The Importance of Being Urnest

Charles 10 Comments

That Brits are born with an acute and possibly pathological sensitivity to absurdity is well known. The Great American Funeral has engendered great and gloriously funny books by Jessica Mitford and Evelyn Waugh, neither of which had more than minimal success in laughing Americans out of their (perceived) absurdity.

There is method in the funerary lunacies of the GAF, of course: they come at a cost to the client. The recent rise in the cremation rate has filled most US undertakers with helpless economic terror, and it is interesting that they have taken no lessons in adapting to this from Brit undertakers, who have been making a tidy living out of burial deniers for as long as anyone can remember.

The GAF has, it seems, some capability to evolve. Burning necessity has begotten ingenious adaptation of the hearse, conserving it as the only fit and proper vehicle not only for the reverent transportation of cosmetised corpses but also the burned and reduced version, cremains. No glove compartment or passenger seat of the family car for them; only the full hush and awe will suffice. And it’s billable!

My thanks to Sarah Murray, author of Making an Exit, for bringing these hearses, more correctly termed urn enclaves, to my attention. She adds: ‘It was explained to me that urn enclaves have “adjustable bier pins” accommodating different sizes and shapes. They flip up from the floor of the hearse and are cleverly stowed again when the vehicle needs to carry a coffin. One brochure tells me that if you don’t want to buy a new hearse or go to the expense or trouble or getting yours refitted, “portable urn enclaves are also available for funeral directors who wish to extend the service of their existing coaches.”‘ Coaches, forsooth!!

Find another YouTube clip (unembeddable) here.


  1. Charles

    Charles, if you are going to carry on like this I shall have to put your name infront of the committee for another Gloria, this time for wit. A paralysing pun in your title, and then “burning necessity.” stop it, you’re killing me….

  2. Charles

    well, I’m glad you didn’t edit the wit out of it! Please don’t apologise, Charles, for making me larff, it’s good for the ageing system.

    Interesting stuff, too. We still seem to be addicted to large shiny black cars, even when they are hardly necessary. (If they ever truly are!)

  3. Charles

    Death throes of a mortally wounded culture. Can’t wait for next instalment to see to what ends they will not resort rather than find a proper job – or do their present job properly. And I’m looking forward to the gory bits near the end of the movie, when the desperation virus has reached our shores and our own lot drown in a whirlpool of public derision as they cling desperately to their canes and top hats.

    If you absolutely must cremate me, put me in a shopping bag and walk to wherever you’re taking me, and spend the £100,000 on booze.

  4. Charles

    I always have a good giggle when the thingy starts coming out, Charles, but this is in a league of its own – you sure it’s not the sequel to the Dave Allen sketch you posted recently?

  5. Charles

    We have had a similar device for years, I’m considering legal action. It’s a plank in the back of our Volvo. I open the boot, Claire lifts it up from the front seat, sweetie jar of ‘cremains’ slides forward.

  6. Charles

    This is so prototypical of you, Rupert, and I can only suppose that you have been the victim of industrial espionage of the most predatory kind — some envious US undertaker in the privet hedge with fieldglasses and a spy camera. As the progenitor of the urnclave I urge you to take this to the Supreme Court. For what it’s worth, I think your tilted plank incontestably more ceremonious and dignified.

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