Belfast Telegraph

Families defy church's order to remove grave mementos

By Brendan McDaid

Grieving families have defied a deadline set by the Church of Ireland for them to remove mementos from their loved ones’ graves.

Relatives gathered at the graveyard at Bovevagh Church near Dungiven on Tuesday to make sure the plaques were still in place.

The Church of Ireland yesterday refused to comment on whether action would now follow the passing of the deadline.

The relatives said that in a church newsletter this week a series of new regulations about graves were mentioned along with notification of a grave inspection.

Sadie Young, who was ordered to remove two small plaques featuring photos of her partner William Hutton in his tractor and with a horse and cart, was among those who checked the graves.

Mr Hutton (61) died suddenly from an aneurysm 15 months ago. Ms Young said: “We have not heard whether anything will happen now but I am not for moving the plaque.”

Jean McCloskey put a photograph in a four-inch ceramic surround on the grave of her brother Georgie, who died 10 years ago from skin cancer at the age of 46.

The picture features Georgie engaged in his favourite pastime of fishing, and was placed on the headstone on his birthday on October 5 in 2008.

Ms McCloskey said she has now written a letter to Bishop of Derry Ken Good outlining her concerns about the vestry’s directive.

A spokeswoman for the Church of Ireland yesterday said there would be no further comment to a statement issued last week which confirmed that three families have received “polite letters seeking the removal of items which were not approved”.

The statement said: “Select vestries have responsibility for the care of graveyards for past, present and future generations.

“The Select Vestry will not be making any further comments on this matter.”

Background

Families of those buried in the graveyard at Bovevagh Church near Dungiven last week received letters telling them to take down small photo plaques from headstones by May 31. The Select Vestry said the graveyard must be a “a place where everyone feels comfortable”.

It said no approval was given for items to be put on graves.

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