A Concerned Priest in South London

Charles 3 Comments


On a hot June Sunday morning, David Hall, of Vintage Lorry Funerals, set out at 0600 hours in his 1950 Leyland Beaver for a Monday morning funeral in Walworth, South London.

When David was a lad in the 1960’s, Sunday was a sacred day and there would be very little traffic on the road during the morning. His Dad used to say that the only people out and about on a Sunday morning were Fishermen and Catholics. Leaving Bradford-on-Avon the traffic was initially light, however, as the vintage lorry trundled along the A342 at Devizes a number of vehicles overtook. A car pulling a very long trailer eased past and the two men inside were going gliding from Thruxton perhaps. A Mini Bus, full of young ladies, all with their head-phones on, overtook and these women were probably off to play an away game in the Wiltshire Football League. Coming the other way was a van pulling a Stock Car on a trailer, two men obviously heading for a smashing time. In the 1960’s Sunday was a day of rest, now it’s a day of activity.

The most dangerous time to drive on a Sunday morning is between 1015 and 1045 hours when cars with a chrome fish on their boot lids fly past, ignoring the double white line that should not be crossed. These are Church goers, taking ridiculous risks to get to church on time. David believes that on some occasions it is not the Church Service in 15 minutes that should be their prime concern, but a likely one in 8 or 9 days time.

The Leyland Beaver arrived in Dulwich at 1500 hours and one of the Funeral Directors staff came in to open the gates of their yard. As David reversed in, one of the occupants in the flats above the shops descended the staircase into the yard and admired the pristine vehicle. The man told David that his lorry would be safe in the yard overnight. The man wasn’t wrong as the yard was secure, too secure, nobody could get into the yard, but in the morning the Leyland Beaver couldn’t get out. Some clown had abandoned a battered old car on the double yellow lines right on the corner which prevented the lorry turning out of the yard. There was no time to call the Police and have the car removed, this was a funeral and only one cause of action was possible. The vintage lorry inched around the corner touching the car, causing little damage to the car beyond that already present and even less to the wing of the 64 year old vehicle, but the scratch on the red paint was there for all to see.

As the flowers were being loaded at the house, David created a display with a high level of flexibility, to enable rapid loading in this busy London street. Rather than fixing the Floral Tributes to boards which would have made them appear to be floating in mid air, the Floral Tributes were secured within Flower Trays. These were inclined so the tributes could be seen and as the sun shone on the wire base of the Flower Trays, the Floral Tributes appeared to look like chocolates in the top layer of the box. David remarked to the Deceased’s Son, that life was like a box of chocolates, you never know what flavour is next out of the box, recalling the situation he encountered in which his pride and joy was damaged earlier that day.

It was extremely hot by noon and David, wearing his black boiler-suit and beret, was perspiring profusely as he offloaded the Floral Tributes in the Cemetery. The Catholic Priest walked 100 yards to speak to David saying in a thick Irish brogue, ‘Promise me two things. Promise me that you will drink some water before you leave. Promise me that you will stop half-way and drink some more water.’ David was embarrassed that someone was concerned for his well being and he tried to diffuse the situation with some humour. David asked the Priest, ‘Father, can I have some of your Holy Water?’ The Priest replied with a smile, ‘The water you need is from the tap near the Cemetery Gates.’




    1. Charles

      Dear Kitty,
      The repair to the wing was undertaken by Atech Coachworks in Westbury who undertook the major restoration of the lorry in 1995. Thank you for your interest.

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