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Local News

Grieving sister devastated by £500 charge to honour Rotherham’s Covid-19 victims


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A heartbroken and grieving woman was left stunned and speechless after being told she needed to pay £500 to erect a memorial plaque in honour of her late brother and everyone who died from coronavirus in Rotherham.

Dawn Elliott, a lifelong Rotherham resident lost her brother Mervyn ‘Merv’ Elliott, who she described on BBC’s Covid wall as “A much-loved and sadly missed brother taken too soon”, on November 23, 2020, after he contracted Covid-19.

After Merv’s death, Dawn approached her local MP John Healey, who told her the council had said she could get a plaque in honour of her brother and Covid victims placed on a bench at Thrybergh Country Park but she would need to pay £500 for it.

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Merv died on November 23, 2020, just 13 days after he fell ill
Merv died on November 23, 2020, just 13 days after he fell ill

Dawn says she was devastated by the demands and claimed that the council appeared to be monetising death: “They wanted £500 to add a name on a bench in Thrybergh Country Park, making money out of Covid- 19 victims and their families.”

Dawn’s grief has been compounded by the absence of a Covid-19 memorial in Rotherham that competes with some of Yorkshire’s other towns: “Rotherham town centre has nothing for Covid-19 victims. Look at Barnsley and Doncaster memorials, they are beautiful”

Rotherham City Council accepts putting up a price for memorial plaques but argues that there are no profits to be made from the charges.

Merv has been immortalised through a plaque at the crematorium
Merv has been immortalised through a plaque at the crematorium

Rotherham Council’s head of creative programming and engagement Leanne Buchan, said: “There is a separate area of the park which is not dedicated to Covid-19 but does have space for bereaved families and friends to place a commemorative plaque.

“The cost of this plaque represents the cost of the plaque itself, a fee for engraving, a fee for install and a contribution to the ongoing maintenance of this area of the park.”

The council also added that they had consulted several residents who stated that they did not want the park to be turned into a dedicated Covid-19 memorial, but understanding that a memorial was necessary, they setup a separate memorial elsewhere.

Merv's sister Dawn has ensured his memory lives on
Merv’s sister Dawn has ensured his memory lives on

Buchan said: “In consultation with residents many did not want to see plaques placed in this area as it was seen as a reminder of loss and the intention was to create a space to remember and celebrate the lives of our residents and the contributions that were made.

“We appreciate that many of our residents want to pay tribute to those impacted by the effects of Covid-19. Therefore, we created Hope Fields, a living memorial to honour both, victims and those who fought the virus. We wanted Hope Fields to be a place where people can go to contemplate, heal, and celebrate loved ones. We felt it was important to create a living memorial that could grow and adapt over time as we collectively recover from the effects of the pandemic”

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But Dawn disagrees with the council’s explanation and argued that a plaque costs between £10-£20 on Amazon.

Unable to part with £500, Dawn turned to Amazon herself and ordered her own plaque for Merv and Covid-19 victims: “I put the plaque on the Market Entrance wall which I purchased myself and had it engraved in memory off all Covid-19 victims”

The entire experience has left Dawn pretty broken, and she says she is yet to heal from Merv’s death.

She said: “How I feel now is how I felt when he passed away. I can not come to terms with his death.”

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Written by: Rother Radio News

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