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Detailing petition for closure of Logie Burial Ground





On Thursday, Sheriff Heriot heard parties in a petition by the Magistrates and Town Council of Dundee, acting under the Burial Boards Act, for the closing of Logie Churchyard, and the prevention of any further interments therein.

Mr Hay, Town Clerk, appeared for the petitioners, Mr Swanston for Miss Mary Fleming and Mr James Fleming, both residing in Dundee, and Mr More for Mrs Helen Dysart or Hay, residing in Lochee, widow of Mr John Kyd, mason, Lochee, and Mrs Sarah Connacher or Pirie, widow of Francis Pirie, residing in Hawkhill.

The following witnesses were the examined by Mr Hay :-

Mr P. H. Thoms, Chairman of Liff and Benvie Parochial Board, was the first witness. He was of opinion that the ground was quite full ; that it would be dangerous to health, offensive and contrary to decency to use it further. Buildings were now in the immediate neighbourhood, and the inhabitants complained of a very offensive smell.

Dr Cocks desponded the following certificate which he had made out, being his opinion of the ground:-

Dundee, September 24,1869

Having recently examined the Logie Burying Ground, I consider its condition eminently dangerous to health, more especially to that of the population in immediate vicinity. Its highly overcrowded state calls for immediate investigation, otherwise serious results may ensue.

He visited the ground last week at the request of the Town clerk, and saw two graves about four feet in depth, standing open ready for the next interment. The bottom of the one consisted the top of a coffin, the wood of which was quite fresh, and in the south side of the opening, two feet from the surface, he observed another coffin. In another grave he saw five coffins all round the hole-- one of them about a foot from the surface, and the others between that and the bottom. Two of these coffins were perfectly fresh, the paint being quite distinct on them, and the white cords only slightly soiled by the earth. The three other coffins were in a more decayed state, having evidently been there for some years. What struck him most forcibly was their position and depth. They appeared to him as if they had been pushed in any way in order to get them in. Indeed, he made the remark to the gravedigger that he wondered how he managed to get them in, and his remark was very characteristic-- "Oh, deed sir," he said, "we canna get a coffin into the ground at a' with oot comin in contact wi' never so many coffins." His opinion was that the place should have been shut up long ago. It was offensive to decency and dangerous to health.

Dr Greig read the following certificate, which had been prepared by Dr Pirie and Himself:-

Dundee, 24th Sept. 1869

"We hereby certify to having known Logie burying Ground for a long time, and having recently examined the same, we are of opinion that it is overcrowded : that owing to its formation and close proximity to inhabitated houses, it is dangerous to health, and that it is offensive and contrary to decency."

Dr Pirie (medical officer of health for the burgh of Dundee) concurred in the certificate which had been read by Dr Greig. One man complained to him of having seen bones with flesh adhering to them being turned up.

Mr James Sutherland, sexton at Logie Burying Ground, was the next witness. He had been upwards of 30 years at Logie.

Mr Hay- Do you know how many funerals there are in Logie every year?

Witness- Since I came here I heard Mr Munro say there were about 300.

Mr Hay- 350 isnt it ? That is exclusive of children still-born. How many would you think there would be of them?

Witness- Of still-born children? Oh, well, theres no very many o' them. Maybe we will say about seventy or eighty a year.

Mr Hay- Have you some years ago complained of the crowded state of the common ground?

Witness- Ay, fifteen or sixteen years ago I complained to the kirk-session of Liff. I have made up my mind to work no longer in it, for its no forany Christin man to do.

Mr Hay- Now, James, you have often been sick at your work?

Witness- Well, sometimes I feel a little that way.

Mr Hay- Do I understand you say you have opened graves against your own inclination?

Witness- I have, sir.

Mr Hay- And from the great increase of the population in the district this place is quite unsuitable for a burying-ground for the district?

Witness- Quite unsuitable.

Mr Hay- I will not go into further particulars my Lord. It is a very disageeable subject.

The Sheriff- It might well be as well to go to some extent into particulars.

Mr Hay (to witness) - Do you have a rod to find out your way?

Witness- Yes ; an iron rod to find out where there is any chance of an opening to get a person put in, and when it strikes on a coffin we just shift back an' fore.

Mr Hay- Till you find a hole?

Witness- Yes.

Mr Hay- And when you open a hole you find the sides fall in generally ?

Witness- Yes sir.

Mr Hay- And you have sometimes coffins exposed by the earth falling in?

Witness- Oh yes sir, That's often the case.

Mr Hay- What is the depth you generally make the hole?

Witness- four feet.

Mr Hay- And have you ever had any only eighteen inches from the surface?

Witness- I have auld wid to put in. To let you understand it, sir, when I tak' oot a parcel o' auld wid--

Mr Hay- That's coffins you mean?

Witness- Oh ay ; auld coffins, ye ken, when the coffin goes in maybe about a foot I take all this auld wid oot, because I have no other place to put it, and when its seen so near the surface, I daursay a hankel folk imagine its coffins.

Mr Hay- For eight of nine years you have complained that it should be shut up?

Witness- It has been very disagreeable all that time.

Mr Hay- Is there any vermin about the place ?

Witness- I have seen mice frequently.

Mr Hay- And weasels ?

Witness- Yes, and weasels ; but no "rots."

Mr John Brown, Joiner and undertaker, Lochee, desponed that at one funeral he was at in Logie the grave was too narrow, and they had to take up the coffin after it had been lowered a little, and the grave digger had to go down and break open the sides of the other coffins which were exposed on both sides. Some "stuff" ran out of one of these coffins, which caused a very bad smell. He was sick for sometime in consequence and was not altogether right for a fortnight after it.

Mr William Spankie, factory foreman, lived close by the ground, his house being within twelve feet of it. He always felt a disagreeable smell when the wind was blowing from the direction of the ground. He did not get quite sick, but he sometimes "got a little curious in the throat." and had in consequence to turn away from the ground.

The Sheriff- You were a bold man to go near it.

Witness said he resided in the Cresent before, and he thought Logie would have been more airy. He had no idea the disagreeable smell until he went there. He had seen only fourteen inches of earth put on a coffin. He counted five whole skulls and a few broken ones all very wet. He considered that any further internments would be dangerous to health. It was too full already.

Mr David Milne, assistant to Mr McKelvie, Superintendent of Dundee Cemeteries, was then examined in that gentleman's absence. He had twenty-two years connected with the Howff and Constitution grounds. He examined Logie along with Mr McKelvie last week, and it was the coarsest place he ever had a foot in. There were large vermin holes. He tested forty-two graves throughout the whole area of the ground, and they were over full, with only one exception.

This conclusion the proof, and Mr Hay submitted that he had shown that, as a whole, the ground was in such a state as that it ought at once to be closed.

The Sheriff said that, as the case had been sufficiently proved, he would report to the Home-secretary that it should be shut up, and he would mention the reservations which Messrs Swanston & More had asked.



©Lamb Collection, reproduced courtesy of Dundee City Library.