REFURBISHMENT work at a cemetery near Helensburgh has been completed – in memory of a ‘guiding light’ of the local community.

Garelochhead Community Council (GCC) teamed up with the Garelochhead Station Trust veterans’ charity, Babcock International, Argyll and Bute Council and local firm NJ Slee Welding and Fabrication to organise, fund and carry out the work at Faslane Cemetery near Garelochhead in honour of Mary Gray, who died aged 89 almost three years ago.

It has seen new gates installed at the entrance to the cemetery and new railings around the boundary – along with repairs to the cemetery access road and clearance work inside.

Hopes of seeing the cemetery restored to its former glory have been an aspiration of GCC – and in particular its vice-convener, Martin Croft – ever since Mary, a long-serving member of the community council, died in September 2020.

The cemetery is home to 33 First World War graves – 31 of them connected with the sinking of the submarine K13 in the Gareloch in January 1917 – along with nine from the Second World War.

A special memorial also stands in the cemetery to honour an employee of the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow, where K13 was built, who died in the tragedy and whose body was never found.

The new gates at the entrance to Faslane Cemetery - and the pillars on either side which have also been restored as part of the refurbishment project (Image: Stella Irving)

The new gates at the entrance to Faslane Cemetery - and the pillars on either side which have also been restored as part of the refurbishment project (Image: Stella Irving)

The cemetery is also home to trees planted by GCC to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last year and the coronation of King Charles III in May.

GCC convener Watson Robinson described how the project grew in scope after the Trust held a raffle which raised enough money for local joiner Brian Cowan to create a bench in Mary’s memory, now located at the back of the cemetery.

He told the Advertiser how the Trust put GCC in touch with Babcock International, the Ministry of Defence’s commercial partner at HM Naval Base Clyde, and how Babcock had agreed to fund not only new gates for the cemetery but new railings too, using money raised from the sale of plastic carrier bags in the shops at Faslane.

Watson said: “Things really got moving after that. Martin Croft drew up a plan of works, the fabrication of the ironworks was commissioned, and a community project commenced.

“A team of sailors joined Carole Spencer, treasurer of GCC, for six days, clearing gravesides, cutting down trees - some of which were growing between gravestones - trimming overgrown shrubs and removing any rubbish.

“A total of 33 rubble sacks of cuttings were filled and removed, making a huge visual difference to the look of the cemetery.

“Many locals were so pleased that they expressed their thanks to the team whilst visiting their loved ones.

“The council supported the team with tools, removed the sacks of cuttings, removed a middle pillar and repaired the road into the cemetery.

“As a finishing touch some members of GCC cleaned the two remaining pillars, restoring them back to their natural colour.”

Mary Gray died aged 89 in September 2020

Mary Gray died aged 89 in September 2020

A spokesperson for Babcock said, “Babcock and HMNB Clyde were delighted to support the local community by contributing to the refurbishment project for the entrance and gates to Faslane Cemetery.

“Since the carrier bag charge was introduced by the Scottish Government in 2014, Babcock has put aside more than £21,000 from bag sales at Faslane to support local projects and charities.”

A spokesman for the Royal Navy said: “It is wonderful to see the local Community Council, Babcock, and HMNB Clyde coming together to refurbish the gates at Faslane Cemetery.

"They now provide a fitting entrance to the final resting place of many local people, military personnel, and those lost in Submarine K13.”

Councillor Mark Irvine (Independent, Lomond North) said: “I just want to say this was a great job by the community tea.

“Thanks to all involved and to the Community Council in Garelochhead and all the hard work for those associated with getting the work done, including Stevie Slee.”

His Lomond North colleague, Conservative councillor and Argyll and Bute Provost Maurice Corry, added: “ I would like to congratulate the Garelochhead and Portincaple CC for a great effort in getting the new gate installed at the Faslane Cemetery and a very welcome renovation for the cemetery.

“I thank the community council and all the contributors for their excellent support.”