The funeral of an unidentified baby boy took place in Edinburgh on Friday, nearly two years after he was found abandoned on a path, wrapped in a Primark blanket. He had no name and no known family, but more than 200 people came to say goodbye.
They brought teddy bears, balloons and single white roses for the child, who was found just a few hundred metres from the cemetery at Seafield where he was laid to rest in a white coffin that was light enough to be carried in the arms of one man.
Police believe the boy was about six weeks old when his body was found on a nearby path, swaddled in a blanket, in July 2013. His mother remains untraced, but 200 strangers came to wish him farewell.
He was well-fed and seemingly loved, the police said at the time. They believed his mother may have left him in the hope he would be found and taken care of.
Detectives said only 70 of those “early days” baby blankets, white with circus motifs, had been sold by the city’s branch of Primark, but despite circulating photos of the item the identity of the child’s mother remains unknown and the investigation continues.
As mourners left the cemetery, police handed some a discreetly folded note which summarised the events of 28 July 2013 and carried the phone numbers of one of the city’s officers and Crimestoppers.
“To date the identity of the baby is still unknown. The investigation is still ongoing however,” the note stated. “Police Scotland are still looking for the vital piece of information which would help identify the child and his mother.”
Earlier, Cooperative Society funeral director Ian Thompson carried the nameless boy in the sunlight in a donated coffin as a piper played Amazing Grace. It was marked with a plaque reading “Known to God. Precious little angel.” The child was tucked in a “baby pocket” cut from white satin and lace, his boyhood marked by blue ribbons.
It had been made from a donated wedding dress by a charity that supports mothers who have miscarried or endured a stillbirth or the early death of a child. “I just think it’s incredible, the amount of love,” said Margaret Halliday, 65, the volunteer with the Angel Wings charity who handmade his final clothes.
Wellwishers had gathered from across Edinburgh and eastern Scotland. There were bikers from the Royal British Legion Scotland, a representative of Leith’s Sikh community, several of the city’s politicians from rival parties putting the election campaign aside, and mothers who themselves had lost children.
A funeral notice had been placed in the Scotsman. It read: “Unknown Little Baby Boy (Seafield, Edinburgh). With deep sadness, the little baby boy who was found wrapped in his blanket on the walkway/cycle path at Restalrig, Seafield, Edinburgh, will be laid to rest at Seafield Cemetery, on Friday, May 1, 2015, at 10am, to which all will be warmly invited to come along and pay their final respects to this little baby boy.”
One woman born nearby in Leith, who gave her name as Mags, had made a wreath decorated with white hearts and blue ribbons. She wondered about the mother, about her story. “We don’t know if it’s someone we know,” she said. “She could be here but we don’t know it.”
Claire Phillips, who has two girls of her own, described driving past Seafield every week after the boy’s body had been found, taking her mother to hospital for cancer treatment. She had come in from Dunbar in East Lothian to say goodbye for them both.
“The sad thing is: why did nobody name him? He should be buried with a name,” she said. “It’s just very, very sad. I know what it’s like to lose a child.”
The Royal British Legion Scotland bikers in their black leathers, some with heavy beards and bandanas, jackets coated in richly embroidered badges, had come in from Blairgowrie, Dunfermline and Edinburgh, according to the chapter’s chairman Colin Macnab. A captain in the 154th (Scottish) transport regiment based in Glasgow, Macnab said many others in the 700-strong branch were saying prayers, in Orkney, Stornoway in the Western Isles, Stranraer on the Irish Sea and Berwick-upon-Tweed.
“It’s an extraordinarily sad event,” he said. “We all feel compassion; it could be a biker [we bury] one day. And like all the other people gathered here, we’re here to pay our respects. We hope one day the wee man will be up there riding free.”
As the coffin was laid within its small rectangular grave, the minister from nearby Tranent parish church, Erica Wishart, told mourners: “Everyone gathered here today is grieving. We represent everyone in this community and beyond who feels deep sadness that this tiny baby is never going to have his chance to grow up and live his life.
“[We] are here to mourn a life that could have been.”