The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Going out in credit

Friday, 19 September 2014

Thieves Stealing Bodies From Graveyard


It is a long established principle of English law that there is no property in a corpse. As church lawyers in the middle ages used to say in that scholarly way of theirs (with a solemn nudge and a wink), a dead person – a cadaver – is cara data vermibus: flesh given to worms.

It wasn’t until 1804, though, that the practice of arresting a corpse against a debt was made illegal. Continue reading

Last poem

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

TV Presenter, Clive James at home in London


Japanese Maple

by Clive James (who is dying)


Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.

So slow a fading out brings no real pain.

Breath growing short

Is just uncomfortable.

You feel the drain

Of energy, but thought and sight remain:


Enhanced, in fact.

When did you ever see

So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls

On that small tree

And saturates your brick back garden walls,

So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?


Ever more lavish as the dusk descends

This glistening illuminates the air.

It never ends.

Whenever the rain comes it will be there,

Beyond my time, but now I take my share.


My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.

Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.

What I must do

Is live to see that. That will end the game

For me, though life continues all the same:


Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,

A final flood of colors will live on

As my mind dies,

Burned by my vision of a world that shone

So brightly at the last, and then was gone.


What would Doctor Who’s funeral be like?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014



Posted by Melissa Stewart

How does the Doctor’s experience of intergalactic death care compare with our earthly experiences? What would he think of arrangements in an average high street chain?

In the 1985 episode ‘Revelation of the Daleks’, loosely based on Evelyn Waugh’s ‘The Loved One’, we learn a little about the Doctor’s attitude to funerals. By all accounts the good Doctor is an existentialist believing that when you die that’s it.

The story is set in the Tranquil Repose Funeral Home on the planet Necros. Renowned for their funeral arrangements for the galaxy’s elite, the deceased are placed into suspended animation until a ‘cure’ for their death is found and they are returned to life.s4_13_wal_19 These people are called the ‘Resting Ones’. But all is not well, the Tranquil Repose has been taken over by the evil Davros who is using the deceased in the storage hub to make new Daleks.

Outside the funeral home is the ‘Garden of Fond Memories’, where statues of the Resting Ones are erected in their memory. It is the job of the staff Mister Jobel and his student Tasambeker to upsell and this they do via the ‘perpetual arrangement’. Sound familiar?

While your body is ‘suspended’ you can opt to have music and information played to you by ‘The DJ’ to keep you abreast of music trends and news. You don’t want to be out of date when you come back do you? For a just a little more the DJ will also read you messages from your loved ones. And then there’s the memorial statue!

In the Garden of Fond Memories is a statue of the Doctor, made of polystyrene but sold as stone.611px-Memento Davros has put it there with the intention of killing the Doctor. The Doctor stares at it and declares “No, no, this is dreadful. Do you realise how much a thing like this would cost …… America doesn’t have the monopoly on bad taste”. He turns his back on the statue and it collapses on top of him. Jobel appears in a half hearted attempt to rescue him knowing his actions are not really necessary  “I am Jobel. I am very important here, I am the Chief Embalmer”. The Doctor replies “Are you touting for business?  The Doctor pushes the statue off himself stating “It’s all part of an elaborate theatrical effect”.  Tasambeker later stabs Jobel in the heart and is himself killed by a Dalek.

At the end of the episode The Doctor says “This place is called Tranquil Repose. I think we should leave the dead in peace don’t you? I know somewhere that is truly tranquil, peaceful, restful. A panacea for the cares of the mind.”

“Planets come and go. Stars perish. Matter disperses, coalesces, forms into other patterns, other worlds. Nothing can be eternal.” – The Sixth Doctor, Colin Baker.

So it’s a natural burial for The Doctor then, if he ever stops regenerating.




Yer gotta hav it!

Monday, 15 September 2014

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Guest post by John Porter

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Anyone who says to me “You have to”, I nearly always reply with “why?” and then “why?” again!

The fact is I don’t have to do anything. I can choose whether to or not – that’s different. “Not so,” I hear some say, “you have to have car insurance – it’s the law!” Well, as a magistrate I can safely say that many people who have appeared before me have chosen not to have it (or can’t get it as they are disqualified – much more serious m’lud – “take him down” I hear!). The repercussions are great – fines and increased cost of policies being just two, but the fact remains they had a choice, exercised it, broke the law and either did or did not have to face the consequences. Some offenders weigh up the risks and simply see being caught as an occupational hazard!

Let me turn to the issue that is on my mind as a funeral celebrant. “You need insurance”. There it is again. “Why?”, I ask.

Well someone might sue you if you get the deceased’s/other key names wrong or if you don’t make it to the funeral ceremony on time.

Do these questioners really understand the legal concept of negligence? The question is likely to be asked by funeral directors before taking on a new funeral celebrant. “Five million is the usual cover” I have heard some say. The “flavour” is usually public liability which I think is rather odd. I am a guest in peoples’ homes when I interview them and a professional celebrant at a chapel or wherever that I have no legal responsibility for. So is this right? If not, then is it professional indemnity? This goes back to the negligence issue and could be pretty tricky to prove.

I asked an insurance expert (not impartial) who advises funeral celebrants about this and he said:

“I have had many conversations with Insurers and Civil Celebrants on the question of Professional Indemnity as opposed to Public Liability and would comment as follows: The usual basic cover wording for Professional Indemnity Insurance is as follows -

 ‘To indemnify The Insured, subject to the indemnity limit and excess, against any claim for any civil liability which arises out of the conduct of professional business by reason of any negligent act, negligent error or negligent omission occurring or committed in good faith by the insured and or others expressly authorised to act for or on behalf of the insured.’ 

Other similar wordings are sometimes used but the essence remains the same and the full cover of course includes defence costs, intellectual property etc. etc. but the above extract is the clause that needs explanation as regards Civil Celebrants. 

The words ‘civil liability’ are important as this means that a Court has to agree that a Celebrant has been negligent – it would not be the case that an insurer would simply pay a Celebrant the cost of a missed funeral for the client to be reimbursed by the Celebrant. The Celebrant’s client would have to prove in Court that the Celebrant was liable and had been negligent. I imagine that this would perhaps cause more upset than the original missed appointment or late arrival etc. Secondly there is always an excess on the policy which may be higher than the cost of the funeral although perhaps if the whole event was cancelled there may be other costs involved but it is still possible that the total financial loss would fall within the excess. 

If a funeral did proceed late or at a later date, I do not think the Court would be able to agree on a financial or emotional loss. Negligence has to be proved in Court and insurers feel this would be neigh on impossible to quantify. 

In essence then John, my feeling, and that of insurers, is that the risk of Public Liability is far greater than that of Professional Indemnity and it is the case that many crematoria and halls hired for the purpose of a funeral or function are now insistent on the hirer or organizer having a valid Public Liability policy in force before hiring the premises in case of accident or damage.” 

They can insist for all they like as far as I’m concerned – I am not the hirer of a crematorium but a contracted disbursement of the funeral director – the person who hires is the client. “Ah, but then we won’t take you on” – a mild threat that hovers in the background in funeral parlours. It’s as clear as mud to me.

So what am I to do? It’s not a huge amount of money; I was quoted £120 for both types of insurance but I am struggling to see what the real risks are. Being a magistrate I’m a stickler for keeping my nose clean. This is different. There seems to be an implied sense of obligation for risks that are not, in my view, that great.

So: “I ain’t gotta hav it” may be my chosen course. Perhaps there are folk out there who can see the elephant standing behind me and set me on the straight and narrow path to insurance enlightenment!




Hitting the spot

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

It’s not easy to get advertising right in Funeralworld. Selling your services to bereaved people has unique challenges requiring a deft touch. This online promotion for cemeteries and crematoria in Australia uses the fear of possible theft of an urn of ashes as the reason to pay to bury them safely and memorialise the spot. I agree with the ends but is the means persuasive?

Video runs for just 35 seconds. 


Packed to the rafters

Friday, 12 September 2014



One night in the early 1700s,  Henry Trigg was making his way home when he heard a disturbance in the churchyard. Looking closer, he saw, to his horror of course, grave-robbers making off with a freshly-buried corpse. 

He continued on his way, resolving never to let the same thing happen to him. (He isn’t reported to have tried to stop the outrage.) 

Having made a decent stash as a grocer he offered his fortune to any of his relatives who agreed to one condition: that his body be “decently laid … upon a floor in the roof.” 

In 1724 he died. His brother did as he asked, popped him, coffined, up in the rafters of the roof of his barn, and pocketed the cash. 

There he lay.

In 1774 the barn became part of the Old Castle Inn. He slumbered on. In 1831 a new landlord checked up on him and found him safe and sound. In 1906 East Hertfordshire Archaeological Society had a peek and found him still in residence. 

During the First World War, soldiers stationed in the town picked bits of him out. 

In 1999 the new owner, NatWest bank, had him decently buried. 

His coffin remains there to this day. No. 37 High Street, Stevenage.  









14 years ago today

Thursday, 11 September 2014




Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Do you remember what you were doing on 9/11/2001? I was visiting the offices of BSkyB in London, discussing media issues in a meeting room that had a TV screen on a wall showing Sky News with the volume down. Our conversation came to an abrupt halt as we became aware of something terrible unfold—virtually live footage of the first plane to hit the first tower in New York. As it became clear this was a terrorist attack, a Sky executive lined me up to interview the TV news anchor about the challenges of responding on air to a rolling news atrocity. It felt opportunist when the loss of thousands of innocent people was just sinking in. 

As for learning of Princess Diana’s death on 13 August 1997, I recall being woken before 6am on a weekend morning by a phone call from a friend who had been out clubbing all night. On leaving the club, no doubt on a drug come-down, he heard the news circulating among numbed strangers in the streets. He headed to Buckingham Palace to witness the first people laying down bouquets of flowers at the railings. He felt part of something significant and tragic and felt compelled to phone friends to share the shocking news. I turned on the TV and watched in a dressing gown before deciding it was time to shower and hit the streets myself.  

Yesterday, I was talking to American photographer Gary Dunkin, who reminded me of these death milestones. I wasn’t aware he’d captured 9/11 moments until he directed me to his website. He couldn’t bring himself to sell any of them though.

You can see them here

Death releases both Ivan Ilyich and his folk

Wednesday, 10 September 2014



On 9 September, Leo Tolstoy was wished a Happy 186th Birthday by Google Doodle. The Google homepage included a slideshow of Tolstoy’s works, including War and Peace, Anna Karenina and The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The latter, written shortly after Tolstoy’s religious conversion, tells the story of the premature death of a Russian legal whizzkid. Living what seems to be a good life, aside from his rocky marriage, Ivan Ilyich injures his side while hanging plush curtains in his flashy new apartment. Within weeks, he has developed a pain that will not go away. Several expensive doctors are consulted, but they can neither explain nor treat his condition.

He’s dying and the novella records his terror as he battles with the idea of his own death. ‘I have been here. Now I am going there. Where?’ Oppressed by the length of the process, his family, friends and associates decide not to speak of it, but advise him to stay calm and follow doctors’ orders.

He spends his last days in agony and anguish but, just before his death, he sees with clarity that he has not, after all, lived well, but has lived only for himself. He suddenly feels pity for the people he’s leaving behind, and hopes his death will set them free. With that thought, his pain disappears. Just before his last breath, he whispers to himself, ‘Death has gone’.

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