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Tuesday, 02 June 2015

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Grave concerns over Tom’s ashes

NOVELIST Tom Sharpe is at the centre of another gripping story line – after his ashes were buried in a Tynedale churchyard without permission.

Tom Sharpe
Tom Sharpe died a year ago.

For the author’s partner Montserrat Verdaguer turned up at St Aidan’s Church in Thockrington, unannounced, and dug a hole for the ashes with her bare hands.

The impromptu service was filmed by a TV crew who travelled with her from Spain. It was Mr Sharpe’s dying wish that his ashed be buried at Thockrington which he visited as a child.

But the actions of Miss Verdaguer have upset local residents, and vicar the Rev. Michael Slade, who says church rules have been breached.

Members of the congregation are concerned that unmarked graves may have been disturbed.

Mr Slade said: “She should have called me, and I would have done everything possible to meet her wishes.

“You cannot just do what you like in a churchyard. If this had happened in a busy cemetery, there is a chance someone may have called the police.

“There is an order which must be maintained. We keep a record of people who are laid to rest there, and everything is done in an orderly fashion.

“Some graves do not have a headstone, and I am convinced that there will be somebody buried at the spot where Mr Sharpe’s urn was placed.”

However, the remains cannot be removed as easily as they were laid to rest.

He explained: “There are certain laws which exist as to the remains of people who have been buried beneath the ground.

“To do anything, we would have to get legal permission, and ascertain whether anyone else is buried at that spot.”

Mr Slade is now keen to track down Miss Verdaguer, in an effort to establish a suitable way forward.

Charlie Harrison (87), who lives at nearby Ingoe, became friends with Mr Sharpe after meeting him during a visit to the area 20 years ago.

He accompanied Miss Verdaguer at St Aidan’s, and believes she has done nothing wrong.

London-born Mr Sharpe died in June 2013 aged 85. He wrote 16 novels, including Blott on the Landscape in 1975.

He also wrote the Wilt series of comedy books, the last of which – The Wilt Inheritance – was penned in 2010.

Along with his ashes, the author’s favourite pen, a bottle of whisky, and a Cuban cigar were laid beneath the ground.