Villagers campaigning for free burials remember Hobkirk war hero who gifted site

A campaign group set up in memory of a First World War hero is fighting for the restoration of free burial rights at a Borders graveyard.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 8:16 am
Updated Friday, 22nd November 2019, 9:39 am
Rebecca Wood, Chris Levell, Donald Wilson, Clair Ramage, Billy Taylor and Yvonne Ridley

Residents at Hobkirk near Bonchester Bridge lost a century-long right to free burials in the village cemetery almost four years ago when charges were introduced by Scottish Borders Council.

The free interment right is said to be a gift first set up on land bequeathed there by the trustees of Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson’s estate.

Earlier this month members of the campaign group laid a wreath ahead of Remembrance Sunday on Captain’s Ralph’s grave at Hobkirk Parish Church and are urging the council to make a U-turn on its decision to charge villagers to be buried there.

However, the council says it has carried out research which failed to find any legal basis for free burials on the land.

Campaign spokesperson Yvonne Ridley, of Wolfelee House in Hawick, said: “I and several other residents living near Hobkirk Parish Church are absolutely disgusted that Scottish Borders Council has ended the practice of free burials for locals at Hobkirk, a gift which was first set up on land bequeathed there by the trustees of Captain Ralph Palliser Milbanke Hudson’s estate.

“We have formed a campaign group called Friends of Ralph because we believe the wishes and legacy of this World War One hero from the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (West Riding) should be respected and honoured.

“Ralph’s legacy is as important today as it was when it was first set up and honoured back in 1925. Bearing in mind there are less than 60 plots left, returning to the status quo is not going to burn a hole in the council’s pocket. Now is the time to resume the free burial service for locals at Hobkirk and honour the sacrifice paid by Captain Hudson ... lest we forget!”

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council said: “The council reviewed its approach to charging for the purchase of burial plots in 2014. As part of that review, Hobkirk was recognised as having been providing burial ground without a charge.

“The premise on which the ground was being given free was researched, including scrutinising titles, historical records and council-held files.

“What was established was that there was no legal basis on which the ground was being provided free of charge and that the council was entitled to charge for the purchase of burial plots within Hobkirk.

“Charging was implemented at the start of the 2015/16 financial year and the rates are reviewed and updated annually as part of the budget setting process.”