Sheriff Heriot has just issued the following interlocutor and note, closing the St Andrew's, St Peter's and Constitution Road burying grounds:-
"October 12, 1870.- The sheriff having resumed consideration of this petition and heard parties' procurators and made avizandum, and having considered the proof, productions, and whole process, and being of the opinion that the St Peter's Burial Ground, the St Andrew's Burial Ground, and the Constitution Road Burial Ground are each dangerous to health and contrary to decency : Before pronouncing a formal interlocutor to that effect for transmission to the Home Secretary : Allows application to be made in writing, within 10 days after public intimation hereof, by or on behalf of anybody desirous of having exception made with reference to any of these Burial Grounds : It specifying that the names and designations of the parties in whose favour an exception is desired, and the particular ground is to which the exception is desired, that the said applications may be transmitted to the Home Secretary along with said interlocutor for his disposal".
FRED L. MAITLAND HERIOT.
"Note-- The sheriff is of opinion that these various burial grounds ought to be closed under the Burial Grounds (Scotland) Act 1855. With reference to the two former there is evidence that they are dangerous to health and contrary to decency, and there is no counter evidence. With reference to the Constitution Road Burial Ground the case is different. There is considerable conflict of evidence. Any difficulty there may be in the case, however, arises from the fact that this ground has been partially closed by the Magistrates and Town Council since May, 1864. It is proved by the evidence of the gravedigger that the ground was quite full in 1860 ; and had this petition been presented in that year there could have been no doubt about the propriety of closing it. The whole space is only 1 acre 3 roods and 30 poles, and 31,000 persons have been buried in it since it opened in 1835. there are only 4500 burial stances, so that since 1835 there have, on average, been seven persons buried in every grave. Keeping in view that the ground was full in 1860, it appears that from 1860 to 1864, the burials were at the rate of 1500 a-year. Therefore, at that rate, the whole ground must have been thoroughly re-filled between 1861 and 1864. So very full was the ground in 1864 that the gravedigger stated that he has filled up the whole ground with bodies, irrespective of the fact whether the ground was "private" or "common." It appears from the evidence that bodies take, on average, from 10 to 14 years to decompose. Therefore, at the present date, the ground is quite full of bodies buried between 1860 and 1864, and only in a partial state of decomposition. In such circumstances, the sheriff considers that it would be dangerous and contrary to decency to permit this ground to be further used as an ordinary burial ground. With reference to the evidence of the medical witnesses, there is some difference of opinion between them. Various of them are of opinion that the continued use of this ground would be dangerous. Others of them are of opinion that there would be no danger to health if the use of the ground were to continue as at present - namely, for the burial - as restricted by the Magistrates and Council - of 60 or 70 persons annually. None of them, however, expressed the opinion that it would be free from danger to open the ground, as before, to all comers. But what security has the Sheriff that the ground may not be again re-opened any day to all and sundry ? Baillie Nicoll stated that a majority of the Town Council might by a vote so re-open it whenever they pleased. The Legislature does not seem to contemplate the possibility of the re-opening of such grounds after their being closed. Although the Sheriff does not consider it in the least likely that the Town Council would predicate what might be the future votes of such an ever changing body. The sheriff is of opinion that this ground should be so closed under the statute that no one should have the power of re-opening it. A burial ground situated within a large town, and surrounded on three sides by houses within 100 yards - the distance which entitles any householder to object to a new ground being opened - would never now be opened for the first time."
©Lamb Collection, reproduced courtesy of Dundee Central Library