Count­ing sheep a night­mare for mourn­ers

The Oban Times - - News -

HEAD­STONES in an an­cient grave­yard are be­ing used as a sheep pen, a deputy lord lieu­tenant (DLL) has claimed.

De­spite nu­mer­ous emails to Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil from DLL for Lochaber Ian Thorn­ber, more than 70 sheep were found in­side Kil­bran­don grave­yard at Balvicar with the an­i­mals roam­ing around the tomb­stones.

The coun­cil says it has now made the ceme­tery se­cure and has asked peo­ple to use the ac­cess re­spon­si­bly.

While re­search­ing the grave­yard for his pop­u­lar Oban Times col­umn, Morvern Lines, Mr Thorn­ber said a dead sheep car­cass was ly­ing on a grave.

Mr Thorn­ber con­tin­ued: ‘Frankly the site is a dis­grace.

‘It is galling to find sheep foul­ing any grave and rub­bing them­selves against any­one’s head­stone but worse where it com­mem­o­rates some­one who gave their life dur­ing the Great War and oth­ers who made no­table con­tri­bu­tions to the parish, Ar­gyll and fur­ther afield.

‘Judg­ing by the vol­ume of ex­cre­ment and the smell these an­i­mals had been in there for weeks. I was very dis­ap­pointed to see that de­spite my com­plaint of some weeks ago, no per­ma­nent means of se­cur­ing the gate had been put in place by the coun­cil al­low­ing the sheep to wan­der in and out at will from the ad­ja­cent fields.

‘Not only are the sheep rub­bing against the mod­ern up­right stones, but they are ly­ing on and scrap­ing and dam­ag­ing the sur­faces of a num­ber of im­por­tant 600-year- old re­cum­bent grave slabs which are no less than works of art and a big part of our cul­tural her­itage.

‘This is hap­pen­ing in just the same way as the mon­u­ments are which ISIS are de­stroy­ing in the Mid­dle East to the shame and rage of the Western world.

‘The irony is that two stones in par­tic­u­lar com­mem­o­rate a fam­ily of Ma­clach­lans who were noted, na­tional, col­lec­tors of rare Gaelic manuscripts now in the Na­tional Li­brary of Scot­land.

‘These Ma­clach­lans lived lo­cally (at Kil­bride) and it has been said that if it wasn’t for them the Gaelic lan­guage would have died out a great deal sooner; they helped keep it alive.

‘It is ironic to say the least that the Royal Na­tional Mod is com­ing to Oban this year. There the lan­guage will be ex­tolled with pride and all the while the sheep in Balvicar are ma­nur­ing and de­stroy­ing their graves. I can’t think of a bet­ter way of putting it.

‘I man­aged to eject the ma- jor­ity of the sheep other than around nine which, of course, meant I couldn’t se­cure the gate even tem­po­rar­ily. Quite apart from the dis­gust­ing mess con­fronting fam­ily mourn­ers, ge­neal­o­gists and oth­ers in search of the two war graves amongst the head­stones, there are se­ri­ous health is­sues here and dam­age be­ing done to the im­por­tant his­tor­i­cal stones and the re­mains of the me­dieval church which will be of con­cern to His­toric Scot­land and The Royal Com­mis­sion on the An­cient and His­tor­i­cal Mon­u­ments of Scot­land.

‘In all other re­spects the coun­cil’s grass- cut­ting in this ceme­tery is ex­em­plary,’ he added.

An Ar­gyll and Bute coun­cil spokesman said: ‘Our amenity ser­vices team has worked to make the ceme­tery se­cure since this in­ci­dent, as well as dis­cussing the is­sue with the lo­cal farmer.

‘We will do ev­ery­thing we can to close the area off to an­i­mals, how­ever, we would also ap­peal to peo­ple to use the ceme­tery re­spon­si­bly. We have had sev­eral re­ports of the gate be­ing left open and one re­port of van­dal­ism whereby the gate was ac­tu­ally re­moved.

‘Our staff will be on site this week and will en­sure the gate is se­cured and that the grass is ti­died up.’

DIS­RE­SPECT: more than 70 sheep were found in­side an an­cient grave­yard at Kil­bran­don church in

Balvicar, Isle of Seil

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