Vandalised graves will be restored

Locals were left dismayed after 51 headstones were knocked over
Locals were left dismayed after 51 headstones were knocked over
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MORE than 50 headstones vandalised during a wrecking spree at a West Lothian graveyard will be repaired within the next fortnight.

A committee set up to raise funds for the restoration of the 51 damaged headstones at East Calder Cemetery raised around £12,000 in five months after kindhearted residents, schools and businesses offered their support.

The repair work got under way last month and is expected to be completed by March 16.

Molly Hamilton, whose mother and father are buried in the cemetery, was distressed to find their headstone had been toppled in the vandalism last August. Mrs Hamilton, who lives next to the cemetery, said: “It’s just great that they have achieved that and the works are going ahead now. I will feel relieved to see the headstones back to the way they were.”

Members of the East Calder Cemetery Restoration Committee, which is supported by West Lothian Council, placed more than 20 collection tins in local shops, pubs and clubs, with councillors Carl John and Dave King each donating more than £300 to the appeal.

One of the final fundraisers was a Zumbathon at East Calder Primary School, which raised more than £1700.

More than 60 people took part in the colourful event, including local minister the Rev Dr André Groenewald from Kirknewton and East Calder Parish Church.

Two eight-year-old boys were charged and reported to the juvenile liaison officer over the vandalism, which saw gravestones toppled and flowers scattered across the cemetery.

Mr John, SNP councillor for East Livingston and East Calder, said some relatives of the people whose graves were affected were now dead or had moved away from the area.

He added: “We are really delighted to have raised the money. When we first set up the committee in October, we thought we would maybe have the money by Christmas but we were a bit over-optimistic.

“It took a wee while to get things going. The fundraising has brought a whole lot of people together again – there’s more of a community feeling.

“It’s sad that it takes something like this to bring everyone together.”

Meanwhile, Councillor King said he was “over the moon” with the amount raised and thanked everyone for their generosity.

“We are absolutely delighted with the response from the community,” he said.

“To be quite honest, we didn’t think we were going to get there. Another five or six headstones were blown over in the wind in December, so they will be repaired too.”

A council spokesman said: “It’s a real testament to the community spirit in the area that such a large amount has been raised in such a short space of time.

“The cost of the works is £10,742, and it has been agreed with the restoration committee that any surplus money will be used to fund improvements in the cemetery.”