Counting sheep a nightmare for mourners
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