Wednesday, 30 November 2016

A Traveller’s Funeral in Stretham



When David Hall was asked to quote for a funeral in Stretham, near Ely, he asked for the post codes for all the locations to be visited and he asked whether there would be a lot of flowers. David was advised that the Deceased was a Lorry Driver who had come from a Travelling background and David was keen to speak to the Florist regarding the Floral Tributes. In David’s own experience there are different types of Travellers, some live in mobile homes within Traveller sites and these often have exquisite large scale wire framed Floral Tributes. However, some Travellers reside in conventional houses and normally they have standard oasis based Floral Tributes, like anyone else, but a lot more of them!
David got some excellent help from the Family and the design for the layout for the Floral Tributes evolved gradually as more and more orders were placed. The front display was quickly agreed comprising of a 3ft x 2ft ‘Lorry’ sandwiched between a ‘DAD’ and a ‘GRANDAD’.

The Deceased had sadly passed away whilst taking his dog for a walk, only taking two sips from his pint in his local pub before suffering a heart attack from which he never recovered. Considering what he was doing when he passed away, his Daughter organised for a ‘Dog’ Floral Tribute to be created by a skilled Florist. David set himself the task of integrating the ‘Dog’ in the rear section of the layout, but featuring it prominently. Luckily within 3 days enough orders were placed and were of the right shapes for David to design a multi-level pyramidal structure which would develop into the best rear display he had created to date. The bottom level comprised of the ‘Dog’, a Cushion, a Pillow and a large scale 18 inch ‘Horse Shoe’. The top level had an Open Heart back to back with a 2 ft Cross. In order to personalise the display David borrowed a lead for the ‘Dog’ from Mrs Jackie Roberts, a neighbour, who is a champion breeder of Red Setters.

Finding a company prepared to put the vintage lorry undercover the night before the funeral proved challenging both in Ely and Cambridge. David has a network of contacts throughout Britain and he was able to park his lorry with Trevor Rowell, whose vehicles are based on a remote road in the fens near Chatteris. The Leyland Beaver rolled out of Bradford-on-Avon at 0445 hours on a cold December morning and David headed for Witney near Oxford for his first stop. Just over 2.5 hours from Bradford-on-Avon is the Co-operative Food store in Long Hanborough which has a large yard at the rear and a kind Manager who lets David use the staff toilets. David took a 45 minute rest break as usual, required by Drivers Hours Legislation before a 4.5 hour driving period should elapse, and this allows the busy commuter traffic into Oxford to subside. David arrived in Chatteris for 1430 hours, planning to use the remaining hours of daylight to wash the vintage lorry. Following Trevor Rowell’s advice David entered the yard and to phone him so that a lift could be organised to the hotel once David had washed the lorry.
David heard a guard dog bark and assumed that it would stay in its kennel. When David climbed out of the Leyland Beaver he quickly found out that his assumption was badly wrong. A huge guard dog came bounding in David’s direction. David tried to quickly assess the length of the chain but he turned to run when he knew he was within the dog’s reach. David slipped on the loose gravel, fell to the ground and the guard dog was on top of him. David was in a hopeless situation but he had the presence of mind to shout firmly ‘John sit.’ Miraculously the dog backed away and sat. What you are probably thinking is how did David know the dog’s name was John? Well most people in East Anglia are called John, aren’t they? The actor David Jason was taking his family on holiday to Bury St Edmunds in 1948. It wasn’t easy to find your way just after WW11 because most of the road signs had been removed in 1940, when Britain feared a German invasion. David Jason was lost and pulled up next to an elderly gentleman cutting a hedge. David Jason wound down the car window and asked, ‘Can you tell me the way to Bury St Edmunds?’ but the old man ignored him and kept on cutting the hedge. David Jason then shouted, ‘Hey John.’ and the old man stopped cutting, turned and approached the car. The old man, in a Norfolk, accent said, ‘How do you know my name is John?’ David Jason said, ‘I’m a good guesser’ and the old man replied ‘well guess your way to Bury St. Edmunds!’
The wife of the haulier arrived and expressed her sympathy for David who had badly bruised his elbow in his confrontation with the guard dog. Apparently the only person the dog had bitten was a Policeman, however, this was of little comfort to David as he limped into the hotel in the centre of Chatteris. David couldn’t understand why the restaurant was very busy but very few people were staying at the hotel that night. As David was watching TV before he went to bed he noticed that the church bells were chiming every 15 minutes. David assumed that the bells would stop at 2200 hours but sadly he was wrong. The chiming continued every 15 minutes right through the night, not the best preparation for a Travellers funeral. 
David had envisaged that the traffic would be light between Chatteris and Stretham but he was wrong, there were 50 cars behind the Leyland Beaver on their way to Cambridge. David stopped at the Post Office in Wilburton, just before the traffic lights at the junction of the A1123 and the B1049, a back road into Cambridge. The Postmaster had put a paper under the counter for David who handed over his voucher and then climbed back into the Leyland Beaver. In the meantime all the 50 cars were trapped behind the vintage lorry on this narrow road as they were all turning right at the lights. As David went straight over the lights, on his own, he wound down his window and waved good bye to the stream of commuters. The road ahead was quiet until David reached the roundabout on the A10 and he brought the traffic to a standstill as he reversed into the driveway of the Traveller’s house.

The Travellers were brilliant with David, an older lady made him a cup of tea and an older man handed the Floral Tributes up to David who concentrated on fixing the Floral Tributes in place. The older lady offered David a second cup of tea, for ‘the driver’. David said, ‘Currently I’m not the driver I’m the load assembler!’ The etiquette in dealing with Travellers is that you can speak only to the men and you should never attempt to even look at, never mind speak to a young Traveller girl. However, the Daughter of the Deceased was so grateful for the magnificent display David had created, in which Floral Tributes appeared to float, that she ran towards David and gave him a huge embrace in front of everyone. The old Traveller men each held up a hand to signify that they weren’t concerned and no damage had been done.
The Funeral Director arrived with 6 Bearers as the Deceased wasn’t a small man and his solid oak coffin was over 13 stone on its own. Excellent rapport was established with the Funeral Director and his team and David said that he was always interested in the backgrounds of Bearers. In David’s experience, there is always a mix of full time and temporary staff, which can be made up from backgrounds as diverse as Fireman and former Policeman. The Funeral Director said that there were 2 full time and 4 temporary staff and invited David to guess which the full time employees were. David concentrated on the younger men and guessed correctly. The Funeral Director then asked David to identify the former Policeman and the Fireman. Looking at the stature of each man, David chose the former Policeman and the Fireman was selected correctly looking at his age, assuming that he would still be employed as a fire-fighter but working for a Funeral Director on his rest days. So David got the three questions correct.

On the return journey from long distance funerals David often tries new routes to expand his knowledge of A-Roads and Service Facilities around Britain. So for the return leg from Ely David opted to use the A43 which runs from Northampton to Oxford and is mainly dual carriageway, providing ideal conditions for vehicles to get past the 1950 Leyland Beaver. Coming through Northampton David noticed that the A43 signs changed to ‘A43 follow M1 North’ and David thought that the A43 would start at the roundabout which also has the exits to the M1. However, David was wrong as traffic for Oxford was forced to travel north on the M1 for one junction and he was very worried about the consequences from his lorry only doing 30 m.p.h. and other vehicles going much faster. As David was trundling down the slip road, a heavily loaded Eddie Stobard Tractor and Trailer, not travelling much faster than the vintage lorry, was in the first lane and the Driver shook his head, signally to David that he was entering a risky venture. David shrugged his shoulders to signal that he could do nothing about his predicament and gestured that he was only going up one junction. The Eddie Stobard Driver gave David a thumbs up signal and got onto his CB Radio. The Eddie Stobard Driver got out into Lane 2 to let the Leyland Beaver onto the motorway and when the Eddie Stobard vehicle was clear of the vintage lorry David put on his head lights to inform the Eddie Stobard Driver that it was safe for him to pull back into Lane 1. The Eddie Stobard Driver then thanked David not by using left, right, left indicators, the current way of thanking Lorry Drivers, he put his side lights on and off twice, which was the way a Lorry Driver thanked someone in the 1950’s. From junction 15 to junction 15A Lorry Drivers shielded the vintage vehicle from cars travelling at 70 m.p.h. and beyond. Each Lorry Driver who passed David acknowledged his Head Lights, ‘you are clear to come in’, flash with a 1950s side lights on and off twice thank you.
David was amazed at the help the Eddie Stobard Driver was able to muster and David reflected that he had got by with a little help from his friends, remembering the Joe Cocker hit record.           

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Early Start for a Horfield Funeral



Most people may find it hard to believe that David Hall of Vintage Lorry Funerals leaves home for a Bristol funeral, only 25 miles away, at the same time he leaves for funerals further afield in Gloucester or Basingstoke. David has found that traffic in the Bristol is gridlocked in key areas at 0715 hours and this necessitates leaving Bradford-on-Avon at 0500 hours, taking the A46 north from Bath and then the A420 westwards into Bristol.
The funeral was for R. Davies & Son and the Deceased was a former Haulage Contractor who had used tipper lorries in the Avon area. It was David’s third funeral for R. Davies & Son whose main office is on the Gloucester Road, Horfield, on the old A38. The company in David’s opinion has a unique approach to customer service in having the same person who has handled all the meetings with the Family also conducting the funeral, which has not featured anywhere else in David’s experiences with large companies. Normally a Funeral Arranger meets the Family and arranges the funeral, however, a Funeral Director, who may never have met the Family, conducts the funeral. On some occasions the person conducting the funeral has less idea where the family home is than David, who always plans for this situation learning form his Father’s mantra ‘trust no one son!’
David enjoys working for Catherine Benefield as she has a detailed understanding of what David needs to know. The only problem David has dealing with Catherine is that she is often in meetings or out of the office, however, she is always contactable by email.
Catherine told David that this would be a big funeral with 3 limousines for a very popular Irishman and a large contingent from the Emerald Isle was expected at St. Patrick’s Church in Redfield and then the interment at Mangotsfield Cemetery. The Red Flower Barrow told David that the Floral Tributes would include 3 ‘Names’, ‘DAD’, ‘GUS’ & ‘MAYO’, a 6 foot Coffin Spray of Red Roses and a ‘Scania 8 wheeled Tipper’ which was advised to be created from a 36 inch x 24 inch sheet of oasis. David created a design in which the lorry would appear to be floating, apparently unsupported, and as ‘MAYO’ depicted the Irish county of the Deceased’s birth, two Shamrocks were laminated and fixed either side of the four lettered word.

David has a good working knowledge of the roads around Bristol and he discussed with Catherine her proposed route. Likely problems were anticipated with the limited parking at St. Patrick’s Church, however, Catherine knew the Deacon and arranged for the school next door to open its gates to enable the funeral cortege to turn whilst the service was underway.
The night before the funeral David rang Dave at The Red Flower Barrow to check if any last minute orders had arrived from Ireland and, adopting a trust no one stance, David asked that the ‘Scania 8 wheeled Tipper’ be measured. From previous discussions David provided a board which was 36 inches x 20 inches, however, alarm bells rang when Dave said the Floral Tribute was 44 inches x 22 inches. Although David always seeks to have Floral Tributes floating apparently unsupported, unless he made changes to the Support Structure, the ‘Scania’ would be literally unsupported.

When you are intending to be in bed by 2130 hours the last thing you want to do is to be looking for lengths of wood to sort out a problem when you should be relaxing, unwinding, preparing mentally for the next day. David knew where a 48 inch length of 4 inch x 2 inch timber would be located in his storage system and he put a support bar behind the 36 inch wide board, right at the top, anticipating a tablet 44 inches x 22 inches.
A winter storm called Kate was expected to arrive in Bristol at 0700 hours, so David’s strategy of getting to R. Davies & Son’s Ashley Down support location by 0615 hours meant that he would park up before the rain would start.
David went to buy a newspaper in the Shell Garage on Gloucester Road and on his way back he passed R. Davies & Son’s main office with its large windows in it entrance. Thinking of the Hollies hit ‘Look through any window’ David took a peek and he didn’t see ‘smiling faces all around’ as the song suggests but the Floral Tributes that he would be loading in 3 hours time, neatly arranged on the carpet. To David’s horror he noticed that the ‘Scania 8 Wheeler’ Floral Tribute was not a tablet but the oasis sheet was cut out in the shape of the lorry which meant that the 48 inch support bar would have to be repositioned lower down the board before the rain arrived.
At 0715 hours David noticed that the traffic in Ashley Road had come to a stop, Gloucester Road and other streets in the Horfield area were now gridlocked and David, sipping his coffee sitting in his cab, knew that the early start had been warranted. 
As Catherine had warned it was a big funeral with an estimated 1000 people at St. Patrick’s church. There were a lot of large thickset Irish men, the sort of men you wouldn’t have picked an argument with. During the service Jane Crouch the female Boxing Champion turned up at the church. Due to cars being parked in the school yard, David had to spin the Leyland Beaver around in the limited space in front of the church. After the service whilst David was securing the coffin an Irish man, with a grin on his face asked, ‘What sort of heater have you got in yer motor?’ David replied, ‘A 9.8 litre heater’, meaning no heater just the heat from the engine.
There was a huge crowd gathered around the grave and one person started to sing whilst strumming a guitar. One of the Funeral Bearers quipped, ‘Jane Crouch the Boxer turns up at the church and now Van Morrison turns up at the cemetery!’

Other key events which happened during November 2015 was a funeral in the Isle of Wight for a former Prison Officer at Parkhurst on the same day that Vintage Lorry Funerals was featured in the BBC 1 Wales TV Programme, ‘A Very Welsh Undertaking’ which concerned the 1950 Leyland Beaver being filmed during a funeral in Newcastle Emlyn.         

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Three Funerals in Four Working Days



In October 2015 Vintage Lorry Funerals undertook 3 funerals in 4 working days, Marston Green (Thursday 8th), Wantage (Monday 12th) and Walsall (Tuesday 13th).
The Marston Green funeral was for a former Haulage Contractor whose wife went into Franklin & Hawkins funeral home and booked a standard hearse for her husband’s funeral. However, when she was getting into her car she noticed the picture of the 1950 Leyland Beaver in the window. She then went back inside and changed her arrangements as she immediately knew the vintage lorry would provide a fitting final journey.

The Wantage funeral was initiated by the Family of a man who bought and sold classic cars and his Daughter rang David directly before contacting any Funeral Director. David was advised that the Family’s Floral Tributes would be small in size, however, distant relatives had clubbed together and had arranged for a ‘Spanner’ and ‘BARRY’ to be created by the same Florist, who was an amazing help. David provided the dimensions of his ‘nut’ and the Florist cut out the oasis sheet so that the ‘Spanner’ would fit the ‘nut’.
The Marston Green funeral involved a minimalistic approach and David was evaluating how to display the ‘BARRY’ and the ‘Spanner’ prominently at Wantage when the telephone rang. It was an enquiry from a Coventry Funeral Director and David provisionally arranged to park the Leyland Beaver in their garage overnight prior to the funeral. Sadly the Family decided that the cost of the lorry was beyond their budget and David was disappointed but relieved because the flowers for the Coventry funeral may have meant David working through the night, dismantling one display and assembling the next one. Within 30 minutes the telephone rang again and it was Roy Quinton Funeral Directors in Walsall with an enquiry also for Tuesday October 13th that involved an early morning funeral. That evening David spoke to Sean Hayward, Managing Director of Haywards of Walsall, a company that operates 85 vehicles from their base in Portland Street and a location in Yorkshire. Sean has known David for over 20 years and Sean said that if David got the funeral Haywards would lay out the red carpet for the Leyland Beaver. The following day the Walsall funeral was confirmed and David rang Sean to explain about his need to work on the deck late into the evening on the Monday night. The Roy Quinton Funeral Arranger was immediate in finding out about the flowers and it was confirmed that only a Coffin Spray would feature and a minimalistic approach was requested.
So David had a conundrum regarding how to display the ‘BARRY’ and ‘Spanner’ prominently in Wantage and then finding a way to make the support structures disappear before the Walsall funeral which was only 18 hours later. One option would have been to leave the support structures at Haywards and go back for them after the funeral but this would have involved doubling back from Streetly Crematorium. So David elected to make the support structures ‘disappear’ some where between Wantage and Walsall taking a leaf out of Jasper Maskelyne’s book. Jasper Maskelyne was a magician during the 1930’s & 1940’s who was used by Winston Churchill during World War Two to use ‘magic tricks’ to make cities ‘disappear’ from the Luftwaffe Bomb Aimers.
The Marston Green Funeral involved David leaving at 0445 hours to miss the rush hour traffic in Gloucester and he took his first break at Alcester Services, allowing the Birmingham rush hour traffic to subside. David arrived early in Marston Green for the afternoon funeral and he reversed the Leyland Beaver into the ample parking facilities in front of Franklin & Hawkins Funeral Directors. David became aware that a Union Jack was to be placed on top of the coffin and Franklin & Hawkins Staff helped David to secure it. The widow was very pleased with what David had done but sadly never got the chance to shake his hand at the Crematorium. David arrived home at 2000 hours and emailed the pictures he took to Franklin & Hawkins. The following morning, at around 1000 hours the widow rang, thanked David and provided some valuable information on her husband which enabled David to create an Obituary Article. David always likes to complete all the administration on one funeral before starting on the next. With the widow’s help and immediacy in responding an article was signed off and sent to the Editor of Vintage Roadscene the same day.

The most amazing fact about the Wantage funeral was that for the first time ever the Family changed the Funeral Director three days before the funeral! It was not for David to wonder why, he just got on with his preparation and found the new Funeral Directors, J. Godfrey & Son very accommodating. George and Faye were very helpful and expressed concern about the Leyland Beaver negotiating the sharp curve into the porte cochere without mounting the kerbs on this narrow roadway. Faye telephoned the Crematorium and arranged that David could reverse under the porte cochere.

Normally when the service is taking place at the Crematorium David takes a well earned break, sipping coffee from his flask and nibbling at his toffee crisp or eating his ham/cheese/pickle sandwich. However, on this occasion relaxation wasn’t possible and with the tune of Mission Impossible ringing in his ears he set about dismantling the ‘Spanner’ & ‘BARRY’ support structures into their component parts. These were fitted, using a meticulous game plan, into a fruit-box which was then slid under the passenger seat in the cab. So when the Family emerged after the service everything had disappeared from the deck.
The Family were delighted with all the efforts that David took especially securing the Leicester Tigers Flag and how the ‘Spanner’ was displayed so that it appeared to be floating, unsupported. David was also thanked for his caring approach which had helped the Family members through a difficult time.
Leaving South Oxfordshire Crematorium at 1530 hours David headed north joining the A34 dual carriageway before taking the A4260 to Banbury and then the A423 to Coventry. David always works on the principle that most drivers stick to the motorways and main trunk roads, leaving the old A-Road Network very quiet, and the route to Coventry was no exception. Sadly the traffic became congested on the A45 between Coventry and Birmingham and the likely arrival time at Haywards was at risk. David phoned Sean Hayward who told David not to worry, as the A452 was clear and Quinn would be there whenever he arrived. It was 1930 hours and very dark when David trundled into Portland Street, however, as the Leyland Beaver approached Haywards the lights in the garage came on and the huge garage doors were being slid open. It was like a pilot looking for landing lights on an aircraft carrier and this image was enforced by Quinn gesticulating where David should park the lorry. Quinn said he would stay as long as David required for him to check over the lorry before taking him to the Premier Inn. In the morning Quinn collected David and made him a cup of tea before he was ready to depart.

As David was sitting reading his paper at Roy Quinton Funeral Directors he reflected that in an ideal world the Walsall and Marston Green funerals would have been on the same day, as the timings would have enabled them to be done one after another. However, as we all know this ain’t an ideal world.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

A Cardboard Coffin in Snodland



A family in Snodland contacted David Hall after their mother had passed away. She had been a Lorry Driver for most of her life and it was her expressed wish not to have her final journey in a black hearse.
Her other wish was to be cremated in a cardboard coffin and she bought a coffin from Greenfield Creations when she was in the final stages of her life. Her family helped her to decorate the coffin with Butterflies.
When David Hall was told about the cardboard coffin he spoke to Greenfield Creations and voiced his concerns over the rigidity of a cardboard coffin and whether it would stand up to David’s handling techniques as the coffin is loaded, turned, positioned and secured. David sent a number of photographs of himself in action on the deck during a funeral that was televised on BBC 1 Wales and Andy Honeywell offered to supply David with a coffin and let him try it out in his garage.
David and one of his Support Team loaded the cardboard coffin with sufficient 25 kgs bags of Water Softener Salt to replicate the Deceased’s weight and to both their surprise there was no deflection in the plywood base at any stage. A wicker coffin will deflect, bending as much as 1 inch over the length of the coffin if it supported only near the ends. However, the Greenfield Creations cardboard coffin operated like a standard coffin as it didn’t deflect at all. Two concerns remained however, regarding the securement and how to keep the cardboard coffin dry. David normally uses ratchet straps to secure the coffin, however, this action would have been inappropriate and would have damaged the coffin as soon as any tension was applied. The solution to both problems was the use the use of David’s transparent sheet.

The Funeral Director had limited parking facilities and the Family contacted Newton Transport to provide space in their yard for David to load the flowers. Due to Newton Transport’s night loading operation it was not possible for David to park the 1950 Leyland Beaver undercover with this company so David contacted Mid Kent Vehicle Services, a garage that specialises in cars & vans. The manager Phil was most helpful offering David space for his lorry and took him to the Premier Inn at night and collected him in the morning. Phil is a most diligent guy, he even left a note on David’s seat to remind him to collect his sandwiches from their fridge.
David was concerned about loading the cardboard coffin from the Funeral Directors where there was no protection from the elements. He knew the coffin would be safe once it was beneath his sheet, however, what would happen if a shower occurred whilst the coffin was being wheeled out from the Funeral Directors facility. David telephoned Bob Osborne of Newton Transport and expressed his concerns over bad weather. Bob explained that his warehouse activities peaked during the evening, however, if required during the day he could make space available, withdraw his men from the location and enable the coffin to be transferred from the hearse onto the lorry undercover.

The Floral Tribute layout involved a front display depicting that a ‘Butterfly’ was leaving a Coffin Spray on its way to ‘LEE’. The rear display involved a 3 dimensional ‘Frog’ hovering over ‘MUM’ as Lee loved both Frogs and Butterflies.

During the morning the flowers were delivered to David and he assembled the display without any problems. The ‘Butterfly’, which was made by a different Florist, had not yet arrived so David went to get a newspaper. Whilst he was away the ‘Butterfly’ was delivered and to keep it safe Newton’s staff put it onto a pallet and located it into the warehouse. David returned and was oblivious to what had happened and rang the Florist, who stressed that it had been delivered. The ‘Butterfly’ Floral Tribute was to be the centre piece of the display but it was nowhere to be seen and David was getting concerned. He went across the yard and spoke to Bob Osborne who said, ‘Don’t worry Dave, our blokes booked it into the warehouse!’
David let the Florist know that the ‘Butterfly’ was safe and she asked him to send her a picture of the Floral Tribute once it was installed into the display. David said that he would take a picture and email it to her when he got home. She was upset that David couldn’t take a picture with his camera and send it immediately. David said, ‘Cameras are for taking pictures and phones are for phoning.’ 

At lunchtime the sun shone and the Newton Transport safety net wasn’t required, however, David will never forget the kindness shown by Bob Osborne and his staff.
Whilst the lorry and limousine were waiting outside the Family home a young boy on a bicycle approached David and bombarded him with questions.
‘Why is your lorry in my street?’
‘Who has died?’
Where is she now?’
‘Can I see her?’
He didn’t understand what David meant when he said that the coffin was sealed. The little boy asked David if he could see inside the cab of his lorry, however, the little boy accepted that it was not appropriate and that dignity must prevail over being inquisitive. David made the young boy promise that he would stay by his bicycle on the pavement until all the cars had left the street.
The Leyland Beaver performed magnificently going from Blue Bell Hill Crematorium to Sutton Scotney Services on the A34 in 4 hours, taking a route to bypass the rush hour traffic at Guildford. David arrived home at 2330 hours and his wife immediately downloaded the pictures from his camera. The Husband of the Deceased had insisted that David should send a ‘home safe’ text, however, David did one better sending the pictures at the same time. David always tries to exceed expectations.   

Monday, 1 August 2016

Three Sad Funerals



Although Vintage Lorry Funerals uses the Marketing Phrase of ‘Bringing some colour to a dark day’, sadly the events around some funerals makes this aim impossible and here are three examples where the background to the funeral had an emotional effect on David Hall.
David was contacted by a Bristol Haulage Company to take one of their Drivers on his final journey but the date could not be finalised as their Driver had died abroad. The Deceased was divorced and had taken his four sons on holiday with him to Portugal. Tragically on the second night of their holiday the Deceased collapsed and passed away in front of his boys, whose ages ranged from 6 to 16 years.
The Haulage Company provided Tractor Units to take the mourners to the Funeral Directors and thence to Westerleigh Crematorium. The picture below was taken in Downend Bristol and it captures the moment when the four brothers naturally arranged themselves in age order alongside their Dad’ coffin.

The youngest person to travel on the 1950 Leyland Beaver was a 13 year old boy from Bristol who died from San Filippo Syndrome, a genetic disorder that limits the life of a child to 14 years as a maximum. David met the Family at their home and drew out how he could arrange the Floral Tributes on his vehicle so that everyone was visible. As the Family did not have a computer David agreed to prepare a Photograph Album of all the pictures he would take.
A number of events occurred on the funeral day which touched David emotionally. Whilst sitting in his lorry on Filton Road in the early morning before the funeral, children were on their way to school. One group of girls approached the lorry and a blond haired young lady smiled at David. As the group passed by the front of the cab, David heard a gentle tapping knock on the passenger side door. David climbed out of the cab to investigate and the blond haired young lady stepped forward and introduced herself as a cousin of the Deceased and she reminded David that she had met him at the Family home. She then asked David to climb up onto the deck and explain how each Floral Tribute would be positioned.
Whilst David was reversing down the street towards the house, school children from the same class as the Deceased stood to attention on either side of the road, forming a guard of honour.

When David was loading the Floral Tributes he noticed that each Flower Card contained a picture of the Deceased. Having loaded over 20 Floral Tributes, each with the young lad smiling at him, David felt very sad for the parents who had also lost the Deceased’s sister to the same genetic disorder the previous year.
Vintage Lorry Funerals was chosen to take a 32 year old Electrician on his final journey after he had lost his life beneath his own car. It is believed that he was struggling to replace a gearbox from his car which came off its axle-stands causing him horrendous injuries and he passed away two days later.
The Deceased’s Mum was looking at the range of vehicles available in the Funeral Director’s Pack and she felt that the 1950 Leyland Beaver was most appropriate not only because her Son was interested in ‘anything with wheels’ but also because following his accident she didn’t want his coffin enclosed.
The Deceased left a young wife and two young children, a boy almost 3 year old and a girl almost 1 year old. During the service the young mother had to attend to her children’s needs with David and the Funeral Bearers doing all they could to provide some privacy. It was pitiful to see in the cemetery two young children wandering around the headstones oblivious to why they were there. This prompted David to write an obituary article in Heritage Commercials, and whilst these articles are normally written for the benefit of the widow, in this case it was written primarily for the two young children so that they would have something by which they could remember their Dad.

David is always professional and never lets any emotions show on the day of the funeral, however, he often thinks through what happened on the day, evaluating if he could have done anything more to help the Family.    

Friday, 1 July 2016

Going back to Scole



David Hall and his wife lived at Lowestoft in the late 1970’s and David’s memories are of the large apple stores and windmills, including a magnificent one near Scole. It has a rotating top which allows the sails to move to take the best advantage of a change in wind direction. One day David and his wife were climbing up the staircase inside this windmill and then stepped out onto the top turret balcony to get a wonderful view of the flat East Anglia countryside. David turned and stepped back into the windmill and just as his wife was about to follow him the direction of the wind changed. David’s wife went for a ride, whilst he was laughing from inside the structure and it is a moment that they will never forget.

On Friday June 19th 2105 David and his wife were having coffee within Jolly’s Tea Room in Bath when David’s mobile rang. Tim Simmons explained that his Dad had just passed away and since he had once owned a Heavy Haulage Company his Family were interested in using David’s services.
David had undertaken a funeral in Great Yarmouth some eight years previously which was featured prominently in local newspapers and Mrs. Simmons, Tim’s Mum, had kept a copy but never told anyone that she had it. Tim explained that he and his Mum wanted to use the 1950 Leyland Beaver, however, his younger Brother wanted to spend time repairing his Dad’s old Diamond T Lorry for his Dad’s final journey. David’s advice was that if the Family didn’t use his lorry then they should just use a hearse as on the day of the funeral Tim should be focused only on looking after his Mum. He should not be worrying about his Dad’s old motor which hadn’t been out of the barn for some time.
Tim rang David on the Sunday evening as promised and booked the Leyland Beaver for Friday June 26th. On Sunday evening David’s wife looked for suitable facilities around Rosedale Funeral Directors in Diss which could store the 1950 Leyland Beaver overnight. After 20 minutes research there was an excited shout in the computer room as David’s wife had found Waterfield & Son in Scole, only two miles from the Funeral Director who had a tarmac resurfacing company and they had restored a 1956 Albion Claymore Tipper, which was the first lorry that they ever had. Also within walking distance were a hotel and a paper shop, so David’s wife had cracked the problem.
Some people think that people from East Anglia are unfriendly typified by David Jason’s story about when he was lost in his car near Bury St. Edmunds just after WWII. Apparently David shouted to an Old Man cutting a hedge, ‘Do you know the way to Bury St. Edmonds?’ The Old Man just continued to work and never responded so David called, ‘Hey John, do you know the way to Bury St. Edmunds?’ The Old Man put down his tools and walked across to the car and enquired, ‘How do you know my name is John?’ David said, ‘I’m a good guesser.’ The Old Man said, ‘Well then, guess your way to Bury St. Edmonds!’ as he turned away and continued to cut the hedge.
Gary Westfield couldn’t have been more helpful, he even offered to allow the coffin to be transferred onto the lorry as the Funeral Director had a narrow driveway. He told David that his men would clear space to put the Leyland Beaver undercover the night before the funeral. He asked David if he could find his way to Scole and David told Gary about him and his wife’s frightening experience in the windmill near Scole.
David left Bradford-on-Avon at 0500 hours and was the first vehicle to fuel at Tesco Tetbury as it opened at 0600 hours and the derv price was 119.9 p.p.l , the cheapest that David would see in the next 150 miles. However, coming up the A143 just after Bury St. Edmonds he couldn’t believe his eyes for at a small fuel station the derv price was 117.9. It was a very tight squeeze to get the lorry next to the pumps, however, to save 4p per litre it was worth trying to put a quart in pint pot. As David paid for the fuel he asked how the fuel was so cheap. The young girl said, ‘You’ve landed here on our cheap fuel day.’ Thinking it was a bit like the B&Q facility for OAPs, David said, ‘Have you got to be an OAP to get this discount?’ The young girl laughed saying, ‘You are welcome to it, and your lorry looks wonderful.’
David arrived at the Waterfield yard around 1400 hours, having completed the 204 miles in 7.25 hours driving. Staff in the yard were expecting the 1950 Leyland Beaver and the Yardman asked David to undertake a tricky manoeuvre as he reversed into the empty shed around a lorry with cars only inches away. When David pulled the engine stop button he said to the Yardman, ‘Have I passed the test?’

It was the first time that David could walk from where the lorry was parked to his accommodation and it was comforting to know when he was eating his supper that the coffin would be transferred onto his lorry in the Waterfield yard, making this a total Scole solution. He didn’t have to rush off in morning, enabling him to work into the early hours on Saturday morning, using the full extent of a 15 hour shift, if required.
The Deceased lived in a bungalow in the middle of the countryside with uninterrupted views in all directions. The funeral service was in the late afternoon and although David was keen to make tracks he had promised to spend some time with the Widow after the service. Leaving the cemetery at 1600 hours the Leyland Beaver did well on the country roads, getting cars past on the former 3 lane road between Diss and Bury St. Edmunds, and was on the A14 dual carriageway by 1700 hours. It was Friday night and there were a lot of people on the roads, however, there was also a number road closures from 2000 hours for night tarmac operations at Huntingdon and Milton Keynes. David knew he could beat the curfew at Huntingdon but he would need help on how to avoid the problems at Milton Keynes. Mission Control, David’s wife, had done some research and found a good back road going through Bedford, Flitwick and Dunstable before going east via Aylesbury to Oxford. David’s wife provided a series of landmarks, and stressed special attention was required due to the lack of a sign-board at the roundabout over the railway at Flitwick. Tramping on during this warm evening, David missing the right turn at the roundabout but immediately knew he was wrong. He stopped outside the Oak Public House and asked a man, who was speaking on a mobile phone, directions for Dunstable. The man, still talking on the phone, tapped on the window of the pub. An Old Man came out saying, ‘Two rights and a left and Dunstable is sign boarded from there. If I had a (expletive) tenner for each time I have had to leave my drink due to the lack of a (expletive) sign on that (expletive) roundabout I would be a (expletive) millionaire.’ David thanked the man but thought it was like a situation portrayed in Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Get it right next time.’
David got to Dunstable, came back up the A5 and then turned left onto a road he had never been on before, the A505 to Leighton Buzzard. The road was exceptionally wide, wide enough for 4 cars across, a good surface and street lights which provided excellent visibility and it was around 2145 hours. It was the same Friday as Glastonbury, however, contrary to popular belief not all young people were at Worthy Farm Pilton, in Somerset that night. David saw no vehicles at all in front of him but he looked in his wing mirror and saw a line of 5 cars approaching the vintage lorry at speed. Each car had darkened windows, air dams on the front, side skirts that almost touched the ground, and air spoilers mounted on the boot lids. These boys didn’t need any invitation to come past the old lorry trundling along at 30 miles per hour. As they thundered past they filled the fours lanes and took off reaching speeds probably in excess of triple the speed of the 65 year old lorry and the road became a racetrack. Thankfully everyone reached the end of the long road safely.
It was approaching 2300 hours when the Leyland Beaver joined the A40 just before Oxford and the motorists trapped behind the lorry were vocal in their protests as they came past on the next stretch of dual carriageway. David wears ear-defenders to protect him from the noise from the Leyland 600 engine, however, they also shield him from the abuse he receives. Finding an empty lay-bye to let people past is never easy with many populated with drivers sleeping in their Trucks, bottomless potholes or filled with mounds of tarmac for the next night operations.
Just after Burford David turned left onto the B4425, a country road to Cirencester and all the cars behind the lorry suddenly disappeared. David had the road to himself and there was a full moon. On the back road he saw a Fox and two Barn Owls. It was 0130 hours when the Leyland Beaver trundled into Bradford-on-Avon and David reversed into his garage just before the end of his 15 hour shift limit expired. Over a cup of tea he told his wife about the journey home and she said, ‘You should have turned right at the roundabout over the railway line in Flitwick as you were told!’ David thought ‘Oh dear, this is like being back to scole (school).                      
         

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

A ‘Tugboat’ prominently displayed in Cwmbran.



Vintage Lorry Funerals second funeral in Cwmbran was for a man who started his working life on the Tugboats in Newport Harbour during 1959. Glyn Fisher then progressed to the Merchant Navy and one of his first sailings on the Garthfield involved taking equipment for the new Nuclear Power Station near Snowdon, docking at Porthmadog. The Garthfield was a Coaster and Glyn’s ports of call included Douglas (IOM), Millom (Cumbria), Liverpool and the Clyde. However, family problems about him being away from home for long periods caused Glyn to leave the sea and he became a Lorry Driver. Although Glyn earned his living behind a steering wheel, he missed his time on the sea. He developed a passionate interest in Tugboats partly because Daniel Lynch who had worked with him as a deckhand on the Dunraven was now a Tugmaster, the Captain of a Tugboat that operated along the South Wales coast. Daniel supplied Glyn with Tugboat magazines which he avidly read in his caravan on the coast at Porth Kerry. Glyn was also given the opportunities of occasional trips on Tugs pulling ships into Newport with timber and Swansea with iron ore for Port Talbot Steelworks.

When Glyn passed away his Daughter was given a task as Glyn’s expressed wish was that he was not to go to the crematorium in a black hearse. Alison researched the internet and found that Vintage Lorry Funerals could personalise the final journey of a Loved One. Alison spoke with David and told him that she was having a ‘Tugboat’ as the Family’s main Floral Tribute, along with a Coffin Spray. David described the scene he could create using the coffin and Coffin Spray as if they were an Ocean Going Liner, which could appeared to being eased through the harbour entrance by a ‘Tugboat’.  Alison thought that this concept was brilliant and asked what David needed to achieve this and David said, ‘a helpful Florist.’
Sally of Athena Flowers was most helpful and told David that the ‘Tugboat’ would be made from a 2 ft x 2 ft designer board. Given the short lead time for a funeral, David has to make assumptions and create the support structure whilst the Florist is creating the Floral Tributes. The day before the funeral Sally took a picture of the base before it was covered with flowers and emailed the picture that contained dimensions to David, which he used to create a cardboard template. At that point he discovered that one of his assumptions was flawed. The height of the ‘Tugboat’ was half the expected height. The Florist had realistically proportioned the ‘Tugboat’ and used 2 ft x 1 ft as a base, half of the designer board and probably used the balance for another Floral Tribute. David always tries to imagine how a Florist creates a Floral Tribute and he was devastated that he hadn’t guessed the right height. Being brought up in the frugal ‘waste not want not’ 1950’s he should have known that only half of the designer board would have been used.

At 1830 hours the night before the funeral there was no time for self recrimination and it was time for action, however, as he was working the chorus of The Swinging Blue Jeans hit ‘You’re no good,’  were reverberating around in David’s head. Using the cardboard template David found bits of wood the correct shape to replicate the ‘Tugboat’. As David put it, ‘When a Floral Tribute is appearing to float in midair you don’t want to see any wood.’
An early start ensured that the vintage lorry was outside Arthur Peake’s Funeral Home by 0715 hours only to find the gates locked. Don Peake knocked on cab door at 0800 hours and advised David that he should park in the Leisure Centre car park just down the road. There was plenty of space at this facility that had been taken over by the local community following recent Government cut backs. By 0830 hours cars were arriving with the occupants wearing heavy boots and woolly hats, obviously hikers. At 0900 hours a gentleman came up to David and said, ‘I never thought they would take my idea up so swiftly.’ Apparently he had recently written to the Leisure Centre suggesting that they should use the vast tarmac area as a revenue stream from events such as vintage vehicle rallies. David said that his vintage vehicle was booked for a funeral with Don Peake, pointing to his yard which backs onto the playing fields associated with the Leisure Centre.
Glyn Fisher in his coffin was thought to weigh around 25 stone and some of Don’s staff were concerned about how the coffin would be loaded and offloaded. David was helped by two Bearers on the deck when Glyn was loaded, however, Glyn was offloaded at Gwent Crematorium with David alone on the deck, supported by Bearers on the ground. Glyn’s coffin glided across the deck as if the total weight was 12 stones.

The ‘Tugboat’ was photographed from a number of angles and the picture of a ‘Tugboat’ helping an Ocean Going Liner into harbour was sent to Vintage Spirit, Tugboat & OSV and Powerboat & RIB magazines. Space for the Obituary Article was secured in Vintage Spirit and his Daughter felt that her Dad would have been very proud to be featured in such prestigious magazine.
David spoke to Daniel Lynch and got more background on Glyn time on the water. Daniel not only filled in some of the details but he made available some amazing pictures, including the ones featured here and David is grateful to Daniel for allowing these pictures to be included. David contacted Sea Breezes magazine and the Editor was delighted to hear from him. There is no doubt that Daniel’s pictures were a major help and Sea Breezes exceeded David’s expectations making almost a whole page available to Glyn Fisher in their magazine and also putting part of the article on the internet.
Alison was delighted with all David’s efforts and sent a ‘Thank You’ card with a heartfelt message.