Posted by David Hall
David Hall, of Vintage Lorry Funerals, took a call on a November Saturday morning for a funeral in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire. Cognisant of the excellent service he has received over the years from County Truck Services on Colwick Industrial Estate, David initially thought about parking the 1950 Leyland Beaver undercover at this location. However, even though Colwick is less than 1 mile from Radcliffe-on-Trent as the crow flies, the River Trent, with minimal crossing points necessitates a 6 mile detour. The River Trent separates communities including Nottingham Forest F.C. and Notts County F.C. whose grounds are yards apart on the edge of opposing riverbanks but miles apart by road and league positions!
As the funeral was booked for the first service at Wilford Hill Crematorium it was too risky to make an early start from Colwick and fight through the rush-hour traffic. David often tells Funeral Directors that they are better looking at the lorry rather than looking for the lorry and he rang back the Funeral Director to ascertain if the lorry could be parked in their yard overnight. Brian Miles of A.W. Lymn Funeral Directors was very helpful, confirming that his yard was secure and suggested a B&B facility in the village that was quiet with fields behind which could guarantee a good night’s sleep.
For people who are employed in an office, each day can appear to be the same, however, for people who work outside every day is different. After the clocks went back on Sunday October 27th 2013, it was noticeable that the daylight hours started to get shorter. In November it got lighter later and later each day and got dark earlier and earlier each day during the month. In between funerals, David Hall undertakes joinery work and tree cutting projects and he is always conscious of the period in the day that he affectionately calls ‘the dark’ before which tools must be tidied away and administration time commences.
The Floral Tributes for the Radcliffe-on-Trent funeral included ‘DAD’, ‘STAN’, & ‘GRANDAD’ and David Hall designed a tiered display involving three steps. David calls this arrangement his ‘Eddie Cochrane Theme’ after the American singer who was killed on April 17th 1960 at Rowden Hill Chippenham whose posthumous hit ‘Three Steps to Heaven’ reached No 1 the month following his death. The Florists supplied the lengths of each Tribute and David set the End Stops and Support Buttresses, into which the plastic rails are attached, from his experience of similar Tributes before he set off from Bradford-on-Avon. However, the positions of the Support Buttresses vary dependant on the how the Florist has fixed the letters to the bars.
David reversed into A. W. Lymn’s yard at 1500 hours well before darkness was due to fall at 16-30 hours and immediately discussed the conundrum with Brian Miles of how could they avoid loading ‘Name’ Tributes in the dark the following morning. They agreed a plan that involved David measuring the Tributes when they arrived and adjusting the Support Buttresses whilst it was light. With Brian’s help the Tributes were then put in place temporarily within the display in order to check that they would fit without any problem in the morning, when loading would have to take place in darkness. The ‘DAD’ and ‘STAN’ were already there, however, the ‘GRANDAD’ didn’t arrive until 1615 hours when light was starting to fail. The A. W. Lymn staff turned on whatever lights they could and luckily no changes needed to be made to the Support Buttress positions for ‘GRANDAD’ and all three tributes were put back into the Chapel of Rest, with the Deceased’s coffin, just before the office closed for the night.
Brian gave David a lift to the B&B where the Irish Lady owner got up early specifically to make David a cooked Breakfast at 0645 hours. He was collected at 0715 hours and the loading of the flowers commenced at 0720 hours starting with the ‘DAD’ first then ‘STAN’ and ‘GRANDAD’ slotting them into place in the dark. David then used the torch facility on his mobile phone to provide enough light to fix the rails to the Buttresses. The coffin was loaded and coffin spray fixed in placed and the total operation was completed by 0732 hours, 12 minutes to load 3 ‘Names’, 2 Wreathes, 1 spray, I bouquet and the coffin was the fastest ever achieved.
Brian paged the lorry out of the yard at 0750 hours and Brian had planned a route to avoid traffic to the house in Riverside Park, a development close to the Trent in Gunthorpe. The Family were delighted with the display especially how each Tribute was visible. Brian planned the timing of the journey to Wilford Hill Crematorium allowing for delays at pinch points on the route where congestion normally results in the morning rush hour. As it happened, however, the traffic was exceedingly light that day and the cortege arrived slightly ahead of schedule at Wilford Hill.
The decision to check that the Floral Tributes would fit the night before the funeral was a cardinal feature in achieving a successful operation and again the adage was proved that if you fail to prepare, then you should prepare to fail.