Page last updated at 23:53 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 00:53 UK

Service for 'forgotten paupers'


Hundreds of former psychiatric patients are buried in unmarked graves

Thousands of former psychiatric patients could be buried in unmarked graves across Scotland, according to a Livingston MP.

Jim Devine called for an audit after it emerged that 831 patients of Bangour Village Hospital, West Lothian had been interred in cemeteries with no markers.

The MP said he would be writing to the health minister to request checks be made at other former hospital sites.

A service of dedication will be held at Ecclesmachan Church on Friday.

Catherine Ferguson, a local woman who discovered the graves after carrying out research, said: "It's important to have a memorial service for people who were forgotten in life and whose bodies were unclaimed in death."

Local historian Sybil Cavanagh said the hospital catered for people with mental health problems who were dependent on the state.

The plaque erected by West Lothian Council
The local council has now placed plaques in the three cemeteries

"It was an asylum built in the early 1900s for Edinburgh's lunatic paupers, as they were then known.

"The Edinburgh Lunacy Board, which ran Bangour, also had responsibility for burying these patients in a very basic burial, with just the hospital chaplain and a hospital staff member there to see the patient into the grave.

"In most cases the board buried the patient because there was no-one to claim the body, the fact that they were unmarked would be purely a matter of finance as it was fairly costly to have a gravestone."

Mr Devine, a Labour MP, welcomed the commemoration of the former patients but said wider questions still needed to be answered.

"I'm writing to the health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon, asking her to find out how many former psychiatric patients are buried in unmarked graves in Scotland.

"If we've had nearly 1,000 people from Bangour alone, given that we've had 40 major psychiatric hospitals in Scotland, we could be talking about tens of thousands of people."

The bodies are buried at Ecclesmachan, Loaninghill and Uphall Old Cemetery. West Lothian Council have now placed plaques at the three locations.

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