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, Edinburgh, Brewsterwells (Fife), Kirkcaldy, Paisley, Binning Wood (East Lothian) 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, Camelon in Falkirk, the woodland burial grounds in Lochwinnoch and Binning Wood. In those cases the main ceremony usually takes place in a funeral director’s service room or parlour but there is scope to consider a whole range of possible venues.
What size of services have you conducted?
Every service is different of course. I’ve handled private services with only two immediate family members present to very large gatherings with standing room only. I have also been involved with Lonely Funerals where the person who has died had become completely isolated from friends and family.
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 and I’m not a minister or a priest. But I’m not a Humanist celebrant 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, help source live music or access music using the Obitus system that is used in many crematoriums.
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”….”an exquisitely beautiful service”.
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 (Willliam Purves) 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, I have worked with Ford Mears in Farnborough, Hampshire and I worked in Paisley with Kenneth Keegan Funeral Directors.
But sometimes people come directly to me and in those cases I am able to suggest a funeral director.
Can you run an online funeral ceremony?
The coronavirus pandemic led to severe restrictions on gatherings and social interaction. I actively worked on ways to bring families together for online ceremonies using Zoom and other similar software and although those COVID restrictions are no longer in place, I can still work in this way where families may be geographically scattered.
Do you hold professional insurance?
How can I find out more?
I am always happy to chat about any aspect of my work. Contact me here.