TRANSCRIBED FROM AN ARTICLE
Taken from Northern Daily Mail 7th April 1933
Coun. Green Ventilates a Grisly Subject
A TALK OF GRAVES
Amazing Story of Confusion at the old Cemetery
“PRODDING” FOR PLOTS
Amazing statements regarding wholesale confusion of the graves at the old Cemetery were made at last night’s meeting of West Hartlepool Town Council.
According to Coun. Green, graves thought empty have been found full when they came to be opened-even the grave that the late cemetery superintendent mapped out for himself. Bones had been dug up, and graves diggers have had to resort to testing spaces with a prong to find out whether they are already occupied
The Cemetery Sub-Committee reported having considered a detailed report of the town Clerk setting out improvements which should be effected in the system of control of the Council’s cemeteries and recommended that the collection of cemetery fees be undertaken by the Borough Treasurer; that the Town Clerk and Borough Engineer detail a member of their respective staff to proceed monthly to the cemeteries to check the plans and records; that the system of plotting of graves spaces in advance be adopted; that if desired the burials of children in the ground allocated for adults be allowed on payment of adult burial fees; that the Borough Treasurer render accounts stonemasons weekly in accordance with information supplied by the cemetery superintendents relative to fees due in connexion with the erection of monuments; that the fees of 1s. For the second or subsequent inscription on a memorial remain payable that all fees payable be collected by the Borough Treasurer; and that in the absence of a maintenance agreement with the council Engineer be allowed to maintain graves in the Council’s cemeteries.
WHAT IS A “RESIDENT”?
The question of defining the term “resident” for the purpose of calculating the charge to be made under the cemetery regulations which in the present form, state vaguely that non-residents will be charged double fees was also considered and it was decided that the term “resident” should mean a person who at the time of his or her death resided within the Borough or who had been so resident at any time during the 12months preceding death, and should include a person who normally resided in West Hartlepool but who at the time of death, was not in the town; and that double burial fees be payable in all cases where the deceased person cannot be termed a resident within the meaning of the above definition
“MORE CLERK AND MORE EXPENSES”
“Why shove this thing through piecemeal he asked. He cordially approved of the first suggestion that members of the Town Clerk’s and Borough Engineer’s staff be detailed to check the plans and records monthly, but he strongly opposed the proposal that the Borough Treasurer should render weekly accounts etc. “That’s duplication” he asserted.
It means more clerks and more expenses and I don’t think the work will be any better done. Surely the superintendent is competent to send out post cards to these people. If he is not he should not have the job.
“The thing I understand” continues Coun Turnbull “arose out of the mistake at the North Cemetery, but you can’t help that-there was no system at the North Cemetery. The bones of all kinds of people are mixed up there owing to a resolution of this Council.
I remember the time when this council resolved to bury people between two graves and the bones of all kinds of people were mixed up
“No system of any kind can keep a check on that kind of thing, and the result is we don’t know where the burials are.
Seconding, Coun. Turnbull’s amendment Ald. Mason was speaking on the subject when Coun. M. Bloom intervened with the question “Is Ald. Mason competent to speak on this subject as an interested party” Coun. Green also asked whether Ald. Mason should speak.
“TO THE LAST PENNY”
Ald. Mason: Is the inference that we make a profit on the fees, because, on the contrary we pay all fees, to the last penny.
Coun. Green I am not suggesting it, Ald. Mason but there are times when we don’t speak and vote in this Council Chamber.
The Mayor: On the same argument you might exclude Ald. Mason from being Chairman on that committee.
Ald. Mason emphasised that there was no financial interest involved in the matter “I have always been very jealous that nothing of the kind should occur in connexion with my business,” he added “but I do claim to know something of the business in hand.”
The discussion on the amendment was opened by Coun. Green, who remarking “ the public should know the truth” went on to state: We young members of the Council while investigating the work of the committees, found there has been a most inefficient Town Council during past years dealing with the question of the cemetery.”
There were cries of “Hear, hear,” and laughter at the remark.
FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
Ald. Mason and Coun. Turnbull continued Coun. Green had been members of the Cemetery Committee for many years while people had been dumped into graves in the North Cemetery to which they did not belong.
Fifty four thousand people are buried in the North Cemetery anywhere- Flotsam and Jetsam. We are only finding it out now.
“Mrs. Brown is buried with Mr. Jones (Laughter) It’s true, we have married them in the wrong graves. We had all the graves numbered and the Town Council changed the numbers and never told the people who owned them. They have been dumped in the wrong graves.
“We have been endeavouring to clear the matter up and put things straight.”
At this point the Mayor suggested that the matter was one that should be discussed in committee.
Ald. Mason: I want the chance to reply to some of those remarks.
Coun. Morgan: It has been mentioned, and we claim the right to discuss it.
The Mayor: I don’t think this particular matter ought to be discussed in committee.
Coun. Sparks: Having heard part of the story we ought to hear the whole of it.
The Mayor: As chairman, I appeal to you to have it discussed in committee. I feel it is in the public interest.
Coun. Potter: But are you not going to mislead the people. The inference will be that you have something to hide.
The Mayor: Very well, I am quite willing.
CONDITIONS AT THE NORTH CEMETERY
Coun. Green, continuing his speech, said: “I am rather sorry I began it. I think you are going to hurt people’s feelings. “We have tried as much as possible to adopt some systematic method,” he went on to remark, “It has been discovered that people have been buried in the North Cemetery and no record of them made. We were trying to map it out, and I found a piece of the map covering perhaps 20 or 30 graves, was missing-lost somewhere.”
The man who was burying someone had to go about with a prong and prod about to find if the grave were occupied.
Graves have been opened out to bury people in and they have been found full. Even the late cemetery superintendent mapped a place out for himself, and when they came to bury him they found two people in it. That is the inefficiency we have been trying to clean up.
Coun. Green explained that when a person was buried in a grave a dot was placed on the grave space on the plan. “One had three dots on” he said. “I put my finger up and flicked one of the dots off. A fly had been on it.” (Laughter)
“That is the sort of checks we have had on the burials in West Hartlepool. It is a crying shame. A few of us have tried to put it straight, and have tried to do it in committee without going about telling everyone. We cannot dig Mrs. Brown and put her with Mr. Brown, because we don’t know where she is. We don’t know where she has got to.”
BONES DUG UP
Coun. Green proceeded to allege that bones were actually dug up in endeavour to find out where they belonged. “I have picked them up myself,” he said.
“Coun. Turnbull suggests that there is nothing wrong with the present methods. There is something seriously wrong with them and the brains of the people who allowed it. Up-to-date reorganisation must be adopted even in local government work.
The young men of this Council are going to see that the Council advances with the times. We thank the old men. They have rendered their service and done their duty and we hope they will have an honourable retirement.” (Laughter)
The mayor said that apparently Coun. Turnbull was concerned about the danger of overstaffing. He assured him that in regard to his overhauling of the system at the North Cemetery, if any increase was necessary, they would benefit in every direction by increased efficiency.
He paid tribute to the members of the sub-committee who had spent hours on the question, and hoped it would receive the unanimous support of the Council.
Coun. Turnbull’s amendment was rejected and the report of the committee was accepted by a large majority.