A GRIEVING widow has accused Mary Tavy parish councillors of being ‘heartless’ for refusing to let her have the wording she wants on her late husband’s gravestone.

Pearl Duke says she is distraught that the parish council has ruled that her chosen words do not comply with regulations stating that inscriptions on gravestones in country cemeteries should be ‘short and simple’.

‘I can’t believe they are being so hard,’ she said. ‘It is really heartless.

‘My dear husband died 15 months ago after terrible suffering over 13 years. I want to put a fitting tribute on his stone, the best I can do, but they won’t allow the 27 words of my choice, only some of them.

‘They know what he endured, but are rigid. They could, if they had any compassion, let me inscribe what I want to, as it’s only 27 words saying how wonderful and good and true he was, that he loved animals and nature, and was the best; nothing objectionable what-soever.’

Mrs Duke, 76, nursed her husband Ray through prostate cancer and other serious health problems at their home in Great Fellingfield, Mary Tavy until the end. He died in May last year at the age of 74.

‘He was so brave through that hell — a lovely, gentle man,’ she said. ‘Now I have to face this problem simply because I live in the country and because councillors can but won’t permit me to give Ray a proper headstone tribute.’

The words she wants on the gravestone are: ‘Beloved wonderful husband, dad and granddad who bravely suffered much. Kind, caring and true, you were the best. Loved animals and nature. God Bless, so loved and so sadly missed.’

‘The parish council say I can only have the first and fourth sentences, not the second and third ones,’ she said. ‘I don’t see though why they should tell anybody what they can put on a headstone. It is a personal thing, memorial wording.

‘As my husband went through so much, though, I feel I cannot just put 12-18 words, I have got to put all these words to convey the message I want. You don’t get this problem in town cemeteries, it is only in the country ones. I want to know who made this rule, and the parish council won’t tell me.’

Parish council clerk Kerri Hingham said that Mrs Duke’s headstone dedication had been turned down because it was at odds with a Church of England rule saying inscriptions had to be ‘simple, relevant and in keeping with rural churchyards’.

‘Mrs Duke was provided with the rules and regulations for the parish cemetery at the time of her enquiry and she decided to purchase a plot,’ she added. ‘The rules and regulations are the same for everyone.’

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Exeter said: ‘In this regard, the rules are set by the parish council as this is a parish cemetery. Our thoughts and prayers are with Pearl at this time.’