to be completed by November, with a second tribute planned for Princes Street Gardens in recognition of parents who don’t want to go back to Mortonhall.

Gillian Henderson, a befriender with charity Sands Lothian – which exposed the wrongdoing at Mortonhall – and an affected parent, said: “I think it’s really positive and it’s good to see that work is getting under way. [The council] has actually been quite quick in doing something and also keeping parents and all interested parties informed.

“I’ve spoken to others who are pretty pleased with what’s been suggested, and the fact there’s been a few options for people to choose from. I think the fact that there’s actually somewhere where these people can go, and there’s now a recognised area, is a positive.”

But she added: “I don’t think it will bring closure, because it’s something that parents are going to have to live with for the rest of our lives. However, this might help with the healing process – the fact that the council realises a wrong has been done and is trying to do something to address it.”

The Evening News revealed in December 2012 how 
bereaved parents had been denied access to the ashes of cremated children, which were instead buried or scattered in the grounds of Mortonhall without their families’ knowledge.

Parents had originally been told there were no ashes left following cremation. It is thought the practice was carried out from 1967 until 2011.

An independent inquiry into the scandal was commissioned in January 2013 and headed up by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini.

And earlier this year it was revealed grieving parents would receive at least £1000 in compensation – with those who could produce evidence they suffered serious stress, requiring medical treatment or time off work, qualifying for £4000.

The Mortonhall Multi-Agency Working Group worked closely with garden landscape designers to develop the memorial, with affected parents playing a role in the design choice.

Councillor Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “I’m sure parents will be pleased to see work starting on the walled garden. It will be a fitting memorial and provide a tranquil area for reflection.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com