Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Fife baby ashes angel memorial plans on hold

Carol Howden's baby son John Image copyright Carol Howden
Image caption Carol Howden's baby son John died 30 years ago

Plans to erect an angel sculpture in a Fife park as a memorial to families affected by a baby ashes scandal have been put on hold.

Fife Council said it was going back to the drawing board after some parents said the angel had religious connotations.

It said it was now going to put it to a public consultation.

One mother, Carol Howden, told BBC Scotland she was "devastated" by the decision.

Religious connotations

However, another mother welcomed the move by Fife Council to give all mothers a say in the memorial.

She told BBC Scotland: "I feel that having a female weeping angel statue does not represent the fathers, and to a point the babies.

"Instead, for me, it focuses on the grief of the mother. An angel also has religious connotations which therefore isn't making it fully encompassing for all parents.

"There was also the desire to have all the babies listed on the scroll which the angel is weeping over. I don't want my baby named and shamed as one of the ones whose ashes were binned.

"This is very personal and something we have only shared with our closest friends and families therefore we do not want our baby publicly named like this."

She added: "Although I can never forgive Fife Council for failing my baby and my family, I must thank them for having the courage to listen to the parents, and go back to the design stage to ensure we all have a say."

The memorial is planned for Dunfermline's Townhill Country Park.

The baby ashes scandal unfolded after it emerged that grieving parents were told their babies were too small for their ashes to be recovered.

In fact, staff at crematoria in Dunfermline and Kirkcaldy disposed of the ashes anonymously.

Fife Council has apologised and families have been offered compensation but its plans for a memorial have stalled.

Image caption Carol Howden said she was very upset by Fife Council retracting the angel memorial plans

Ms Howden lost her son John when he was four months old.

She was told by crematorium staff there were no remains of her son. However the staff had disposed of her son's ashes in an improper way.

Since the scandal first came to light, she has campaigned for both an official apology from Fife Council, which she received, but also for a memorial to the lost children.

She told the BBC Radio Scotland's Drivetime with John Beattie programme: "In December Fife Council promised myself and the solicitors the angel memorial would go ahead.

"Fife Council has actually done a 3D image of the angel and where she would go and sent me and the solicitors a copy but now they are retracting it.

"We seem to just be going back and forward with them all the time. They then said they would do a second memorial for the parents who don't want the angel but now they have gone back on their word again. I'm getting calls from Fife Council saying one thing and within days I'm getting emails saying something else.

"The only people who can make this right are Fife Council."

'Lots of potential solutions'

Alan Paul, Fife Council's senior manager, said: "We're very keen to have a memorial in Fife as soon as possible. We're fully committed to doing this and have written to all parents to seek their views. It's also possible that not all parents affected by our past practices have come forward and so we're putting in place arrangements to engage more widely.

"We're aware of one proposal that's been put forward and the council welcomes that. We're aware however, there are lots of potential solutions and in engaging with parents we hope to help them create a memorial that reflects the wishes of everyone.

"We're also aware not all parents will want to be involved in developing a memorial and have offered to work with those parents separately."

There were 102 families affected by the baby ashes scandal in Fife.

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