The woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, spotted a trolley of withered plants at her local Tesco store that were heading for the compost heap.
The store kindly let her have the plants which she has placed in three West Lothian cemeteries where memorials are located for the unclaimed former patients from Old Bangour Village Hospital, who are buried in the cemeteries. The cemeteries are: Ecclesmachan, Loaninghill and Uphall Old Cemetery.
She said: "It seemed such a pity that the plants that weren't sold were put into compost, and I now regularly collect these plants from Tesco and soak them in my own garden for 3 or 4 days. I take them to the cemeteries with rakes, compost and watering cans and plant them near to where the memorial stones to the patients have been placed. These poor people were buried 'unclaimed' with no family or friends which I think is very sad. I simply wanted to make their memorials look colourful and to pay my respects."
Provost Tom Kerr said: "Much interest and surprise has been expressed by visitors to the cemeteries who on seeing the flowers and memorial stones have noted that they were previously unaware of the poignant story behind the patients of Bangour Village Hospital. In particular visitors have noted with sadness the practice for patients who had no known relatives to claim their bodies to be buried without any marker or recognition to the lost life.
"The world we live in today is so fast paced and, especially over the past few years, focussed on the difficult times we all face from time to time. I think this story demonstrates such kindness and thoughtfulness and it had to be recognised.
"I know the lady that a done this and despite my best efforts wishes to remain anonymous, which I fully respect. That in itself demonstrates further her selflessness, but her efforts and kindness will not go unrecognised. I'd like to thank her for this lovely gesture. I know many visitors to the cemeteries appreciate this kindness."
David Cullen, the council's Open Space and Cemeteries Manager said:
"This is a welcome addition to our cemeteries and we were happy to support the initiative. We would add that if anyone else had an idea for a similar initiative within our cemeteries that they contact the council in advance."
Many thanks to the store manage at Tesco in Linlithgow, Mr Drew Waldie, to Karen and all the very friendly and helpful Tesco staff in Linlithgow.
Up until 2009 there were:
- 566 patients from Bangour Village Hospital buried in unmarked graves at Ecclesmachan Cemetery
- 191 patients from Bangour Village Hospital buried in unmarked graves at Uphall Old Cemetery
- 74 patients from Bangour Village Hospital buried in unmarked graves at LoaningHill Cemetery
From the historic archives - Edinburgh Lunatic Paupers Asylum:
- First patients from the Royal Edinburgh Asylum transferred to Bangour, West Lothian in 1904
- First patient to be buried in Ecclesmachan Cemetery was in 1904.
The inscription on the memorial stones placed in the cemeteries reads:
In memory of the many patients of Bangour Village Hospital buried here,
Troubled in Life,
May They be at Peace Forever.