The Good Funeral Guide Blog

A woodman’s funeral

Thursday, 2 February 2012

 

Here’s an account by Charles Moore of the funeral of a neighbour:

Tony Woodall was a woodman and neighbour of ours in Sussex. Unusually for a rural family in the South East, the Woodalls are Catholics (I am told there was an Irish grandmother in the case). Every Sunday at our Catholic church, Tony would pull a surplice over his open-neck shirt and frayed working trousers and serve, his huge hands carefully placing the chalice and the patten on the altar. He would ring the little altar bells with a shake as strong as that of a dog with a rabbit. At the intercessions, where people are invited to propose further prayers, it was most commonly Tony who did so. He tended to ask us to pray for people who might not be automatically popular, such as Myra Hindley. His compassion was radical, and universal. He never stopped working. He dropped dead outdoors a couple of weeks ago, aged 79.

Tony Woodall was not known beyond his small corner of rural England, but, like Paddy, he commanded people’s love. The church where he served fits only 120 people, but 200 came to the funeral and many had to stand outside. It fell to me to help flank the hearse as it arrived, trying (and failing) to hold up a candle without it blowing out. I had to pick my way to my place through wild-haired countrymen wielding chainsaws. As Tony’s wicker coffin was lifted up and carried into the church, the saws, by way of tribute, roared into synchronised action.

 

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4 comments on “A woodman’s funeral

  1. Martin

    Thursday 2nd February 2012 at 4:19 pm

    Proper countryside send off, more variety like this needed, it can only make funerals better.

  2. Richard Rawlinson

    Thursday 2nd February 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Lovely. And an example of bespoke ritual. Instead of a gun salute, synchronised chainsaw roar.

  3. Thursday 2nd February 2012 at 10:10 am

    Wonderful. And – way to go!

  4. Kathryn Edwards

    Thursday 2nd February 2012 at 10:01 am

    Made me cry.

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