How long have you been working as a celebrant?
Since March 2019 – although I did conduct a memorial service for my father back in 2017. That experience was the trigger to planning this career change. I completed Neil Dorward’s Training in Funeral Celebrancy course in October 2018 then, after working my notice, left the University of Dundee and started my new career.
Where have you worked?
I’ve now conducted funerals in Dundee, Perth, Kirkcaldy and at Parkgrove Crematorium in Friockheim (Angus). I also officiated at my cousin’s funeral in Aldershot in October 2019 and then held a small ceremony for the interment of her ashes in her original home town of Falkirk.
Were those all crematorium services?
No. The majority of funerals today are cremations but I have also officiated at graveside services eg at Pitkerro Grove, Birkhill and Balgay in Dundee, Murroes in Angus, Jeanfield in Perth and Camelon in Falkirk. In those cases the main ceremony usually takes place in a funeral director’s service room or parlour.
What size of services have you conducted?
Every service is different of course. I’ve handled private services with only four immediate family members present to very large gatherings with standing room only.
Do you have a particular style?
It varies a great deal depending on circumstances. I have conducted funerals for young people who died suddenly as well as people in their 90s (and even 102) who had led a long life. In general I take my cue from what the family and friends want and I try to capture the essence of their loved one in what I write. I always write the tribute from scratch never from template. And, whatever the circumstances, I try to conduct the ceremony with respect and dignity.
Are you religious?
Not in a conventional way (though I do try to follow a Buddhist approach to life) and I’m not a minister or a priest. But I’m not a Humanist either and I am very happy to include a prayer or a reading from the Bible or other scriptures if requested. Last year, I conducted a ceremony for a man of south east Asian heritage and we placed a small brass figure of the Buddha that had belonged to him in front of his coffin and lit candles during a moment of silent reflection.
Do you sort the music?
It depends. Sometimes the Funeral Director will do that. But I am always happy to help choose music and, where necessary, I can make a CD for the service or help source live music.
Do you have testimonials?
Families often get in touch after the service to express their feeling on how it went and that has always been a positive experience for me. Because of the nature of the work, I don’t want to publish any of those but the comments usually relate to:
How I work: “calm professionalism”
My eulogies: “your beautiful words”
The service: “your delivery was exceptional”…”great respect and dignity”
Which funeral directors do you work with?
I’ve built up good working relations with Co-op FuneralCare in Dundee, Perth, St Andrews and Cupar. I’ve also worked closely with Sturrock Comb & Davidson, Samsons and with James Ashton & Son in Dundee, Macgregors in St Andrews, James McEwan & Son and James Carcary in Perth, George Stewart Ltd in Arbroath and Stephen Stewart Ltd in Cupar. But I will work with any Funeral Director if asked, including in other parts of the country. For example, last year I worked with Ford Mears in Farnborough, Hampshire.
Can you run an online funeral ceremony?
The coronavirus pandemic has led to severe restrictions on gatherings and social interaction. I am actively working on ways to bring families together for online ceremonies using Zoom and other similar software.
Do you hold professional insurance?
Yes, I have taken out a combined public liability / professional indemnity package designed for celebrants.
How can I find out more?
I am always happy to chat about any aspect of my work. Contact me here.