A SON has described East Lothian Council’s decision to bury part of his mother’s headstone without consultation or warning as “senseless and without care or thought”.

Chris Rowse went to visit the grave of his mum, Catriona Rose McElroy, on Saturday, ahead of Mother’s Day.

She died in 1993 when he was very young.

However, when he arrived at the graveyard at Aberlady Parish Church he found that the headstone had been buried into the ground – covering part of the inscription.

The same had been done to about half-a-dozen other stones, he noticed.

“I went on Saturday to put down flowers for Mother’s Day and realised the grave was a lot shorter than usual,” said Chris.

“There was a sign at the entrance to the cemetery saying there was work being done on unsafe headstones.

“Yet my mum’s headstone is not even half a metre tall.

"And there is no cracking or unsteadiness and it is on a flatter part of the cemetery.

“I got there and initially thought that someone had stolen the base but they have sunk it further down, covering some of the inscription.

“No-one has been contacted, no-one has been consulted.

“Nobody informed my dad, who works for East Lothian Council and manages a centre for adults with learning difficulties at Fisherrow.

"It’s very upsetting.”

Catriona, who was a nursing sister, was just 31 when she passed away three days before Christmas in 1993 after contracting hepatitis.

Her son, 27-year-old Chris, lives in Whitburn, West Lothian, but regularly visits his mum’s grave.

He added: “I am probably there once a quarter – the anniversary of her death, Mother’s Day, her birthday, etc.”

Chris said he always touched the rose granite headstone before he left and it had never shown any signs of being unstable.

The family lived in Cockenzie, with Chris’ dad, David, regularly cycling to Aberlady.

Their love of the village saw Chris’ mum buried there.

East Lothian Council manages 35 churchyards and cemeteries which contain about 28,000 memorial headstones, some dating back hundreds of years.

A spokeswoman for East Lothian Council said they did not comment on individual cases but said “the key factor” was safety.

“Inspections are regularly carried out on gravestones and memorials in cemeteries and any that are considered to be in a dangerous state are identified for remedial work – these can include relatively recent installations,” she added.

“This work ensures the safety of the stones and continues to provide a marker to individual graves. In some other local authority areas, the councils have resolved the matter of unsafe gravestones by placing them flat on the ground.

“East Lothian Council’s approach has been welcomed as it safeguards the stone and inscription and is easier for fuller repairs/installation to be made by family in future.”

She added: “Although, legally, headstones remain the property of the families that erected them, over the years the family connections have ceased or become difficult to establish.

"In many cases, if repairs are needed to a gravestone there are now no surviving relatives to upkeep the memorial headstones.

“Following surveys at the cemeteries, it was estimated in 2015 that about 8,000 headstones required action to make them safe and the council started a programme to take down the top sections of loose memorials using a mechanical hoist and bury the bottom of the headstone approximately one third in the ground.

“This approach means any danger to the public and damage to the stone is avoided, the inscription can still be read, and people can safely visit and tend to graves.

“It also makes it easier, should lair holders wish, at some point in the future, to fully repair their memorial. Advisory signs are placed in each cemetery where work is proposed giving notice to visitors and family members.”

North Berwick Coastal ward member Councillor Jeremy Findlay said it was a difficult situation.

“Any changes that are done to the grave, East Lothian Council should be getting in touch if they can with the relatives of the people who are buried there,” he added. “Certainly, I would be extremely upset if my relatives were moved or the headstone was put deeper or anything else.”

However, the councillor added that if the local authority did not have contact details for any relative, the alterations still needed to be made.

He added: “It is a slightly difficult one but the council ought to at least try to find out who the relatives are.”