Part one 1961 to 1972.
Towards the end of the 1950s and into the early 1960s the streets of Dundee were unable to cope with the increased use of motor vehicles. Many of the older buildings in the city were in poor condition, with some housing being deemed uninhabitable. Dundee Town Council put a plan into action to begin remodelling the city, mostly through the acquisition and demolition of areas with the aim of building new infrastructure.
Unfortunately one of the casualties of this rebuilding plan was the re-use of the Constitution Road burial ground. A special committee was appointed in October of 1961 and a decision was made to acquire the New Howff for the use of parking facilities. Local church Ministers were said to “feel there is nothing sacrilegious about the conversion” and that “They feel that all old graveyards must eventually be put to some other use and that in this case the decencies have been observed”. (Burial Ground as Car Park Proposal 1962)
A meeting was held by the Parks Committee on the 14th November 1961, the conclusion of which was a recommendation that a portion of the burial ground be used for the construction of the inner ring road, with the rest of the ground for the use as a car park. (Town Council Minutes 1961-1962)
By March of 1962 Dundee Town Council had proceeded with an application to the Secretary of State for permission to use the burial ground in connection with the inner ring road and parking accommodation. (Move to use burial ground for parking. 1962)
By June of the same year proposals for the final resting place of remains still hadn’t been finalised, the corporation held ground at Kingsway East, which was being let as allotments (Old Craigie Road). At a meeting of the Parks Committee a proposal to use this land was opposed by the Treasurer P.M. Doig, as the business Lomax & Smith LTD had expressed an interest. Parks Convener Mr Alexander Soutar, said they needed the ground themselves for the remains from Constitution Road. However being a “valuable site for industrial purposes” Mr Doig said he would move against any recommendation. The matter was to then be referred to a sub-committee. (New Burial Place Opposed 1962)
The following was published in the Dundee Courier on the 8th August 1962. “The old burial ground in Constitution Road. Dundee, will soon be a car park. Arrangements have been made to re-inter remains in the Eastern burial ground in a part specially set aside for the purpose if relatives or personal representatives do not wish to do this themselves.”
On the 14th August the Old Craigie Allotments Association appealed to the Dundee Parks Committee to spare 22 plots, as Mr Dow, Parks superintendent wished to take them over to reinter the remains of 10,000 bodies. The area in question extended to approximately two acres. He said “quite a number of people were interested and proposed to have their relatives’ remains transferred.” He also stated “he had gone into the matter very thoroughly and, as far as he could see, the allotments ground, adjacent to the west side of Eastern Cemetery, was the only ground available. Owing to recent housing developments there was insufficient land now available in the region of Balgay.” The Allotments Association wanted assurance that every avenue had been explored as they only had 76 allotments for the east end of the city and they had a long waiting list. The Lord Provost, Mr McManus suggested that if it was so desperate that they required the use of allotments for this purpose, then perhaps 50-60 acres should be acquired for a new cemetery, however this may take years, and would hold up the current car parking problem. (Remains of 10,000, to be reinterred. 1962)
Following a visit made to the Old Craigie Road allotments, and at a further meeting held on the 24th of August, a decision still hadn’t been reached as to the use of this area for re-interments with motions for and against. Although consideration was still to be made for those remains requiring removal to allow construction of the inner ring road. (Town Council Minutes 1962-1963)
By the 11th of September a sub-committee had reached an agreement that the Old Craigie Allotments should not be used to re-inter the remains from the burial ground and that the Town Clerk and Parks Convener should look for an alternative place for the remains. There were fears that the decision would “wreck the plans the corporation had agreed to for the inner ring road”. However, the construction of the ring road could not proceed within the next couple of years. It was then decided “that the Constitution Road cemetery would be converted into a car park” and that “the vast bulk of disinterments were not for the inner ring road”. “The other part is going to be a very costly car park when you realise the cost of disinterring and re-interring, plus the fact it is on a gradient and will require a lot of making-up.” “ The public would be against us for putting out these allotment holders just to make a car park" . Bailie O’Neil said the corporation had come to a decision about the cemetery without actual knowledge of what was involved. “ When the proposal was made to make that car park, we had no idea that it would be two years before the, inner ring road could go through. We had no idea there were 10,000 bodies to be disinterred. We took a decision almost blindly don't let us rigidly adhere to it.” (The Fate of the Proposed Car Park 1962)
Into October the question of what to do with the remains was still not answered, to the point where a request in the minutes had been made to the Corporation to reconsider their decision to form a car park. (Cemetery's Future 1962)
By March 1963 the car park had been given the go ahead. The costs involved with removing the bodies to elsewhere had proven to be too much to be justified, and so for the time being they were left in situ. Arrangements were being made with the Parks Department about the removal of headstones and for the layout of a screen of trees or bushes. It was estimated that only 2 feet of soil would need to be removed and spread to fill in ground hollows, thus avoiding the disturbance of any remains. The car park was to have a temporary surface for the first year, to allow for the ground settling, then it was to be tarmacked. (Dock Car Parks Close Tonight 1963)
On the 11th of April 1963 the Parks Department erected large canvas screens in the burial ground, behind the screens testing was performed on the higher ground to determine the amount of top-soil that could be removed before coming upon human remains. (Graveyard Tests 1963)
By mid May the clearance of the burial ground had begun, a bulldozer was moved in to begin levelling the ground and start the removal of headstones. The car park was partially completed and opened for vehicle access on the 7th of June. Around a quarter of the area was available initially, with space for 80 cars, access was available from Bell Street, Constitution Street and Dudhope Crescent Road. The surface being made of chips and ashes, it was estimated that a further two weeks work was required to bring the car park to its full capacity of 350 vehicles, with the tarmac being applied at a later date. (Burial Ground Now Car Park 1963)
The car park remained in use until the 16th October 1972, when it was closed to allow for exhumations and the construction of a multi-storey car park and the inner ring road on the site. It was to have accommodation for some 900 cars. (The story of this second phase is pending collection of the relevant information).
"Burial Ground as Car Park Proposal." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 08 August 1962.
"Burial Ground Now Car Park." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 08 June 1963.
"Cemetery's Future." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 04 October 1962.
"Dock Car Parks Close Tonight." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 09 March 1963.
"Graveyard Tests." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 12 April 1963.
"Move to use burial ground for parking." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 03 March 1962.
"New Burial Place Opposed." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 13 June 1962.
"Remains of 10,000, to be reinterred." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 15 August 1962.
"The Fate of the Proposed Car Park." Dundee Courier & Advertiser (DC Thomson), 12 September 1962.
Town Council Minutes. Parks Committee, 11th September 1962 Article IV Constitution Road Cemetery – use of Old Craigie Road allotments. Dundee, 1962-1963.
—. Parks Committee, 14th November 1961 article X. Dundee, 1961-1962.
Thank you to Mr Iain Flett for his assistance.