Body to be exhumed after Livingston cemetery mix-up

Marc Ramage with Margaret McAleese, centre, and Tracy Ross, whose father was buried in the wrong plot. Picture: TSPL
Marc Ramage with Margaret McAleese, centre, and Tracy Ross, whose father was buried in the wrong plot. Picture: TSPL
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TWO Lothian families have been left bewildered and angry after cemetery bosses buried a man in the wrong plot.

Marc Ramage, 43, bought the deeds to a family plot at the dying wish of his beloved mother Anne, 58, four years ago.

She wanted Marc and sister Sharon, 45, either side of her so she would “never be alone”.

But father-of-three Marc was horrified to find bungling grave diggers had buried stranger Hugh McAleese in the place intended for his sister.

Officials from West Lothian Council have now offered to exhume Mr Ramage’s mother and find another suitable three-person plot elsewhere at Adambrae Cemetery, Livingston,

Mr Ramage said: “I was totally confused when I went to my mum’s grave. I thought ‘what’s he doing there?’ How could there be someone else in it?

“It was my mother’s wish, we’ve paid for it and they have just plonked someone else in. They’ve robbed us of a grave and now my mother can’t rest in peace. I feel like she has died all over again.”

Cemetery workers visited Mr Ramage’s home in Stoneyburn last week to discuss possible solutions, which could include moving his mother’s body to another part of the graveyard.

Mr Ramage says he feels he has been left with no option but to exhume his mother Anne to ensure her final requests are fulfilled.

“It’s going to be horrific but I don’t feel they’ve left me with a choice. She’s supposed to be laid to rest and now we’re having to decide whether to dig her up.

“They told me they didn’t want to exhume the gentleman because his family were more recently bereaved than us.

“It’s not the other family’s fault and I would never ask them to do it, but what about what the council’s cock-up has done to me and my sister?

“They’re pressurising me to give up the plot so it can go to the other family. Yet the only compensation they’re offering us is to exhume my mother for free and give us a new plot of three. We’ve buried her once and now we’re going to have to do it again.

Sisters Tracy Cross, 43, and Margaret McAleese, 54, bought the next door-but-one space for their father Hugh who died in February.

His funeral went without a hitch and they were only alerted to the fact he was buried in the wrong spot last week, when the headstone was erected.

Tracy had to argue with officials that something was amiss and that they should “look at the grass” which hadn’t been disturbed just in front of her dad’s headstone – but had been yards away.

Tracy, of Addiewell, said: “I was gutted when I found out. If they have a book with who owns what in it then how can this happen?

“The man was adamant the headstone was in the right place but I had to argue it wasn’t, I said look at the grass.

“If I hadn’t said it was in the wrong place, it would still be there. We could have been laying flowers on an empty grave.”

After complaining, the headstone was moved to Mr McAleese’s resting place in the wrong plot. She added: “The headstone manufacturer said it’s lost its ten-year warranty now it’s been moved. It’s just a total shambles.”

Margaret said cemetery staff said they had asked someone she now knows to be Marc to move plots. The three met for the first time when laying flowers on Friday – what would have been Hugh’s 79th birthday.

She said: “If he hadn’t agreed to let dad stay then we’d have had to lift him because it’s Marc’s plot. We’d have been placing his headstone for the third time.

“There is a sense of relief but it’s still caused lots of upheaval for this other family.”

Livingston councillor Peter Johnston said this was an awful situation. He said: “I am extremely saddened that the council could have put two families through such a horrendous experience.”

A West Lothian Council spokesman said: “We have met with the families affected and have offered a sincere apology. We are carrying out a full investigation to identify how this incident occurred, and to ensure that it never happens again. Every effort will be made to rectify the error in a dignified and respectful manner.”