Row over flattening of historian’s cross

A stone cross marking the grave of a prominent local historian has been laid flat by Scottish Borders Council workers, angering one of his modern confreres.

Thursday, 13th February 2020, 10:09 am
Several gravestones have been laid flat at the Selkirk cemetery.

Dougie Purves questioned the decision to pull down the memorial to Thomas Craig-Brown at Monday night’s meeting of Selkirk Community Council.

Craig-Brown was born in Galashiels but moved to Selkirk in 1868 when he was 24, his father being the proprietor of the Border Advertiser newspaper.

He, along with William Brydone, built Yarrow Mill and set up a wool-spinning business there.

Mr Purves said the dismantling of the memorial was like “a slap in the face” after he funded a clean-up of the stone 11 years ago.

He told the meeting: “It was cleaned up not that long ago and it was in good condition. It certainly wasn’t loose.

“Thomas Craig-Brown was very important to the town as he also wrote the History of Selkirkshire and the Chronicles of Ettrick Forest, a book used by historians to this day.

“He also sent one of two ambulances from the town to help in the First World War, the other coming from the women of Selkirk.

“One of his daughters was the first female to ride the marches at Selkirk Common riding.

“To see his cross lying flat on the grass was quite shocking.”

Craig-Brown died in April 1922, aged 77, and was buried in the town’s Briarylaw Cemetery.

At the meeting, resident Kath Henderson said: “The council has been doing safety checks at the cemetery in the past week and there’s an awful lot of stones being laid down.”

The safety checks are being carried out by the council at cemeteries across the region.

A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council said: “The testing is carried out by qualified staff and is undertaken with due respect and only where absolutely necessary.

“The testing begins with a visual inspection to check the general condition of the memorial which aims to identify any obvious signs of damage, wear and tear or lean.

“It also includes an assessment of the foundation, where visible, and the surrounding area such as tree roots and steepness of the ground.

“Once the visual inspection has been completed, a physical assessment is undertaken via a hand pressure test.

“If a headstone is deemed unsafe, staff will aim to socket the memorial, which means it is kept upright with a section being dug into the ground at a lower height. This ensures the majority of the inscription is still visible for families and visitors to read.

“The Thomas Craig-Brown headstone is a large cross, so it was carefully laid flat as it failed the safety test at the joint.

“In terms of letting people know about the works beforehand, we communicated with the community council and local councillors prior to testing starting.”