Guest post by David Hall
Christmas is an important time of the year for Vintage Lorry Funerals as all of the 450 Funeral Directors, who display pictures of the 1950 Leyland Beaver, receive a Christmas Card in the second week of December. The process starts in July when David Hall’s wife chooses the most appropriate card for the year. Throughout the year the customer database is updated and during November David is tasked with telephoning everyone on the list to check the details as some people move on, some ladies change their surname and some older people sadly pass away. The exercise is worthwhile enabling David to update Funeral Directors about developments and often work has resulted directly from Christmas Cards.
This was the case during December 2007 when a Vintage Lorry Funerals Christmas Card landed on Ann Bevan’s desk just before she met a Lorry Driver’s Family and David’s second funeral for William Bevan (Ross-on-Wye) was the result. Normally with Ross-on-Wye being only 65 miles from Bradford-on-Avon, David Hall, in order to save a family some money, makes an early start and completes the journey without a night out. However, with the incidence of December frost or fog in the early morning Ann Bevan suggested to David that he should travel up the day before, park in their garage and stay in a local hotel. David uncovered a problem as just like Christmas 2000 years ago, there was no room in the Inn. Every hotel was either fully booked or closed early for Christmas, but luckily Ann knew a local B&B that had a spare room, otherwise David may have had to find a stable!
David arrived in the late afternoon before the funeral and met one of Ann’s sons, Stuart, who looked at the wooden exhibits on the deck in great detail. As the Deceased had started his driving career moving steel coils from Ebbw Vale Steelworks with an ERF lorry, David created a replica 1950 ERF Cab Front and a Steel Coil. Stuart watched David reverse into the garage, moving coffins out of the way to create space. David asked Stuart if he was intending to lock the garage and Stuart replied, ‘If I lock this garage tonight, it will be the first time in 40 years. This is Ross-on-Wye not Knowle West (A less affluent part of Bristol).’
Ann’s son Philip conducted the funeral and just as the lorry was about to leave Ann came running out of the office with a box of chocolate biscuits for David’s family for Christmas. Ross-on-Wye has no by-pass, no ring road, but a one way system that becomes clogged up with vans making deliveries to shop fronts, a scene unchanged from the 1950s. It was only four days to Christmas and the roads were busier than normal. The location of the Funeral Director, house, Church and Crematorium meant that the cortege had to pass down the one way system three times. On the way to the church David experienced very heavy traffic which came to a halt on the roundabout outside Morrisons, whose car park was full and cars were queuing into Morrisons from three roads converging on the roundabout. Normally when traffic is gridlocked, people waiting on roundabout leave space to allow through traffic to pass over the problem unhindered. The 1950s Leyland Beaver’s progress came to a sudden halt caused by a lady driving a green estate car, obstructing the lorry’s route, being stationary on the roundabout queuing into Morrisons. David Hall got out of the cab to remonstrate with this thoughtless driver who was holding up the whole cortege. The lady, who was oblivious to David’s plight, wound down her window and said, ‘I’ve got to get to Morrisons for my sprouts. I’ve been in this queue for 15 minutes.’ David said, ‘The man on my lorry has only 15 minutes left on this earth,’ and the lady just shrugged her shoulders. Luckily at that point one car came out of the car park, the green estate car shot forward and other drivers in the immediate vicinity were sympathetic to David’s problem and remained stationary, allowing the cortege to progress.
When the vintage lorry was parked outside the church whilst the service was taking place an American tourist took interest in the wooden structures and the flowers on the deck. He approached David and said, ‘Oh Gee, when does the carnival start?’ and David replied, ‘When the coffin comes out of the church.’ As the crematorium was half way between Gloucester and Chepstow David elected to go south and take the Old Severn Bridge home. Drivers coming from the west pay no tolls, which are taken on the other carriageway and David had an interesting thought as he trundled along with the Christmas lights of Bristol in the distance. For once at Christmas the wise men didn’t come from the East, Frankincense and Myrrh would be no good to the drivers travelling into Wales, however, they would need plenty of Gold as the toll for a lorry is three times that for a car.
Sadly in 2010 Ann Bevan passed away. She is deeply missed by her family and also David Hall who will never forget her kindness.