Oh bits from obits

Charles Cowling

Posted by Jeanne Rathbone 

Noel Coward said funerals were the cocktail party of his set. James Joyce called them funforals and GB Shaw said  ‘ Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh’. 

I am a Humanist celebrant and have conducted hundreds of non-religious funerals. As our ceremonies are very personal I have heard some wonderful lifestories and anecdotes and had the privilege of conducting the funeral for my compatriot –  the wonderful Dave Allen. 

I have selected a few snippets to share with you and hope that this will encourage you to do likewise. Here are a few of my ‘oh bits from obits’

My dad was working for the Maharajah in Gwalia. When war broke out, Mum and I joined the army! She went to Delhi first. 

 Mum wore a perfume called ‘Smart Party’

 On his first visit to his local  pub he was aware that people were awkward and to break the ice he took his leg off, put it on the bar and said, ‘fill it up’…   after that there was no problem.

 Grace, Rose and Peggy (sisters)  worked at the admiralty during the war, and ironically Grace and Peggy knew that Harry’s ship HMS Cornwall had been destroyed but could say nothing until Rose had been informed.

 Frank worked in the newspaper industry until after the drama of the Wapping Protests. We have never been allowed to have any of the Murdoch’s publications in the home.

 He loved his motorcycles, leather jackets and milky coffee.

 Civil service hours were an unbelievable 10 to 3 in those days with half days on Wednesdays when she and her girlfriends would often go to the cinema.

 He found some popularity and recognition through his skills in building homemade fireworks.

 He was hospitalised inNaplesand then moved to various convalescent homes (now mostly 5 * hotels) along the Amalfi coast.

 Hilda moved to the Stamp Office, following in the footsteps of her great, great uncle, Sir Rowland Hill, who set up the first Penny Post Service.

 I even recall him ironing his football laces.

 Mark kept a snake whose home was in a tank upstairs on the landing.

 I remembered going to visit her in hospital believing aunt Grace was trying to buy a baby.

 He completed the London to Brighton walk in 1969 in 11hrs 53 mins.

 Jim never married, though he had several what he called “lucky escapes!”.

 On his first driving lesson when told to feel the pedals he knelt down and touched them!


Now show us yours!


 I hope that celebrants who read this blog will rise to the challenge. Jeanne has a very good blog. Find it here. Her latest post on Baroness Warnock’s defence of faith and the C of E is well worth a read.


6 thoughts on “Oh bits from obits

  1. Charles Cowling
    Rupert Callender

    Jeanne, I love your blog. Who would have thought it would be the Irish who would save us from Catholicism! Strange times.

    Charles Cowling
  2. Charles Cowling
    gloria mundi

    So Richard, with respect, as people say when they’re going to be difficult, if you didn’t want to interrupt the obits, why did you do so, in order to attack views that aren’t on this blog? Surely the place for that attack is Ms Rathbone’s own blog? I mean, I don’t always stick to the point, but…

    Charles Cowling
  3. Charles Cowling
    Richard Rawlinson

    I don’t wish to interrupt the obits but I’m finding the link to Jeanne Rathbone’s blog even more interesting.

    At a Secular Society conference, Baroness Warnock had the temerity to say: ‘I find Dawkins’ simple-minded view of religion very difficult to take. It pays no proper attention to the history and tradition of religion. It says that religions have done nothing but harm but that is manifestly not true. He omits all the good things, the education, the cathedrals, the music’.

    Rathbone, a cradle Catholic who is now a BHA celebrant retorts: ‘I felt that she displayed the arrogance common to C of E atheists.’


    Rathbone’s other job as a ‘comedienne’ named (not christened) Sheela-na-Gig is less so:

    Charles Cowling
  4. Charles Cowling
    Belinda Forbes

    I have had the privilege to speak about many amazing people – but I have met only a tiny fraction of them…
    Once a week, he was given money to have a bath in the public bath house. He used the money to go swimming instead.
    If there was snow or ice on the ground, she would still get to the pub on time, courtesy of her old Mac Fishery boots and their non-slip soles.
    He once narrowly missed being hit by a bullet when he dropped his hat and bent down to pick it up.
    Most members of the family had a greyhound named after them – East End Rose being the most notable.
    On her first day at work in her new school, there was an electrical fire in a classroom cupboard. On the second day, the school burned down.
    One snowy winter’s day, his wife fell off the pillion seat. Luckily she was unhurt – which was just as well. He was completely unaware that he had lost his passenger and had carried on along the road.
    She wrote in her journal, “Well I wasn’t keen on his name. When he came home on leave, he came to see me and I’m afraid I wasn’t keen on him either, so that was the end of that.”
    One day he told his father that he wanted to be a pilot and shoot down the Germans. His dad’s deadpan reply was, “Your mum is calling you for your tea.” Determined to get a better answer, he stated his ambition again at the tea table. His dad was prepared this time and replied, “Well, you’d better study hard then and learn Welsh.”
    When she was looking after her grandchildren, she would say, ‘We can do what we like: there are no grown-ups here to tell us off!’ She would then strike one of her Tai Chi poses and invite her grandchildren to try and push her over.
    Not only did he charm the female nurses and doctors, there’s a shop assistant in Lidl who always insisted on getting a kiss from him when he shopped there on a Tuesday!

    Charles Cowling
  5. Charles Cowling
    Charles Cowling

    Jack’s life story does not constitute a single narrative so much as a collection of short stories. Everyone here today can recount one or more of those short stories, but no one has the complete collection. Only Jack had the complete collection, and he has taken it with him

    Charles Cowling
  6. Charles Cowling

    Thanks, Jeanne – a great way to end the week. Here are a couple I’ve had from recent services:

    ‘You saw very little of your mother as she embarked upon a series of affairs, fortunately without producing any more offspring.’

    ‘When we were very young mum would religiously send us off to Sunday school every week. I think her and dad used to have their own private prayer meeting, because when we got back they would always be upstairs with the door locked, and I’m sure I heard dad shouting hallelujah.’

    Charles Cowling

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>