When eulogies go too far

Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Mafia funerals in churches intrigue. Any congregation inevitably includes an eclectic mix of faces in the pews, but the mobsters and molls at a gangster funeral turn the nave into something else. They’re totally welcome, of course, and are likely to be behaving with perfect decorum, but you still can’t help projecting onto those grieving faces all the crimes they’re alleged to have committed. Hard eyes and mouths telling tales of violence, perhaps. Bling coffins and flash clobber as displays of ill-gotten gains. Burly security and watchful police. Onlookers can’t help a frisson of excitement when glimpsing a hidden underworld.

The expression and body language of the unworldly priest is something to behold, too. Some might be extravagantly warm, working hard to make out they feel at ease. Others might perform their duties with a poker face and a stiffness that reveals they’re beyond the comfort zone of being among their regular parishioners.

I recall attending the church funeral of a young journalist some years ago where the equally young Anglican priest’s demeanour stole the show for me. An endless eulogy performed in the pulpit by a friend of the deceased man was a string of gossipy anecdotes about promiscuous sex, drink and drugs binges and bitchy feuds with various acquaintances, all delivered with appropriately colourful language.

Intended as a fond tribute to a decadent and sometimes rather vicious rogue, it would have been a step too far as a raunchy best man’s speech let alone a funeral eulogy. Most of the congregation seemed to lap it up, laughing raucously at the most shocking outbursts of the stand-up comedian by the altar, seemingly insensitive to the view of some that it might be defiling a place of worship.

My eyes were transfixed on the priest who sat motionless, his expression, though deadpan, showing a hint of cool disdain. His lack of reaction to the speech—neither amusement nor embarrassment nor anger—seemed to speak volumes of his disapproval. The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Keep calm and carry on.

He dutifully stood at the door of the church shaking our hands as we processed out. When I said, ‘Thank you, Father,’ he nodded without so much as a smile. He seemed to just want out of the situation. Perhaps he was feeling remorse that he’d been naïve to allow things to go beyond his control.

More than meets the eye

Yesterday’s Mail, among others, carried the pic, above, of Ronnie Biggs greeting the press at the funeral of fellow train robber Bruce Reynolds attended by the great and good of the criminal underworld. Check out the scene here

Bruce Reynolds’ son Nick is a member of the Alabama Three whose song Woke Up This Morning is the title music to the Sopranos. There’s a neat symmetry there, perhaps.

You may recall that Nick is also a sculptor and specialist in death masks. We last brought you to his attention back in 2010 in this post, which describes the cast he took of a freshly executed prisoner in the US. Don’t just glide over that link and pass on. Check it out. It’s an extraordinary story. Here it is again

Nick is one of the essayists in the latest Natural Death Handbook and a friend of its compiler, Rupert Callender, whom Nick has appointed official undertaker to the ‘Bamas. 

Now check out that Nick story.

Double standards?

There’s a very characteristic Daily Mail story in, of all places, today’s Daily Mail.

It describes outrage in the environs of Wisbech concerning the ‘floral tributes’ which adorned the funeral of a notably industrious armed robber, Thomas Curtis. One of the tributes, above, took the form of an ATM machine of the sort that Mr Curtis was wont to rip untimely from all sorts of premises. The screen is from one of his spoils. 

It’s worth order cialis from mexico surveying the other tributes here and in the Sun here

Perhaps it’s a matter of relative status, but Mr Curtis’s flowery accolades have not been accorded the dispassionate treatment accorded to those which adorned the funeral of Charlie Richardson. One of them, you recall, commemorated the the black, handle-driven World War Two army generator with which Charlie electrocuted his victims, below:

Taking a shirt from the Reaper

The funeral yesterday of south London underworld luminary Charlie Richardson. Among the mourners was ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser. 

The Richardson gang, led by Charlie and his brother Eddie, was noted, in its heyday in the sixties, for its compliance process, which included, according to the Mail,  “torturing enemies at their scrap metal yard by attaching electrodes to their nipples and genitals and delivering electric shocks, having already placed them in baths of water to make the electricity more potent. The gang would frequently carry out mock trials for victims, before administering punishments including whippings, cigarette burning and teeth being pulled out by gang member ‘Mad’ Frankie Fraser. They were then made to clean up their own blood. The brutal method of trial by kangaroo court and subsequent torture was said to be known as ‘taking a shirt from Charlie’, as Richardson would often give victims a clean shirt in which to return home afterwards.” No volt-farce, that. 

The floral arrangement bearing the legend 240 DC refers to the black, handle-driven World War Two army generator which delivered the torturtricity. 

Full story in the Mail here.

Not unchilling interview with Mr Fraser here

No cigar on this occasion for naming the man leading the Roller.