Covid-19 has highlighted the essential role that East Ayrshire Registrars fill in our communities. Since lockdown began the team, led by Senior Registrar Cathy Dunlop, have been working seven days a week providing a death registration service remotely to the bereaved.
Cathy Dunlop said: “Since March the team has been working seven days a week registering deaths and gathering essential statistics for the Scottish Government. It has been a very difficult and stressful time. Normally our appointments are face to face and we can comfort bereaved families but death registration is now taking place over the phone and it has been a considerable adjustment for us all.
“By the end of each day we are all exhausted, mentally and physically. We have been very conscious of our mental wellbeing. There are times when we have all been emotional and that is ok, we are living through a stressful time and that is a very important thing to acknowledge. We have been through this journey together and have provided support to each other throughout.”
Following the granting of Royal Assent to the UK emergency coronavirus bill, registration offices across Scotland moved to remote registration. At the same time, birth registrations were suspended and weddings could no longer go ahead unless in exceptional circumstances.
Earlier this week, Cathy Dunlop and her team helped a couple in exceptional circumstances to say I do. Cathy had been contacted by a family to ask if a marriage ceremony would be possible the same day. The couple, who had been together for 40 years wanted to tie the knot while they still had time. The groom was terminally ill and his nurse let Cathy know that he couldn’t hold on much longer.
A special dispensation was received from the National Records of Scotland and Cathy performed an emotional ceremony at 1pm that day.
Cathy said: “It was a really beautiful moment. The groom’s nurses and carers were present and they filmed the ceremony for the family. I conducted the ceremony from the garden through an open window and neighbours stood in their gardens, witnessing the marriage. When we had finished they clapped so loudly, the noise was incredible, like a Thursday evening when we all clap for the NHS.
“My colleague Marie had attended for support and when we both got back to the car, we broke down. It was an honour to provide a service and some comfort to such a lovely couple and their family.
“This is the life of a Registrar. We are with our communities from cradle to grave and we care so much about the people we serve. It is a tough time for all of us. We are all missing out on so much, special occasions, events and of course our beloved families. As soon as the Scottish Government and National Records of Scotland tell us that we can return to registering births and marriages we will be there for you, continuing to share these special moments.”
Councillor Elena Whitham, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities said: “East Ayrshire Registrars provide a vital service to our communities. They are very much at the frontline, working with individuals and families throughout the journey of life.
“I was very touched, but not a bit surprised to hear that Senior Registrar, Cathy Dunlop, ensured that such a special marriage ceremony was able to go ahead and that she was able to bring some comfort to a family experiencing a very difficult time.
“Covid-19 has changed our lives entirely and impacted everything that we do. It has impacted on the way people die, how families grieve and how our teams from East Ayrshire Registrars and Bereavement Services can work with the recently bereaved.
“With offices closed, appointments have to take place over the phone. This means that our employees can no longer comfort the bereaved as they would wish and this has been difficult for both teams. They have broken down, devastated that families are unable to mourn together or comfort each other and grieve in a normal way.
“We are seeing first-hand the pain of losing a loved one at this time and it will undoubtedly impact on our communities for years to come. As a Council we are planning to address these issues as best we can, when the lockdown is eased and we start to return to a normal way of life and in the meantime we are offering all the support we can to our employees and to our communities. We may be apart in distance but we are connected through kindness and compassion and we will get through this together.”
To register a death please contact 01563 576695.
Replacement death and marriage certificates are still available from www.certificates.scot
More information is available from National Records of Scotland