Veteran Gravedigger Retires After Digging 3,500 Graves in 35 Years

After 35 years of dedicated service, council gravedigger Keith Jackson is retiring, having dug over 3,500 graves. Throughout his career, Keith has been meticulous in his work, ensuring each grave is precisely measured and dug to the exact specifications of the coffin.

The 67-year-old’s average was about two graves per week, regardless of the weather, occasionally rising to three.

Keith attributes his successful career to two key elements: “a good spade” and “plenty of sympathy.”

His journey in this unique field began at 15 when he started as an apprentice gardener for his local council. He later became a park supervisor and then took on the role of sexton at Clitheroe Cemetery in Lancashire in 1988.

Keith expressed, “In this job, you need a good spade and an abundance of sympathy. It’s important to be sensitive to people’s grief and show the utmost respect.”

He continued, “We get precise coffin dimensions from undertakers, and every grave is carefully measured and prepared. This ensures a perfect final resting place for each individual. I’ve loved working in this beautiful cemetery and providing a crucial service to the local community, especially in their time of grief. I’ll miss my colleagues at the council, who have been wonderful to work with.”

The cemetery is under the purview of Ribble Valley Borough Council. Before his cemetery role, Keith supervised Clitheroe Castle, managed by the same local authority.

Ricky Newmark, chair of the council’s community services committee, praised Keith, “He has been an exemplary member of our cemeteries team and is well-liked by his colleagues. His four decades of service, particularly to the bereaved, are commendable. He exemplifies the dedication and effort our council staff put into enhancing our community. We wish him a fulfilling retirement.”

Local residents have also expressed their gratitude and best wishes. Linda Homer said, “Happy retirement, Keith. Thanks for caring for our loved ones’ resting places.” Geraldine Woodworth noted, “You’ll be missed. Your friendly greeting at the cemetery has always been appreciated.” Fiona Ritchie added, “Best wishes for your retirement.”