Life and death of Falkirk bairns is in the spotlight

The graveyard and Tattie Kirk off Cow Wynd, Falkirk.
The graveyard and Tattie Kirk off Cow Wynd, Falkirk.

Next week has been designated as ‘‘Good Death Week’’ and is intended to encourage us to look on death as a natural and normal part of the cycle of life.

In our area there are a number of events planned including a historical talk by Geoff Bailey on Monday, May 13, at 7pm at the crematorium where our old graveyards will be a main feature.

Such places are a treasure store of information about our ancestors and if you take a trip to Larbert, Polmont, Muirvonside, Dunipace, Bothkennar or Bo’ness you can stroll through the centuries learning about trades and professions, the impact of disease and the lives of the men and women who helped shape the world we know today.

However Falkirk town has not been so fortunate.

In August 1870 the Parochial Board opened the new cemetery in Dorrator Road bringing to an end burials in the handful of churchyards which had served the town for many decades.

Nowadays we value old graveyards and protect them but back in the 1960s things were very different.

Of the five churchyards officially closed in 1871, the small one behind Christ Church in Kerse Lane was the newest and least used with only one burial recorded there.

Of the other four, the first to disappear was the burial ground of the old Erskine Church in Silver Row.

It had been in use since 1742 and contained at the time of its destruction over 170 stones with inscriptions.

The whole lot was removed, including the lairs and their inhabitants, to make way for the white elephant that became the Callendar Centre.

The deceased were reburied in the cemetery in 1960.

A couple of years later it was the turn of the Parish Church to get rid of nearly 400 stones marking the graves of some of the most important people in the history of Falkirk.

The need to create more space for cars was the main reason and stones which might have been preserved around the edges were unceremoniously smashed to pieces and used as bottoming for the road into the crematorium.

The deceased were undisturbed but sadly today they lie beneath the grass in unmarked graves.

The third graveyard lay to the west of what is today the Peoples’ Church but on Christmas Day 1819, when Isabel Steel of Bainsford Granary became the first person buried there, it was the Relief Church, a breakaways from the Church of Scotland.

In 1972 another 150 stones were removed and the graveyard flagged over to create a garden of remembrance with a handful of stones left around the walls.

It is certainly a peaceful place ... but remembrance?

How much better if we could read the names and recall the stories of past lives?

The final graveyard is the great survivor.

Behind the Cow Wynd is the small burial ground of what was the South United Presbyterian Church known to one and all as the Tattie Kirk.

The church was built in 1806 but it was not until 1827 that the first burial is recorded.

The church congregation moved to Grahams Road in 1879 by which time nearly all burials had ceased.

Although the graveyard is not quite as big as it once was and many stones have suffered from neglect and vandalism, at least it is still there as a reminder of what should have been done elsewhere.

It is a spur to the authorities to make sure it is repaired, restored and treasured for all time to come.

Good Death Week would be an excellent time to start.