The Good Funeral Guide Blog

Tell them where to go

Friday, 16 May 2014



The number of funerals the average person is called upon to arrange in the course of a lifetime is just 2. (Mummy & Daddy)

For some, though, Reaper G’s scythe lays waste to vast swathes of their nearest and dearest. For these unlucky souls, arranging and attending funerals can be pretty much a full time job.

The writer of the testimonial above is a heartbreaking example. She (she reads like a she, doesn’t she?) has arranged funerals all over Britain for her brothers, of whom she seems to have an inexhaustible supply.

She knows what she’s doing by now, so she uses the excellent website, a comprehensive source of advice and guidance that, frankly, makes the GFG look like the scribblings of an idiot. “Our funeral home finder tool,” they say, “only lists high quality, trained and experienced funeral directors.” 

Our serially-bereaved testimonial writer has used WM Gilchrist in Aberdeen. And McKenzie and Millar in Edinburgh. She’s used A & E Leese in Stoke-on-Trent. And John Fairest in Sheffield. Her brother in London was laid to rest by the excellent Francis & C Walters. He brother in Brockenhurst was taken into care by R Hallum. And that’s not the end, not by any means.

Thank goodness mylocalfuneraldirector is there for her for when the next bro takes his final breath.

(Hat-tip to DM)

Dignity makes a difference

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Dignity figures

Capital expenditure at foot of page


And today’s difference is that between Dignity plc’s capital expenditure in the 52 week period ending 27 Dec 2013 – £12.4 million

and capital expenditure in the 52 week period ending 27 Dec 2013 – £1.4 million

This saving of £11 million is huge in the context of declared quarterly profits of £25.4 million. Had Dignity maintained capital expenditure at 2013 levels, profits would be down by… 40 per cent?

You can read the full document here.

Your interpretation of the figures would be very welcome.


Click the pic to bring it up to full size



Thursday, 15 May 2014

Medi Call


Dedicated followers of Richard Sage will know that he is operating out of the Mayer Funeral Home.

Invoices issued by the Mayer Funeral Home show that it is owned by Medi Call Southern Ltd, incorporated by Companies House on 07-11-2012. M-Call is – no surprises – an air ambulance business. Its SIC is given as ‘Funeral and related activities’.

Medi Call Southern operates out of a private house: 4 Bramfield Road East, Rayleigh, SS6 8RG.

Its director is named as Mr Sharon Parker. 






New charity to help pay for funerals of babies and children

Thursday, 15 May 2014



A new charity which will help bereaved parents with the cost of a baby or child’s funeral is being officially launched on Wednesday, July 23, with a special one-day seminar and exhibition at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Child Funeral Charity (CFC), whose patron is well-known author and national newspaper advice columnist Bel Mooney, has been set up by a team of child and funeral industry professionals. It is being headed by experienced educationalist Roger Gale as chief executive officer, while Mary and Kevin Tomes at Colourful Coffins and Anne Barber from Civil Ceremonies, are charity trustees.

Full details of the charity will be announced to the funeral trade, and other professionals who work with bereaved parents at the seminar, which is entitled Time to Talk – a focus on Baby and Child Bereavement.

Roger Gale explains: “This event provides the perfect opportunity to create awareness of the new Child Funeral Charity and to call on everyone who works within the industry for their support.

“Although many funeral directors, clergy and celebrants don’t charge for children’s funerals, there are other expenses such as a coffin, a vehicle, flowers and service sheets for the ceremony that all add up. Whether a family has lost a baby through a pre-term loss or stillbirth; a child through a life limiting illness or something more sudden such as an accident; the last thing they want to worry about is how to pay for the funeral. That’s where CFC can step in, but in order to do so, we need the support of funeral industry professionals to work with us as preferred suppliers and to help with fundraising. This is a very emotional time for families and I am sure many in the trade will agree that anything we can do to help alleviate the financial burden will be very much appreciated.”

Delegates are expected to be drawn from a range of bereavement-related professionals, including funeral directors, hospice staff, registrars, hospital bereavement officers and/or midwives, bereavement counsellors, other charities, celebrants, faith representatives and others.

As well as providing financial support, if required, CFC can also put families in touch with other appropriate bereavement charities.

If you’d like to go along and support this new charity, and find out more about it, event details and booking form are on this link or you can download them here: CFC Seminar Flyer — CFC Booking form

or call 01480 276088


Why are men killing themselves?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014



In an article in a recent Spectator magazine, Elizabeth Hardman reflects on the problems that beset males today:

The idea of women having a rotten deal has become so firmly entrenched in British public life that we have become blind to the problem emerging for the boys.

Hardman gives evidence, including the suicide rate:

This year the Office for National Statistics reported that young men are no longer the group most likely to kill themselves. That is because men in their early forties have taken over as the most vulnerable group. Men in general account for 77 per cent of all suicides in the United Kingdom, up from 63 per cent in the 1980s. The suicide rate for men in their forties is the highest it has ever been. The overall suicide rate is down, but that’s driven mainly by a decrease in women taking their lives — the rate for female suicides has halved since 1981. The male suicide rate has fallen by just 8 per cent since then.

Hardman concludes:

But while our political debate quite comfortably lumps certain problems together as ‘women’s issues’, there is a noticeable reluctance to do the same for men, or to worry about our sons. Last month, opposition MPs and journalists kicked up a stink about the new women’s minister, Nicky Morgan, not being senior enough. Perhaps on the basis of the trends we’re seeing today, we also need a minister for men.

Let’s hear it for the killer anecdote

Tuesday, 13 May 2014



From The Times obituary for Walter Walsh:

Walter Walsh killed people for a living. He was exceptionally good at it. But unlike many in his line of work, he never shot anyone who didn’t need shooting. Both as an FBI agent in the 1930s and as a marine officer during the Second World War, he comported himself with unfailing courage, steely determination and, in spite of all, a modest, unassuming humanity.

On October 12, 1937, the Brady Gang, a murderous band of armed robbers led by the notorious Al Brady, were tracked down to Bangor, Maine, where they had negotiated the purchase of a quantity of automatic weapons. Unknown to the gang, the owner of the store had contacted the FBI, whose men were waiting.

Agents, led by Walsh, arrested James Dalhover, a three-time killer, the moment he entered the premises but a second man, Clarence Shafer, was close behind, gun in hand. He opened fire immediately. Walsh, standing just feet away on the inside of the glass door, took a bullet in his chest and another — a lucky shot — to his right-hand, rendering his Colt 45 useless. Without missing a beat, the FBI man returned fire with the .357 Magnum in his left hand, killing Shaffer instantly. Bleeding from his wounds, he then ran out into the street, where Brady was exchanging fire with other FBI agents, to deliver the coup de grâce.

Russell “Rusty” Gibson. Gibson was not a man to be crossed. Wearing a crudely-made bullet-proof vest and armed with a Browning automatic rifle, classified as a light machinegun, he was determined that he would not be taken alive. Walsh granted him his wish. When the two met in a narrow alleyway, they each opened fire. “He shot high,” Walsh recalled. “I didn’t.”

Walter Walsh, marksman, was born on May 4, 1907. He died on April 29, 2014, aged 106


Tuesday, 13 May 2014



The Birmingham Post reports the takeover by Laurel of 2 undertakers, WH Scott and Earl & Co.

Scott’s is a business with no website but masses of barnacles heritage and a noble lineage stretching back over five generations. We trust that the present generation, the one that brought the proud dynasty to an end by cashing in the family silver, has trousered an absurdly high sum for the business.

So far, so banal. Laurel is in predatory mode just now, seeking whom it may devour. Yawn.

What makes the BrumPo article so funny is the statement by Laurel ceo, Deborah Kemp, who is not only a whiz with jargon but also has a wicked way with a metaphor. She says:

“As is our approach with all the brands in our collective, we will look to retain the personality and individuality of each brand while ensuring both businesses benefit from working under the Laurel umbrella.”


“With a strong pipeline of funeral businesses expressing an interest in joining the collective, these acquisitions are the first of a number of selective purchases that we intend to make in 2014.”


“Not only will this activity bolster our foothold in key locations and further cement our position in the sector, it will continue to highlight to the industry both the robustness of our offering and our credibility as an acquirer of funeral businesses.”


Deborah, Deborah, all this fine, fighting talk about cementing your pipeline under your umbrella and not one word, not even a single syllable in your public statement about what a great deal this is for bereaved people.

It is, isn’t it?


Celebrating transition with ritual

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Sue Gill

Rituals for Our Lives

A Rites of Passage Autumn School

led by Gilly Adams and Sue Gill

Monday, September 29th – Friday, October 3rd 2014

Halsway Manor, National Centre for the Folk Arts, Halsway Lane, Nr. Crowcombe, Somerset TA4 4BD

 It takes courage to mark key moments of change in our lives, especially if they are associated with difficulty or loss. Consciously celebrating these transitions helps us to let go of the past and move forward but it can be hard to draw attention to ourselves or to know exactly what to do.  This intensive course offers answers to some of these dilemmas through an exploration of the rituals of our everyday lives. Together we can build the confidence and skills necessary to create our own distinctive and appropriate ceremonies. The extensive grounds of Halsway Manor will enable us to work in the landscape as well as indoors.

The course is both theoretical and creative with: hands-on making; writing for ceremony; choosing music, poetry and visual imagery; using symbolic objects and working with the elements. There is also a focus on professional development and the competences necessary to become an independent celebrant.

It is intended for those working in the arts, in community, healing and complementary therapies and mental health settings, as well as face to face with families. Participants are likely to share a desire to find new relevance and contexts for their work.

The workshop will begin at 4pm on Monday 29th September and finish after lunch on Friday, October 3rd. This is our first fully residential autumn school and is longer than recent workshops. Gilly Adams and Sue Gill have been working together for many years and bring their own particular brand of humour and insight to the task of sharing their practical experience of secular celebrancy. 

THERE ARE JUST 12 PLACES ON THIS WORKSHOP – and the first 4 are taken. 

Fully residential: £505        Non residential: £405 (includes lunch and supper)

Fees need to be paid up in full to secure a place. To book contact SUE GILL

Get in touch to discuss payment by instalments.                           

Why go there?

Monday, 12 May 2014



“If we want the deaths our lives deserve, we need to start talking about it,” advises a Times leader today.

Yes, it’s Dying Matters Awareness week and all Funeralworld is a-flutter with wheezes to “start the conversation” and encourage people to make a will, jot down their end-of-life wishes and their funeral wishes, even sort out their digital legacy.

As ever, the narrative from Dying Matters is that “discussing dying and making end of life plans remain a taboo for many people.” A possible problem here is that the stats supporting this statement offer comfort to the ‘deniers’ by showing them they are with the majority. Most people, after all, want to be where everybody else is.

And, by gum, the deniers constitute a big majority: 83% of people say they are uncomfortable discussing dying and death. 51% say they are unaware of their partner’s end of life wishes. 63% haven’t written a will. 64% haven’t registered as an organ donor or got a donor card. 71% of people haven’t let someone know their funeral wishes. 94% haven’t written down their wishes or preferences about their future care, should they be unable to make decisions for themselves.

If you reckon it important for people to get their death admin sorted, the present state of affairs is dire. But Dying Matters reckons that 400,000 more people aged 5-75 are talking about this unappetising stuff now than 5 years ago. This, surely, ought to be the headline figure. No one wants to feel left behind.

The difficulty in chivvying people to ‘get their shit together’ is, of course, that it brings them face to face with the terrifying fact of their own extinction:

A week? or twenty years remain
And then–what kind of death?
A losing fight with frightful pain
Or a gasping fight for breath?

There’s this comfy consensus among people in the death business that if you can bring yourself to confront your fear of dying your fears will magically melt away and your life will be gloriously enriched. It ain’t necessarily so. On the contrary, thinking about death can magnify the terror – why wouldn’t it?

For the end is likely to be disagreeable. Sherwin Nuland, in his book How We Die, wrote: “I have not seen much dignity in the process by which we die. The quest to achieve true dignity fails when our bodies fail.”

Nuland wrote his book 20 years before his death in March this year. Did the contemplation of his own mortality induce equable acceptance? Here’s an extract from his obit in The Times:

It is not given to many of us to set the stage for our own demise. For the surgeon and medical ethicist Sherwin Nuland, author of the bestselling How We Die: Reflections on Life’s Final Chapter, the climax of his personal drama, with the audience watching intently and the curtain poised to fall, had been scripted years before and never needed revision. Yet when the time came, Nuland was reluctant to play the part, remaining in the wings, unsure of his lines, not ready to make his last entrance.

According to his daughter Amelia, he talked incessantly about what was happening to him. “I’m not scared of dying,” he told her, “but I’ve built such a beautiful life and I’m not ready to leave it.” Finally, as the end drew near, he seemed “scared and sad”, as if the morbidity of his lifelong preoccupation had, somewhat ironically, rendered him unable to confront the reality.

If only talking about it really did earn us “the deaths our lives deserve” and, in the words of Mayur Lakhani, chair of the Dying Matters Coalition,  “enable people to become more comfortable in discussing dying, death and bereavement.”

But if not talk, what else is there?


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