A week in the life of Funeral Conductor Scott Adams
I am in the workshop today as I split my time between various roles. I started in the coffin workshop six years ago and, with a background of working with cars, also maintained the funeral cars. I have also worked in the mortuary where the role includes measuring the person and then ordering the bespoke coffin from our supplier, Walwyns, which is in Ashbourne and is also a family-owned company.
My job today is to prepare the coffins for the funerals this week. There are so many coffins to choose from and we have a good variety that the families have chosen from wicker to the more ornate wooden coffins. My role includes engraving and fitting the name plates and fitting the the linings, gowns and wadding. I am a very practical person so I like this part of the job.
I finish the day by contacting the family whose funeral I am conducting tomorrow to ensure they know all the arrangements and timings and that none of the plans their end have changed.
I make the final checks for the funeral this lunchtime – ensuring I have the hymn sheets, orders of service, donation boxes and name cards and, with my manager Mark, we do the final triple check to ensure everything is correct.
I sit in the passenger seat of the hearse and we head over with the funeral car to pick up the family members. Having double checked that everything is OK with them, we make the slow journey to the crematorium. This is not just a sign of respect, it is tradition that the deceased is not rushed on their final journey.
When we arrive at the crematorium entrance, I walk in front of the hearse and, as it is raining, I suggest to the family that they stay in the car while I go inside to meet up with the celebrant and make sure everything in the chapel is ready for them.
We walk into the chapel and, as soon as the family are seated, I step to one side so that I can keep an eye on proceedings without being noticed. It is the ‘Wathall’s Way’ to be in the background rather than carrying canes and taking centre stage. This is all about the family – not us – and it is our job to ensure that everything goes in accordance with the family’s wishes.
After the service, we wait until the family is ready to be taken to the wake. I also check with the family whether they want to take the flowers with them or leave them at the crematorium.
I am on call in the workshop today – ready to collect a person’s body from their home, care home or hospital. I was also on call last night and it is very rare that we don’t get any calls.
Before I came to Wathall’s I had not really thought about the different scenarios that I would face. As well as visiting the home of people who have passed away peacefully in bed, we are called to fatal road traffic accidents or someone who has not been seen for sometime and the police have had to break into a property. It is important to stay calm and be prepared for every eventuality and my training in the Army straight from school does hold me in good stead.
I am conducting another funeral today which is a job that I find very rewarding as it is the last thing you can do for someone and it is important to fully support a family at a difficult time.
Today’s funeral is a burial which adds an additional element to the proceedings as, after the church service, the pall bearers reassemble and we make our way to the graveyard. We lower the coffin into the ground and I stay close to the family to ensure they have the time to say their final goodbyes before we take them to the wake.
The first funeral I conducted was for my own nan three years ago. I asked if I could conduct the funeral and borrowed a colleague’s uniform. Nearly a year later, I became a fully fledged conductor. The best training is on the job but I think that I am well suited to it as I am a very logical and process driven person. You also need to be a problem solver. Recently, the minister fainted during the service and, although he thankfully recovered and was able to carry on, behind the scenes I was working to see if there were other celebrants or ministers nearby who could take over should the need arise.
After the usual morning meeting to review the week and plan what is coming up next week, I am called on to some minor maintenance work on one of the funeral cars and then spend the rest of the day in the workshop.
I particularly enjoy the engraving as I do this and 3D modelling at home as a hobby and a part time business in the evenings and at weekends.
Having been on call a couple of nights this week, I have the rest of the day off and head straight into the garage to check over my mountain bike and motor bike as I plan to get out and about in the Derbyshire countryside this weekend and let off some steam as I am never one for standing still!