Wigan security guard turned gardener is a cut above the rest

The late Shaun Pennington

For 14 years now Gary Pennington has been a regular sight at Castle Hill Cemetery in Hindley, pushing a petrol-driven lawnmower and ensuring an ever growing part of it is looking immaculate. He says it is his way of staying close to 17-year-old son Shaun who died in 2004 after a long battle with muscular dystrophy and is buried there. The part that he routinely mows has grown bigger over the years as he takes in the areas around graves of other young people and those of people he knows – and he says this is much appreciated by loved ones.

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Wigan security guard turned gardener is a cut above the restGary Pennington at the cemetery

He has fallen foul of the council a couple of times though.

On asking a manager if he might use one of their mowers, seeing as he was saving them a bit of local authority work, he was firmly told “no” and was accused of showing up the council staff because he was doing such a good job! And he also believes a new sign that has been put up near the recycling bin – usually used for old family flowers – which tells people not to put grass clippings there but in a compost bin on the far side of the cemetery is aimed at him. But the 60-year-old grandfather of two, who works as a security guard at Hindley Tesco and lives in the town with wife Beverley and daughter Morgan, has no intention of giving up.

He said: “It’s therapy for me. It is a nice reason to go regularly to Castle Hill to be near Shaun and I like the way visitors’ faces light up when they see how neat it all is. “When Shaun died 15 years ago I waited for 12 months before starting on the grass.

I remembered that when I used to cut the lawn at our home, Shaun would always be straight out afterwards with his rugby ball. “Tending the lawns at Castle Hill seemed a nice, appropriate and helpful thing to do. “I started with just a small area near to Shaun but over the years it has come to take in more and more headstones.

Sometimes it’s because there are children and young people there, sometimes because there are fresh resting places of people I have known. “I reckon I cover between 200 and 300 headstones now – the equivalent of half a football pitch. “It’s very rewarding although I have had run-ins over showing up the council workmen and putting the clippings in the bin.

If I can keep on top of it in good weather there isn’t that much to dispose of anyway.” Trevor Fairhurst, whose 19-year-old daughter Carly is also buried in Castle Hill Cemetery, said: “I think Gary performs a great and selfless service. “He uses a lawnmower with a box on whereas the council just spray clippings all over the place including the headstones which discolours them.”

Gary is now on his seventh mower – Trevor and wife Sheila having once donated one – and says that he will carry on the work for as long as he his physically able. Thanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just GBP1 for your first month.

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