Poor ground grave markers?

Churchyards and Monumental Inscriptions, Burial and headstone information

Moderators: Global Moderators, LesleyB

Post Reply
Orlaith17
Posts: 154
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:50 pm

Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Orlaith17 » Sun Oct 25, 2015 5:39 pm

I managed to find information that a relative of mine was buried in the poor ground part of Dundee's Eastern Cemetery. I have managed to get a cemetery plan showing where the poor ground is. I am planning to go down to visit there, but am I correct in believing that I won't find her name anywhere as the plot will be unmarked? Or will there be a plan of actual graves available somewhere in the archives, with names of those interred, so I can at least narrow down the place of her grave? I have heard this is unlikely as people who were buried in paupers graves were deemed to not have relatives who would visit the cemetery anyway? Thanks.

AndrewP
Site Admin
Posts: 6045
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:36 am
Location: Edinburgh
Contact:

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by AndrewP » Sun Oct 25, 2015 6:53 pm

Hi Orlaith17,

Assuming it is the same style as my ancestors in Ratho Cemetery, I had been to the Edinburgh Cemetery records, and the lair book gave a lair number. The location of the lair was shown on a plan. So when I went to the cemetery, I could go to the area of open grassland, and believe that I was by their plot. The plot was in the first row, near one end, so the location was fairly easy to judge. I could imagine if it had been in the middle of the area, that could have been a lot more difficult to do with any accuracy. There are no markers of any sort there, only open grassland.

All the best,

AndrewP

Orlaith17
Posts: 154
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:50 pm

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Orlaith17 » Mon Oct 26, 2015 1:39 am

Thanks, Andrew. I suppose best thing will be to find out where Dundee cemetery records are held and ask about the lairs. I do have a date of death which may hopefully help a bit. If I can narrow it down to reasonable accuracy, I wonder if I would be permitted to put a small marker. No harm asking about that when I ask about lairs.

WilmaM
Posts: 1683
Joined: Fri Dec 17, 2004 10:46 am
Location: Falkirk area

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by WilmaM » Mon Oct 26, 2015 9:37 am

Have you looked at an ariel view of the cemetery?
there's one here and a plan too : http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cg ... e=cemetery

It looks a very well laid out place and has obviously been extended at times, there is an area [M, N, O & P on the plan] which doesn't seem to have any gravestones, but is grassy and has several mature trees.
That area is at the Old Craigie Road entrance, and by the looks of things would have been at the back of the original cemetery - I suspect that would be where any poor-ground, or Parish burials would have been.

Orlaith17
Posts: 154
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:50 pm

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Orlaith17 » Wed Oct 28, 2015 1:19 am

Thank you for that link. I had received a plan by email from the city archives, and they gave a reference for poor ground burial area. I would need to dig out the plan to check, but I am pretty sure it is the area in this link to the east, marked as common ground. I am pretty sure I will find just a grassy area with no markers of any sort to indicate where graves are. I am hoping to find a record somewhere in archives showing a layout with names of those buried and the exact location. There must have been one sometime to ensure bodies were not accidentally dug up when preparing new graves. I would just like to mark the spot with some planted bulbs if I am not allowed to place a marker there.

Currie
Posts: 3831
Joined: Fri Jun 22, 2007 3:20 am
Location: Australia

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Currie » Wed Oct 28, 2015 5:10 am

On 2nd June 1898 there was a report in The Dundee Courier of a “Dundee Graveyard Scandal”.

A gentleman who resided in the neighbourhood had his curiosity aroused by the operations of workman connected with the cemetery. Originally he had supposed they were making preparations for a very large number of burials in Sections S. and I. of the Necropolis which had been full, and had not been opened for many years. He investigated and alleged that between 1000 and 2000 bodies of paupers had been dug up, removed from their coffins, and placed higgledy piggledy in trenches, dug to about a foot below the normal grave depth, without any regard for an individuals religious denomination.

The cemeteries superintendent subsequently stated that the ground dealt with was pauper ground, unused for funerals for nearly 30 years, and could now be regarded as “clear” and suitable for reuse. He claimed that the practice of clearing ground was quite common in Scotland, and thought the number cleared would have been 500. One of the workman estimated about 1000, and there were descriptions of gruesome finds including some quite well preserved.

A subsequent investigation reported on 15 June that the reuse of common ground was common after about 15 to 30 years. The correct practice was to remove the remains, deepen the grave, and put the remains back in. Sometimes they were put in adjoining graves. Sometimes five or more bodies were put into the deepened section. Their estimate was 800 bodies.

The ground in question was in the line of junction between the old and new portions of the cemetery, where the original eastern wall would have been. On the map sections S, T, and U are missing, but originally fitted neatly as a narrow strip between R and V.”S and I” in the newspaper article would have been a typo.

I think that the most reliable description of this work would be that of the original curious gentleman. Likely a trench opened at the end of the row and working along with the coffins thrown out and the pauper's remains thrown to the rear.

The matter generated quite a few more articles and letters in the Dundee papers, but seems to have been successfully covered up, and fizzled out after a couple of months. It has remained buried ever since, even to Google.

Alan

Russell
Posts: 2559
Joined: Sat Dec 24, 2005 5:59 pm
Location: Kilbarchan, Renfrewshire
Contact:

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Russell » Wed Oct 28, 2015 10:17 am

Good find Alan !
To our modern sensitivities it appears quite gruesome but to the pragmatic Victorians it would be a sensible solution to re-using a plot of ground. To folk who were totally accustomed to the smell of rotting horse manure, dry privvies, coal fire smoke and the smell of the 'great unwashed' a few rotting remains were part of the job. Here in my village a recent collapse of a burialground wall revealed at least five layers of burials in one plot. The grave diggers must have routinely dug up portions of earlier occupants when preparing the plot for its next inhabitant.

Russell
P.S. I don't know if the forensic osteologist would take too much care matching up body bits into matching sets before they were re-interred :)
Working on: Oman, Brock, Miller/Millar, in Caithness.
Roan/Rowan, Hastings, Sharp, Lapraik in Ayr & Kirkcudbrightshire.
Johnston, Reside, Lyle all over the place !
McGilvray(spelt 26 different ways)
Watson, Morton, Anderson, Tawse, in Kilrenny

Orlaith17
Posts: 154
Joined: Sun Mar 20, 2011 10:50 pm

Re: Poor ground grave markers?

Post by Orlaith17 » Thu Oct 29, 2015 9:31 pm

Thank you, Alan and Russell. Interesting reading, Alan. Not that surprising as my dad had mentioned to me when I was young that this happened. I can remember as a child walking past some sort of roadworks near a cemetery with my parents. There was like a trench dug at the side of the pavement and lots of earth piled up beside it. There in full view was a partly covered human skull. My dad spotted it about the same time I did. I asked "Is that a real skull?" and he replied that it was, and they had probably re-buried some bodies years ago and had later made a road over the area. He was a pragmatic sort of man who wasn't easily shocked and obviously saw no reason not to simply offer me a practical explanantion.
The relative I mentioned was buried in September 1906, so may well still be there, though I will never know for sure unless I get hold of a grave plan of the poor ground area. She is buried in section M of the cemetery in what was described as an "unmarked lair".

Post Reply