Grave concern

Grave concern

Funeral director repairs broken tombs

Observer staff reporter

Monday, October 19, 2020

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Respected funeral home operator Calvin Lyn has given the assurance that unmarked graves, in a section of Melrose Cemetery, which had been badly damaged — with coffins exposed in some cases — are being repaired.

Lyn said some coffins had been suitably reburied at other locations at the cemetery. The situation involving broken graves at Melrose Cemetery was pointed out to the authorities by the Jamaica Observer recently.

Lyn, proprietor of Lyn's Funeral Home and operator of Oaklawn Memorial Gardens (cemetery) on the outskirts of Mandeville, took responsibility for the corrective work because it was his company which had initially exhumed the remains and moved them to Melrose on behalf of Alcan bauxite company many years ago.

Lyn and other sources, including the Manchester Municipal Corporation, explained that a section of Melrose Cemetery was reserved for the burial of exhumed remains from bauxite lands.

Bauxite mining companies often exhume human remains found on former privately owned lands and rebury them in approved cemeteries as part of their operations. In many cases, the identity of the remains in mostly unmarked graves have been long forgotten.

The Manchester Municipal Corporation took control of the Melrose Cemetery in 2012 after it closed the 80-year-old Mandeville Municipal Cemetery on Grove Road, restricting the latter location to burials in reserved spots.

Lyn told the Observer that the graves at the Melrose Cemetery “deteriorated” largely because of elements of nature and the passage of time.

“…Those would have been old vaults that the material would have crystallised because of the weather condition and the terrain…The bottom line is that they are to be corrected. There is no threat to public health. The remains that were exhumed, some for over 60 years, were properly disinfected, sealed in the new boxes and interred based on the public health requirements,” Lyn said in an interview last Tuesday.

“Even with the vaults damaged, whether by earthquake or bad weather or so on, there wouldn't be any exposure of the bones that we would have exhumed because the boxes would have been sealed,” he added.

Lyn on Friday told the Observer that the exhumed remains were reburied in separate vaults and that work is being done to seal the old vaults.

There is a concern that mourners who stand on graves and people who go in search of their loved one's grave, are at risk of falling into the vaults.

“We won't say people won't walk or step on a vault, but the fact is that they shouldn't...this area is not where the public goes. This is a section that is separate from the area which is currently used for regular burials under the auspices of the municipal corporation,” Lyn explained.

Lyn has suggested that the area be fenced to secure the graves.

“What I could say to the authorities overall — the bauxite company in conjunction with the municipal corporation — put a fence [so] that the area is not...trespassed on,” he said.

When the Observer visited the cemetery on Thursday there was evidence that de-bushing work had started but there were also spots in the cemetery where cow dung could be seen, as it isn't adequately fenced.

Two cows were seen on a property adjacent to the cemetery. Houses were also under construction close by.

Mayor of Mandeville Donovan Mitchell (People's National Party), who is also the councillor for the Royal Flat Division where the cemetery is situated, recently rubbished concerns of homeowners about the location of the cemetery near to homes.

“The cemetery was there long before any housing development,” he told councillors at the last sitting of the local municipal corporation.

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