Buried along with their names

Charles Cowling

When the media reports events around death and funerals it customarily seeks to jerk tears or generate fury with stories fuelled by ignorance. Research is boring and in any case truth is far too dull.

Take this piece here from WalesOnline. It begins HUNDREDS of people are being laid to rest in empty funeral parlours – because they have no-one to grieve for them. Daft or what?

The story is a hardy perennial: pauper funerals. The facts are sad: some people die alone and unknown. The truth is boring: they are not tipped into mass graves as once they were. No, they are given a public health funeral which is pretty much the equal of the funeral that anyone else gets. But hey, let’s bandy the pauper word around a bit anyway.

The journo responsible for the story has made some calls for quotes, one to Kate Woodthorpe at CDAS, and another to Simon Lewis of Merthyr, onetime president of the BIFD. And he seems to have googled ‘pauper funeral’. I wonder how much dull truth he discovered and decided to omit. Never let the truth get in the way of a corking lapel-grabber: HUNDREDS of people are being laid to rest in empty funeral parlours – because they have no-one to grieve for them.

The figures quoted are interesting. Between 2008 and 2010, 288 public health funerals were carried out in Wales at a total cost of £218,100 – an average of £757.29 per funeral. One funeral in Merthyr Tydfil in 2009 cost the local authority just £109.99 … Other budget services … included a £149.69 service in Caerphilly in 2008, a £250 send-off in 2008 in Merthyr and a £275 service for a funeral in Monmouthshire last year.

With the price of cremation in Merthyr now £460, I’m scratching my head here. A lot of paying customers would like to be able to get their costs down to figures like these. Can anyone shed some light?

Read the article in WalesOnline here.

More on pauper funerals here.

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Charles Cowling

There is all of life in that headline, Jonathan.


Well here’s another ‘bathetic headline’ with no news value:

“Object too big to fit in hole too small has to be put in bigger hole.”

No. If I was the editor of the Daily Mail I’d prefer “Someone or other are bastards” any day.


If the Council is responsible for providing the funeral, and they also own the crematorium, presumably they don’t have to charge themselves the cremation fee? Could that explain the low figures? A FD keen to promote good image and carry out Public Health funerals for nothing (or maybe just the cost of a coffin), coroners case so no Doctors’ fees, and 69p for a Celebrant (that’s the going rate isn’t it?)

gloria mundi

Sounds to me rather as though this is a case of councils doing a pretty reasonable job and getting little credit, and little attention unless some bored journalist wants to create yet another shock-horror-dismay-about-SFA, instant-outrage. Because as you say Charles, it’s a lot simpler than thinking for yourself and pursuing some facts. Councils no doubt get many things wrong sometimes,but they also surely do a lot of good things with our money. No doubt as cuts bite and councils get more desperate, Mail-type outrage headlines will increase. To which one response might be: “if you’re so convinced your councillors are… Read more »

Charles Cowling

Well, £2,800 is a very respectable figure. I have never met a professional mourner and would like to look into joining the profession. Your bathetic headline has no news value whatever but expresses the entire story in one sentence. Thanks for this, Jonathan.


About a year ago I googled ‘Council Funerals’, otherwise known as ‘Public Health funerals’. The Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management told me that the average spent on these events is £2,800 – not bad, huh? – for which are provided a hearse, a casket, a celebrant and, believe it or not, in some places even a professional mourner (have you ever met one of those?). I did ask one local (Devon; Dignity) funeral director what he thought of this description, and he told me the council funerals he organizes don’t get anything like that much funding. But who’s to… Read more »