Unmarked Graves in Local Cemeteries.


Forgotten in Life and Forgotten in Death

566 Patients of Bangour Village Hospital whose bodies were unclaimed and were buried in unmarked graves in Ecclesmachan Cemetery, 191 Patients buried in Uphall Old Cemetery and 74 Patients buried in Loaninghill Cemetery Uphall.

When my father died in 1980 he wanted to be buried in the local Cemetery at Ecclesmachan, we were very surprised to be told the Cemetery was full, despite the open grassy area and lack of headstones, in the middle area of the ground.

The Cemetery staff told us they would open a new row in the bottom area. Knowing of the shortage of lairs, a few months later I decided to buy one for myself.

Going to the Cemetery to my father's grave and then after my mother died; the empty appearance of the Cemetery still puzzled me. Local people, with whom I discussed this, were equally surprised that the Cemetery was full; they seemed to think it was soldiers' graves from World War 1 and World War 2.

At the recent Funeral Service of my brother, he was interred in my lair, looking up towards the back of the Cemetery again had me pondering over this empty area.

However an old friend, retired teacher, Miss Margaret Smellie, who lives in Threemiletown, told me it was patients from Bangour Village Hospital who filled the unmarked graves (what were then known as pauper's graves).

With this information I decided to go to County Buildings in Linlithgow, and search through the records, I was astounded by what I had discovered, so much so, that several days later I returned to County Buildings again to recheck the figures. When a senior Council Official queried the numbers, they were rechecked again, and found to be exact.

Patients from Bangour Village Hospital
Buried in Ecclesmachan Cemetery - Buried in Unmarked Graves
Bangour Village Hospital514 
Hartwood Hospital  51Returned from Harwood
Larbert    1Returned from Larbert
Total   566 

During World War 1 and World War 2, patients were transferred from Bangour Village Hospital to other hospitals, one being Hartwood Hospital in Lanarkshire. The patients who died during this time and whose bodies were not claimed by relatives were sent back to their own area (Bangour) for burial.


Patients from Bangour Village Hospital
Buried in Uphall Old Cemetery - Buried in Unmarked Graves
Total   191 



Patients from Bangour Village Hospital
Buried in Loaninghill Cemetery Uphall - Buried in Unmarked Graves
Total     74 

I am not a great believer in headstones as such; I believe only your body lies there. However, I do believe that a marker of some kind should be placed to the 566 patients whose bodies were never claimed and were laid to rest in unmarked graves in Ecclesmachan Cemetery, 191 patients whose bodies were laid to rest in unmarked graves in Uphall Old Cemetery, and the 74 patients laid to rest in unmarked graves Loaninghill Cemetery Uphall.

Today we understand that people with disabilities deserve to be treated with respect and having a disability does not mean that the person cannot make a valuable contribution to society.

It is important that we ensure future generations know of these people, who were forgotten in life, and that they understand that although life was very different then, they should not be forgotten in death. In recognition of this, West Lothian Council has agreed in memory of them, to place Memorial Stones in Ecclesmachan Cemetery, Uphall Old Cemetery, and Loaninghill Cemetery Uphall.

Inscription to Read:

In Memory of the Many Patients of Bangour Village Hospital Buried Here
Troubled in Life
May they be at Peace for Ever

The memorial stone for Ecclesmachan Cemetery will be placed in the North Wall.

In Uphall the memorial stone will be placed in the middle island with the tree, at the left facing side of the Cemetery.

In Loaninghill Cemetery the memorial stone will be placed in the Flower Garden at the entrance of the Cemetery.

From Historical Archives:

Edinburgh Lunatic Paupers Asylum modelled on the Alt-Scherbitz Asylum near Leipzig in Germany.

First patients from the Royal Edinburgh Asylum transferred to Bangour West Lothian in 1904, and the Hospital was officially opened on 3rd October 1906.

The first patient who died was buried in Ecclesmachan Cemetery in 1904.

Thank you so much to George Downey from West Lothian Council Cemeteries Department, his help and information has been excellent and invaluable; nothing has been too much trouble, and to Howard Dawson for the generous contribution from his budget, and for ensuring the highest standards of correctness.

Similarly with Donna Johnston in the Cemetery Department and Aileen Porte in County Buildings, who helped me search the archives starting at the first burial in 1904 (although the Hospital did not officially open until 1906) until all the official numbers were completed.

Thanks too, to Sybil Cavanagh, Local History Librarian for her help.

I first discussed this with Councillors Alex Davidson and Graeme Morrice in April of 2007, and they have given me great encouragement, support and help.

Catherine Ferguson 1st December 2008

Our thanks to Catherine for her kind permission to reproduce the above report on this site.

We thought it would be good to see the result, so here's some recent pictures we took of the memorial stones at the three cemeteries, click the thumbnails below to view a larger picture in a new window.

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Ecclesmachan Cemetery
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Uphall Old Cemetery
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Loaninghill Cemetery

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