Volunteers start clearing communal baby grave at Plymouth cemetery
VOLUNTEERS have started clearing a patch of cemetery land where dozens of babies are thought to be buried in a communal grave.
Earlier this year it was revealed that more than 40 young children are believed to have been laid to rest in the same plot at Ford Park Cemetery in the 1950s.
Wendy Sophola, who sparked the investigation when she started looking for information about her sister Mary, has spent the last few days working with Ford Park Cemetery Trust to clear bracken, twigs and branches from the area.
Mrs Sophola, aged 55, said: "We are enjoying it. It's been nice working outside.
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"It feels like we are achieving something at the end of each day."
Mrs Sophola's sister, Susan, and brother, Raymond, have been helping out, and the plot where their sister was buried in 1954 now bears a specially-made plaque and a bouquet of flowers.
Mrs Sophola said: "It really is lovely. We want to ask if we can buy the leasehold for this plot so we can put a frame around it and keep it nice, not just for Mary but for the other babies.
"I never thought this would happen, not in a million years.
"We found her and we need to dress her up now and pay our respects."
Documents from the cemetery show the names of 41 babies buried there in 1954, and several people have come forward looking for more information about their loved ones.
Nurse Liz McGowan, 61, from West Park, realised her sister Wendy was buried in the communal grave when she read The Herald's article.
The paperwork shows that Wendy was born in October 1954, when Liz was three, and died just one day later.
Liz said: "We knew my mum had a stillborn baby, she was always really upset about the fact that she didn't know where she was buried because they didn't do that then.
"She was christened on October 24 and then my mum didn't know where she went.
"I have still got the bill charging them for the coffin. I have also got the certificate in relation to her christening at Freedom Fields Hospital.
"I have spoken to other people through my work and they have had the same problem. They were quite sad because they were not allowed to grieve."
Liz says she was relieved to find that Wendy's name was on the list.
"When I read it in the paper I said 'I have got a funny feeling she may be in that area'.
"I just thought at last I have got a conclusion; I know where she was buried.
"I never knew her. I was not there. I was only about three years old when she was born and died, so it would be nice to be able to pay my respects, which is something I have never been able to do."
Liz's younger brother Colin, who was born three years after Wendy's death and now lives in Canterbury, Kent, said the discovery made him feel "tearful".
"I didn't find out about Wendy until I was about 16," he said.
"It is something that people just didn't talk about.
"When I read the article I thought it was good because I had been meaning to get back down there and try to do some research myself.
"I do think people need to keep it in context; that's what happened in those days. It might not be acceptable today, but it was then. Whether you agree or not, it was something that was done at that time."
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