Saturday, 1 September 2018

Leyland Beaver back in Slough again

Following Max Van der Sloot’s funeral from E. Sargeant & Sons Slough in June 2017, David Hall wrote obituary articles for Heritage Commercials and Canal Boat which subsequently appeared on the shelves of W.H. Smiths in September. David’s first contact is with the Family to whom the sight of their Loved One appearing in a prestigious magazine means a lot and helps them with the grieving process. However, David also contacts the Funeral Director as a matter of courtesy. Most Funeral Directors never even acknowledge the email, however, Peter Wicks of E. Sargeant & Sons not only acknowledged the email he went out and bought copies.
Whilst David was working in his garage, dismantling the display from a Denmead funeral, Peter left a message on David’s answer phone. Peter said that he was most impressed with the magazine articles, however, another opportunity may exist for the 1950 Leyland Beaver as a ‘Scrap Man’ had passed away in Maidenhead.
When the Deceased’s Daughter, Nicola walked into the E. Sargeant & Sons office she was thinking about booking a Horse Drawn Carriage for her Dad’s final journey because he had loved betting on horses and attending Race Meetings at Ascot. As Nicola was looking through the options in the Funeral Brochure, Peter Wicks drew her attention to the 1950 Leyland Beaver and provided positive comments about David Hall’s commitment to achieve high standards and his attention to detail. Nicola thought that the price for the lorry was quite reasonable and booked the Leyland Beaver for her Dad’s final journey, but not for the reason that Peter Wicks had suggested. The Deceased had never owned a lorry and had never held a Driving Licence. He had used friends and family to collect scrap and when no one could help him he used his Wheel Barrow. He collected metal, mainly copper, from households, consolidate items into loads in his garden and then use his Chillington black Wheel Barrow with a red wheel to transfer the loads of scrap to W N Thomas & Sons in Stoke Gardens, Slough.
When Nicola saw the picture of the Leyland Beaver she immediately envisaged a Wheel Barrow on the deck somehow fitting into the display of flowers. She thought that her choice would be most appropriate as her Dad’s business would had flourished if he had owned a lorry, however, for his funeral he would have something that he had always wanted but could never have.
David contacted Nicola to get details of the Florist who would create the Floral Tributes and she told him that it was likely that ‘DAD’, ‘GRANDAD’ and a 5 ft Coffin Spray would be ordered. David shared with Nicola his initial ideas on potential layout options, however, Nicola’s first thoughts were confined to what she had seen in a hearse with ‘Name’ Floral Tributes positioned either side of the coffin. David said, ‘What I drive is not a hearse it’s a lorry with a 21 foot deck and my plan would be to position the Floral Tributes so that everyone can see them. Have you got any special requests you want me to include?’ Nicola then told David about her Dad using a Wheel Barrow and asked if David could provide one for the funeral. Fortunately Nicola had looked at the Vintage Lorry Funerals website, saw how David had secured Wheel Barrows in previous funerals (Portchester & Guildford) and could visualise what David was suggesting when he asked for a head & shoulders picture of the Deceased. David’s plan was to secure a Wheel Barrow, exactly like the Deceased’s, against the headboard and then position an enlarged laminated picture of the Deceased between the handles, so that it would seem like that the Deceased was holding his own Wheel Barrow. 

David spoke with Tracy of Hearts & Flowers in Datchet who confirmed what Nicola had ordered, however, there was also a 19 inch Horse Shoe Floral Tribute. David sent Tracy an email of a sketch of a Horse Shoe and asked her to provide a number of measurements so that he could make a wooden stand which would mirror the shape of the Horse Shoe. In this way the ‘Horse Shoe’ Floral Tribute would appear to be floating unsupported, as David had previously done for funerals in Orpington, Cardiff, Merthyr Tydfil and Ely.

Given that the main Floral Tribute was the ‘DAD’ David was determined to keep the Support Structure in front of the coffin no wider than the ‘DAD’ and this meant finding a way to secure the Wheel Barrow with minimal support beneath it. David’s wife was able to edit the image that Nicola had sent to the size David required for the display and then Vintage Lorry Funerals’ Support Partner, Tech Office, in Trowbridge, laminated the picture. It was also fortuitous that David was able to find a Chillington Wheel Barrow exactly like the one used by the Deceased and the person who owned it was very pleased to help David and loaned it to him for the funeral.
David had all that he needed, apart from measurements taken from the coffin. As he was planning to work on building the Support Structures on Saturday, he sent an email to Peter Wicks. Normally Funeral Directors close for business on Friday afternoon at 1630 hours and don’t open again until 0830 hours on the Monday morning, so David didn’t expect a reply to his email before Monday noon. However, when David put on the computer on Sunday morning he was shocked to see an email from Peter Wicks which provided the measurements David required and it was certainly a first for a Funeral Director responding over a weekend.
Normally Funerals are in the late morning or early afternoon and David makes an early start, arrives at the Funeral Directors before the morning rush hour has started and often returns to Bradford-on-Avon before the evening rush hour starts. However, with the Slough funeral being in the late afternoon it was evident that the Leyland Beaver would hit the evening rush hour on the journey home and the plan was to fix the start time to miss the morning rush hour. So David left home at 0600 hours and encountered more traffic on the A342 than he normally does when he leaves an hour earlier. When it proved difficult to get vehicles past David looked for a lay bye, a bus stop or the wide entrance to an industrial estate to pull off the road for a minute and let a stream of cars get on their way. The Leyland Beaver pulled into Basingstoke to catch the last remnants of the morning rush hour and there was minimal traffic on the A30, A322, A332 enabling the lorry to arrive in E. Sargeant & Sons yard by 1015 hours.
The staff members at E. Sargeant & Sons were pleased to see David and Peter Wicks showed David the location of the hot tap and he spent the next 90 minutes washing the vintage lorry which had got dirty during the journey. Just about that time the Heart & Flowers van pulled into the yard with every Floral Tribute apart from the ‘GRANDAD’. Amanda asked where should she put the flowers and David suggested that they went straight onto the deck and into their Support Structures. David said, ‘It is always best to handle the flowers as little as possible’ as he placed the ‘Horse Shoe’ on its stand. Amanda was amazed how David had made the wooden structure so it was hidden by the flowers. As David was lowering the ‘DAD’ onto its stand Jose, the Limousine Driver, said ‘I know that it will fit first time, this man is very organised.’ Jose then made David a cup of tea, however, his key role was to help assemble the ‘GRANDAD’ which arrived as 4 and 3 lettered words. Amanda then did something amazing, she gave David two chrysanthemum flowers to take with him in case any flowers should pop out of the oasis bases during transit and it was the first time a Florist had ever shown so much care. 

Tony the Hearse Driver asked David if he knew the best way to get to the house in Maidenhead and used his local knowledge to improve David’s suggestion, eliminating Dual Carriageways by going through Eton. Unbeknown to David the route involved a sharp right which took the cortege past Eton School and David smiled as he saw young gentlemen in their gowns. Coming from a very humble background in Easington Colliery it is the nearest that he would ever get to Eton. A number of the young gentlemen were gathered on a zebra crossing and looked expectantly that the cortege would stop to let them across but it didn’t. As David cruised past he said, ‘Sorry to disappoint you boys, this is a funeral and we don’t stop for anyone!’
The cortege went over a cattle grid and the road went over a grass common area. A cyclist was wobbling on the road ahead, Tony in the Hearse just missed the cyclist and it was evident to David that there wouldn’t be enough space for the Leyland Beaver and the cycle between the kerb and a road island. With no oncoming traffic David elected to go the wrong way around the road island and his actions ensured that the cyclist was safe.
The Family were delighted to see the Leyland Beaver and the layout of the deck that David had created. A young Great Grandson showed interest in the lorry and David, after gaining the boy’s Dad’s permission, lifted the 8 year old into the cab and sat him behind the giant steering wheel for a short while.
As David approached the church he was most concerned that someone had parked two cars exactly where he and Tony needed to park to off-load the coffin. However, David needn’t have been worried because quickly Brian and his colleague, both E. Sargeant & Sons employees, jumped into the cars, which had been positioned to protect the space, and drove them into the side road. David quoted Hannibal Smith of the A Team and said, ‘I really love it when a plan comes together.’
There was a delay in off-loading the coffin as the cortege had arrived early. The Second Limousine Driver Lee said, ‘I wish it would rain then the Vicar will start the service early,’ and he got his wish. Hearing these words David thought of the Temptation’s song ‘I wish it would rain’. Rain started to fall as the coffin was off-loaded and the intensity grew during the service, however, it seemed to ease as the coffin was positioned back on the deck for the interment in Oakley Green Cemetery.
David left the cemetery at 1615 hours as the traffic was building and he hit the main rush hour traffic on the A322. As David was sitting in stationary traffic he had his second sandwich of the day and whilst he sat on the A30 at Camberley he had some coffee from his flask. The weather improved at Basingstoke and the deck was almost dry when he got home. Coming up the street behind David was a car with it’s headlights on and David was temporarily blinded as the light dazzled in his wing mirror. David stopped the Leyland Beaver and was just about to give the driver a stern talking to, when David’s wife who was waiting at the entrance to their drive, intervened to ask the man to use his side lights only. This was the best solution as David had been on the road for almost 15 hours and his tolerance was low.
Once the Leyland Beaver was safely into its garage David inspected the condition of the deck for dryness and found the two Chrysanthemum flowers still positioned loosely in their flower tray. David gave these to his wife and said they were a present from Hearts & Flowers as they were never needed as replacements in the cemetery.
As David had a bowl of soup at 2100 hours he told his wife how nice the Family and Funeral Director’s Staff had been with him.

The following morning David and his wife washed the lorry, however, as they were having a cup of coffee a sudden storm started and David ran, jumped into the Leyland Beaver and reversed quickly into the garage. David’s wife doesn’t reckon she has seen David move so swiftly saying, ‘That was like the start of the old 24 hour Le Mans car race!’            

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