Blog Archives: 2015

Travellers funerals

Wednesday, 6 May 2015



Posted by David Hall

Travellers make up a proportion of the Vintage Lorry Funerals business as David Hall has developed a reputation within their community for creating memorable Floral Tribute layouts and a simple no nonsense communicative style that Travellers like.

Traveller funerals were there at the very start of the business in 2002 accounting for 2 of the first 4 funerals undertaken by the lorry. The opportunity to carry a high profile Lady Traveller for his second funeral, by David’s own admission, came earlier in his funeral career than he would have wished. As David explained, ‘It was like a 17 year old Footballer making his debut in the World Cup Finals, and I’m no Pele.’ David had no contact with the Family and the Leyland Beaver inched slowly into the Traveller Encampment, near Swindon, with David having no knowledge of what flowers were to be loaded. Gaps between the Travellers vehicles were very narrow and Travellers watched David struggle to get past cars with less than one inch clearance, rather than move their vehicles. The flowers were thrown onto the vehicle by Travellers and David’s perception was that he was being ostracised because he was not a Traveller. David felt uncomfortable and the chorus of Leon Russell and the Shelter People’s ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’ was reverberating inside David’s head.

As the 1950 Leyland Beaver pulled into Abingdon there were hundreds of mourners all dressed completely in black and David had to drive into the crowd to park the lorry in a position to off-load the white casket. Everyone wanted to touch the lorry, the crowd around the cab was 6 deep and David couldn’t open the door to get out of the lorry. It took David’s wife over two days to remove all the finger prints.

So when the second Traveller funeral arrived for a Leeds Family David insisted from the start that he wanted to be treated as if he were part of the Family. David arrived in Keighley around 1730 hours and someone came up to him and asked, ‘Are you hungry Driver?’ Somebody else arrived in 20 minutes with a Fish Supper and would take no payment. As David was washing the lorry in the evening sunlight a young boy asked David, ‘How much is the lorry worth?’ David said he wasn’t sure, but he had seen similar vehicles for sale at £10,000. David was surprised when his bed for the evening turned out to be the chair in front of the coal fire, however, he did recall insisting that he should be treated as if he was part of the Family. At 0700 hours there was a knock on the window and someone, who David had not met, handed in a bacon butty for his breakfast.

David was directed to follow a 4×4 vehicle to the house of the Deceased and was instructed to park on the pavement. On this occasion the lorry was booked to only carry the flowers with the Deceased’s coffin being transported in a Horse Drawn Carriage. The Leyland Beaver was chosen specifically because The Deceased’s favourite colour was blue and John, the man who had phoned David initially acted as the liaison with other people. The Widow made John the first cup of tea and David was honoured when he was offered the second cup of tea. People gave their flowers to John and John instructed David where to position them on the lorry deck, those relations closest to the Deceased had their Floral Tributes loaded nearer the front of the deck closer to the headboard.


In the cemetery after the interment John gave David a roll of notes, which he put in his shirt pocket as his main focus at the time was fixing the sheet in place as the wind was gaining strength in the late afternoon. John asked David to count the money as he was roping the sheet down and David replied that he trusted that the money would be right. John insisted that David should count the money as it was Traveller Culture to do so. David was unaccustomed to counting notes, and started to turn over the £20 notes slowly one by one. Totally frustrated John grabbed the bundle of notes and counted them quickly like a card player shuffling a deck of cards. Having finally secured the sheet, David was having a drink from his flask when he was approached by two hugely built men in heavy overcoats. One man pulled two massive rolls of money from the pockets on the overcoat and said, ‘Here’s £10,000 for your motor.’ David was perplexed, however, John was in close proximity and stepped between David and the two men saying, ‘The young lad last night asked what the motor was worth, he never ascertained if it was for sale, there was no shake of hands.’ David had never seen such hugely built guys so disappointed and these weren’t the type of guys who normally take disappointment in their stride. However, taking a broader view David believed that progress had been made in that he had direct contact with the Family.

Fast forward 10 years on and Traveller Funerals are treated just like any other funeral in that a Family member provides information on the Florists involved, who are relaxed to provide information once David has confirmed the member of the Family he had spoken with.

A good example of a Traveller’s funeral working brilliantly was the final journey of John Buckley who had tragically passed away following an accident at home. His Sister Mary Lee provided information on the flowers which included exquisite giant wire framed ‘Names’ including ‘BIG JOHN’. A ‘Cornflake Box’ Tribute was ordered because when friends visited John in hospital he would always say, ‘I’d love a bowl of cornflakes.’ Cognisant that the ‘Cornflake’ Tribute would accompany a ‘Cup & Saucer’ Tribute, David created a Breakfast Table with a table cloth.

When David arrived at 0730 hours, Floral Tributes had already started to be positioned on the grass area in front of the house. Mary Lee provided David with a cup of tea and introduced two men who had been assigned to work for David whilst he was assembling the Floral Tributes on the lorry. At 0930 hours two smaller lorries arrived to load friends and more distant Family members flowers. The agreement with Mary included the provision that David could have the choice of requesting any extra tributes from the grass area if these would enhance the display on his lorry beyond those included in the layout sketch previously agreed by Mary. David approached the men loading the smaller lorries who willingly gave up any specific tribute that David requested.

On a Travellers funeral no person will look inside the vintage lorry’s cab without first gaining David’s expressed permission. The cab door is never locked and valuables including a digital camera are often in plain sight, however, nothing has ever been taken. Travellers can get a bad name, however, in David’s opinion we could all learn from how a Traveller respects their dead.




Stick to what you know

Wednesday, 8 April 2015



Guest post by Vita Incerta

Was I alone in reading The Times journalist, Janice Turner’s piece about the funeral of her Godmother? In a rip roaring and impassioned annihilation, she tore apart the ‘crass, vain, sloppy buffoon’  who led her Godmother’s service. 

This wasn’t some half baked celebrant, nor a clueless member of the clergy. It was a Funeral Director. The ritual was held at the  FD’s premises. 

Addressing those gathered in ‘the jocular tone suitable for a boozy Rotarian lunch’, in his opening words he waxed lyrical about the lovely spread of sandwiches awaiting the mourners afterwards. Some ten minutes passed before Ms Turner heard her Godmother’s life mentioned as he extolled the virtues of his undertaking firm. Ms Turner knew that he had spoken with those closest to her Godmother, but it became quickly evident that – anathema to a journalist – he had taken no notes. The FD compounded his foolishness by making errors about Ms Turner’s Godmother that were corrected by those attending. He then argued with his audience about the date of VE Day…and so it went on. It is such a shame that the article is behind a paywall. 

But I take notes and pre prepare my eulogy. E mail or snail mail or hand deliver my draft to those closest and they are encouraged to add, subtract, revise to their heart’s content.  Every unknown fact: be it the date of VE Day, the merits of one dance hall over another, the name of the grocer in the High Street fifty years ago; all are checked and rechecked against local history books and websites and consultations with a few wise local buffers, who are generous of mind and spirit and have the time to help me get these things right, if I come up against a brick wall. 

To those who see no merit in paying a different speaker to lead a funeral ceremony for one who, in life, they have loved…caveat emptor. Plan this carefully and appreciate that we all have our limits. I would no sooner suggest that I could conceivably sport a morning coat and brandish a stick with the élan of some FDs, nor embalm to make someone appear as if in repose, than I would attempt an Argentinean Tango, given that I struggle to walk down a flight of stairs without hanging grimly on to both sides. 

I am not all things to all men, rathermore a passionate gobsh*te (Thanks, GM) attempting to offer some small salve to families whose needs might  otherwise be shoddily met. Why on earth should  Funeral Directors consider themselves any different ? 


Brighton & Portchester in the same week

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

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Guest post by David Hall

Vintage Lorry Funerals sent a marketing pack to Mother & Daughter Funerals in Hove on March 10th 2014 and it generated a funeral on April 9th, a record timescale response to a marketing pack, less than 4 weeks! The Deceased had been an avid collector of model lorries so David Hall offered to position two of his own models either side of the Family’s ‘G’ Floral Tribute. The design for the layout had been signed off by the Brighton Family and the support structure was built during Wednesday and Thursday April 2nd & 3rd respectively.

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On Friday April 5th David was having a break, reading his paper, reflecting that all the preparation work for the Brighton funeral had been completed, when the telephone rang.

A Lady apologised for the late notice, however, she wondered if Vintage Lorry Funerals could help her. The funeral arrangements for her Father had been finalised but she wanted to do more for her Dad, who had stated that he didn’t want his final journey to be in a black hearse. Her Dad had been a Fireman until his retirement when he set up business as a Landscape Gardener. She had made enquiries regarding a Fire Engine to carry the coffin, however, these phone calls had proved fruitless. The Lady explained how she had looked at the Vintage Lorry Funerals website and noticed that David had previously carried a Lawn Mower in front of the coffin and she enquired as to what David could do for a Landscape Gardener. David has experienced similar conversations in the past 12 years and often Families tell him what they think they need, however, the skill is to channel their desires into something he can achieve within the tight timescales.

So David asked, ‘What have you got in mind?’

What happened next resembled Bruce Forsyth’s Generation Game, from the 1970’s, in which contestants tried to remember items that they had seen pass before their eyes. The Lady said, ‘A Wheel Barrow, a Spade, a Shovel, Tree Cutting Equipment…..’ David was tempted to say, ‘A cuddly toy’ but he didn’t. It was agreed that David would gather together relevant tools from people near his home in Bradford-on-Avon and assemble the load the day before the funeral. David always works on the premise that if the design stays in place from Bradford-on-Avon to the Funeral Directors, it will stay in place from the Funeral Directors to the Crematorium.

David made a series of phone calls to his support network and identified a number of options for equipment that could be lent to him for this funeral. In order to ensure that the tools could be loaded and held securely, David decided to dissemble the Brighton display that was in place on the lorry and erect the Landscape Gardener’s Theme during Saturday April 6th and Sunday morning April 7th. If all went well, during Sunday afternoon, the Landscape Gardener’s Theme would be documented, dissembled and put aside, with each tool assigned specific securement facilities, ready to reload on Thursday April 10th. Then the Brighton support structure would be put back in place and David would be back to where he was before the phone call about the Portchester funeral.

On Saturday mornings some members of the Vintage Lorry Funerals support team come to David’s garage for their coffee and cakes, provided by his wife. These retired gentlemen have engineering backgrounds and their advice has proved invaluable when major themes are being created. The centrepiece of the display was the Wheel Barrow and a novel securement technique was devised using small pieces of angled wood. Securement of the Spade and Shovel provided the biggest challenge and one of the old guys joked, ‘It won’t be any good if the Spade flew off in a Town Centre, creating next week’s business for a Funeral Director.’ One of David’s neighbours knocked on the garage door and offered her new Wheel Barrow, however, David explained that the look he was attempting to create involved tools appearing to have just completed their last job.

Jim Pethers, Landscape Gardener, arrived on Saturday afternoon and gave David the option of various tools. The final selection was made related to which items were of a similar height, to create a balanced design, and which items wouldn’t mysteriously disappear when David stopped for a comfort break at Sutton Scotney Services. So Jim left with the Chain Saw and petrol powered Tree Cutters still in his van. The Landscape Gardener’s Theme was sketched and the Deceased’s Daughter was delighted with the layout and the price. When she suggested to David to round the price to the nearest hundred, she meant round up not down, as many other people may have done.

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The Brighton funeral worked well as David had organised undercover storage for the 1950 Leyland Beaver less than a mile from the Funeral Directors. David exceeded the expectations of the Family by tilting the cabs of his two model lorries as the coffin was discharged from the lorry at The Downs Crematorium. The lorry arrived home at 2030 hours and David’s wife started to clean the vehicle’s cab, immediately it was stationary. On Thursday April 10th David loaded and secured the tools with a mixture of wooden wedges and cable ties.

David would be interested to hear from you regarding an estimate of the number of cable ties that were used in the Landscape Gardener’s Theme.

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Elephant in the Room event success

Monday, 30 March 2015

 The Elephant in the Room free event, Plymouth Central Library.


Posted by Wendy Coulton


The elephant had well and truly left the room when the first event of its kind about dying matters was held in Plymouth to challenge the taboo which comes with the D word.

A positive unexpected outcome came from bringing together likeminded people under one roof which has now planted the seed for a professional forum whereby we will meet again, perhaps quarterly, in a social setting to find out what eachother is doing and identify how we can mutually support our efforts to improve the experience for the bereaved.

When I read the feedback cards afterwards I got tearful though that may have just been from exhaustion and relief! There genuinely was overwhelming support for the purpose of the event and calls for similar opportunities to be repeated.

The Lord Mayor of Plymouth and Lady Mayoress attended the launch with a keynote talk by George Lillie, South West representative of The Dying Matters Coalition. All the talks were well presented, thought provoking and informative. The free advice hub was visited by people who were just curious and others with specific questions.

We had no idea what response we would get because dying matters are not a topic people are comfortable with and tend to avoid but the elephant had well and truly left the room by the end of our event. There was respectful open discussion about a wide range of topics including organ donation, legal and money matters, hospicecare, green funerals and carer experience of death. It was a fantastic team effort.

The large red papier mache elephant centrepiece in the advice hub has been garaged…until his services are required sometime next year!

Pictured: The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress of Plymouth, with event organiser Wendy Coulton and George Lillie, SW representative of The Dying Matters Coalition.

What to wear for a funeral

Monday, 23 March 2015




Guest post by Wendy Coulton

Choosing what to wear when conducting a funeral is an important aspect as a professional and for the bereaved I am serving.

Advice which stuck with me when I was trained as a funeral celebrant was that I am not mourning and therefore it is not a requirement for me to wear black.

The bereaved decide the dress code

First and foremost I find out from the bereaved client what the dress code is for the funeral when we are planning it together. Some prefer the traditional black mourning attire so that will influence my wardrobe choice for that funeral – a dark purple, charcoal grey or dark blue. But if the family make it clear everyone is to wear black then I will respect their wishes.

Sometimes a specific colour is chosen as an accent colour for its personal relevance to the person who has died or to reflect the tone of the funeral focussing with love and thanks on the life that was lived and how that person enriched the lives of those who knew them. Increasingly funeral directors wear different colour ties to acknowledge the colour preference of the bereaved. I have a growing collection of scarves as a more cost effective way of introducing a chosen colour to the dress code.

I generally tend to wear bright jackets but for the more conservative clients I may tone it down. For example for the funeral of an elderly traditional lady I favour a pastel pink with grey.

Personal touches

My clients always appreciate the simple extra touches which reflect the careful thought given to the individuality of their funeral ceremony.  For example I wore an understated blue thistle button hole on my jacket at the funeral for a man who was very proud of his Scottish heritage. His family were really appreciative of my nod to his patriotism.

The city football club colour is green so I invested in a dress in the same shade which I wear when the deceased was a Plymouth Argyle supporter.

Standing out from the crowd

From a practical point of view it can help the next of kin find me before we go into the chapel, particularly if there is a high attendance and everyone is wearing similar clothes. 

As a ‘neutral’ person without a uniform or universally recognised dress code like the clergy it is important that I am recognised easily as the person who is responsible for conducting the funeral ceremony.

My brand

I want to come across as warm, approachable, professional and kind. What I wear reflects this. I do not want to come across as efficient, formal and detached. Often I wear a Dragonfly brooch or necklace by way of a discreet image which may stay in the sub conscious of people attending the funeral so they relate that to my business name Dragonfly Funerals.

Classic Commercials Enthusiasts’ Day

Monday, 2 March 2015


Posted by David Hall

Every March, David Hall of Vintage Lorry Funerals attends the Classic Commercial Enthusiasts’ Day, which is held at the Three Counties Showground at Malvern. Jason Lunn, of Independent Event Management, who manages the Enthusiast’s Day is always happy to help David by giving the Leyland Beaver a prime position where the lorry and its display will receive many visitors. David uses the show as an opportunity to test the roadworthiness of Themes that will feature in the future for people planning their own final journey.

It is also an opportunity to test the reaction of the general public and provides the facility for David to demonstrate his creativity. To date the Themes displayed at Malvern have included a ‘Doll’s House’, a ‘1950’s TV Set’ with the Lone Ranger and Tonto on the screen, and in 2014 an ‘Only Fools & Horses’ Theme with Del Boy falling through the bar. This working model created a lot of interest with David impersonating Del Boy, ‘We are on a winner here Trigg, stay cool, stay cool.’ David then lifted the hatch, pulled Del Boy through the bar and then allowed Del Boy to spring back into position. Trigger then asked, ‘Are we going to speak to these birds? And Del responded, ‘You’re cramping my style, I just want to go home.’

Over 30 presentations took place with between 1 and 10 recipients and David thought that he should have sign saying, ‘Next Show in 15 minutes,’ like the Punch & Judy shows at the seaside in the 1950’s.

At the rear of the deck David displays 24 pictures of previous funerals highlighting how a funeral can be personalised. This provides people who were unaware of Vintage Lorry Funerals to have a more detailed understanding of the service. It also enables Families whose Loved One’s funeral is featured on one of the 8 ft x 4ft boards to see their Loved One’s memory preserved. Touchingly some people come to Malvern each year from locations as far afield as Kent and Lancashire primarily to see a picture of their Loved One’s funeral exhibited within the display.

Going to Malvern involves a big day getting up at 0330 hours and not getting back until 1900 hours. The early start ensures that the Leyland Beaver is one of the first vehicles into the site at 0700 hours and prior agreement with the Managing Agents allows Vintage Lorry Funerals to have a prime position adjacent to the main walkway, next to the Restaurant and Toilets, which ensures a steady and high footfall to look at the display. There is always a small delay as the Marshalls check the credentials of the entrants. Last year as the 1950 Leyland Beaver rolled towards the gates an attractive young lady came up to David and asked him for his number. David jokingly said, ‘It’s a long time since such a stunningly attractive lady has asked me for my number!’ The lady smiled and said ‘It is the entry number I’m interested in at the moment, I’ll come and see you later about your telephone number.’

As David sits in his cab from 0730 hours waiting for the gates to open to the public at 1000 hours he often reviews how the year has gone. David often ponders why is it that he can count on one hand the number of his funerals which are within 10 miles of his base where his cost is the lowest and yet Families are often happy to pay almost three times the local price for locations such as Stockport or Maidstone. In the 30 minutes before he starts to listen to Sounds of the 60’s on his radio he often reflects back to the 1970s when he was working in Europe and Van Morrison had left Ireland and was trying to establish himself in America. At the time Van’s Astral Weeks Album sold less than 7,000 copies worldwide and his records never appeared on the radio in Britain or America. However, when David was travelling in Europe he noticed that wherever he was a Van Morrison song came on the radio, so it was ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ in Calais, ‘Gloria’ in Brussels and ‘Bright side of the Road’ in Dortmund. So, just as Van Morrison was ignored locally but very popular abroad, then Vintage Lorry Funerals business seems to have followed a similar pattern. Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks is now a Classic Album and Van now has worldwide acceptance, filling out concerts in the UK. Will Vintage Lorry Funerals business eventually follow that of the grumpy guru who snarls at the band, changing the order of songs with a wave of his hand?

Just as Brian Matthews, who hosts Sounds of the 60’s, says, ‘That’s your lot for this week, see you next week!’ David notices that a huge number of people are approaching all with their plastic bags which contain a programme and handouts provided by Jason’s staff at the gate. It is now time for David to take out his ear-plugs and meet the public.


A lot of people ask David for a price for their Funeral, however, to date there is only one example of a funeral directly emanating from contact at Malvern. A young man rang David one evening asking if David could help him solve a mystery, as he had found pictures of the 1950 Leyland Beaver on his Dad’s computer. When the young man described the Theme at the front of the deck and the display of pictures on the rear of the deck David could deduce that he met his Father at Malvern two years previously. On the strength of these discussions David was awarded a funeral in Birmingham.

Dog eats dog. Move on, leave them to it

Wednesday, 11 February 2015



Here’s the hot news:

“… we can today formally announce that we have initiated legal proceedings against the UK’s largest provider of pre-paid funeral plans, Golden Charter, seeking substantial damages for their actions against Safe Hands Funeral Plans.”

Yes, the Yorkshire terriers have gone for the throat of wee Big Dawgie, and they ain’t stopping there:

“Further claims against other companies are imminent and will be announced at a later date.”

Blimey, what’s this all about?

It seems that Safe Hands “recorded video and audio footage (presented, in January 2015, to the perpetrators via our solicitors) that shows representatives of most of the major plan providers launching vicious, unprovoked, verbal attacks – primarily against Safe Hands, but on each other as well…all in a desperate and shamefully unprofessional effort to get an edge over the competition.” Looks like a sting.

While the lawyers order trebles all round and get ready to enwrap both parties in litigation for as long as legally possible, the good citizens of Funeralworld tremble. A lot of heavily soiled linen looks like being washed in public. God forbid that the public learn just how much of the money they spend on a funeral plan gets divvied up among sundry predators in the form of commissions, sales and marketing costs, directors’ wages, you name it.

Golden Charter describes itself as “owned by and run entirely for the benefit of independent funeral directors”, a claim a great many independent funeral directors now reject. On its website, GC confesses “We work on behalf of more than 3,300 independent funeral directors throughout the UK.” Why on earth would anyone want to buy a funeral plan that works in the service of the very people who stand to make money out of them? Beats us.  

But GC has achieved a market share great enough to enable it effectively to act as funeral broker, and that’s seriously worrying. So: praise the Lord if the hullabaloo has the effect of concentrating minds and curing funeral directors of their dependency on this lousy financial product.

So far as we are concerned at the GFG, the present squabbles are between businesses with a failed business model.

Going forward, we recommend that funeral directors subject a funeral plan to the Lynch Test before endorsing it. The Lynch Test? Yes, the Lynch Test. It goes like this:

Does this plan facilitate face-to-face accountability between the buyer of the funeral– the personal representative of the person who has died — and the seller — the funeral director?

The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Again: The only good funeral plan is one that restores the lost link between buyer and seller.

Can this be achieved? Yes, it can. Shortly, we’ll show you how.

UPDATE 12-02-2015: I wrote to David Latham at NFFD HQ asking how Safe Hands had funded its prime-time ad slot on ITV on 09-02-2015. He replied as follows: 

“The advertising campaign is limited to the Yorkshire area only and was a special introductory package for a new advertiser. Consequently, the amount spent was minimal. More importantly, the cost was met by the NFFD, so I can state, categorically, that it most certainly WILL NOT affect the long term investments of Safe Hands’ plan holders. Whereas some other providers use their clients investments to advertise their services, you may be interested (and comforted) to know that Safe Hands most certainly does not.”


A journey to Great Yarmouth in a Winter Storm

Monday, 2 February 2015



Posted by David Hall

In the second week of February 2009, a Winter Storm hit Southern England and this coincided with Vintage Lorry Funerals first funeral for Arthur Jary & Sons in Great Yarmouth.

Normally David Hall leaves Bradford-on-Avon very early and puts the first 2 hours of the journey behind him before most people wake up. However, on this morning David’s wife spent from 0630 hours to 0800 hours evaluating the best way for the Leyland Beaver to escape from Bradford-on-Avon, situated on the southern edge of the Cotswolds and experiencing two climatic extremes. The road north was closed due to snow drifts, whilst all roads to the south and east were closed due to flooding.

David headed eastwards at 0800 hours but the traffic came to a halt just before Melksham, and David flagged down a van driver coming in the opposite direction for an appraisal of the hold up. This was a common way to find out information in the 1950’s before the advent of mobile phones and citizen band communication facilities. It was evident that the River Avon had burst its banks and water had over spilled onto the Holt Road and timid car drivers taking children to school were hesitant to go through the expanse of shallow water. Experienced drivers know that driving down the centre of the road, straddling the white line where the water is shallowest, is the best approach. However, White Van Drivers were ploughing through at speed forcing Mums, taking children to school, into the deeper water and creating a bow wave which threatened to push water into the engine compartments of small cars. Seeing women becoming very distressed and hearing children crying it was time for David to do a bit of assertive driving, like a 1950’s Lorry Driver, helping others in distress. David overtook all the cars in the queue and parked his Leyland Beaver in the deep water at the side of the road. He then climbed onto the deck of the lorry and acted as a Traffic Policeman, waving groups of three cars through the shallow water adjacent to the vintage lorry before instructing the 4th car to stop. He then invited a batch of three vehicles to now proceed in the opposite direction. Within 20 minutes David had cleared the backlog and proceeded towards Melksham, the first 5 miles of the journey taking almost an hour.

David’s wife continued to act as Mission Control, undertaking detailed research of the weather in various parts of the country and texting David updates. Reports of flooding in Essex had caused problems on the A12 at Chelmsford so David decided to take the A30 into London, follow the North Circular Road before taking the A10 to Norwich and then the A47 to Great Yarmouth. The selection of this route ensured that mainly a trouble free journey resulted, however, it was amazing that isolated hilly sections of the A10 were covered with 2 inches of snow and the localised effects of extreme weather is a modern phenomenon.

At 1930 hours David pulled up outside Arthur Jary & Sons Funeral Directors and Barry Gates, who had received a number of progress updates throughout the day, came out to meet the 1950 Leyland Beaver. Barry, relieved that the lorry had got through the Winter Storms, bowed down in front of the Leyland Beaver and thanked David for what he had done. David was dismissive of the praise saying, ‘It was nowt.  Men in the 1950’s did 240 miles in 11 hours every day of the week, sometimes 12 days on the trot.’

Barry relayed the good news to the Family, who were delighted. Their Dad had been part of a family Transport Business in the 1950’s so David created a Sheeted Load Theme to replicate the type of traffic their Dad used to pull. It was the third time that a Sheeted Load Theme had been used in a funeral with previous outings in Portsmouth and Newcastle. The Leyland Beaver created a lot of attention in Great Yarmouth and the local paper sent a photographer to take pictures during the funeral. David is very grateful to the Great Yarmouth Mercury for allowing him to use the pictures, two of which are included in this article.


Given that the funeral was in the afternoon Barry kindly offered David the opportunity to park the lorry in his yard for two nights. The night after the funeral was very cold and temperatures got down as low as -10 degrees overnight and a number of pipes had burst in the street as David walked from his digs to the Vintage Lorry in Arthur Jary’s yard. The Leyland Beaver still started first time at 0630 hours, despite the freezing temperatures making the 5 gallons of oil in the sump of the 9.8 litre engine as viscous as treacle. The Leyland 600 engine continued to tick-over as David de-iced the windows, standing on his pop-up seat that he carries, folded flat, in the storage box at the nearside rear of the chassis. The stretch of the A47 between Great Yarmouth and Ackle is called the Ackle Strait and is as straight as a die for over 13 miles. As the Leyland Beaver trundled towards Norwich at 30 miles per hour, cars initially congregated behind the lorry. However, the car drivers were experienced and as soon as David put on his left indicator, making three flashes, they knew that the way ahead was clear and the cars came past in groups of 4 or 5 cars. Once oncoming vehicles had past and the road ahead was clear, David repeated the procedure probably over 20 times before the single lane road is transformed into a Dual Carriageway.

With the moonlight projecting shadows across the flat landscape David felt his actions were a bit like Officer Hilts (Steve McQueen) in the Great Escape making two pulls on the rope to signify that the coast was clear to escapees waiting patiently in the tunnel from Stalag Luft III, situated near Sagan, 100 miles to the South East of Berlin.

Coming back through Cirencester David refuelled the Leyland Beaver and as he was paying in the shop a loud voice shouted, ‘Which (expletive) idiot has got that beautiful (expletive) wagon out on a day like this?’ The man went on to explain that he had a vintage lorry and only took it out once per year on a Bank Holiday Monday in August. David gave the man a Vintage Lorry Funerals business card and told the gentleman, ‘No matter what time of year, no matter what weather conditions prevail, no matter what distance is involved, if a family wants my lorry and is prepared to pay then I’ll be there.’


General Election blues … and greens

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Signpost, political parties


Posted by Richard Rawlinson

With Funeralworld including many small businesses, will their owners and employees be voting in the 7 May General Election for the party they feel supports the UK’s 4.9 million small businesses the most?

But what can a government actually do other than make supportive noises encouraging enterprise, and championing the role of small businesses in economic growth? Cut business red tape? Improve access to finance? Lower business rates?
One regret for me is that the Tories have allowed environmentalism to become a left-wing cause (eco-warriors fighting for the future victims of capitalism). In fact, environmentalism is not just about the radical re-ordering of society, but also about conservative causes such as conservation and safeguarding resources. It’s what Edmund Burke describes as a partnership between the dead, the living and the unborn.

It was the state-controlled projects of the Soviet empire that destroyed landscapes and poisoned waters. It’s private ownership that more often than not confers responsibility for the environment.

A fine example of this is woodland burial sites. It’s a shame that these pastures green are sometimes perceived as more for alternative types than mainstream conservationists who are equally keen to leave nature in good shape for future generations.
Will any of the party’s manifestos propose, even in small print, legislation in favour of the re-use of graves after a period of, say, 50 to 75 years? Doubtful given the fear of tabloid headlines about MPs digging up great grandma.
When reuse has been piloted in London, there’s only been praise that traditional graveyards are no longer dead space.

In Greece today, and some other Orthodox countries, a body is buried only for about six years, at which time the grave is reused. There’s no scandal when, in a religious ceremony, bodily remains are dug up, the bones cleaned and stored in an ossuary.

Perhaps the disused crems of our utopian future could reinvent themselves as ossuaries.

Singing them on their way

Monday, 26 January 2015




Posted by Tim Clark

This is Threnody (above) all ready to sing into action at Colwyn Bay Crematorium. 

It’s our belief that the sound of unaccompanied natural voice singing, in three- or four-part harmony, can create a space for strong emotion; can console and comfort, can embody and say things we can’t say in prose or poetry alone. 

We sing in English and Welsh, with a scattering of Spanish, Gaelic, Maori, Xhosa, as the occasion demands. We sing a capella, though we are prepared to be organ-tolerant if necessary. We sing songs, laments, hymns, simple chant-like refrains. If we had a theme tune it might be “The Parting Glass,” but we are getting excited and a bit gospelly about learning “Lean On Me.” We cover North Wales, but we did go in for foreign travel once (Shrewsbury…)

 We have no religious affiliation, preference or prejudice – we’ve sung for atheists and agnostics, Catholics and for all I know or care, Rosicrucians. We’re interested in good funerals, not definitions. 

We are not a professional choir, i.e. we don’t do it “for the money.” We ask for some help with travel costs, that’s all. This is important; what we are committed to is enriching funeral ceremonies, not ourselves. We love singing, of course, or we wouldn’t do it, but we’re local people singing,  for – usually – local people. 

Why am I telling you all this? Because we grew out of Bangor Community Choir, and I want there to be Threnodies available across the land. Community choirs sometimes sing at funerals, of course (for friends, members) but it would be just great if they organised themselves into providing a local Threnody. Why not approach yours and give them a nudge? Get in touch via Charles at the Good Funeral Guide if you want to know more about how we work.

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