Baby ashes parents asked to choose memorial design for Princes Street Gardens

Dorothy Maitland and Willie reid looks at a memorial for her daughter. Picture; Ian Georgeson
Dorothy Maitland and Willie reid looks at a memorial for her daughter. Picture; Ian Georgeson
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PARENTS affected by the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal have been asked to select a design for a bronze memorial in Princes Street Gardens.

Created by renowned Kelpies sculptor Andy Scott, the emotional designs are of a rocking horse with a broken rocker or an elephant whose trunk appears to be cradling an invisible infant.

One of the planned designs.  Picture; contributed

One of the planned designs. Picture; contributed

Letters have been sent to parents by the city council to choose which statue they feel would best reflect their loss.

The designs have been produced after months of meetings between Mr Scott and his wife Hanneke and the council’s memorial working group as well as a larger consultation with affected families.

It will be the second memorial to the hundreds of babies whose ashes were buried or otherwise disposed of at Mortonhall Crematorium over decades, while parents were being told by staff that none were available after cremation. The cruel practice was uncovered four years ago by infant death support charity Sands Lothians and revealed in the Evening News.

Last December a memorial garden was opened within Mortonhall, near the site where it’s believed many of the babies’ ashes were buried. However, many parents felt unable to return to Mortonhall.

Dorothy Maitland, former operations manager of Sands Lothians and a member of the working group, said: “The passion and empathy Andy Scott and his wife showed to parents proved to us they were the right people to create the sculpture. “They listened intently to our experiences, I can’t think of anyone better to design and sculpt a memorial to our babies.

“I was drawn to the rocking horse as when my daughter Kaelen died at nine days old I remember holding her in my arms and gently rocking her, and I felt I was comforting her.

“It’s such a vivid memory. I also feel it sums up how a parent feels afterwards – lost and broken. The broken rocker says it all. However, the elephant too is a beautiful design and if chosen will be equally appropriate.”

Both designs stand two metres tall and will be in bronze, embossed with tiny forget-me-not flowers, which according to Mr Scott will “reinforce that the city will not forget”.

He has told parents that the rocking horse will be based on a Scottish Clydesdale foal and will have its “head bowed as though in pensive mood” and the “broken base symbolises the past practices which were not appropriate and reflects that all is not quite right”. The other option, of an elephant, will be a “gentle artwork” of small footprints leading to the elephant’s trunk which is “curved as if holding someone we cannot see”.

He added: “The expression ‘an elephant never forgets’ is a poignant reminder of the babies affected by the past practices and the lessons learned from what happened.”

The memorials are part of a council action plan in response to 22 recommendations made in a report by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini.

Councillor Lesley Hinds said: “It’s important that we reflect the wishes of affected parents who felt a second memorial should be created in addition to the tranquil walled garden at Mortonhall.”