The Story of Roucan Loch

By Mark Jardine

I grew up immersed in the funeral trade, having being born into a family firm of funeral directors established at Three Crowns Court in Dumfries in 1862.

I began by helping my father Arthur and at the age of 17, I was driving people to crematoria all over the UK and realising how the soulless facades of the sombre buildings we visited and the distances travelled to get to them, could bring an added distress to grieving families. I knew then how important it was to bring a crematorium to the people of Dumfries and Galloway that met the needs of this diverse, rural community.

Indeed the need was high on the agenda of successive councils for at least 50 years but the financial implications meant that such a venture was simply not viable. Realistically, a city with a population of at least 100, 000 was the minimum requirement. Alas, Dumfries with less than 40 000 people and a hinterland of less than two thirds of the required magic number meant the only option was to punch well beyond our weight.

Finding the right site was crucial and I looked at in excess of one hundred possible locations across the region.

One sunny afternoon in the late 1990’s, I was cycling along a country road near Collin, when completely by accident I discovered an overgrown wilderness. Wading through plants, trees and briars, I threw a stone into the distance and was amazed to hear a watery echo. Incredibly, this wonderfully rural location was only 4 miles from Dumfries town centre. I had discovered Roucan Loch.

The Garden of Hope

As usual, I approached the then head of planning Mr. David Banford and popped a note through his window, (which he always kept ajar) to save the lengthy process of going through the main office!

David would usually open the letter there and then, check his map and tell me “No! -there are plans for housing here, or a road there,” or he would write and let me know the outcome of his investigations.

However, this visit was to be different.

David had a cursory glance at his map, which took up the entire wall of his office and almost immediately, the old case and sash window shot up and he asked, “Have you got a minute?”

Inside the office, he studied the map carefully and beamed at me, “Looks like you’ve got yourself a site at last!”

The next step was to find out to whom the land belonged and that was Ronnie Cunningham- Jardine and his son John.

John and his father were keen to become involved and so my 15 year search was over and the long haul of bringing on board other investors began.

However, despite speaking to over 40 people, no-one was willing to take the financial risk and become part of the team, and by early 2003 the project was in danger of disappearing from trace!

Outside investment was not possible unless we could guarantee at least 50 employees and whilst European funding was available, this was only if we chose to build the complex on the brown field site at the ICI!

Morally, the notion of sending grieving families to a massive factory on the outskirts of Dumfries would have been appalling, so John and I stuck to our plans and said that it was Roucan Loch or nowhere!

Despite having a massive funding gap, we pressed ahead with our plans and took them to the banks along with our business plan. Thankfully at this time, the banks could see the long term viability and so we were able to make our first tentative steps.

For some three years, Matt Kerr and I spent every spare hour after work in the evenings, landscaping the overgrown wilderness at Roucan Loch ahead of the building work in August 2004 by two local firms, Ashleigh and Hardie Engineering.

For me, one of the important elements of such a complex development was to use local businesses and to rely on being able to speak to them face to face on a daily basis, and sometimes several times a day when important decisions had to be made! The world renowned cremator designer Dr. Clive Chamberlain, formerly of “Evans of Leeds,” was based in Dumfries and was able to give an incredible amount of advice and expertise.

Dr Clive invited John and I to Sweden in the autumn of 2003 to see for ourselves the world famous “Forestcrematoriat”, as he felt that the site of Roucan Loch was Scandinavian in style.

Roucan Loch is a personal philosophy in crematoria design, born out of my many years of working with the bereaved, through counselling, funeral directing, delivering funeral services, my training in psychology and visiting sites in other countries.

I had a very clear vision of the type of facility that I wished to create, turning on its head the traditional crematorium model.

So what is it that makes Roucan Loch so different?
Is it the emphasis on the natural world, of peace and tranquillity, from the resident wildlife and serene loch to the trickling streams and a landscape which changes with the seasons? Could it be the beauty of the woodland burial site, the inspirational forest of remembrance or the unique range of memorial options, many focussing on nature? Perhaps it’s the award winning Scandinavian-style cedar chapel with picture windows overlooking the tranquil loch and pine forest or the cosy log cabin turf roof memorial lodge? Or is it the generous allowance between services, allowing families the privacy to gather in the family room or the compassionate, caring staff, who go the extra mile to make each service special?

Roucan Loch Photo: Phil Rigby/Dumfries and Galloway Life

I remember one afternoon when I was working in the grounds, an American gentleman asked me where the crematorium was.
“This is Roucan Loch,” I told him but the American looked with disbelief and said, “Don’t be stoopid! This is a country club!”
It was then that I realised we had succeeded in creating an environment which put people at their ease and a facility that was literally second to none.
Roucan Loch was not only born, it was beginning to find its feet.

Mark Jardine
Managing Director, Roucan Loch Crematorium and Woodland Burial Site