Dignity for dead in Calderstones graves

Sandra McArdle kneels at the grave side with her niece Christine Harrison with, from left to right in the background, George Hardman, Mel Diack MBE, Ida Hardman, Cliff Ball, Minneka Milne, Sandra's sister. (s)
Sandra McArdle kneels at the grave side with her niece Christine Harrison with, from left to right in the background, George Hardman, Mel Diack MBE, Ida Hardman, Cliff Ball, Minneka Milne, Sandra's sister. (s)
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A descendant of a former Calderstones Hospital patient has finally seen her late aunt given the dignity she deserves in death.

Sandra McArdle (nee Middleton), who lives in Queensland, Australia, was disgusted at the state of the cemetery where the remains of her aunt, Josephine Middleton, are buried.

The plaque at the grave of Josephine Middleton and two other former Calderstones patients. (s)

The plaque at the grave of Josephine Middleton and two other former Calderstones patients. (s)

Institutionalised as a very young child for laughing in church in her home city of Liverpool, Josephine died, aged 32, in Calderstones Hospital on August 24th 1948.

Sandra travelled to Journey’s End Cemetery (formerly Calderstones Cemetery) off Mitton Road, Whalley, in 2012 to pay her respects to her late aunt. However, on arriving at the privately owned cemetery she discovered that all the headstones had been removed several years ago by a previous owner.

Clitheroe Library subsequently put Sandra in touch with Whalley resident Mel Diack MBE, who by various means and assistance from Calderstones Hospital identified from records the actual position of Josephine’s grave.

On hearing the story, Whalley resident George Hardman cut the overgrown grass, reseeded the area and made the grave once again presentable.

A plaque was then place, dedicated to Josephine and also two other former patients who lie in the same grave, Ethel Carr who died aged 35, and Eric Williams, who died aged 17, both in August 1948. A dedication service took place with Cliff Ball, from Whalley parish church, saying prayers.

Sandra was accompanied by her sister, Minneka Milne, and niece Christine Harrison.

Some 1,000 other patients are buried at the cemetery with no headstones.

Mr Diack has called it a “national disgrace” that these former patients have been allowed to be forgotten and a further travesty that the cemetery has been left in such a state next to a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.