Another day in the life of the Vintage Lorry Hearse.
Often David Hall, of Vintage Lorry Funerals, is asked what happens if it rains during a funeral. Although under the deck of the 1950 Leyland Beaver there is a slide out drawer with a purpose built translucent sheet, this has been used only once in 200 funerals, and this was only because the final wish from a former Lorry Driver was that his coffin should be sheeted like a load!
Whilst it can rain during the time that the flowers are being loaded, normally, apart from one exception in 13 years, the rain stops when the coffin is presented to the side roller. During inclement weather, when the flower display is being assembled, a tarpaulin is used to protect the area of the deck where the coffin will be positioned just before the cortege departs. This facility was used during a rainy morning in Carshalton whilst the flower display was being built for Bobby Dudley. The interesting things that happened whilst the front section of the display was being built, was featured in last month’s article and in this article the amazing events which occurred just before the coffin was loaded are described.
Eight Family Floral Tributes, that were planned, were supplemented by 58 tributes from friends and more distant related Family members, making 66 in total. Every Tribute was a substantial Spray, Wreath or Tablet, such as a ‘Heart’ and there were no small Bouquets from High Street Retailers. David loaded 65 Floral Tributes on the deck but couldn’t find the appropriate space for a giant ‘Basket of Flowers’, which was then hung on the Drawbar A-Frame, in front of the Radiator Grill. In the creation of such a large scale flower display members of the public gaze in wonderment and some offer assistance. When David was climbing up the ladder to get onto the deck, with a huge Floral Tribute in his right hand and a cup of tea, kindly made by George Hards, in his left hand, an onlooker stepped forward and took the cup out of David’s hand. This kind person continued to hold it, giving David the occasional sip of tea as he passed by with two Tributes in his hands.
Just before the coffin was due to be loaded, David folded over both edges of the tarpaulin which had protected the deck, creating something that looked like a sodden roll of carpet, with a huge volume of water trapped inside. David needed some assistance to transfer the tarpaulin onto the ground and he asked for a volunteer from the group of school boys standing at the Bus Stop. One young man stepped forward and grabbed the end of the tarpaulin, but didn’t follow David’s instructions about standing back as David raised his end of the tarpaulin. Unfortunately a torrent of water gushed out from the end of the tarpaulin at the lower level, and the young man, who wasn’t wearing any weather protection, was soaked. The young man swore profusely using many expletives, thinking that he had been tricked and that David had made a fool out of him. His mood wasn’t helped by his friends all falling about with laughter. If this hadn’t been a funeral, then the scene would have been reminiscent of the 1971 Morecombe & Wise Christmas Show Spectacular, ‘Singing in the Rain’ in which Ernie Wise, with the umbrella, saw no rain and Eric Morecombe, dressed as a Policeman, saw plenty.
Whilst the group of boys were laughing, David noticed a mean looking youth, who was taller than the rest, pushing his way to the front of the crowd. David guessed that this individual was the leader of the gang and he was going to remonstrate with David for disrespecting one of his crew. The youth approached David, and in a softly spoken voice asked, ‘May I be of some assistance?’ David explained the potential hazardous nature of the exercise, and the youth, pointing to his leggings and said, ‘I’m prepared for the task’. As the tarpaulin was sliding over the side rave the youth noticed the two seams in the canvass and asked if the tarpaulin folded into three, two ends into the middle. David nodded and the youth immediately folded his end perfectly in place before guiding David’s end on top of it, such that a well shaped bundle resulted. As David climbed down from the deck, the youth asked, ‘Does the tarp now go into that space left underneath the rear flower display?’ David nodded and with the youth’s help the heavy tarpaulin was positioned perfectly in the hole at the first attempt. David put his hand in his pocket and took out some money to reward the youth. The youth folded his arms and said, ‘I don’t want no money, this world would be a better place if we could all help each other more.’
In the cemetery David off-loaded the 65 Floral Tributes from the deck, but forgot about the ‘Basket of Flowers’ that were still on the A-Frame. However, he was stopped at the cemetery gates and he returned to the graveside.