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Family traumatised by Councils neglect of memorial rose garden

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A slightly different blog this week we have been contacted by a lady who is struggling to communicate with Trafford Council about the rose garden where her daughters ashes rest, this is what she said:

In 1997 my daughter Jeannine died at the age of 30 after a very short illness so we were devastated to loose her and she was a vibrant fun loving girl and was engaged to be married.  We decided to cremate our daughter and Altrincham Crematorium gave us options of where to scatter her ashes and we decided that the Rose Garden which in 1997 was absolutely beautiful was the right place as Jeannine loved gardens. 

So we leased a Standard Rose for 5 years  at the cost of £75.00 with the option to take another 5 years and so on and purchased a plaque with her name on it and all my family and the local vicar went to the Rose Garden and a Gardener dug a large hole and put her ashes in and planted the standard rose on top of the ashes.   It was a sad day but we had a memorial to my beautiful daughter and somewhere for me to visit regularly.  And I go every 2 to 3 weeks because this rose tree is the only tangible thing I have got.  But in around 2015 the Council subcontracted out the maintenance to Amey LG and the whole of the crematorium has deteriorated and in the Rose Garden they never weeded it or hoed or fed the roses and they are in a poor condition and I constantly complained in the office but they said they were short of funds and what we pay wasn’t enough and I answered with –  then charge more. 

On one of my many visits to the office complaining (and I add at this point that my husband and I have been weeding the beds every time we go and it’s not hard work) I was handed a letter saying that no Leases will be renewed after their renewal dates and they are going to take out the roses and redesign the whole area.   I was devastated at this news because Jeannine’s ashes are underneath her Rose and if they take it out they will disturb consecrated ground.

I was so mad and upset I got a local Councillor to set up a meeting at the Crematorium and it was ultimately decided that Jeannines Rose and Plaque would remain in situ until the last Lease expires which is 2022. But of course by then the Garden will be derelict and too late to restore the Rose Garden which could be easily saved now and soil fed etc etc.  They constantly tell me that the soil is poor but if you don’t feed it, it will be, but these people are not gardeners and I feel that don’t care in the slightest about our feelings and are completely insensitive. But the entrance to the Crematorium is well maintained and always beautiful flowers and it has to be the same soil as the Rose Garden directly behind but hidden by a huge hedge so no visitors can see how neglected it is. 

I panicked and wrote to the Vicar at the local church and asked him if the ground where my daughters ashes are is sacred and if they removed them would it come under the heading of exhumation, and he replied immediately and told me that there are legal parameters around burial sites and mortal remains which will ensure the safety of my daughter’s ashes, also in law ashes are considered to be the same as a body therefore cannot disturb the resting place as the ashes can’t be divided as its a body.  So I felt relieved that the Council couldn’t disturb the ground underneath the Rose, but I’ve just received a letter from the Chief Executive of Trafford Council and she informs me that the Vicar is correct when mortal remains are interred within a grave space, but this legislation does not apply to the laying to rest of cremated remains, either within a garden of remembrance or other public area.

So I am again frightened that they can remove the standard rose thus disturbing my daughters ashes even though it is in the Memorial Rose Garden provided by the Council and I know there are a lot of people in the same situation as myself.  So if anybody knows the law regarding ashes placed under a rose or tree  in the grounds of a crematorium  please let me know as I need as much support as I can get to help me sort this out.   

I have requested on many occasions to have accounts showing where the Council has spent all our Lease money and every 5 years I have paid and the last amount was £150 in March 2013 and has now expired but I’m told that the Lease money for the Rose is not itemised down to the level of the Rose Garden but income generated from memorials is used to support the overall keep of the grounds maintenance etc. etc. but nothing has been done in the Rose Garden for 3 years.    

I would love to hear from Trafford to share their side of the story

I will try to keep my waffly explainintion brief: I think there is two things going on one is legal which is possibly around the definition of interment – were the ashes scattered or interred. The second which is a more moral issue, I would strongly suspect that when Mrs Vickes interred/scattered her daughter’s ashes at the garden of remembrance she expected to be able to visit the her daughters resting place site and the rose bush in perpetuity, the council appear not see it like that.

This is a sad story, I hope this post will help her voice in finding some resolution.

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councils hold ashes

Are councils refusing to hand over ashes in the cases of ‘pauper funerals’?

Right, a controversial subject. Let’s us attempt to set out the stall in a nonpartisan fashion. A Pauper Funeral is an old-fashioned/emotive term for funerals where the local authority are required to step in as the family are either unwilling or unable to pay for the funeral. Technically these are known as public health funerals in England and Wales and as national assistance funerals in Scotland.

Why have they been in the news? An article in the Sunday Times (Councils refuse to hand over ashes to families after pauper funerals). A reporter posed as a family member wishing to have the ashes of a relative returned after a ‘pauper funeral’. The Authority in question was Glasgow. The article lead with “Town halls are accused of callously trying to deter the poor from seeking financial help when loved ones die” and “Councils are refusing to give poverty-stricken families their loved ones’ ashes in an apparent ploy to reduce demand for paupers’ funerals, it can be revealed.”

“In a recorded conversation, an official told a woman posing as a representative of a dead man’s sister: “It’s us having to pay for it, so, as I say, she will not get his ashes back.”

Asked if the sister could scatter her brother’s ashes at a special location, our reporter was told: “I’m afraid not. No.”

The official stated the policy three times, explaining that families had no right to the ashes because the state was paying and they would be disposed of in the council-owned crematorium garden.”

Add a bit more of: how your hard-earned cash is being used to subsidise such things and you have created an argument.

However, this is not the whole story. Why do journalists do this: report what they think will cause outrage at the start of an article then report the whole truth towards the end?

When they pursued it, the council said they didn’t have such a policy and they would educate the team responsible to make this clear.

Glasgow city council said it was legally responsible for “the remains of the deceased” and sometimes a number of people tried to claim the ashes “with no reliable or legal way of determining who should take precedence”.

“However, where this is clear, we can and do pass remains into the care of family members.” It added: “The council is currently creating a fund to support families struggling with funeral costs.”

I suppose Over Officious and Insensitive Crematorium Officer Gets Policy Wrong is hardly article worthy. I am not saying that the council are shining lights of virtue, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some that use tactics to shame families into paying, particularly if they believe a family was using this route, even though they had an ability to pay.

Why was the Times investigating? These funerals have been on rise in recent years. Research by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Stirling shows that 82% of paupers’ funerals in Scotland involve families who are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to pay, up from 44% a decade ago.

Why are they on the rise? Their use has risen in recent years in response to the growing cost of funerals and the declining value of government aid to the bereaved. The Department for Work and Pensions has capped “social fund” extra expenses for funerals at £700 since 2003. The scheme pays towards coffins, flowers and funeral directors’ fees, but eligibility rules are strict and those in work are often excluded. Since 2003 the average cost of a funeral has risen from £1,920 to £4,078.

Couple for things:  Stirling is not a huge are to sample, but I agree they are on the rise. The reasoning for this is perhaps more complex than the capping, but I would imagine it has a lot to with it. Also, average funeral cost isn’t referenced and the price they have used is a bit naughty – that is the average if you bury, we are not talking about burial here we are talking about cremation which is around £3,200.

The article did contain an interesting table on what local authorities spent on these funerals:

If you had the time you could level this out against prosperity and population to give a more reasoned picture. What the article did point out was fascinating was the variation in cost between some of the authorities.

Research by the insurer Royal London shows that although some councils spend generously on paupers’ funerals — Birmingham tops the list, paying out an average of £1,847 on 376 occasions in 2015-16 — others keep the annual cost to three figures. Tamworth borough council managed to spend just £200 on one funeral. Broxbourne, Warrington, Chorley, East Staffordshire, Eastleigh and South Lakeland also spent under £1,000.

Why are there such variations? Good question, looking at the numbers you might expect the opposite: that those with the greatest cost would have the lowest unit cost. However that is clearly not the case. Tamworth’s cost were nine times less than Birmingham’s, now please excuse me while I dip into the land of supposition. Birmingham’s issue is much greater than most, so they needed a simpler solution: outsource. By getting a set price from a large funeral director for a direct cremation and use your purchasing power to get the price down – £1,847 looks suspiciously like the cost of direct cremation with a bit knocked off. Where Tamworth with just the one, with access to their own crematoria will just be paying for essentials like the coffin. It does beg the question why Birmingham CC don’t have an inhouse funeral directors, looks like they could save a lot of money – but I’m sure there are good reasons.

But how big an issue is it? Not that much in the scheme of things: Local authorities spent £4m on this, there were just over ½ million deaths in last year and 4000 authority funerals – equating to 0.8% of all funerals compared to around 8% of the population that are defined as being in “persistent income poverty”. So even 90% of extremely poor families are managing somehow.

One must also remember that austerity has meant councils needing to maximise income streams, therefore a dramatic increase in revenue from one of their cash cows – crematoria fees. Which is one of the main reasons for the increase in funeral costs recently.

So the article lead to the general array of comments which fall into three broad categories:  the uncaring / tough love brigade: ‘Come on! everyone can pull that sort of cash together’ or ‘Everyone dies they should have thought and saved for it, why should those that hard work pay’; the compassionates – ‘they must be desperate to use this option don’t make their lives any worse’ ; And the plain ignorant ‘All bodies get burnt together’

So there you have it, nothing hugely suprising.






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digging up ashes

Council mix-up: an exhumation because an ashes burial plot was sold to two people!

Jennifer Phillips bought a plot in Welton Road Cemetery, Daventry, Northamptonshire back in 1987 so that when the time came she and her husband could be buried next to her parents.

However, on a visit her parents grave she noticed a small wooden cross on the plot that she owned. It transpires that the council, through bad records management, had sold the plot again to a Mrs Ducker do she could bury her mother there.

The whole sorry mess had to be sorted out by Mr David Pittaway QC, chancellor of the diocese of Peterborough. He ruled that the remains of Mrs Sandra Cleaver (Mrs Ducker mother) needed to be exhumed and buried elsewhere. He decided it would be detrimental for Mrs Phillips to continue to visit her mother’s grave and see the grave where she was meant to be buried with someone else in it. And said that if the exhumation did not take place the two families could end up visiting their relatives at the same time, which could cause “unnecessary stress and distress”.

He went onto say “Mrs Phillips refers in her witness statement to this having occurred on two occasions already, on one of which Mrs Ducker’s family held themselves back whilst the other family was at the grave,” he said.

He added: “If I were to permit Mrs Cleaver’s cremated remains to remain and, in due course a memorial was erected, there would be a permanent reminder to Mrs Phillips every time she visited her parents’ grave that she would have been buried in plot A239 but for the Council’s mistake.

“Moreover, she would go to her grave in the knowledge that her long expressed wish to be buried behind her parents’ grave had been frustrated.”

He made a point that “several errors surrounding the Council’s attempts to remedy the situation, which could, with more care, have been avoided.

“For example, amongst others, the original letter to Mrs Ducker specified the wrong plot number and the alternative plot offered was not available.”.

Now that is bad enough, but what happened was that both families thought that they needed to significant legal representation to put their case across. The council had said it would pay up £1500 to cover the costs of any written submission, but the both ended up being represented in court at the hearing by QCs causing a significant escalation in costs. Which the council thought was unnecessary, and therefore they do not wish to liable for this increase in costs.

It would appear that Mr Pittaway was leaning towards the families he said the council needed to “show cause as to why they should not pay the other parties’ costs”. Which the council have since submitted. A spokesman for Daventry District Council said “We are very sorry for the distress our mistake has caused and we have offered our most sincere apologies to both of the families involved.

“It is deeply regrettable that a recording error made by the Council in the mid-1980s has led to two families having conflicting rights over one grave, and we will fully comply with the consistory court’s judgement.

“In recognition of our error, the Council offered to fund the legal costs of both families up to £1,500, which would have been sufficient for a court decision based on written representations.

“With a full hearing sought, we understand both families have incurred higher legal costs, and we await the decision of the court as to how those additional costs should be met.”

Oh my, what a mess, poor families. The question is should the families pay the extra money? A can see the councils point of view: it could have been settled by written submissions so why should they be liable if the families choose to spend a greater amount, surely that it up to them. However, I find myself leaning the other way. The council were wholly responsible for this and the significant upset this has caused. It is not unsurprising that the family would want to all within their power to argue the best possible case and yes this was their choice to do so, but they did not create the mess in the first place. And whilst it should not be an overriding factor of three parties the council has the resources to sort this out. Anyway, perhaps that is just me that thinks like that.


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simple white urn

Can a funeral director keep ashes until they have been paid?

No, they can’t. Some funeral directors choose to hold ashes until the family pay the bill, but they are not allowed to. It is the applicant’s right under Section 7 of the Cremation Act 1902 and Statutory Rules and Orders, 1903, No 286. Cremation England & Wales.

It must be noted that this is NOT standard practice for the vast majority of funeral directors. However, funeral directors are often small independent business’ and when bills aren’t paid it can have a crippling impact.  And non-payment does happen, funeral costs are substantial and families will often wish to show their respects by arranging a fitting send-off. Sometimes this is without knowledge that it is beyond their means, or what the estate can afford. Also, as many funeral arrangements are made somewhat in haste, it is sometimes the case that commitments for spending are made before agreement has been reached in the family as to who is paying for what – and subsequent disagreements can leave the funeral director out of pocket. So some choose to hold to that ashes by way of an insurance, they can’t and they shouldn’t but you can see why they might consider it.


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Cemetery error deemed exceptional in exhumation case

At Scattering Ashes we report on as many exhumation cases as we hear about so we can pass the learning onto you.

Without wishing to repeat myself, getting permission for exhumation of ashes from consecrated ground is difficult: it must be exceptional circumstances – here is our main page on exhumation of the subject, here are the other examples of cases we have found.

Here is a case from Kent (Greatness Parr Cemetery). The ashes of Mr Barder were interred at the cemetery,with the intention of his wife being buried with him when the time came. Unfortunately, Mr Barbers ashes were only buried two feet down preventing Mrs Barbers ashes being placed on top (under the law Mr Barbers could not be removed so the plot could be dug deeper as this would be disturbing the ashes).

So as a solution the family bought a plot, placed Mrs Barbers ashes in there and applied to have Mr Barber’s ashes transferred to the new plot.

The family were able show the court a photograph of the memorial stone put over Mr Barber’s remains that had a space had been left for his wife’s name to be added.

They won the case. John Gallagher, Chancellor of the Diocese of Rochester, in his role as a judge of the Church of England’s Consistory Court has over-ridden the normal rules and held that the circumstances in this case are exceptional.

He said: “The Court can only depart from the principle of permanence if the petitioners can establish special circumstances to allow an exception to that principle.”

He went on to say that the mistake was the result of the cemetery not informing Mrs Barber at the time that they had buried the ashes at a depth that would not allow her ashes to be interred above.

He concluded: “In these very particular circumstances I am satisfied that this is a case where I can take an exceptional course, and authorise the exhumation of the cremated remains of the late Mr Barber so that they may be reinterred in the grave plot where the mortal remains of his more recently deceased wife have been interred.”


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ashes zurich

Dignitas loses case on scattering ashes in Lake Zurich

Several years back the clinic that helps people with assisted suicide got into trouble for disposing of people’s ashes in Lake Zurich, Switzerland.

This then started a lot of commotion and five years on the state moved to prevent this practise. Dignitas fought this saying that it was an unfair restriction of trade.

However, the highest court in Switzerland has upheld the opinion of the lower courts saying the ban does not violate constitutional law and it also is justified for police and security reasons.

A former Dignitas employee told Swiss news media that the practise was once common place and they believed as many as 300 urns could have been deposited in the lake, but the police could not prove it, so dropped criminal charges.

The law in that part of Switzerland is that you can only scatter ashes in the canton (like a district) of Zurich if no money changes hand. Which precluded Dignitas.

I am not sure whether it is just me but does this not really degrade Dignitas? Assisted suicide is not cheap and therefore the provision for the disposal of ashes should be something that needs to be included, either that or the executor should be responsible for their removal? Otherwise it makes them look uncaring and it might be that the client didn’t care, but assisted suicide is a morally controversial issue and this doesn’t help Dignitas image to do this.

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Ian Brady's Ashes

Ian Brady’s ashes – can they be scattered on Saddleworth Moor?

Ian Brady’s ashes

Ian Brady, one of Britain’s most infamous serial killers died this week. One might expect that to be the end the matter. Not so, there has been a great furore over what should happen to his ashes.

The corner in Sefton, a Mr Christopher Sumner, said that they will not release the body without certain preconditions being met, particularly concerning where Ian Brady’s ashes are to be scattered. This, as far as I am aware, is unprecedented.

Mr Summer wanted assurances that Brady’s ashes were not to be scattered on Saddleworth Moor, where five of the victims were buried.

He said: “I would like an assurance before I do so that, first of all the person who asked to take over responsibility for that funeral has a funeral director willing to deal with the funeral and that he has a crematorium willing and able to cremate Mr Stewart-Brady’s body.

“Emotions are high, they are bound to be, not so much in this area but in the Manchester area.

“I also wanted to have assurance that when Mr Stewart-Brady is cremated his ashes will not be scattered on Saddleworth Moor. I think that’s a right and proper moral judgement to make.

“I think it would be offensive if Mr Stewart-Brady’s ashes were scattered on Saddleworth Moor.”

“I have no legal means of making that an order, but I think it’s a right and proper moral judgement to make, ” he said. “I think it would be offensive.”

How did Brady’s lawyer respond you might wonder? Well in typical lawyer fashion. Robin Makin, went see Brady shortly before his death to discuss his last wishes and funeral arrangements. He told the Daily Mail: “It’s none of the coroner’s business.”

So what can we understand from this, firstly I think it is significant that the coroner sought to make a point and go out of his area of jurisdiction for this. Ashes and where they are scattered can be very symbolic: after the cremation  of Osama bin Ladin the President of the United States issued a statement to say he had been scattered at sea to prevent memorialisation and pilgrimages being made. There was also a case in Germany where an infamous Nazi’s body was exhumed, cremated and ashes dispersed to prevent memorialisation.

Was there any possibility of this situation occurring, possibly not? However, if Brady was bitter until the end he could have instructed his executor to do this and if his executor was a lawyer, then presumably the lawyer would follow the law and ask the land owner for permission first. Which, given the circumstances, would likely to be met with a less than favourable response. Which you would have expected the coroner to know.

We shall certainly be following this case very closely.


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scattering ashes

On my way to the Blue Ridge Mountains

The crematorium run by Cremation Services Inc. of Winston-Salem has had its license suspended by North Carolina Board of Funeral Services. Why? Well one of its employees had 93 unclaimed sets of ashes stored in his home in North Carolina. A neighbour noticed bone fragment and ashes near to the man’s dustbin and reported it to the authorities who investigated and found the large collection at the man’s house.

Susanne Blair of Cremation Services says the employee had permission to take the remains of the unclaimed bodies, since his home in the town of King was on the way to the Blue Ridge Mountains, where he planned to scatter the ashes.

Stokes County prosecutors say no law was broken. Regulators scheduled a hearing for May 10.

Umm, interesting…there are several issues going on here. Whilst there is no law broken is the company morally right? Well in some respects they are perhaps doing the decent thing in that they were intending to lay the ashes to rest in somewhere peaceful, but I think the way they went about it was a little naïve, perhaps their familiarity with the subject has dimmed their sense to what the wider public would expect.

It may have been perhaps more sensible to, inform the regulators, do it in small amounts and go directly there missing out the garage part. The other interesting part which casts doubt on the act is that the neighbour noticed bone and ash fragments which suggests one of two things: either there was a lot of bone so it was noticeable and its proximity to the waste bin suggests that the blue ridge mountains was only the theoretical destination or that there was only a small amount and a very nosey neighbour…

I guess if funeral directors are intending to do something similar it may be wise to publicise the fact first and opting for a bit more ceremony – if you going to do the right thing then actually do it.

And look no comments of witches of Salem angle or Laurel and Hardy….


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deception weston

Somerset Crematorium tricks relatives over a scattering – then hold their hands up

This story reported in Somerset Live is interesting first as you don’t get to hear of many wrong-doings here in the UK. Whether that is because produces are tight or there is a code of silence one can’t say but knowing a little of what goes on I am inclined to believe the former.

Anyway staff of Dignities Weston crematorium in Somerset had the ashes of a ladies partner. The instruction was to divide them and give half to the family and scatter the rest in the presence of the family. However the staff at the crematorium got it badly wrong and scattered half the ashes without the family being present, then in attempted to cover up their mistake by inviting the family to witness the scattering of stranger in the belief it was their loved one.

Now that is awful and deceitful, but what is refreshing and quite commendable is the company actually confused their mistake when this incident came to the attention of senior management, they did not conspire in this deception they instead confessed what had happened and sought to apologise straight way. Well you might think so they bloomin’ well should and indeed that is true, but in actually it was quite a brave moved. They did the right thing even though nobody would have ever known the wiser, which bearing in mind they are private and generally private companies don’t have a habit of shouting mea cupla from the roof tops: then I have to say I am obviously saddened that the incident happened, but pleasantly surprised to know the end result.

A spokesperson from Dignity said: “We deeply regret the distress caused to this family and our manager immediately apologised to them once staff admitted what happened.

“A thorough investigation is being held to understand why fully-trained, experienced staff failed to follow the established, robust procedures we have in place.

“We take this incident very seriously and it may lead to disciplinary action against all staff concerned.”

I hope the family have been able to come to terms with this and I hope the company will go on to have rock solid procedures

Original story is at at

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dispute witness fee ashes

Secret scattering to avoid the witness fee

Officials at Dudley Council in the Midlands have revealed that there has been a rise in families going into the memorial gardens at Gornal Wood and Stourbridge Crematoriums and scattering the ashes of their loved one’s without permission.

There are questions being raised as to why this is happening: well cost is being cited as the main reason, families are being asked to pay £51 to ‘witness’ the ashes of their loved one being scattered or interred. And clearly, they don’t like it. I would think the family are seeing the fee as another “money for old rope” scheme from the council and they are thinking well, I’ll take the ashes and do it myself.

As the councillor points out correctly this is sad as the families won’t have the scattering recorded: which may seem trivial now but wont be in the future.

The councillors are also saying it is illegal, granted the families doing this don’t have permission, but I am wondering in what respect is it illegal? If it is illegally then theoretically they could be prosecuted or sued – but how and under what law?

There is an issue over this witness fee – the councillor recognises this as too high and the opposition (UKIP) councillor think £51 is extortionate. It is not extortionate, but neither is it right. I do not see why there is an additional charge on top of the cremation fee, surely people should have this fee included within main cost. People pay on average £700-£750to be cremated this is a massive fee compared to what they get, wouldn’t it be reasonable to let the families witness the scattering and have it covered within this price. I know councils have to be creative to make up budgetary shortfalls, but they must be super sensitive not to target bereaved thinking it is easy money.

Here is what the officials say:

“We are also seeing an increase in illegal scattering of cremated remains in our gardens of remembrance which is potentially due to people not wishing to pay the witness fee and so they scatter the remains themselves. Further increases could see more instances of this occurring and so a freeze on this fee is recommended.”

Councillor Khurshid Ahmed, cabinet member for planning and economic development at the council, said: “We always strongly recommend people do not scatter their ashes there.

“It is only a small amount of people that do it but it is something that has happened.

“We have facilities that we provide – there is a charge – but unfortunately some people do not choose to use these facilities.”

Councillor Paul Brothwood, who is leader of the opposition UKIP group, said families were being asked to pay too much.

He said: “It’s an extortionate fee. That’s the problem when you set fees, people end up doing something. It encourages bad behaviour. It would be far better if they reduced the price. Then more people would pay and it would increase income. When people are suffering at a difficult time it is the last thing they want.”
Original story:

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urban ashes environment

How permanent is permanent – when a scattering ashes location changes use

Bill Priddy scattered the ashes of son Will at the Royal Citadel in Plymouth, he chose to scatter his son’s ashes at that spot as his son was based there at the time of his death. Will – a veteran of one tour of Iraq – died in 2005 in a car crash on Salisbury Plain.

However, Bill is now regretting the decision since he learnt that this historic building is being sold off by the Ministry of Defence and the commando regiment are moving out.

And whilst the fate of the building is uncertain there is growing speculation that it could be sold for development. Although there is a desire from many to turn the Citadel into a museum, this is far from certain.

Mr Priddy who placed a memorial bench there for his son says it is “heart-wrenching” the Citadel will no longer be the home of his son’s “beloved” regiment.

He said: “For it to suddenly lose that connection would be a travesty.

“The thought that it could become yucky up-market apartments, or something similar, is quite heart-wrenching.

“He could be buried under God knows what.”

“It isn’t just Will whose ashes are scattered up there, there would have been many others over the years, so I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

“It was a big decision we made as a family to have his resting place there, and at the time it seemed like the right thing to do.”

My heart goes out to Mr Priddy, it can’t seem fair and he must feel so powerless too. It does raise the question about scattering in an urban environment, places like the citadel and our urban parks seem so untouchable, they have ‘always’ been there and they always will. Clearly this I not the case and then are we to think that cemeteries are the only place that can offer this degree of surety? Maybe, although even cemeteries get moved or built over – Crossrail in London is one example. So, what is permanent, beaches are not, nature moves cliffs and shores, maybe that is the point  – thing change, but somehow it seems better when nature does it (or maybe that it just me). Whilst I have no words that will bring cheer to Mr Priddy it might be an idea yet to decide to consider more poignant rural / protected locations, they aren’t going to knock down Tintagel Castle to build an NCP car park for example…

Original story ://

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ashes last wishes

To avoid family arguement make your wishes regarding you ashes clear

The number of families asking us to intervene regarding the possession or intent in relation to a loved one’s ashes is remarkably high, considering we are not a solicitor or mediation service.

Many of us pass away without leaving a will let alone expressing what will happen to our ashes. This can lead to a huge amount of stress particularly when there has been stepfamilies and so forth.

As with most things a little planning can ease family tensions. To the end we have put together a same downloadable form [free] for you to make your wishes clear. Whilst these wishes are not legally binding and your request may be impossible (eg a football club that has banned the practice). However, it will give the family a starting point. To add a bit of extra weight get it witnessed and leave it with your solicitor / attach to your will. You may even want to make more than one copy in case one ends up being overlooked.

To download the form follow the link: Last Wishes: My Ashes

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ashes dispute

He who pays the piper – gets the ashes

This is an extreme example of a fairly common problem. A young mother of 24 has been left heartbroken. As she is not able to receive the ashes of her child. She lost her child to cot death at 9 weeks, her controlling and abusive ex-partner who has since been sent to prison nine on charges of assault.

The problem is, he arranged the funeral and signed the paperwork so legally the ashes can only be given to him (or his family) and he is using this fact as another mechanism to control and bully her.

As an aside and to perhaps give a measure of his character he also banned her family from attending and played gangsta rap at the ceremony (nice).

When she found out she could not receive the ashes, She said: ‘I didn’t stop crying all day when I found out. It’s devastating.

‘It felt like a bomb had hit me and exploded. Getting her back was my only chance of comfort and now this happens.’, adding: ‘He even stopped me speaking to my family. It broke me.’

Lorri Turner, senior manager at Adam & Greenwood Funeral Home, where the funeral took place, said he sympathised with Miss Turner but had no choice.

Mr Turner said: ‘Legally, we can only release the ashes to the individual who applied for cremation – in this case the father – or someone appointed by them through appropriate written consent.

There you have it. The law is such a blunt tool sometimes, and I am not sure what the lesson is here, nevertheless a very sad state of affairs.

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Council policy too blunt? No.

Coping with the death of a loved one is difficult at the best of times and small injustices can become magnified many times over, here we have the case of a lady from Pontypool in Wales, who was organising the burial of her disabled brother’s ashes and because her brother had lived away from the area the local authority charged her double the price for a standard interment.

Gill Willmott’s brother who had Down’s syndrome passed away in June this year, she wanted him laid to rest in the same plot as her parents, but was told instead of the standard £256 charge, she would need to pay an additional £256 because her brother lived away from the area and did not die there.

Mrs Willmott was furious, she said:  “When the funeral director came to say I had to pay an extra £256 I couldn’t believe it. At the time I just paid it as I had just lost my brother and I was grieving – he was a big part of my life.

“I was born in Torfaen; I’ve lived here all my life – my brother was from Torfaen but as he had Down’s syndrome he moved away for specialist care in Newport. It was only 15 minutes away – a couple of miles outside of Torfaen.”

She added: “I’ve been ripped off, it’s not right and my worry is that other people haven’t queried it.”

However, it appears there had been an oversight, whilst the council does have a policy for ‘non-residents’, this doubling fee does not apply to people who have moved out of the county through no fault of their own such as due to ill health or disability.

Mrs Willmott’s brother had been living in Newport for the past 20 years for specialist care.

When the paper contacted the council they said: “We were not aware of Mr Willmott’s personal circumstances when the burial was booked and apologise for the additional charge. Had we been made aware, the family would not have been required to pay the additional fee.

“We will contact the family so we can discuss the matter in person.”

I can see why Mrs Willmott got cross, the policy seemed very unfair, turns out it was an administrative error, which is still very frustrating but a lot better than an uncaring or belligerent policy. One thing, the paper’s leader is slightly misleading. Although “Council make insensitive blunder and then aims to sort it out” doesn’t sell papers.

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cremation reef hawaii

Where west meets east: memorial reefs in Hawaii

Memorial reefs are well established in the US the most famous is arguably the Neptune Society: a fantastical underwater sea-scape set off the coast of Florida – clear blue warm seas, absolutely perfect.

With those sort of climatic conditions where else in the States might be ideally suited, well Hawaii for one….?

Now cast your gaze to the other side of pacific where the Maoris are engaged in a protracted battle with the authorities on where ashes can be scattered, they considered the practise to be culturally offensive.

The Polynesian diaspora covers many thousands of miles over many centuries, and so it would appear that similar objections seem to be being raised in the island state of the US.

In a report in the Hawaii News Now there highlights just such a proposal (and backlash). The company Hawaii Memorial Reefs, is planning to construct a reef, where the ashes are incorporated into reef balls that are dropped 1/2 a mile offshore to create a habitat for wildlife. But the indigenous population aren’t that pleased.

“I’m already hearing from people who are appalled by this. In fact, kupuna are saying this is hewa,” cultural adviser for Livable Hawaii Kai Hui Ann Marie Kirk.

“For me personally, as a Hawaiian too, it just doesn’t sit well in my na’au,” Clyde Kaimuloa said.

Unsurprisingly the company disagrees: “We’re actually not trying to build an underwater cemetery, we’re trying to build an artificial reef and we’re using the cremains of your loved one and the dedications to actually help fund the building of the reef,” Richard Filanc said.

He went onto say that he does not consider it an “underwater cemetery,” rather an alternative to traditional burial while enhancing Hawaii’s ecological habitat.

“Because we’re an island community, we have limited space. And as the population grows, we need more land to develop for cemeteries and this is actually more environmentally conscious than actually developing more land for cemeteries,”

“We didn’t just fall off the back of the kalo truck, we understand that this is about money. This is a commercial venture and we already have scientists who are saying that that’s not good for the bay, that Maunalua doesn’t need that,” Kirk said.

The company hope to start creating the reef next year…..

See video below
Hawaii News Now – KGMB and KHNL

Here is a link to the Neptune society –

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scattering ashes communal

Communal ashes area and insensitive councils?

Everyone gets annoyed with the Council from time to time: over zealous traffic wardens, coming across the odd ‘computer says no’ clerk, or the librarian who doesn’t want their books disturbed.

Those images seem to stick in the mind as opposed to the good ‘stuff’ that they do and papers both national and local tend to use them as whipping boys.

The Runcorn and Widnes World ran the story of a grieving widow who was heartbroken as she believed the ashes of her husband had been disturbed.

Mrs Rose had paid the Local Authority £65 to have her husband scattered with the communal area, she decided to plant a rosebush where the ashes of her husband was scattered as she thought other were doing it so it would be okay. She had been a frequent visitor to the spot and was distraught one day to discover the rosebush was being removed.

Her daughter Lindsay Rose, 39, said: “Gardeners were digging up the little rose bush she had planted in his memory.

“He was Liverpool mad so she had also put a Liverpool vase and a pebble there as well but they had gone.

“My mum was hysterical.”

When she enquired as to what had happened the ground staff escorted her to the office.

“She could see all my dad’s things slung to one side and was told the rose had been re-planted,” said Lindsay.

“She said the man who spoke to her was abrupt.”, “The hardest thing is that they have disturbed my dad.”, “Mum wanted somewhere to go to visit him,” added Lindsay. “We paid £65 for this plot and had a special service.

“Mum was so upset to see dad’s ashes disturbed she cried all afternoon.”, “Now she can’t go back. That is what is so heartbreaking.”, “If they had told us we couldn’t put anything on the plot we wouldn’t have but when we saw plants left by other people we thought it was alright.”

So the Rose family wrote a letter of complaint to Halton Council.

Halton Cllr Ron Hignett, board member for the physical environment, said: “The lady had planted a rose bush in the general scatter beds which is not allowed in accordance with cemetery rules, all of which was explained to her.

“Scatter beds are not purchased plots (unlike graves) so many sets of cremated remains are strewn in the beds throughout the year.

“We are trying to keep the cemeteries and gardens of remembrance to high standard. If we allow pots and rose bushes to be planted in these beds we will have no room to strew further remains.

“If families want a permanent place to visit and place flowers they are advised to purchase a plaque and a vase is provided for flowers.

“Staff carefully re-planted the rose so it didn’t die and whoever owned it could collect it. As it was a communal area staff did not know who they were to contact. The cremated remains will not have been disturbed.

“Any vases that are placed on the scatter beds are periodically removed and stored behind the crematorium wall for collection. All of this was politely explained.

“Staff were courteous to the lady as they are to all users of the facilities as they recognise the sensitivity of the environment and the grieving process.”

So what should the local authority do? Whilst Mrs Rose is clearly distraught about this and one should feel for the anguish she must be suffering, the local authority in respect to others scattered there needed to do what they did. In fairness there are individual plots and alternative options for memorialisation. The councillor says she was told, one would imagine this issue has happened before and they would have made the rules clear, but you never know.  It would have been sensible for the council to write to her, but as it was a communal area that would be impossible. Perhaps speak to her if one of the staff had spotted her coming to pay her respects. In truth I doubt anything would have consoled her.

No one needs more things to sign, but I wonder if the council had explained the rules and asked to sign something things might be different, certainly everyone would be clearer about where they stood wouldn’t they….?


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new zealand ashes

Ash scattering in New Zealand and internet intolerance!

New Zealand has a particular problem. The majority of the population are British/European settlers and as with most of this element of Western culture they are moving towards increased secularisation and an increase in cremation. As a consequence more families are scattering the ashes of a loved one over the hills and lakes of this stunningly beautiful country.

But there is a problem, the indigenous Māori population find the practise offensive and disrespectful. Leaving policy makers in a bit of a spin.

In 2014, a company that represents the six runanga (the governing council or administrative group of a Māori Tribe) within Christchurch, wanted the practice prohibited because it was culturally offensive. So, Christchurch City Council, in a move to placate all, have devised a compromise.

Specifically, the Maori tribes did not want people to able to scatter ashes in any of the six city parks [Note: these are quite a lot larger than the city parks one might expect in the UK], however this objection has now been withdrawn in favour of specific sites being designated for the scattering of ashes.

The council’s policy team leader Claire Bryant said a prohibition was impractical. “The practice tends to happen on weekends and evenings when few staff are present and although family and friends may gather for a period of time, the act of scattering can happen very quickly and may not be observed by staff.”

The report to the council puts forward that there should be specific sites at parks and reserves where ashes can be scattered. The report also argues for the development scatter gardens in cemeteries. And the publishing of a guidelines to help educate and promote good practice.

Areas within five parks have been identified as being suitable for the scattering of ashes, including Barnett Park, Halswell Quarry Park, Victoria Park, Bottle Lake Forest Park and Stanbury Park in Wainui.

The parks were identified because they were not among the most visited, including the Botanic Gardens and Mona Vale, where the scattering of ashes could be offensive or a nuisance to other people using the area. There were no sports grounds at the parks, the areas were not within 50 metres of picnic tables, or waterways and there were no sites classed as wahi tapu (sacred) nearby.

 This story is interesting for two reasons: the hoo-ha this created for what appears to be a fairly minor issue according to the articles statistics –

The council had no way of knowing exactly how many ashes were scattered in its parks each year. The Cremation Society of Christchurch provided 1800 cremations annually across two sites in Linwood and Harewood. About 1200 of those were placed in its own cemetery gardens and another 266 ashes were interred in the council’s cemeteries, leaving about 300 unaccounted for.

However, people could choose to scatter those ashes on private property, outside the city boundaries or keep the ashes in an urn.

And whilst the trend is on the increase the figures are still fairly low.

BUT …this is the issue that caught my eye and in truth perplexed and saddened me at the same time. The article got 18 comments, all but one entirely negative.

“no one’s business but mine”; “I will be scattered where i want”; Culturally offensive to who ??????? Not to my culture it isn’t !!!!!!!!!!”; “This so called cultural insensitivity is just another way to control people” and so on and so forth.

Now this left me to ponder, are most of us really insensitive to the needs of others? Do we all think our self-deterministic rights and ‘our’ culture should have primacy over all others? Surely not. Are the Māori’s asking for something wholly unreasonable – not really.

My half-baked theory is that most people are pretty reasonable and understand that different cultures living amongst one another breads tolerance and understanding. I also think that it is perhaps uniquely the internet that provides a platform for those people with more polarised and less tolerant views. Those people that don’t necessary seem to find a willing audience amongst people you my meet at the bus stop or share an office with, but instead find validation of their prejudice through such commentary?

Imagine this, and I know it isn’t the same but go with me, if we substituted this issue for queuing. Queuing is, as any Brit will tell you, a cultural cornerstone. And say Christchurch had a problem with the Maori population pushing into queue in their civic buildings (I am sure they don’t by the way), so they decided to implement a policy to install barriers much like in an airport to help alleviate the issue. They reported this in the press and the Maori population decide respond in the same way as those above, try substituting ‘pushing in’ for ‘scattering’. It would make my and every other person like me, blood boil.

I don’t know, but I hope it is the frustrated and misguided few. I do think bit more love and kindness could go a long way.

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memorialisation nottingham

A problem with personal memorialisation in Nottingham Crematoria’s communal woodland

The needs of the individual will often come into conflict with the needs many, and here is a case in point. Ms Kara Thrall scattered the ashes of her mother and grandmother in the same spot in Nottingham’s Wilford Hill Crematorium in the communal woodland.

On the 3rd anniversary of her death Ms Thrall visited the spot and was distressed to find a notice from the council saying keepsakes left must be removed or the council will need to remove them for her. This upset Mrs Thrall deeply.

She said: “I just can’t understand the problem. It was quite upsetting because to me it’s comforting to have those items there. They are unique and don’t take up much space. They are just small mementos which mean something to us.”

She went onto say “We’re not taking up much space” , “It’s not like a grave. They are only little tokens.”

In fact she and her friend Ms Dawson (who had had a similar experience) felt so aggrieved they carried out a protest in Old Market Square on in opposition to the council’s policy.

Ms Dawson said: “It’s just devastating. The council is saying they look untidy, but if you go up in person – and I go regularly – they are pretty decorations which are tasteful. They are all looked after, many of them have fresh flowers every week. I just can’t see any harm in it. I understand her [Ms Thrall’s] frustration.”

Wanting to have a place to memorialise can be so very important to many people and the anguish of not be able to express memorialisation in their way can be extremely saddening for the individual. They may even hold council responsible for the diminishing the memory of that loved one.

However in this case I must say without wish to ignore the hurt caused I feel the needs of the many trump the needs of the few, the rules were in place before Ms Thruall scattered so presumably she could have taken note of what one is allowed to do and chosen a different place to scatter where she would have been allowed to use the site in the way she wished. This woodland is communal and thus a shared space for memorialisation and if it is a shared space then it has to be suitable for the majority. Nottingham city council appear to have considered this Eddie Curry their Head of Parks and Open Space, said: “Our woodland area is for general use to scatter the cremated remains of loved ones. It is used by a great number of people and there are rules about what can and cannot be placed there, so that it can remain tidy and pleasant for all those who use it. However, some families have placed unauthorised memorials there, leading to complaints from other visitors to the cemetery.

“We are gradually and sensitively carrying out a process to remove unauthorised items, with plenty of information and staff on site to explain why this is necessary. When items are eventually removed, anything of sensitive value is bagged and retained for collection, with the only things disposed of being items such as stones, kerb edgings or fencing and related materials

“Where we have already cleared areas, there is a significant improvement to the look of the area as we are able to fully maintain it and cut the grass. Many families have understood and accepted this approach and have moved items to the new seasonal areas we have developed.”

Nottingham City Council is overhauling its management of Wilford Hill Crematorium, including its Woodland Walk and Garden of Rest areas. It is still allowing “temporary memorialisation items” but says they will be removed “once decay begins”.

The authority says its guidelines make the crematorium fit the needs of all its users and helps them keep it clean and tidy. You can lay down: flowers, cards, balloons, Christmas wreaths and floral tributes.

But grievers are not permitted to place windmills, lantern hooks, solar lights, small fences or anything that is pushed into the ground. They are also banned from leaving “large amounts of memorial items” at their loved ones’ resting places. Other “more permanent” items can be placed in four seasonal memorial beds or in the bricked troughs in the Woodland Walk and Garden of Rest.

This to me doesn’t seem unreasonable for a rule that applies to all, it is probably impossible for grieving individuals to see that their needs can’t trump everyone else’s. I am not a fan of the ‘thin end of the wedge’ type argument as it is often used to mask ulterior motives. But when there is a clearly a likelihood that the original intention (in this case a woodland walk) being impacted then there needs to be a policy. I totally understand Ms Thrall upset she can’t be expected to see that what she considers to be a small issue has larger implications it is too close and too personal.  I very much doubt she will be thinking ‘well if 500 people are scattered here a year and 50% chose to place some form of memorialisation then after 4 year there will be 1000 individual shrines, which may detract from the serenity of the woods’ she may be along the lines ‘we only want a little spot to come and reflect, this is my mum and nan for pities’ sake’

It is tough for all concerned, and whilst it may be too late for Ms Thrall, it should be incumbent upon all such site managers when arranging a scattering for a family to make crystal clear what is and isn’t permissible. Then armed with the facts the family can choose an alternative location if so desired.

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hospital school boy ashes

The media step in to help a school pupil get access to his mum’s ashes

The Eastern Daily Press (the daily paper covering Norfolk) and Evening News have waded in to help a young man get access to mother’s ashes. Caleb Manship was left orphaned in February 2016

Caleb who is still at school age was hoping to scatter her ashes at their favourite park in Blakeney, Norfolk. But there was a problem.

Because the hospital needed to pay for the cost of his mother’s funeral he was allegedly told he was not at liberty to remove the ashes; as it was policy to have the ashes scattered at the garden of remembrance, although he was able to choose from a handful of dates to witness the event.

He said: “I felt disgusted because they were not even going to let me choose a date and they know I am in the middle of my GCSEs.

“My mum agreed where she wanted them to go and she used to go to that park a lot even without me. She just loved it there.”

Indeed this does seem appalling; the hospital spokesperson explained “Families are always informed of the date and time of the funeral and invited to attend,”.

“As part of the contract made with the funeral director, the crematorium retains the patient’s ashes and invites any relatives to scatter the ashes in a ceremony at the crematorium.

“In this case, arrangements have been made for the ashes to be released to the son.”

So good news in the end.

Caleb added: “It is a really big relief just to know I can get them and do what I want to do with them, rather than someone try to force what they want to do on me.”

What is also good news after such a traumatic time is that family friends have agreed to look after him along with their own two children.

Mr Westrop (Caleb’s new guardian) said: “We were waiting to hear from them about the ashes. We assumed you could collect them and Caleb could do what he wanted with them.

“But they said they weren’t going to release the ashes and said that because the hospital paid for the cremation, the ashes belonged to them.”

Sense prevails. Still poor lad, heartbreaking.

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burial of ashes

Is it grave robbing or grounds maintenance?

Darren Bibb is angry with Solihull Council: accusing them of grave robbing!  Mr Bibb’s disabled son passed away just after his 18th birthday in 2011, and the family decided to place a stone memorial over where his ashes are buried on the grass and adjacent to the headstone. But the council has removed the memorial stone.

Mr Bibb said: ‘Joseph’s ashes are actually placed just in front of the headstone, which is effectively a walkway. So to stop people stepping on where the ashes had been placed, we placed a commemorative stone there. We did not want people stepping all over him. It is also extremely muddy there and this stone also allows us to tend to the grave.

It’s just disgusting that someone can be allowed to come along, remove treasured possessions and just dump them. I know it sounds extreme, but they are like grave robbers.”

The council has removed a large number of items from the burial site, which has upset a number of families. They have not thrown the items away, but gathered them and stored them in plastic boxes which many think has not been done in a respectful way.

Solihull Council said: “regulations do not permit the placing of items on the grassed area.

We realise this is a very sensitive issue and try to balance the needs and wishes of all users of our cemeteries. However, regulations do not permit the placing of items on the grassed area of cremated remains plots as it can cause problems with access to graves for other visitors and affect the standards of grounds maintenance.

As there were increasing numbers of items being left in such a way at Woodlands Cemetery which was causing problems for other visitors, users were notified in August that any items in these grassed areas would need to be removed by 31 October 2015. Any items left after this date would be removed and stored on site.

If visitors are unsure whether an item they wish to place is permitted, we ask that they contact the cemetery for further guidance before placing the item on the grave.”

This is another case of a monolithic authority going about it business, doing what it needed to do but in the wrong way. And relatives not necessarily understanding the wider needs of the Authority. People’s loved one’s resting places is one of the most sensitive areas, and Councils need to be ultra-sensitive on this area, not just in their rhetoric but in their deeds too.

For me there is a number of difficult and perhaps unavoidable differences. The rise and rise of personal site memorialsation – no longer is there just flowers, there are photos and all sorts of keepsake left at the graveside, and this makes grounds maintenance very difficult. In addition the lack of space in many urban cemeteries means that remains are packed in very tightly as we can see here, the net results is that people access a plot via a muddy path which actually goes over the top of where the ashes are interred.

interment dispute

Sadly, if everybody did as Mr Bibb did there would be no access for others wishing to memorialise their relatives. However, the council in writing a letter, no matter how are ‘right’ they were according to the rules they should consider that this was always likely to incense people.

I would suggest two things, one make cemeteries less packed in even if means there are less places, as this to me does not look dignified (although I doubt everyone would agree). Secondly, that council officers dealing with the bereaved (even those arms-length) are equipped to do this: whether an awareness raising run through a bereavement organisation or perhaps opportunities to meet families and understand how they feel.


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