Burial or cremation?


Sir, – Prof William Reville deals with the question of cremation versus traditional burial (“Which to choose, burial or cremation?”, Science, January 18th).

Perhaps I may contribute to this interesting topic. In Finland, cremation began in 1926 at the new crematorium incorporated in the existing, older Hietaniemi cemetery, which had opened in 1829 on the western shore of Helsinki.

For the first two decades, the urns containing the ashes were placed in the crematorium’s own columbarium (wall of remembrance). On the initiative of the city of Helsinki in 1949, a specially designated cemetery was opened on a 2.1 hectare (5.2 acre) site adjacent to the crematorium for the burial of urns in small grave plots of approximately a square metre, with a headstone allowing the inclusion of the traditional details of the deceased. This cemetery was named “Uurnalehto”, which translates as “The Urn Grove” in English. It is located in a beautiful, mature park landscape overlooking the sea. Here relatives and friends can visit the graves in exactly the same way as when visiting a traditional graveyard. They can plant or bring flowers and maintain the plot. Each grave has the space for several urns, up to eight in some of them. On Christmas Eve it is a tradition in Finland to light a candle on a loved one’s grave, and if Helsinki is lucky enough to have a white Christmas, this provides a very powerful, yet serene and peaceful, scene. I have some close relatives buried in the Uurnalehto cemetery.

Perhaps this type of cemetery could also be considered in Ireland.

It fulfils the important social role mentioned by Prof Reville and the site area required is much less than that of a traditional cemetery, thanks to the small plot size of each grave. – Yours, etc,


Honorary Consul General

of Finland to Dublin,


Co Dublin.