Memorandum by Clear Skies Software Ltd
I am the Managing Director of a small software
house specialising in the development of computer systems for
bereavement Services. My customers are based from Inverness to
St Helier and consist of a wide range of organisations including
small, medium and large local authorities as well as private companies.
I therefore believe I have a unique perspective
on the problems and opportunities that cemeteries give to any
organisation and have an insight into the benefits that modern
technology can provide.
I have written some brief notes below.
1. There are wide variations in the management
structure relating to cemeteries across the country.
2. There is a proliferation of associations
and organisations representing the interests of various interest
groups within the cemetery/crematorium movement. The IBCA, FCA
and CBA being the three largest.
3. Understanding of burial law varies from
organisation to organisation with generally the best knowledge
being found where the cemeteries are the responsibility of a crematorium
manager. Some organisations have little understanding of their
1. I believe that there is a conflict between
the needs of the community and the needs of private enterprise
to create profits. It should however be noted that there are many
examples of private companies who have reconciled these conflicting
2. Due to the vulnerable position many people
are in when someone close to them dies leads me to believe that
it is in the best interest of the community for local authorities
or a caring organisation (ie Church of England) to be responsible
1. The law is substantially different in
Scotland to England and Wales. There are also minor variations
between the law in England and the law in Wales.
2. The burial and grave registers are more
consistent in England and Wales than in Scotland. This is due
to English law specifying the contents of each register in detail.
1. The safety of memorials in cemeteries
is a major problem across the Country.
2. Many local authorities and organisations
are unaware that the problem exists.
3. The standard of workmanship relating
to the erection of memorials is quite frequently below acceptable
4. Many stonemasons are not committed to
achieving the minimum standards frequently putting ease of erection
5. Many cemetery organisations have no record
of the memorials in their cemetery, when and who erected them,
when and who modified them and the details of who is responsible
1. All cemetery organisations have items
of historic interest. The Burial and Grave registers are common
to all cemeteries and due to the material of the books are normally
in good condition. However, they are used as working documents
and are therefore at risk. It is ironic that the most detailed
records of who lived in our communities is in these registers.
2. Memorials in many cemeteries have been
made by the type of skilled craftsman that it is now rarely found
in the modern world. They have immense worth as works of art in
general and detailed sculptures in particular. Many of the words
engraved into the stone give details of dramatic events or an
indication of the history of the individual.
3. Many of the chapels that form part of
the cemetery are derelict. Again on close inspection you find
stonework, and other artifacts of significant historic and religious
interest. Many examples of stonework or woodwork are being lost
purely because of neglect.
4. In addition many cemeteries have areas
that provide important habitats for local flora and fauna.
5. Cardiff have detailed in a booklet information
on the war graves in their cemeteries. A centre page provides
stickers of regimental crests and the booklet describes a path
through the cemetery identifying the various graves and providing
a story of the events leading to the death of each soldier. The
stickers can be placed against the relevant item and then coloured
in by children. Other booklets can be published for other items
1. It has generally been believed that cemeteries
cannot generate an income. This, however, is far from the case.
The price for the purchase of exclusive rights and also burials
need to be reviewed. It is not essential for a service in the
cemetery chapel and these facilities should be provided at a price
that at least covers the costs.
2. A more imaginative policy with regard
to memorials should be pursued. Provision of seats, shrubs, flower
beds, trees, wall plaques and other types of memorials can generate
substantial income and improve the presentation of the cemetery.
3. Charging for grave maintenance and the
provision of festive ornaments can also generate money.
4. Adding options to exclusive rights to
allow owners to extend the exclusive rights for an additional
period not only generates a continued income but ensures that
the cemetery keeps in contact with exclusive rights owners.
5. Many cemeteries have items of important
historic interest and it may be possible to provide guide books
detailing this information.
6. It is important, however, that staff
are motivated to provide these services. Too often any additional
income raised through the hard efforts of staff disappears into
the local authorities coffers. In most cases local authority staff
are only looking for a proportion of any income generated to be
ring fenced to improve facilities within the cemetery.
7. Internet access will allow the cemetery
to sell information on the cemetery especially burial records.
The burial records in particular should be viewed as an extremely
1. The provision of computer systems will
allow the generation of most of the cemetery documents to be completed
in a timely and efficient manner. This will allow staff to focus
on the more important aspect of the job, supporting the bereaved.
2. Internet access will allow cemetery records
to be searched. Links to other sites (ie florists, memorial masons)
can generate income and provide a wider range of services.
3. The generation of renewal letters and
other correspondence will allow the cemetery to offer extra services
and generate income.
4. Palm PCs will allow cemetery managers
to capture information in their cemeteries, in particular, memorial
risk assessment, without the need for paper or time consuming
5. Mapping packages can provide the cemetery
manager with a visual image of the cemeteries. Identifying grave
space, unsafe memorials and many other items. Mapping in conjunction
with cemetery systems can identify graves and produce location
Firstly I must apologise for the unstructured
format of this letter. The object is to provide you with a few
bullet points to consider. Generally I have a high regard for
many of the people in the crematorium and cemetery service. The
IBCA in particular is striving to ensure that the quality of staff
remains high and provide a range of education that I expect is
the envy of most countries in the world. I believe that the manpower
is there but the will to change the service and allow it to grow
and generate income is not.