Last Ever Letter To My Dad x

I lost my dad on Sunday, 26th February 2023, the day will be etched in my memory forever. As this is the day I lost forever the most important man in my life, my dad! Secondly, it was the day that my son James and I had travelled to watch Manchester United versus Newcastle United in the Carabao Cup Final at Wembley Stadium. The day had mixed emotions for me as my dad was so chuffed that we had tickets and was going to watch his beloved Manchester United play, he was so happy his son and grandson were going to be there to see it, but on the flip side my profound sadness at losing him was distorting everything, the sense of absolute loss was horrific, I wanted to come home but I knew my dad would have been so upset we missed the game, so we stayed and watched his team triumph 2-0 winners just how he’d of liked the result.

From that point everything is kind of a blur of emotions, coupled with things that have to be, people to be notified (Car, TV, Phone, Banks, Insurance etc.) The list was endless,on top of that trying to keep yourself level to take on each day as it comes. Not easy it really isn’t but it has to be done, I above anybody should know this given my job is a Funeral Director, but when it’s your own loved one, it’s a completely different kettle of fish. It was profoundly difficult to arrange my own fathers funeral. I won’t lie. It hurt like hell! But we finally got a date for the funeral on Friday, 24th March 2023, at 4 pm at Manchester Crematorium. My dad was resting at my funeral home (Sankey & Monks in Leigh) I wrote him letter the night before the funeral, the letter went with him, he was holding it in his hands when I closed the coffin for the very last time. My family and friends read my letter to him, my fiancée Michelle said I should read it at the service, but I decided against it, between myself and my brother Ben, we had covered all bases within the eulogy,but I wanted to share with you my letter, my last ever thoughts of my dad and to my dad. I love you, dad. miss you every day

Last Letter To My Dad

I don’t really know what I want to say, to be honest, I’d give anything to be able to send you a text message or talk on the phone, just to hear your voice again, just one more time, I selfishly always wanted you to be here with me, my shoulder to cry on, my go to person, my dad the only man I look up to along with Jimmy, but you chose to leave without saying goodbye, I have so much more I wanted and needed to say to you it wasn’t your time to leave me, I just needed some more time dad, just a little more time. I never bothered about our past it was water under the bridge. All I wanted was you in my life dad, that’s all. I loved when you came over to New York, I was so excited to be able to show you and Ben around, I felt so good that my dad was with me, walking the streets of Manhattan, watching the world go by. Me, you & Ben went from street to street, talking & laughing, it was brilliant. I never wanted you to leave, but I knew you had to.

The holidays I’ve been able to share with you & my own family ill cherish for the rest of my life, Warwick Castle, Ribby Hall, Centre Parcs, Rome sharing those moments with my dad, were legendary, I can only hope you enjoyed that time to? Having you as a massive part of mine and Michelle’s life has been a privilege, watching you with James has been fantastic he loves you with all his heart and will miss you immensely, but as your son I will ensure your never ever forgotten, he will always remember the laughs we’ve had, the quizzes we’ve played etc. Rome was an amazing time with you dad, drinking those huge beers you ordered, and the pasta neither of us wanted, but had to eat as you’d ordered it in Italian! Going up, Basilica was hilarious, the German telling you off priceless, but what sticks with me is I was there with you, just us doing our thing a father with his son, that time was precious to me and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for wanting to be there with me.

I know you didn’t know that Saturday 25th February was your last full day with us. I know that. I’m pleased you was with Mary and I’m happy you had a great night your usual witty funny self, but I’m sad that we didn’t speak again, I’m sad that my last ever conversation its you was at 1.15pm on Saturday 25th wilst I was driving to London to see United play Newcastle in the Carabao Cup, I know you was so happy we went and had tickets. I had so much more to say & do with you dad, more trips like Vietnam & Cambodia, Italy again, we’d discussed going to Auschwitz, but you left me.

I didn’t want you to go. I’m not ready & neither were you, James & Sonny need their Grandad! I could write 100s more pages, but they won’t bring you back, they won’t bring you home, I want to say I’m happy your with your mum & dad, brother & sister your best friend Pete Watson, but I’m not, I’m jealous because I want you here with us. I know saying “I Love You” wasn’t something that came easy to you, I understood that but I still had to say it to you, even though I knew you wouldn’t respond, I didn’t need to hear it to know you did! And I love you unconditionally. You’re my dad, my safety blanket, and I’m finding it hard to know where & how to fill the gaps you’re leaving my football conversations have gone, and the ability to talk with you randomly about everything & nothing is no longer here.

I’ve tried to be the best I can be dad, I know there have been times I’ve let you down, for that I’m truly sorry, all I ever wanted was for you to be proud of me & my achievements, I love you dad, I always have and I always will, I promise I’ll never forget you and will do my best to keep your memory alive always. I’m proud to be your son, I’m proud you’re my dad. Just wish I had more time. One day, we will meet again, maybe a while away, yet as my time is here with my family, but I hope in time we do get to be together again so we can talk again like we did before. I love and miss you, Dad. I hope wherever you are, your happy and content, all my love, your son Paul xx

Just One Hour in Pennington, Leigh.

As I sit in the spring sunshine in my garden, in the heart of Pennington, I’m amazed at what I saw in “just one hour.” It’s quite relaxing apart from the rumbles of vehicles driving up and down the A580 East Lancs Road, aircraft departing Manchester Airport flying overhead, joining the North Atlantic Tracks. First, an Aer Lingus aircraft head to Orlando, closely followed by a Virgin Atlantic aircraft heading to the same destination, numerous Ryanair and Easyjet aircraft pass over, starting their journeys. But beyond the man made additives trying to break the tranquility its nature making the most sounds a cacophony of bird songs, bee’s buzzing, the wind blowing through the trees and hedges, creating a beautiful natural orchestra, free for all to enjoy, you simply have to be quiet and listen.

The reason i have the ability to sit here and enjoy nature’s show, instead of being in work, doing what i do best. Is because I’m recovering from pneumonia as well as contracting the dreaded Covid virus, this all coming on the back of loosing my dad suddenly, so as I try to mitigate my way around a loss that can never be healed and two illnesses that wiped me out, I have the luxury of sitting silently, listening and watching. From my seat, I can hear cheeps above me. It’s distinct and always brilliant to hear, as these little birds indicate that summer is on the way! As I look up to the skies I watch as the returning Swallow’s and Swifts dart around above me catching insects, remarkably these birds are no doubt the same ones from last year, that had Pennington as their home as well as countless of generations before them, all travelling thousands of miles from their winter migration home in the hot climates of Africa, seeing these should indicate better weather and summer is approaching! But this is England so I won’t hold my breath regarding hot weather.

I hear a distinct call from a predator above high up riding the thermals is a Common Buzzard, circling majestically as it calls out to its mate, the other bird has just took off from a Hawthorn tree just across the field from me, as it starts to take flight, the swallows and Swifts zip around it, heckling it through their song, then a large Crow flies in attacking this graceful predator, finally as I watch the Buzzard catches the thermal and up it goes, the Swifts and swallows carry on their feeding and the crow returns to my large conifer tree in my back garden, as I look up both Buzzards are circling together almost like little dots in the sky, yet their calls are still as loud as though they were on the ground, the views they see from up there must be incredible.

Across the field another predator is looking for lunch, a lone Kestrel hovers silently over the field looking for its meal, I can hear in the distance alarm calls from Blackbirds as well as a Skylark sending out alarm calls, the Kestrel just carries on hovering adjusting it’s position every now and then as it scans the field. It gets closer and closer to me, as I watch it suddenly drop from the sky into the long grass, what seems like an age it finally reappears snd takes to the skies again, with something in its mouth? Could have been a mouse or a Vole. I’m not sure, but whatever it was, it has now become lunch.

Again as I sit with me cup of tea watching quietly a large bird catches my eye as it flies across the far back field, approaching the field directly behind me, as it lands quite clumsily I see its a Heron, as is folds its wings I watch it strut around the field like a pompous man in an evening suit, big steps as it wanders around looking for a meal, as it walks along the hedge another Heron lands on the opposite side, it to starts its pompous strut for a brief minute they both stop, staring each other out across the field! Their heads held high as they stared, then like a click of the finger they cracked on their foraging strut once again.

I brought from my dad’s house after he passed away his metal bird feeder, which was in his back garden. I know he used to watch the birds from his kitchen every day, always making sure there was food available for them. When we used to chat on the phone, he’d tell me what had been on the feeder as he sat doing his crossword puzzles. I decided to bring it home with me to put in my garden so I could watch the birds visiting the feeders,kind of feels like he’s sat watching with me enjoying the moment, really wish he was to be honest. But as I sit, I watch Blue Tits and Great Tits hanging off the suet cage, various Sparrows visit the seed tray, Wood Pigeons walk around on the grass under the feeder collecting fallen seed. A Greenfinch lands followed by a Chaffinch on the fence at the back. A tiny little Wren sits chirping its head off, and a Dunnock picks through the soil on the flower beds, looking for insects, a short moment later to beautiful little Goldfinches land their distinct Red face patches and Yellow wing catch the sun as I watch them picking through the seeds, then as quick as they arrived they leave as a cheeky Robin lands Sings a stunning little song then has a peck at the suet cake, it’s practically like watching a bird fly-thru restaurant, they arrive they feed then they leave so simple yet such a nice sight to watch.

As I sat there everything I watched happened in one hour, from the birds I mentioned all doing individual things,I also saw Jackdaws, crows, Rooks, a lone Jay squawking it’s head off, a male pheasant walked around the field calling its distinct call. I saw Ducks whizzing overhead quacking as they flew, Sea Gulls flying over quite high up no idea where they would be going? A Sparrow Hawk flew very quickly through my paddock. If you’d blinked, you would have missed it. It was so fast, blackbirds, Starlings, Thrushes coming and going on my lawn. Just one hour dozens of nature’s gems just going about their everyday survival methods, if you just stop for a moment it’s right in front of your eyes, a nature documentary in Pennington but live not recorded happening as I look. We take our surroundings for granted and just sitting for one hour breathing in fresh air, which made me appreciate just what is around me and that this space is not mine, I’m lucky enough to share it with mother nature’s gifts.

My Father’s Eulogy

I lost my dad on February 26th 2023 words cannot describe the gravity of the loss, I do intend to write a piece on my dad over the coming days. But I wanted to share the eulogy that was put together for my dad by the funeral celebrant Mr Christian Blake, my dad kind of chose Christian himself, as he’d seen him the Thursday before he died at a friend’s funeral, and in many ways endorsed him for his own. Please have a read of my father’s eulogy and service.

Words of Welcome

The following is taken from an orator called Grady Poulard:

‘The measure of a man is seen rather in terms of the love that he has for his family and for everyone.  The strengths of his commitments.  The genuineness of his friendships.  The sincerity of his purpose.  The quiet courage of his convictions.  The fun, laughter, joy and happiness he gives to his family and to others.  His love of life.  His patience and his honesty.  And his contentment with what he has.’


When you think of those words, it’s easy to picture Peter Arthur Sargent, Pete.  And we’re brought together here today because of Pete, because of the life he lived and the time he shared.  A warm welcome to you all ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you all for joining us here,

to those of you here in chapel, with some of you on the end of long journeys, and to those of you elsewhere in the world joining us by video link.  The care and compassion, and love and friendship we share are priceless sources of comfort.  Your tributes to Pete, and your support and friendship really mean the world.


Pete was a wonderful partner, a fantastic dad and grandad, a special brother and a great friend.  It’s inescapably true that losing one of life good guys is a difficult thing to bear, losing special people from our lives is naturally very sad.  Pete was a determined, intelligent, hardworking man, he was positive, he was great fun and great company.  He didn’t do well with funerals, he’d much rather have a good time and live life to the full.  With all his wonderful qualities in mind, we’ll celebrate his life today.  We’ll hear some music and a poem that Pete chose for himself, together with a tribute to him from and on behalf of his family and friends.  My name is Christian Blake and I’m honoured to have been chosen by Pete to lead his funeral today.


He was a big character and he played a part in many lives, so many that it’s not possible to mention everyone special to him in the short time we have together here.  You’re all very warmly invited to gather after the funeral at Didsbury Sports Ground.  Pete  wants you there, having a good time in his memory.  Perhaps doing so will have him present, in some way?  If you need them, the address details are in your Order of Service. 


You’ll also find details in your Order of Service on how to make a donation in Pete’s memory to the Woodland Trust.  It’s his family’s wish that trees are planted on his behalf, so on his behalf, something special will live on.  A collection box will be available as you leave the chapel later. 



A Poem

I mentioned that Pete chose our poem for today, and it is an incredible poem.  As well as that reding from Grady Poulard, the following poem speaks so well of Pete.  The poem is called ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling.  You’ll find the words in your Order of Service. 


If you can keep your head when all about you  

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,  

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;  

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:


If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;  

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;  

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;  

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:


If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,  

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’


If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,  

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,  

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,  

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!












For Pete – Tributes to a wonderful partner, a fantastic dad and grandad, a special brother and a great friend


I want to start our tribute to him by saying what a man of impeccable taste Pete was!  A United fan all his life!  He loved Georgie Best, and he had a framed photo on his wall at home.  It’s very pleasing to see so much red in chapel for him today.  He passed on the day that United won the Carabao Cup a few weeks ago, I know that his grandson, James, found some comfort in thinking that Pete pushed United on to victory.  James was at the match with Paul, and they were also able to spend some time in London with Ben.  I also know that Pete was very glad that his boys were together that day.  Pete is wearing one of the cup final scarves now. 


The night before, he’d been out for a curry with Mary and some of her family.  Pete was in absolutely superb form, he was his usual interesting funny self, sharing stories, sharing knowledge, having a great time.  He’d not felt himself for a couple of weeks before, so to see him in such sparkling form really stood out.  And of course, he took a doggy bag of leftover curry home with him!


But he was always good company.  He was a story teller, he loved to hold court and tell his stories.  He was witty and funny too, sharp as a blade, and with an enormous depth of knowledge.  Paul’s friend also called Paul, had an ongoing debate with Pete as to how mankind may or may not cope with the loss of opposable thumbs!  Pete’s stories and conversations often went off on a tangent.  Mary’s grandchildren heard some of those stories more than once! 


Mary and Pete spent the last 23 years together.  They first met while Mary was working at Oswestry Leisure Centre.  The just clicked.  They became close quickly, they enjoyed each other’s company very much.  They were loving and affectionate, they laughed together, they read books together, they did quizzes together too.  In fact, they were quite the formidable quiz team, almost impossible to beat!  That breadth of knowledge of his often paid off.  Some of his knowledge came from the many holidays they enjoyed.  They have travelled all over the world together, notable highlights include a Nile cruise through Egypt, with time spent at some of ancient history’s real wonders, a cruise to see the Northern Lights, which was enjoyable even though the ship ran aground!  They travelled by train across France, but Pete didn’t want to go to Paris as he’d been there plenty of times before.  Poor Mary still hasn’t been!  That trip through France might have been a bit at odds with Pete’s outlook; he hated the French!  He wasn’t the greatest romantic; Mary only received three bunches of flowers in all their time together!  Actually, that’s not quite true.  For her last birthday, he bought her something very special…a new microwave! 


Pete loved to wander around cities and marvel at old buildings and industrial heritage.  He loved steam trains, and enjoyed trips on the Bury to Ramsbottom line, and time on the Flying Scotsman too.  He wasn’t particularly enamoured by natural scenery, preferring to nip off for a coffee rather than take in the mountain top views in Switzerland, when visiting Mary’s son, Phil, there! 


Pete was the kind of man that many clicked with.  Of all in his very large group of friends, Pete Watson and Pete Appleton are his closest mates, ‘The Three Petes’!  They were mates from school years in the early 60s.  Pete Watson’s wife, Viv, said they were like brothers and never a dull moment when they were all together.  Pete became an extended member of the Watson family, and the last connection to their Pete.  With Mary, he was always welcome, whatever the occasion, and always the life and soul of the do, especially with his stories, and especially stories from early years with Pete Appleton.

Pete Appleton is the last surviving of the three Petes.  He remembers life in the 60’s being work all week, then out on the town Saturday, claiming to be old enough to order a pint in the pubs and clubs.  Sunday nights were usually spent at the Naval Club. Pete Appleton moved to New York, and Pete stopped off there, coming the long way back from a six-month job in Australia back in the early 70’s.  Although getting together over the years was limited, they could always pick up where they had left off, never any stress or strain.


Pete’s nephew, David, also lives out in the States.  He remembers Pete’s bedroom from 1969, with a Grundig reel to reel player, a fishing basket and a Dimple whiskey bottle full of tanners!  This was at the time Pete had turned 21, finished his apprenticeship and was earning good money, plus getting ready to become engaged, before moving out.  Bearing in mind that it was 1969, Pete had an Elvis slicked back hairstyle!  Pete took David to a lot of home games at Old Trafford too, with a meet up of mates at the Naval Club. 


Pete also loved to spend time with his Sister Joan, and her husband, Fred.  He was very close to them , to his nephew and to his nieces.  Jean was quite close in age, so with David, she grew up with him,  more of a big brother than an uncle.  Jean has clear memories of him taking her to Alec Park with her sisters to play football and generally mess about. She loved looking in his fishing tackle basket, nobody she knew went fishing, Pete wore jeans and listened to pop music!  He was always interested in what was going on in Hazel’s and Helen’s lives, always staying in touch and thinking of them for birthdays and suchlike.  He was always keen to talk to them, always interested in them and their families.  Anne said her boys told him he looked like a character from Postman Pat – Peter Fogg. He had a beard and played the guitar. Pete thought it was hilarious!


Pete was a hardworking man.  He had talent for engineering, he worked at Shell for a long time, he trained as a gas and plumbing heating engineer.  Everything he did had to be 100% perfect, nothing less was good enough, it had to be right for him to put his name to it.  He became a bit of a wise old owl among the lads he worked with.  He had a short spell with Merlin Markings too, printing T-shirts.  Based near the old CIS building, he won a contract for the 1982 World Cup in Spain to print T-shirts for England.  It was a big job, and a bit overwhelming.  And much of his hard work was to provide for his family. 


Paul came along first from Pete’s first marriage, and Ben arrived from his second marriage.  He really loved his boys.  Paul’s memories of him are of support, encouragement and fun, of a dad who got stuck in.  Paul idolised his dad.  Paul’s friends think the world of Pete too, in early years, they called Pete Geoff Capes!  Pete and Paul spoke on the phone all the time, they could chat about anything at all, and usually did, with chats lasting a while!  Pete’s skills came in handy too, he did work in Paul and Michelle’s home, replacing some of the central heating.  During the 2018 World Cup in Russia, he did a bit of work, stopped to watch some of the football, did a bit more work, stopped for a brew, did a bit more work, stopped for the football, did a bit more, and so on.  What should have taken a few hours ended up taking three or four days!


They did all sorts together too.  They went to see ‘War of the Worlds’ stage productions in Liverpool and Manchester, they went to gigs together, including to see the band James.  At the upcoming James concert, Paul will keep Pete’s seat free.  They travelled too, going to Rome together, a visit that lives very fondly in Paul’s memory, as well as Pete going out to New York when Paul lived out there.  It was also a great opportunity to meet up with Pete Appleton.  It’s fair to say that they were as much best mates, as they were dad and son.


Ben’s memories are no different.  He described his dad as being a constant throughout his life, a big presence.  Pete built the pillars of the man that Ben has become.  He has been only encouraging and supportive, especially when Ben’s mum passed away 11 years ago.  Ben’s step-sister, Cathy, credits much of her achievement in life from the encouragement she received from Pete, attending parent’s evenings and so on, continually building her confidence.  Ben knew that his dad was a guiding hand, someone to turn to and talk with, someone always ready to listen.  When Ben was a child, the influence of music took hold.  Pete loved music and among other bands, he enjoyed Pink Floyd.  Ben takes pleasure in listening to them right up to today. 


Ben has two memories that stand out above the many others.  He remembers a warm summer evening, sitting together in the gentle warmth, smoking a cigar and drinking a whisky with his dad.  He remembers too, the first time that Pete held his newborn grandson Sonny.  I’ll leave it to you to the pride and love shared in those moments…


Pete was playful and funny and generous with his time and energy, and he was always interested in his grandsons, Dan, James and Sonny.  His grandsons were hugely important to him, he was a fantastic grandad.  He went on holidays with the family, spending time with James at Centre Parcs, as well as going on trips to places like Warwick Castle.  On one trip to Warwick Castle, Pete got locked in a cage!  He was game for a good laugh!  though respectful too, he never swore in front of his grandsons.  I mean, why the bloody hell would he swear?  Sodding hell, he’d have no need to so that!


Of all the things in life that Pete could be proud of, it was all his boys, all his family that came first. 


He wasn’t an extravagant man.  He was never afraid to put his hand in his pocket, but also never willing to waste good money.  He didn’t buy or replace anything he didn’t have to.  His microwave at home is of a certain vintage, built back in the days before things got small.  It’s so big, a small family could live in it!  His old tatty fridge still kept his food cold, so why replace it anyway?!  He was somewhat set in his ways, a creature of habit.  He had the same breakfast every day, he’d usually have a Ryvita with a piece of cheese for lunch, and pasta for his tea most days, batch-cooked for the week!  He did like a good whisky though, but it would be sacrilege to spoil a good malt whisky with anything other than ice or water. 


Though not an extravagant man, he was very generous with himself, with his time and energy, willing to give of himself as much as he could.  And it is the time he shared that is probably as important as anything, amongst the most valuable of all his gifts.  In losing him, we have lost a good and decent man, a hardworking man, a man devoted to looking after his family, a man of strength and determination, of honour and pride. 


Whatever else we could say, we can say for sure that Pete really was one of life’s good guys.



We’re going to take a moment now with a piece of music chosen specially for Pete.  It’s good time to consider all that made Pete special to you, to gather your thoughts and to prepare to say farewell to him.


Music for Reflection: Forever Autumn – Justin Hayward



Farewell, Pete 

And so we arrive at our moment to say farewell to Pete.  Pete is loved, beloved on this Earth.  Through the generations of his family, and through the circle of friendship he enjoyed, the influence of his love will continue to reach on.  Take comfort from all that knowing Pete has left you with, and rejoice with all that having him in your lives has given you.  Feel the warmth of his love and affection as we now say farewell to him.  Let us now commit the body of Peter Arthur Sargent to his natural end with us, wishing it were not so, but remembering him with love and gratitude.  Ladies and gentlemen, as I speak to Pete now with a farewell written especially for him by Michelle, as a mark of respect, but only if you feel able, may I ask you to please stand.



death gave us no warning.

Even though you were ready, our hearts were not.


Your family and friends were your everything.

Your two boys, now grown men, made you so proud and content.

How you beamed when your grandsons James and Sonny came along.

and of course, your beloved Mary,

who you shared many happy times and laughter with.


You were one-of-a-kind;

a grumpy, lovable, stubborn and charming soul.

You knew how to light up a room with your wit, humour, chat and stories.


Your love for football sometimes took first place, with your passion for United!

You enjoyed a newspaper and were the master of puzzles and quizzes

that others could not even attempt!

A cup of tea and a cow biscuit were your favourites.

You loved a beer or two, most often with family and friends.

and not forget your whisky, which always had to be straight.

to travel is to live, and you did just that,

sharing many happy times in your favourite destinations.


I know you will be forever looking down on us all.

This isn’t goodbye Pete,

but until we meet again.


Thank you all, please be seated.


When you feel your moments of loss, remember that Pete’s joy is still with you and he’d want to hear your laughter and see your smiles.  Remember that the support and friendship that he’s given you over the years is still yours and you can continue to draw strength from it.  Above all else, remember that you will always carry his love with you.  If there’s one thing we know about love;


love never dies.



Closing Words 

Ladies and gentlemen, we draw to the close of Pete’s funeral service.  On behalf of all his family, I want to thank you all again for being here today.  Your love and support, your friendship and kindness are priceless sources of comfort. 


Pete’s life has come to an end, and you now have to let go of his physical presence.  But he was, is and always will be part of your lives.  That simple fact is something to remember with joy.  And when you remember him with that joy, when you think about him and smile with him, you can bring him back and enjoy time with him again in those moments.  That he isn’t physically present doesn’t mean that he has no presence.  When you keep his memory alive, you keep his spirit alive. 


And keep celebrating him, celebrate all that was good about him, celebrate all the time you shared with him, celebrate all that you loved about him.  You can do this today at Didsbury Sports Ground and long after today has passed too.  The good people we have in our lives deserve every celebration we can give them.


Thinking about Pete’s life has given us moments to consider the wonderful man he was, his numerous talents, and the loving life he led.  We’ve thought about his generous, kind friendship, and we know that he has left an indelible mark on his family.  I hope that our ceremony has given you the opportunity to push aside the difficult thoughts of loss, and instead, that you’ve been able to think very fondly of him.  Although he no longer has a physical presence, he still has presence in your lives, you only have to think about him and remember his love to have him back with you. 


I have one final message from Pete for you, for when you leave the chapel shortly.  He wants me to say to you all:


‘don’t be rabbiting outside the chapel after the funeral,

go straight to the venue,

have a pint, have a growler and enjoy yourselves’.



Please stay in your seats as we listen to our final piece of music, take the opportunity of spending another few moments with Pete in a precious memory.  As the final music plays, those of you with flowers are very welcome to come forward and lay the flowers on the Pete’s coffin, take a few moments with him too. 


Our funeral director will shortly come forward to lead you from chapel.  All the funeral staff that have supported you here today send their good wishes with you and we’re all sorry for your loss.  We hope you all stay safe and well. 


Pete is safe with us.  Leave him now in our care to his final rest with peace, with friendship and with love. 


Thank you. 


Closing Music: Who Knows Where The Time Goes – Eva Cassidy

Why a Celebrant?

I get the opportunities to work with some very talented and clever people, none more so than funeral celebrant’s! These guy’s have to sit with grieving families and listen intently to their individual stories, often many different family members throwing lot’s of different memories at the celebrant. Whilst taking notes the celebrants will ask questions to dig out those intricate insights, that make the eulogy ever so personal, I work with many many exceptional celebrant’s one in particular is Lisa Newman, an exceptional celebrant, who connects with families so personally, thus creating a truly moving and fantastic eulogy and memory for grieving families. Below is a piece written by Lisa I wanted to share with you a little personal insight from Lisa herself. For anybody wanting to contact Lisa directly to talk to her about what she does, or to simply connect her email address is

“So, Lisa, tell me what careers are you interested in finding out about?”

My mum and dad squirmed a little bit – maybe they were each even holding their breath slightly – as fifteen-year-old me responded to the well-meaning careers’ adviser who had posed the question.

“I want to be an undertaker.”

I have to give the careers’ adviser his due: whatever thoughts might have crossed his mind, externally there was barely a flicker of a reaction to my pronouncement.

Looking back more than three decades later, I can’t clearly recall any longer whether I was being sincere, or whether I was merely looking to … shock? Surprise? With my blackcurrant and liquorice coloured crimped hair, black eyeliner and spider-web ear-rings (this was the mid-1980s, in the days before schools banned any trace of self-expression and individuality in the ways pupils – sorry ‘their young people’ – wore their school uniforms), I was the only Goth in the year group – and I relished in my ‘uniqueness’. What’s the perfect career choice for someone who modelled her look of choice on one of the undead? The funeral industry, of course!

My commitment – or rather lack of – to the industry of my choice was quickly challenged when my dad announced he wasn’t going to support me going to university for three years if all I was going to do was bury the dead. Unsurprisingly, I chose a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Drama over courses in embalming and funeral arranging – and went into teaching.

But … some sort of seeds had clearly been sown that day in the careers’ advice room; they just took more than three decades to begin to ripen. Always a confident public speaker, it was me who would be asked to deliver the family eulogies, first for my grandad and then, a few years later, my grandma. When the mother of one of my closest friends died about ten years ago, we both commented at the wake that we could do what the celebrant did. “It’s not bad when you think about it,” Gail commented. “You spend a couple of hours with the family having a nice chat, write a script, turn up and read it out, take your fee and off you go.” (Looking back now, I smile at the naivety). In 2016, I delivered the eulogy at my mother-in-law’s funeral and, as delicately as possible, asked the celebrant who had led the service, how she had gone about training and qualifying.

And then I parked the thought. As an Assistant Head Teacher in a challenging urban school, I was very well paid; how could I justify putting aside my career of over 20 years? Maybe it was something to consider doing when I retired?

But life has a funny way of throwing curved balls, some of which cause all the certainties and assumptions you’ve used to navigate adult life to be thrown into question. For me that curved ball arrived in October 2017, when I was diagnosed with early stage, but an aggressive form, of breast cancer. Everything I had taken for granted – everything I had known, understood and worked towards since leaving university – went out of the window. With surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy all being factored into my treatment, I made the decision to take time off and focus on getting well. A year later, I went back to school and realised that I wasn’t the same person I had been before my absence. Having effectively been in school since I was four years old, I decided it was time to do something different.

Fast-forward in time and land in the early months of 2020. I was 48 and the impact of pandemic was just starting to be felt. A friend of mine happened to mention that he had been to a funeral service and all he could think was: “Lisa Newman would have done this so much better.” Having had my work in schools supporting mental health stopped in its tracks before it had properly got going, I decided to take the plunge – and signed up for my training.

One or two people suggested I didn’t need to train, really, but I wasn’t convinced. Maybe it was the teacher in me, but I felt that a formal qualification would give me the grounding I needed to do the best job possible – and I was right. After completing my NOCN Level 3 in Funeral Celebrancy I walked away from the week’s residential training with a new group of friends and confidence that, if a funeral director phoned me the following Monday an asked me to take a service I would be able to do it – and do it well.

Establishing myself in a slightly over-populated field (at least in my area), took time – and a little bit of serendipity. It was thanks to my mum’s cousin allowing me to conduct her husband’s service that I came to the attention of the local funeral director I now receive a significant proportion of my work from. I also spent a lot of time visiting funeral directors (armed with biscuits) and arriving early to services to make connections with others and to get my face known.

But I digress; back to the question posed in the title of this blog: Why A Celebrant?’ rather than a funeral arranger, FSO or FD? So many of the skills I had developed thanks to my educational background were instantly transferable: along with being a confident public speaker, as an English graduate I love stories, words and the art of writing. Many families struggling to come to terms with losing someone they love find it hard to think of stories and memories to share – skilful questioning was one of my strengths in the classroom and it has certainly stood me in good stead as a celebrant – along with listening, often as much to what remains unsaid as to the words that are spoken. Timing and organisation are essential skills in both the classroom and the chapel; finding the balance to honour a life in a way that doesn’t feel rushed can be tricky, especially if the chapel has timeslots of less than an hour, as many still do.  

But more than anything else, it’s the opportunity working as a celebrant gives me to ‘only connect’ (as E.M. Foster urges us to in the novel ‘Howards End’) that brings me the greatest joy and fulfilment in this role. Through empathy and compassion, I walk side by side with families at a time when they are at their most vulnerable and fragile; working with them I help them find a way to say goodbye that brings solace and helps them start to heal. It is a privilege to be entrusted with the story of their loved one’s life and trusted to tell it well, honouring a life that will not be lived again. I sometimes wish Dr Who would whisk me back in the TARDIS to visit my 15 year old self – just to tell her how my career has ultimately panned out. She’d probably be shocked to find out just how comfortable I am now in my own skin, meeting all sorts of characters from all walks of life. But I hope she’d be happy, too. Would I hope she stuck to her guns and went into funerals from the outset rather than teaching? That’s a bit of a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment, isn’t it? But I think not – everything I learned, all the experiences I have enjoyed (and endured) as an adult has contributed to creating the celebrant I have become – and for that I will be forever grateful.

We Will Remember Them

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Robert Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)

No Smile When Travelling With TUI!


Where do I start with this absolute shambles of a company? From the beginning I guess would be the best place, sadly it’s a grumble of epic proportions as the company and airline are a complete mess and disgrace, I’ve vowed I will never travel TUI again, I’d rather pay a lot more and travel with Virgin etc. And urge anybody to avoid them at all cost’s i can only speak for their holiday’s to Orlando but given the complete mess these are i can’t imagine what the rest of their flights/holidays are like? We’ve all seen the news of late! Countless delays and cancellations and blaming every shortfall and inadequacies on everybody except themselves. Never thought I’d utter these words but Easyjet and Ryanair are far superior at present. Anybody has to be better than TUI!

Original Booking

So our holiday was booked all the way back in 2019, with our trip due to commence August 2020, now as we all know Covid-19 hit us in February 2020 and life as we know it changed, in a bid to combat this aggressive virus, numerous restrictions were put in place to keep us safe! Including stopping all non-essential travel out of the United Kingdom! So our holiday was pushed to 2021, when we booked our trip we were due to fly out of Manchester just after 9am flying to Orlando Sanford Airport which depending which route you take is either 30.6 miles or 36.3 mile to the main resorts, either way it’s a nice easy 35 to 38 minute drive to our hotel which is just off I-drive not to far from universal, Sanford is a relatively easy airport to navigate through rarely queues going through customs and the car rental was a breeze to get, yeah the airport is dated but who cares when you arrive you just want to get to your resort quickly and when you’re heading home, the decor is the last thing you care about you simply want to get home! The reason we booked TUI was due to Virgin Atlantic at the time ramping their costs up to astronomical levels, and at the time TUI offering a perfect comparison at half the price, it was a no brainer, as well as having traveled with TUI before, knowing the ease of getting through Sanford as oppose to the organized chaos at Orlando International Airport (MCO) it was booked and paid for.

Moving The Goalposts

Somewhere during Covid-19, TUI moved the goalposts not a little bit but some significant miles!! Some bright spark decided that all the travelers using TUI’s flights out to Orlando from the United Kingdom that nearly all stay either in the resort hotels of Disney, Universal or in and around I-Drive that previous enjoyed arriving into Sanford Airport, which was remember 35-38 minutes away, actually wanted to fly into Melbourne Airport (MLB) interestingly being called Melbourne-Orlando? Its nowhere near Orlando! Like calling Gatwick airport as Gatwick-Stansted or Manchester Airport-Birmingham! Nowhere near each other but for whatever reason Melbourne is suddenly an Orlando based airport? (Go figure) which incidentally is a nice 73.7 miles away from I-Drive and significantly further if you’re staying in Disney, driving yourself it a good 1 hour & 30 minutes minimum, why TUI chose to do this will remain a mystery? It can only be a financial gain for TUI? As the fare paying passenger gains absolutely nothing from this ridiculous move, both TUI and Melbourne Airport Authority will try and sell this partnership as the next best thing to the invention of electricity! They will try and sell it to you with such comments as “dedicated terminal just for TUI” my response still 73.7 miles or 1h 40m drive by car way more on coach! Or “much quicker through US immigration” my response still 73.7 miles or 1h 40m drive by car way more on coach! Even “guaranteed from landing, baggage reclaim, customs to your car or coach much quicker than MCO or SFB” my response still 73.7 miles or 1h 40m drive by car way more on coach! The list of attempted sells by TUI and Melbourne Airport is as long as your arm  but whichever way they try to decorate this move up, it is nothing but a major inconvenience to the passenger, it adds significant travel time after a 9hr flight, NOBODY stays on the Space Coast PERIOD, nobody cares one bit whether the decor is nice in the airport etc its not relevant in any way. NOBODY CARES. All TUI have done is created some deal for themselves with Melbourne Airport which let’s be fair is a mediocre utterly pointless little Airport serving no purpose whatsoever, handling prior to TUI dumping us there, six flights a day now up to a massive eight flights, the airport is pointless, the facilities are uninspiring the whole model is an utter inconvenience! Now to add insult to an already gaping wound TUI decided that it wasn’t enough to dump us all miles and miles from where we need to be, but they also moved the departure time, so instead of leaving just after 9am getting us into Florida just after 1215pm respectable enough so you get into your hotel in a timely manner, they shifted our departure time to 1.25pm (half a day gone already) so we arrive in Florida after 5.15pm guess what slap bang in the middle of Florida rush hour that tends to run until around 6.30pm so the promise of getting your through customs quickly just dumps you in miles of traffic! It’s like getting a slap in the face.

Our Day of Travel

Saturday 13th August 2022 already two & half years later than our booking and with significant changes and goalpost moves our day of travel has arrived we were flying out on TOM108 Manchester to Melbourne Airport departing on a Boeing 787-900 dream liner, our departure time was 1325hrs so as we had booked premium seats we were eligible to use the Escape Lounge at Manchester Airport terminal 2. We had pre-booked the meet n greet through Manchester Airport themselves quite reasonably priced to be fair for the duration of our time away, so we set off for the airport just after 9am we left early as we were pre-empting chaos at the airport based on media reports etc. As we were driving down to the airport a text message from TUI pinged to the phone, already telling us we had a 2 hour delay! A two hour delay for a flight going mid afternoon how???? So I checked flightradar24 our aircraft registration was G-TUIJ which was showing operating on a routing to Palma in Majorca prior to our flight but the rotation time clearly indicated we were on for a delay based on the woeful aircraft planning by TUI the aircraft was due to leave MAN for PMI at 0625hrs arriving at 1000hrs with an inbound from PMI departing at 1100hrs arriving in MAN at 1255hrs it does not take a genius to work out that there is no way on this earth that a Boeing 787-900 can be disembarked (down steps as jet-bridge broken) baggage/freight unloaded, de-catered, crew off, cleaned, re-catered, fueled, baggage/freight loaded and passengers boarded (again up steps as the jet bridge is broken) in 30 minutes impossible! So we was always going to be delayed regardless!!!!

Our skepticism about Manchester Airport and the dire issues they’ve been having were quickly extinguished! We breezed into the car park with a flawless process, made our way to our check in desks again handful of people in front of us but again a perfect process, then off to security virtually no queues took us all of 10 minutes from walking into security to being stood in duty free, given what we had just experienced I question “what issues” as it could not of been smoother.

So knowing we were already delayed by two hours due to deliberate woeful planning on TUI’s behalf we decided to wander to the Escape Lounge as it was part of our premium seat purchase, we arrived at around 11am queued to get in once at the desk we was turned away! As our flight was now delayed we could not access the lounge until at least 1230pm? That wasn’t explained as we checked in? So we has to venture back into the terminal and wait it out, as we sat waiting we could hear more issues with TUI flights but nobody else’s, we heard a TUI to Palma flight calling all passengers as they were being taken to a hotel for the day major delay, then we heard a TUI flight to Ibiza calling all passengers to the information desk no doubt yet another lengthy delay, seems TUI cannot get a departure out on time this season!

Our Day of Travel cont.

So we finally made it up to the Escape Lounge we’re we chilled out enjoyed a few drinks and a little food, the Lounge was very busy but relaxed the staff were excellent and very polite. It was nice to sit down kick back and absorb the ambiance. Knowing our flight was delayed until 1525hrs we had time to kill, I knew the inbound aircraft still hadn’t landed in Manchester from Palma as I was checking Flightradar24 it was showing an arrival time of 1425hrs (see below)

Across the tannoy at 1310hrs a call for all passengers traveling on TOM108 to Melbourne to make their way to gate 206? 2h 15m earlier than our new departure time really? We stayed in the lounge and waited for a while as no point running to a gate where there was no aircraft, call after call for this flight continued until at 1400hrs they announced “last call for all passengers traveling on TUI flight TOM108 to Melbourne to make your way to gate 206” we figured we better go as this was the final call? Once at the gate along with 300 other passengers we waited and waited and waited! Our 1525hrs delayed departure came and went 1615hrs came and went 1630hrs arrived and sporadic names began being called at the gate bearing in mind we had been sat around a hot gate area now for 2h 30m on top of an already 2h delay from our 1325hrs departure time so now 4hrs 30m into a delay. I heard my name called but not my families just mine so I approached the desk I was advised I had been randomly selected to be US security checked so off I went? All my electrical items were swabbed, as were my hands and feet all clear I was then told I had to board the aircraft alone? So down three flights of stairs across the ramp up the stairs to the aircraft door and to my seat 5E where I waited for my family. I had a chat with the first officer whilst I waited he was chatting about the delay and how ridiculous it was, we also conversation about TUI using Melbourne as an arrival & departure airport, he said the same pre-programmed response as all TUI staff seem to make, “its much quicker than MCO & SFB to get through customs and baggage reclaim” where I agreed getting through quickly was a bonus I still had a 73 mile drive regardless how long it took to get through! He had no response so scuttled off? Finally at 1648hrs my family got on we settled in our seats and waited to push back, we was advised that due to our delay we had priority taxi to the runway, not the case as just as we pushed back two aircraft pushed back as well as a Turkish Airlines aircraft, as well as an Easyjet, so our priority was 4th in line to others departing, once at the runway we finally took off at 1731hrs exactly 4 hours 06 minutes late!

The Flight and Melbourne Airport!

Once onboard and we were in the air I flicked on my inflight entertainment quite a mediocre selection of movies to be honest was expecting some of the latest movies currently out! As other airlines do but not TUI rather old selection, probably the most modern movie they have is Space jam 2 the rest are dated! As is the TV channels just old series selections. So I thought I’d have a listen to some music albums! When I selected one a message appeared on my screen saying “media blocked” this was the case for ALL the music albums? So I thought I’d play one of the in-flight games but alas when I tried to select I got the same message? So I queried it with the crew who kindly advised me that the media blocks are in place due to covid? Apparently playing Bejeweled or listening to Fleetwood Mac can cause you to contract the virus????

Once we were at cruise altitude the pilot spoke to us over the PA system he apologized for the delay which he did say simply was not good enough! He did try to divert any responsibility away from TUI instead blaming a delayed slot from PMI due to ATC! Failing to mention at any point that the inbound aircraft had a scheduled arrival back to MAN of 1255 so given our scheduled departure time was 1325 no way even if on time they could de-board, unload bags and catering, clean the aircraft, refuel, load baggage and catering then board the outbound in 30 minutes so we was always going to be leaving later than we should of, crew should either be 100% honest and admit poor aircraft rotation planning is the delay cause instead of finding any other excuse rather than TUI’s failings! Or say nothing at all, instead of feeding us rubbish.

The cabin crew were great onboard and worked tirelessly throughout the flight, they were polite and could not do enough to assist passengers when and where they could, they are a credit and about the only plus to an extremely poor service! There was a mess up with my meal I had ordered a vegetarian meal on TUI’s website as I cannot eat meat (medical reasons) once service started the crew advised I was not listed as needing a vegetarian meal so one had not been ordered, the stewardess said she would try and find me one! I was handed in the end a pasta meal (dried up) with two small pieces of mushroom on top that was it? I had a bit but it was not enjoyable, so I ate the starter and 4 bread rolls to compensate my garbage meal, far from ideal but what can you do? Kind of summed up an already sinking experience. Afterwards I settled into my seat and played a game on my phone to pass time before we landed at the next rigmarole part of this journey Melbourne Airport.

Melbourne (Orlando) Airport

We started our decent in darkness as our very late afternoon flight had become a night flight, every single person working or connected with TUI had not shut up about how quick baggage was at Melbourne and how quickly customs were and how just because you get through quickly somehow eradicates the 1h 30m (73 mile) drive ahead of us, but hey ho let’s see what it’s about! We landed at a completely empty little airport yet taxied for 13 minutes to our gate? Then waited a further 10 minutes for the jet bridge to be attached, the airport is a building site not sure what they are attempting to achieve with the works but good luck to them! Short walk had us at the baggage carousel which strangely you collect your bags before you go through US Immigration at Melbourne? So as I said earlier traveling premium class usually affords you a few perks one being getting you baggage FIRST! Sadly at Melbourne Airport and with TUI that’s not the case (pardon the pun) we waited and we waited no bags? The odd premium tagged bag popped out but nothing else, then after 28 minutes waiting and being amongst the last group of premium passengers waiting we got our bags, we were then directed to the immigration hall where the entire flights passengers were snaking around the room? Kids were crying as they were tired parents agitated as they were tired and annoyed at the lengthy queues we were enduring! (Thought Melbourne is supposed to be better than MCO & SFB?) After a 33 minute wait we got to our officer, who I must admit asked the strangest questions I’ve ever been asked by a US Immigration official, but I just wanted out so I answered the best I could and we finally got out of the woeful terminal! Next TUI mess up was the car rental, the trip was booked under my partners name but on the online booking I was the named driver as my partner did not want to drive, TUI again opted not to send that to Alamo! The ladies on the counter were great but as it stood I was about to get stung with a $15 a day additional driver charge amounting to $180 for the duration of the trip, after numerous conversations Alamo dropped the charge as it clearly wasn’t our fault, then offered us an upgrade (complimentary) due to the mess up and confusion, which was nice and added a bit of a bonus to a rubbish experience. We jumped in the car and set off for I-Drive after being taken through an industrial area we got on I95, good job we had change from previous trips as we hit toll after toll after toll! After an age of driving we finally reached our hotel at 0015hrs, a long day compounded by unnecessary delays, by being sent to what can only be described as the most ridiculously stupid move to an airport serving zero benefit. And a drive that should not be FORCED on passengers!


I could rocket off into a 10000 word rant at just how bad TUI are but I feel my point has come across through my post! Some will disagree with my comments which is fine opinions are for everybody. For me TUI made my mind up for me based on service and destination arrival location I’ll never fly TUI again regardless of price, sadly they are the worst airline and company flying to Florida by a mile I cannot even say the worst airline and travel company flying to Orlando as they don’t even fly there. I’d urge anybody wishing to go to Florida to pay the extra and fly Virgin Atlantic or British Airways even Aer Lingus or connect elsewhere Germany with Lufthansa, Iceland with Icelandair anybody is better than TUI and Melbourne Airport. I do not know what sweetener TUI offered Melbourne Airport or the opposite, but clearly lack of thought went into it and whatever deal was struck only benefits TUI and the airport, as the experience for the passenger is a world class failing of epic proportions, and will no fount lose TUI passengers in there droves! 2/10 for TUI, 1/10 Melbourne Airport.

The Value of Celebrant Services for Every Funeral Home

I found the following piece written by Alexandra Jo! Alexandra is a certified Celebrant and the Content Manager at Parting Stone where she creates forward-thinking content for funeral professionals. I wanted to share this for others to read as it gives a great perspective from a funeral celebrant point of view, please also understand that this is a perspective from the US market as are the figures etc. but i feel it isn’t to far from the UK way of thinking, but that’s for you to make your own mind up and come to your own conclusions.

I am a first generation funeral professional who has been in death care for three years, but I have been advocating for a revolution in funeral services for much longer than that. As a non-religious 18 year old who found herself planning a funeral for the first time in rural Alabama in the early 2000’s, it became abundantly apparent that traditional funeral services and “the way things have always been done” didn’t offer many options that had emotional value or meaning to me in a time of immense grief and loss. My family went through the motions of cookie cutter funeral planning, making decisions that didn’t feel personal to us, or to my mother who had passed, despite the kindness and effort of the funeral professionals who served us. Since then, I’ve known that there has to be a better way for this profession to serve non-traditional families.

However, it’s no secret to anyone in funeral services that this profession is changing rapidly, playing catch-up to a world that turns on a dime and evolves at breakneck speed. It’s true that many things about our profession have changed since the early aughts. Today we find ourselves with websites for our businesses, remote arrangements, video streaming services, and lots of brand new options to offer our families. However, it seems that the core structure of how funerals are planned and operated still hasn’t changed much, on average, across the country. This isn’t true for every funeral home, and there are tons of innovative professionals in the industry working hard to drive our country’s relationship to death, dying, and bereavement forward. 

One important institution doing just that is the Insight Institute. Led by Glenda Stansbury, Insight Institute offers Celebrant training, which focuses on how to meet families where they are with truly personalized memorials that let go of any attachment to a specific religion or preconceived notion about what a funeral service “should be.” I attended an Insight Institute Celebrant Training in May of this year, and it changed the way that I think about the concept of “meeting families where they are”. The training provided valuable data about who death planners in the US are today, who they will be in the future, and vital education about how to create memorials, rituals, and ceremonies, for a person from any walk of life. Data shows that the needs of funeral consumers are changing, so it’s clear that Celebrant services have value in every funeral home doing business today

Personalization in Funeral Services 

Celebrant training drove home the real meaning of personalization in funeral care, and as Glenda famously says “personalization is NOT a product.” The families that we serve today are actively looking for personalization in funeral care more than ever before. A 2021 survey by Kates Boylston Publications revealed that 79% of death planners feel that personalization is either extremely important or very important in funeral services, whereas only 7.4% of those surveyed said that personalization wasn’t important to them.

Our profession has been aware of the need for more “personalization” in the services that we offer for some time, but the term “personalization” can often feel vague, and the first impulse can be to simply offer different styles of urns, caskets, and add-ons to sell to families. However, when I think about the relationships in my life that matter, products and commodities are never what comes to mind. Experiences, details, and the history between myself and that person are what make the relationship important. Helping families feel genuinely connected to the unique relationship they had with a loved one during a service is what makes that service feel personalized and meaningful. 

The primary way to help families feel connected to their loved one during a funeral service is through the aspects of storytelling that are woven into the memorial. This necessarily takes time. Truly personalizing a funeral service requires taking time to get to know the deceased through talking to family members, asking in-depth questions, and chipping past the surface of “She loved her family,” “He was a good man,” or “They cared about their work.” 

This is where certified Celebrants become a huge asset to your business. Funeral directors often don’t have time to schedule in-depth interviews with each family to get to know who every decedent was on a deep level. However, that’s exactly what Celebrants are trained to do when writing and planning a service. The family interview is the centerpiece around which each unique Celebrant service is planned and carried out. Working with Celebrant independent contractors, and educating families about the special and meaningful memorials they create will add tons of value to the services that your funeral home provides.

Personalization is a particular area of importance for cremation families, as burial has had hundreds of years to develop a variety of rituals and ceremonies that can be personalized, but cremation is still relatively new. However, there are also some simple ways to make the cremation services you already offer more personalized and meaningful today. One experience that every funeral director can easily personalize is the moment of returning cremated remains or solidified remains to your family. Personalized receiving ceremonies will benefit both your families and your business, by setting your services apart, and helping each family feel seen and supported uniquely. Organizing a service that is highly personalized and includes ceremony, participation, and storytelling, focusing on who the deceased was and the relationships they had, also creates important emotional connection and meaning for families and can help them transition into the grieving process in a more healthy way.

Celebrant Services Can Be For Everyone 

In order to maintain successful funeral businesses, and understand the needs of the families that we serve, we need to know who our funeral consumers are, why they make the choices they do, and what trends we have seen emerging among consumers in the past few years. According to research published on USA Today from a survey performed by Choice Mutual Insurance,

“47% of Americans opt for burial plans based on personal beliefs, while 24% say family traditions influence their decision. Only 14% of Americans ascribe financial reasons as the determining factor for their choice.”

This tells us that personal beliefs are driving the majority of death planning decisions today, which points back to the need to provide real personalization to families. This survey also tells us that fewer people make funeral choices based on budget than we might think. Families are willing to pay for funeral services that they see perceived value in. Offering celebrant services as an option can help increase the perceived value of the services you offer. 

Additionally Americans in general are increasingly secular and less Christian-affiliated across the board. According to data from the PEW Research Centre, Americans who identify as Christian have been on the decline since the early 2000’s and Americans who identify with no specific religion have been on the upswing since then. This trend is predicted to continue, and is already reflected in the death planners that we see as our customers in funeral service today. 

Furthermore, according to CANA’s 2022 Annual Statistics Report, cremations continued their steady and predictable growth in the US from 2020 to 2021. The report reveals that “In 2021, the US cremation rate was 57.5%. In 2020, 56.1%. By 2025, the US cremation rate is projected to reach 64.1% and 81.8% in Canada.” This growth is happening despite many funeral directors being less than enthusiastic about cremation vs. traditional burial, which tells us that steadily growing numbers of families are seeking out cremation specifically on their own (based on personal beliefs like environmentalism, and family traditions if we look back to the Choice Mutual survey data.) Cana’s study also tells us that families that are less religious or are affiliated with non-Christian religions, more educated, and less likely to own homes, and have higher incomes are more likely to choose cremation. This demographic of funeral planners also seems less likely to want standard or traditional funeral services. 

What all of this information tells us is that we are in the middle of a big transition in who our funeral businesses are serving. We are transitioning from a traditional client base who chooses burial and traditional religious customs for services to a client base who is interested in new disposition methods, and more likely to choose secular, innovative, and unique options for funerals.  We are seeing a more diverse set of needs and a higher demand for personalization among death planners than ever before, and funeral businesses need to plan for offering services as diverse as those death planners are. This leads back to understanding the value of Celebrant services. Celebrants are trained to provide honour, ceremony, and storytelling that is personalized to each specific decedent and family in every service they build. Since Celebrant services are inherently designed to be personalized to the specific decedent and family, incorporating them into the services that you offer regularly is a great way that each family’s needs are served, from the most traditional to the most eccentric. Understanding the value of Celebrant services in your funeral home will position your business at the cutting edge of death care and set you up to serve all of your families today and tomorrow.

Restoration of weathered garden ornaments

I wrote a short piece on 05th June 2022 called “Restoration of an old fountain” just to back track the purpose of the story. Sadly my fiancée lost her mother Susan Dickens in January 2022, Susan left us on her 67th birthday, the shock has been unmeasurable to us all as a family, aswell as her close friends. To remember Susan we decided to build and create a memorial garden at our cottage, which was Susan’s home also. After planning what we wanted to do and what colour plants to place in the garden, work commenced I did all the building, painting, planting etc my fiancee Michelle planned the layout and how she wanted the garden to look, as a family we wanted it to be an explosion of colour each summer a place to sit quietly to think and remember all that Susan was and is.

Scattered around the various corners in our cottage gardens we had various Japanese stone ornaments, extremely weathered and faded and not really in any position to of any visual benefit. So I tasked myself with scrubbing each item down, repairing where I can the items then embarking on a repaint and colouring. I started with a large Japanese fountain that was no longer functioning as a water feature, after moving this 1/4 ton piece I set about the cleaning and repair as it begins its new life as a bursting colourful flower bed, I then salvaged a large Japanese Pagoda tower again ridiculously heavy, two Japanese lanterns, two Japanese Dragons, Japanese stepping stones and lastly a Japanese bird bath (still under repair).

The fountain was finally ready to receive plants to become a stunning focal point to the memorial garden, its been so amazing to watch the flowers grow and bloom to see the display of colour unfold before our eyes, it doesn’t bring Susan back to us but does give us a place to reflect and remember her amongst the colours she adored.

The Japanese Pagoda tower was a difficult item to clean up and restore due to its weight and intricacies but once completed it looks amazing and it is an amazing addition to the memorial garden’s ambiance and theme.

From the Pagoda I then moved onto the Japanese lanterns which again through years of weather damage and bad positioning were just wasted items slowly rotting away with time, but with a generous helping of TLC, they came up beautiful and now sit proudly next to the Susan’s memorial bench, a truly stunning feature to the memorial garden now completed and restored.

Hidden at the back of the garden under a very large conifer tree was a Japanese Geisha statue. She was originally a water feature but over time ended up hidden and covered in Wood Pigeon poop, after a substantial power washing and scrub down and some different colours added to give her an element of realism she now resides in the garden, restored once again.

I also found buried under some garden sacks several extremely weathered and rather tired Terracotta coloured plastic plant pots, they at one point ended up on the pile bound for the tip! But I thought I’d give them a clean up see if they look any better restored, have to say I was so pleased I chose to save them! 5 pots in total restored and looking great to be enjoyed for a great many more years! These pots are at least 20+ years old.

Numerous other projects are taking place in the memorial garden, which I will share in due course along with pictures of the restored Japanese Dragons and the Japanese bird bath, but to close this current blog post im sharing some pictures of the beautiful flowers all bursting with colour, already as we progress with Susan’s memorial garden when you sit there or even work in it, you get a profound sense peace a small detachment from the chaos the world throws out you, a place to quietly reflect and breathe without interruption surrounded by bird song it really is an amazing place to be.

Pennington our own little Manor

How much do you really know about our area of Pennington? now I knew we had a long history dating back many centuries, I know our area was very prominent in the region, but I didn’t know our full history, the property I live in is probably somewhere in the region of 400 years old which is a staggering age, for a property to sit on it’s original footprint, I was intrigued at whats going on around me with regards to the age and diverse history of “Pennington”. Sadly we are no longer classed as a village in our own right, rather we have been dumped under the “Leigh” banner in it’s entirety, wouldn’t of been my first choice to be lumped in with Leigh! but guess this sadly was a choice we had no say in, I’ve taken this history wording from a website called


Pininton, Pynynton, 1246, 1360; Penynton, 1305; Pynyngton, 1351, 1442; Penyngton, 1443.

There is no village of Pennington; the whole of the township is now within the town of Leigh. It contains an area of 1,482 acres, much of which does not exceed in elevation 75 ft. above mean sea level, rising somewhat higher to the north of Pennington Brook, which traverses the township from west to east, and reaching an elevation of a little over 100 ft. on the south-west near Aspull Common. A considerable area of meadow land by the brook is liable to flood. The highroad from Leigh to Newton-in-Makerfield runs by Pennington Hall and Aspull Common. Pennington Station, formerly called Bradshaw Leach Station, on the Bolton, Leigh and Kenyon branch of the London and North-Western Railway, is near the Lowton end of the township, and on the highroad. It is the junction of the Kenyon, Leigh, and Tyldesley branch of the same railway. The duke of Bridgewater’s, now the Manchester Ship Canal Co.’s, canal traverses the township for a short distance on the south side of Leigh. The geological formation consists entirely of the pebble beds of the bunter series of the new red sandstone, with a considerable area of alluvium in the low ground by Pennington Brook. The population in 1901 numbered 9,977 persons. The Local Government Act, 1858, was adopted by the township in 1863. By the 38 and 39 Victoria, cap. ccxi, the district was merged in that of Leigh. Part of the township together with a portion of the township of Westleigh was formed in 1854 into an ecclesiastical parish. By a Local Government Order in 1894 the civil parish of Pennington was included in that of Leigh. The principal employments are those of coal-mining, cotton-spinning and weaving, and engineering. The principal landowners are Lord Lilford and Mr. C. G. Milnes-Gaskell, of Wakefield.


Before the Conquest and after, the manor of PENNINGTON was dependent upon the chief manor of Warrington, and was held by the yearly rent of 11s., thus retaining some semblance of the earlier drengage tenure observed in the adjoining township of Bedford. Both townships were in the possession of the Bedford family at the commencement of the thirteenth century—the dawn of documentary records in this parish. At an early date the manor, like that of Bedford, passed to the family of Kighley, as evidenced by a charter of Sir Henry de Kighley, knt., dated at Cropwell Butler in the year 1293, granting to Sir William le Boteler of Warrington, his chief lord, all his right in the homage, wardships, rent, and other services of Adam de Pennington, his tenant of the manor of Pennington. The superior manor was thus merged in the barony of which it was held, and the descent of the mesne manor remains to be described.

Between 1200 and 1221 Simon de Bedford gave the manor to Margery daughter of Richard de Pennington, William le Boteler, the chief lord, and Richard de Pennington, father of Margery, confirming the gift. Shortly afterwards Margery gave to Cockersand Abbey land bounded as follows:’From Aldemulneford to the highway coming from Beneford, following the highway towards Leigh church to a ditch, descending the ditch to Goldelache and so to the stream, and by the stream to Aldemulneford.’ Richard de Pennington, either the father or the son of Margery, but probably the former, also gave land by Westleigh church, namely ‘from the churchyard going down beside the church croft to Gildalache and by a white thorn to the highway leading from Bedford, thence by that way and by the churchyard ditch to the first boundary.’Margery married Hugh son of William de Radcliffe (living 1206), who had received from his father ‘all Hartshead, to wit 2 carucates of land’ in Morley wapentake, co. York. Margery bore to her husband two sons, Richard and William, who made a partition of their inheritance in 1246, after their mother’s death, by which Richard became possessed of the manor of Pennington.

In 1293 Adam, who appears to have been son of the last-named, gave half the manor to Roger son of Richard de Bradshagh, in marriage with Joan his daughter, excepting 4 oxgangs of land within certain bounds beginning at Kymbil-lache unto Pennington water, and so between the metes of Bedford and Pennington to the bounds of Culcheth, and from thence to the bounds of Kenyon, thence to the bounds of Lowton, thence to Pennington Moss, thence to the ‘rynyorde’ of Pininton, and thence by Thomas Beneson’s Croft, Kymbil, the Mulne Hey and the ‘He’ (Hey) to the Wallelache, thence to the old Kirkegate, thence to the land of Master Henry de Legth unto the metes of Bedford, and so to Pennington ‘He.’ Afterwards he gave to Roger and Joan these 4 oxgangs, of which Roger de Byckershagh held 2 oxgangs, Henry the tailor and Thomas the reeve each one oxgang, to hold ‘tol-fre and hopre-fre’ in all his mills in Pennington. In 1299 Adam de Pennington gave lands here to his bastard sons by Elota Crakebone, who were then under age, namely, to Adam 6 messuages, 18 acres of land and 10 acres of wood, to Richard 2 messuages, 60 acres of land and 60 acres of wood. In 1301 Hugh is mentioned as elder brother of Richard and Adam. In 1299 Roger son of Agnes de Westleigh, Henry de Leigh, William son of Richard de Bradshagh, Richard son of Richard de Chaydoke, and Robert Crakebane were free tenants of the manor—the total number being seventeen in all—and there were then only 170 acres of waste in the manor, of which Adam de Pennington held 30 acres in defence every year between Michaelmas and Martinmas, and he and his ancestors had also held in defence from the feast of the Circumcision until the Ascension 66 acres of wood on account of the eyries of their falcons. The remainder was insufficient for the free tenants, and in consequence Roger de Bradshagh and Joan gave to Henry de Leigh a plat of land called the Aubres Hey and 3 acres in Richard’s field in exchange for common of pasture in Dullinghurst, Pennington Moss, and Dullinghurst Carrs.

Adam de Pennington died about 1309, leaving issue by his wife Joan, afterwards wife of Richard son of Alexander de Pilkington, an only daughter Joan, wife of Roger son of Richard de Bradshagh of Pennington, which Richard was probably a younger brother of Roger de Bradshagh of Westleigh. Roger and Richard may perhaps be identified as younger brothers of Henry de Bradshagh of Bradshaw, son and heir of Ughtred de Bradshagh, lord of Bradshagh in 1253. Between 1320 and 1330 the lords of the manor were Richard son and heir of Roger de Bradshagh and Joan his mother, relict of Roger. From 1330 to 1336 Richard de Bradshagh, Richard de Pennington, and Adam de Pennington were the principal landowners. In 1338 in an exchange of lands between the lord of the manor and Richard son of William de Pennington, these names occur: Etheriston, the Merlache, Stockheye, the Kattysbutts, the Tunfilde, Hosforland or Hoffurlong, the Demyshevid and Mauributts.  Richard de Bradshagh also made a number of exchanges of land with Richard de Bradshagh of Westleigh and Roger his son, in places called West Croft, Clay Acres, Prestes Croft, and Richard’s Field. By his first wife, Christiana, he had issue Richard, Roger, and Thomas; by his second wife, Cecily daughter and coheir of Richard de Lathom of Parbold, a son Thomas, a minor in 1352–5.

In 1351 Richard de Bradshagh the elder granted the moiety of the manor after his decease to Alice, daughter of his son Richard de Bradshagh the younger. Before the end of 1357 Alice had become the wife of Sir Richard le Mascy of Tatton, knt., who died without male issue, and was succeeded in the family estates by his younger brother, John, but having one daughter Elizabeth, this manor descended to her jure matris. She was twice married, her first husband—whose name is not recorded—dying before 1403, in which year, describing herself as Elizabeth le Mascy, daughter of Sir Richard le Mascy, knt., she gave in her widowhood to feoffees her manor of Pennington, which the feoffees delivered to her and her second husband, Richard de Werburton, of Burghes in Coggeshall, county Chester, in 1414, and five years later granted four messuages in the vill of Pennington to William le Mascy, son of Hamon le Mascy of Rixton and Pernell (Petronilla) his wife, daughter of Richard de Werburton, and their issue, failing which to William le Mascy for life, with remainder to the heirs of Pernell.

Elizabeth Werburton was still living in 1432, when she gave to her daughter Pernell a yearly rent of £10 to be taken from her manor of Pennington, or elsewhere in the county of Lancaster. By dispensation issued by Pope John XXIII in 1415, Pernell married her cousin William, eldest son and heir of Hamon or Hamlet Mascy of Rixton, with whom she was related in the fourth degree. They had issue, Hamlet, who died in 1462, by whom the manor appears to have been mortgaged to Roger Starkey, who, describing himself as of Pennington, in 1467 granted his manor of Pennington to James Starkey, clerk, in trust. In 1479 Roger Starkey gave to Hamlet Mascy of Rixton the messuages and lands here which Cecily Urmston and Margaret Gnype held for a term of years. Hamlet, son of Hamlet Mascy, succeeded his father in 1462 and died in 1502. There is no evidence that he had other issue besides Margaret, the wife of John Holcroft of Holcroft, and Alice, the wife of Robert Worsley of Booths, esq., who predeceased his father. John Starkey, who is believed to have been son and heir of Roger Starkey named above, was associated with Holcroft and Worsley in 1506, when they acknowledged that they held their lands in Pennington of Sir Thomas Butler, knt., by the seventh part of a knight’s fee, for which they did homage the same year. Notwithstanding this, John Mascy of Rixton, brother and heir of Hamlet, at his death in 1513, was described as holding lands here of Sir Thomas Butler, knt., by the seventh part of a knight’s fee and 3s. 10d. yearly rent. It is probable that John Starkey acquired his estate here through his father, and not by marriage with a supposed third daughter of Hamlet Mascy. In a deed of 1554–5 George Starkey, son and heir of John, and Sir John Holcroft, son and heir of John Holcroft, esq., are described as holding their lands here in coparcenary.

By this time the reputed manor appears to have lapsed, and the nominal lords had become mere freeholders of the barony of Warrington. In 1523 Sir William Stanley of Hooton, knt., George Starkey (son and heir of John Starkey), gent., Richard Holcroft, esq., and Nicholas Renacres were free tenants here. In 1548 they were Rowland Stanley, esq., paying 4s. 10d. free rent, George Starkey 3s. 1d., Sir John Holcroft, knt., 3s. 1d., and Richard Renacres 1d. In 1546 Sir Robert Worsley, knt., conveyed his interest and estate to John Holcroft, esq., (fn. 45) and in 1549 Sir Thomas Butler, knt., possibly as trustee, conveyed to Holcroft twelve messuages, 220 acres of land, meadow, and pasture here,  part of which premises, including the manor, or rather the moiety of it, passed by the marriage of Alice daughter and heir of John Holcroft, esq., to Sir Edward Fitton, of Gawsworth, knt., who passed them by fine in 1591 to his uncle Francis Fitton,  and the remainder was conveyed in 1577 by Hamlet Holcroft, third son of Sir John Holcroft the elder, knt., to William Sherington, gent., and Gilbert Sherington.  In 1632 Thomas Charnock of Astley sold to Richard Blower and Francis Sherington for £1,000 the ‘manor or lordship of Westleigh and Pennington.’  In 1641 Blower sold to John Sorocold of Lowton, gent., for £730 one moiety of the reputed manor of Westleigh and Pennington, of which Sorocold and Francis Sherington of Booths made a division in 1643. Francis Sherington’s share was purchased in 1685 by Alexander Radcliffe, esq., whose estate in this township was rated that year as of the yearly value of £20. Alexander Radcliffe, grandson of the last-named, died in 1718, and soon afterwards Helen Radcliffe, his mother and devisee, appears to have sold the estate to Edward Byrom of Manchester, who was assessed to land tax in 1720 for tenements here called the Heylds, the Meadows, and the Brickhill Fields. His nephew Edward Byrom dispersed the estate about 1770.

The Starkeys’ part of the manor descended from George Starkey, who was living in 1557,  to James Starkey, his son and heir, who in 1576 joined with John, his son and heir apparent, in a conveyance of the Pennington estates to trustees. James the father died in 1579, and his son in 1597. George, son and heir of John the younger, was seventeen years of age at his father’s death. Upon attaining his majority he alienated his estate to Thomas Ireland of Bewsey, esq., afterwards knt. After the death of Sir Thomas Ireland the estate descended to his eldest son Thomas, who conveyed it to his brother George Ireland, at whose death in 1632 it descended to his daughter and sole heir, Margaret the wife of Peniston Whalley, esq. She and her husband joined in 1652 in a conveyance to Richard Bradshaw of Chester and Pennington, esq., fourth son of Roger Bradshaw, then late of Aspull, esq., of the manor of Pennington, 40 messuages, a horse-mill and dovecote, 450 acres of land, meadow and pasture, 9s. 6d. free rent in Pennington, Hindley, and Leigh, with markets and fairs in Leigh. 

In 1701 John Bradshaw, grandson of Richard, conveyed the manor to trustees for the use of his daughter and heiress Margaret, who married in 1717 George Farington of Worden, who with his wife in 1723 conveyed it to trustees, by whom Pennington Hall, Bradshaw Leach, and other tenements were sold in 1726 to James Hilton of Pennington, mercer, for £4,550.  His son Samuel Hilton, on his marriage with Miss Mary Clowes of Smedley, daughter of Samuel Clowes, then of Chaddock in Tyldesley, rebuilt the hall.  In 1808 Samuel Chetham Hilton, grandson of the last-named Samuel, sold the hall and estate to Benjamin Gaskell, of Thornes House, near Wakefield, grandfather of the present owner, Mr. Charles George Milnes-Gaskell, of Thornes House, Yorkshire, and Wenlock Abbey, Salop. The manor of Pennington was sold by George Farington’s trustees about 1726 to Richard Atherton of Atherton and has descended with the manor of Atherton and other estates to John Powys, fifth baron Lilford.

No courts have been held for this manor for many years past.

Apart from the manor the Bradshaghs held a small estate here by knight’s service, which did not descend with the manor. Sir William Bradshagh of Blackrod and Westleigh at his death in 1415 held lands here of the heirs of Sir William Butler, chr., by knight’s service and 12d. per annum. Sir William Harrington, knt., grandson of the last-named held the same estate at his death in 1440 Anne, daughter and coheir of Sir James Harrington, knt., son of the last-named, married Sir William Stanley, knt., of Hooton and Storeton, Chester, who was a suitor at the court held at Warrington in 1523 for this land. Rowland Stanley, his grandson, held his lands here for 4s. 10d. per annum in 1548, and sold them in 1560 with the mesne manor of Westleigh Old Hall to Sir William Norris, knt.  In 1565 Norris sold twelve messuages and 200 acres of land here and in Westleigh to Thomas Charnock, esq., whose grandson sold them in 1632 to Sherington and Blower as already stated. 

The Atherton family acquired lands here at an early date, but they were sold in 1547 to Lawrence Asshawe of Shaw Hall and passed with his Bedford estate.

The family of Renacres were long in possession or a small freehold estate which Nicholas Renacres held in 1514 and 1523, and Richard in 1548, by a yearly free rent of 1d.  In 1565 Richard son and heir of the last-named, acknowledged that he held his lands here of Thomas Butler, esq., by knight’s service. Richard Renacres of Pennington, gent., Joan his wife and John their son were parties to a fine of lands held here in 1586.  Perhaps from this family descended John Ranicars of Bedford, gent., who acquired the Old Hal of Westleigh in right of his wife Ellen, daughter and heir of Edward Green. 

A venerable Elizabethan edifice, formerly known as the Pyle or PEEL, in Pennington, and now as Urmston’s in the Meadows, or i’th’ Meadows, was formerly the home of a branch of the Urmston family. In 1589 Richard Norris of West Derby, gent., leased a messuage in Pennington to Richard Urmston of the Pyle in Pennington, yeoman, Jane his wife, and Richard his son. This estate, with another known as Davenports, now Davenport House, was purchased by John Gwillym sometime before 1689, the last-named from Samuel Byrom. He died before 1692, when his property was administered by his executors, and in 1700 by the guardians of his daughter Jane, who married John Greaves of Manchester. Their son Edward Greaves of Culcheth, Newton Heath, was in possession in 1784.  It is now the property of Mr. Milnes-Gaskell.

The family of Pemberton held a considerable estate here known as ETHERSTON HALL at the beginning of the fifteenth century. In 1415 the feoffees of Richard Pemberton, of Tunstead in Pemberton, gave to his relict, Alice, for her life, all his messuages in Pennington and the reversion of other messuages which Joan the wife of Richard Pilkington held in dower after the death of Adam Pennington, formerly her husband, the reversion to Hugh’s son of Thomas’s son of the said Richard Pemberton and his heirs male, with remainders to Thurstan brother of Hugh. Richard Pemberton’s estate consisted of lands called Ethereston, the Thornes, the Crembill and Flaxfeld, a meadow called the Haghesmede, other lands called Farthill, the Foldes, an acre of meadow called the Harshokes, a croft called Shotycroft, a plat called the Stokemede, all which he held at the time of his death early in 1415 of William Boteler, chr., of Warrington by knight’s service. There is reason to believe that these lands had formed part of the demesne of Pennington and had descended to the Pembertons by marriage with a kinswoman of Adam de Pennington. George Pemberton held the estate of Sir Thomas Butler in the latter part of the reign of Henry VIII, but it did not long descend in his family, passing to the Leylands of Morleys, of whom Sir William Leyland, knt., died in 1547, seized of lands and tenements here, which he held ‘of the heirs of Adam de Pennington.’  Subsequently it descended with the estates of the Tyldesleys of Morleys. Early in the last century it was the property of Thomas Jones, who rebuilt the hall in 1826, and by his executors was sold to the Trustees of Clarke and Marshall’s Charity in Manchester, who are the present owners. 

William Bolton, innkeeper, Anne Eaton, of Southworth, Robert Greenough, Margaret Hodgkinson, and John Urmston registered estates as ‘Papists’ in 1717.

In 1787 James Hilton owned nearly one-fourth of the township.

Christ Church, erected in 1854, is a building of stone in the perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave, aisles, south porch, and an embattled western tower containing one bell. The registers date from the year 1854. The living is a vicarage of the net yearly value of £300 with a residence, in the gift of the Simeon trustees.

The Roman Catholic church of the Sacred Heart, opened in 1904, is in Windermere Road.

CHARITIES Richard Bradshaw bequeathed £5 by his will in 1681 for the relief of the poor. James and Randell Wright in 1679 gave £40 to trustees to be devoted to the maintenance of the schoolmaster in Leigh Grammar School for teaching two poor children from Pennington, and for buying linen cloth for distribution amongst the poor of the township. In 1723 Henry Bolton bequeathed £110 to pay the vicar 10s. yearly for a sermon on St. Bartholomew’s Day, and to distribute £5 yearly amongst twenty necessitous persons of the township

History of the Towers at Alton Towers

Most people have visited Alton Towers at least once in their lifetime! The attraction of fast roller coasters and endless rides appeals to our inner child and our needful Thrills and spills. But amongst the rides such as Oblivion, Smiler, Nemesis, Galactic, Wickerman, Rita, Thirteen and countless others, sits a beautiful old castle quietly rotting away. Undoubtedly Merlin Entertainment the owners of Alton Towers must generate tens of millions of pounds on all of its attractions, yet the castle rots in a state of disrepair. The history of this incredible site for the majority is overlooked people stroll past without a second glance, the history being lost, its importance forgotten! I found the following piece on and thought I’d share this unique history with you.



Although you may be familiar with the resort in its present form, you’re probably aware that Alton Towers has lots of history to discover. We’ve produced an incredibly comprehensive article covering the goings-on at The Towers from many centuries ago, allowing you to uncover the development of some rural landscape into the magical theme park environment it is today!

Earls of Shrewsbury occupied the castle from 1412 when the Lady Ankarat de Verdun married Sir John Talbot – the title remained in the same family until the 1920’s.

It was the 15th Earl, Charles Talbot, born in 1753, who tamed the landscape surrounding the Towers. With the help of hundreds of artisans, mechanics and labourers, “He made the desert smile” and the Alton Towers dream was born.

Charles ensured that every details and plan was original, and only consulted other artists in order to avoid imitation. The two principal garden architects were Thomas Allason (1790-1852) and Robert Abrahams (1774-1850), and it was this combination of financial resources, architectural talent and an eye for beauty, which made the gardens the grandiose yet stunning sight they are today.

Under the direction of the 15th Earl, Abrahams designed and built the Chinese Pagoda Fountain as an exact copy of the To Ho Pagoda in Canton. To supply this fountain, Talbot had to skilfully dig out lakes, pools and terraces encouraging the flow of water from a spring at Ramshorn into the lower extremity of the valley gardens. This particular fountain had the capacity to throw a volume of water 90 feet above the tree tops, where it now seemingly teases the Skyride cable car which crosses the valley gardens.

The Bath Fountain was constructed under the directions of John Talbot. The small yet beautiful pond with a figure of Triton, blowing water through a conch shell, would have been the immediate view from Le Refuge. It was totally renovated in summer 1994 when a new base was installed using stone excavated from the hotel site.

The Grand Conservatories were designed and built by Abrahams and are a breath taking architectural structure stretching 300 feet in length and made of galvanised iron and plate glass. The elegant domes are richly gilt. They have already been restored and are now filled with various geraniums and fuchsia.

Le Refuge was originally built as a recess for repose and refreshments, and the fireplace ensured that Her Ladyship could retire in comfort on even the most wintry of nights. Although Charles Talbot was a man with little concern for spending money on shows and entertainment, he housed a blind Welsh harpist in a quaint thatched cottage, known then as Swiss Cottage. The harpist was employed to fill the garden with music for the delight of the Earl, his family and their guests.

Scattered around the gardens are numerous examples of statuary, which would have instantly added to the overall artistic mood of the surroundings.

The Grand Conservatories and the surrounding terrace house several intricate and charming statues including Hercules and the Nemean Lion, the Warwick Vase, the Infant Bacchus and Goat and the Italian Antique Torso. On the second terrace, adjacent to the distinctive Yew Tree Walk, stood the statues of the Four Seasons.

The Dutch Gardens, which stand to the left of the conservatories, are formed from a raised circular garden designed by John Talbot in the late 1800s. The two lions which stood proudly at the entrance have now been replaced by secure sturdy plinths, and there are hopes to ensure that the water from the lion fountain at the rear of the Dutch Gardens flows naturally again from the River Churnet.

On entering the lavish gardens, visitors will notice a grand monument, which stands proudly opposite the white bridge. This was built as a cenotaph to Charles Talbot. Modelled on the celebrated Choragic Temple of Lysistrates (Athens 344 BC) this distinguished feature houses a marble bust of the 15th Earl. An appropriate inscription was made on the base of the pedestal reading “He Made the Desert Smile”.

When the 15th Earl died in 1827, he had achieved a great proportion of his aspirations; the gardens of Alton Towers were vastly different in character and style to almost any other in England. The curious designs of elegant bedding plants and the rich masses of foliage enhanced the general ambience of the landscape. The wild ferns and numerous rhododendrons similarly added to the romantic air of semi-wilderness. Nevertheless, gardeners continued to further improve this beauty when Charles Talbot was succeeded by his nephew John. The 16th Earl was a flamboyant character, full of enthusiasm to continue his uncle’s great works and he succeeded in completing both the formal gardens near the Towers and the valley gardens.

The Shrewsbury family remained in residence until 1923, after a sometimes turbulent 700 year history. Since then the development of both the parkland and grounds has been astonishing, housing as it does the UK’s number one paid for tourist attraction.

Historical Timeline

8th Century – 18th Century

Alton Towers dates back as far as the 8th century when the Towers site became a fortress held by Ceolred, King of Mercia. The Earls of Shrewsbury occupied the castle from 1412 when the Lady Ankarat de Verdun married Sir John Talbot – the title remained in the same family until the 1920s.

It was the 15th Earl, Charles Talbot, born in 1753, who tamed the landscape surrounding the Towers. With the help of hundreds of artisans, mechanics and labourers, “He made the desert smile” and the Alton Towers dream was born.

Charles ensured that every detail and plan was original, and only consulted other artists in order to avoid imitation. The two principal garden architects were Thomas Allason (1790-1852) and Robert Abrahams (1774-1850), and it was this combination of financial resources, architectural talent and an eye for beauty, which made the gardens the grandiose yet stunning sight they are today.

19th Century

The gardens were first opened to the public in 1860 and thirty years later, garden fetes attended by as many as 30,000 people were common. However, towards the end of the century the fortunes of the Shrewsbury’s began to decline, resulting in the eventual sale of the house and remaining land in 1924 to a consortium of local business men.

20th Century

1920 – The park was taken over by some local businessmen and the main shareholder was William Bagshaw who was an estate agent from Uttoxeter. After he died it was taken over by his two sons, Denis and Anthony.

1924 – House and Gardens form Alton Towers Ltd. The gardens are restored and attract crowds throughout the roaring twenties and thirties.

1939 – World War II starts and the house is requisitioned as an officer cadet training camp. The house and grounds remain under the control of the war office until 1951.

1952 – The gardens reopen. The house is by now very dilapidated, but a tea rooms operates in the once grand Banqueting Hall and travelling fun fair rides are to be found in the grounds.

1973 – John Broome entered the scene when he married the daughter of Denis and became involved with the family business. A short while later he was able to buy a majority stake in Alton Towers. Marrying the owner’s daughter surely must have helped! But he was already a wealthy man through his dealings in the property market. The 1970s were a progressive stage in the development of Alton Towers with many of the rides and areas that we see today built and/or installed.

1980 – This is the year when the Corkscrew rollercoaster was opened!

1980s – Massive development of the site saw the introduction of the Pirate Ship, Log Flume, Black Hole, Enterprise, Congo River Rapids, Vintage Car Ride, Tea Cups, Skyride and Monorail. Many of these rides still exist on the site today in some guise or another!

1990 – Alton Towers acquired by the Tussauds Group.

1990s – More massive investment and development throughout the 1990s, with rides such as the Runaway Mine Train, Haunted House, Energizer, and Ripsaw. Major rides such as Nemesis (1994) and Oblivion (1998) were also installed during this time period, and the first Alton Towers Hotel opened in March 1996.


Restoration of an old fountain

As work commenced on the memorial garden that I’m creating for my partners mother, Susan Dickens who sadly left us on her 67th birthday, January 10th 2022 leaving us with a lasting void. So within the grounds of our cottage was this 25 year old fountain looking very bedraggled and rather washed out. Would of been easy to break it up and buy a new one, but I decided to restore it instead give it a little TLC see what becomes of it?

So after a good cleaning a little sanding down in places to remove old moss and other organic materials, it was ready to be painted, I’ve always sworn by the outdoor masonry Velspar paint from B & Q it’s very hard wearing and looks fabulous, so as yesterday (04.06.22) was a lovely sunny day with a nice breeze, I set about the painting, really pleased with the finished result, the paint went on really well, and really highlighted the newly cleaned details, the lions heads look superb. The fountain is no longer for water use instead will become a planter for an array of beautiful flowering plants, what could of been destroyed is enjoying a new lease of life.

Baz Luhrmann “Everybody’s free (to wear Sunscreen)”

Back in 1997 a song was released into the UK single charts by Baz Luhrmann, called Everybody’s Free (to wear sunscreen) it went to number 1 in the UK charts as well as earning platinum status due to sales, as songs go its not a dance track, or rock or anything like that whatsoever! It’s a spoken essay of words set to music, what’s distinct about the track is the words and the meanings, as you start on the journey through the song you learn that so much, of what is being delivered is so so true, and correlates with your own existence.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97
Wear sunscreen

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it
A long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists
Whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable
Than my own meandering experience, I will dispense this advice now

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth, oh, never mind
You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth
Until they’ve faded, but trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back
At photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now
How much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked
You are not as fat as you imagine

Don’t worry about the future
Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing Bubble gum
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind
The kind that blindsides you at 4 p.m. On some idle Tuesday
Do one thing every day that scares you

Saying, don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts
Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours


Don’t waste your time on jealousy
Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind
The race is long and in the end, it’s only with yourself
Remember compliments you receive, forget the insults, if you succeed in doing this, tell me how
Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements


Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life.
The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives
Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t
Get plenty of calcium
Be kind to your knees
You’ll miss them when they’re gone

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t
Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the ‘Funky Chicken’
On your 75th wedding anniversary
Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much
Or berate yourself either
Your choices are half chance, so are everybody else’s

Enjoy your body, use it every way you can
Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it
It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own
Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your own living room
Read the directions even if you don’t follow them
Do not read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Get to know your parents, you never know when they’ll be gone for good
Be nice to your siblings, they’re your best link to your past
And the people most likely to stick with you in the future

Understand that friends come and go
But a precious few, who should hold on

Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young
Live in New York City once but leave before it makes you hard
Live in northern California once but leave before it makes you soft


Accept certain inalienable truths
Prices will rise, politicians will philander, you too, will get old
And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young
Prices were reasonable, politicians were noble
And children respected their elders

Respect your elders

Don’t expect anyone else to support you
Maybe you have a trust fund, maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse
But you never know when either one might run out

Never mess too much with your hair
Or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85

Be careful whose advice you buy but be patient with those who supply it
Advice is a form of nostalgia, dispensing it is a way of fishing the past
From the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts
And recycling it for more than it’s worth

But trust me on the sunscreen

Brother and sister together we’ll make it through
Some day a spirit will take you and guide you there
I know you’ve been hurting but I’ve been waiting to be there for you
And I’ll be there just helping you out whenever I can

Everybody see it oh yeah yeah

Everybody see it oh yeah
He want you to feel good!

War of the Worlds 2022 Manchester AO Arena

“No one would have believed
In the last years of the nineteenth century
That human affairs were being watched
From the timeless worlds of space
No one could have dreamed that we were being scrutinized
As someone with a microscope studies creatures
That swarm and multiply in a drop of water
Few men even considered the possibility of life on other planets
And yet, across the gulf of space
Minds immeasurably superior to ours
Regarded this Earth with envious eyes
And slowly and surely, they drew their plans against us”

The Venue

Manchester AO Arena was a perfect venue to show Jeff Wayne’s amazing The War Of The Worlds, immediately on arriving at the arena, we was greeted by the stewards in a polite manner, they could not do enough for us, the security process was very smooth the lines moved really efficiently, the security teams were really helpful throughout. Once we made it to our seats (Block B5) I was impressed how good the stage was set up, there was music playing like a steady bass, kind of gives you goose pimples in anticipation for the show, there was numerous venue staff selling show programme’s in the aisles, there were numerous stalls selling merchandise for the show, well staffed and very reasonably priced, once the show started the lighting effects were superb, the sound was crisp and clear and the beats thumped through your body as the iconic notes were reached, during the show seeing the 50ft tripod martian descend from the rafters was awe inspiring, really adding to the incredible music being played live, the visuals were superb but did look like they were meant for 3D glasses as there was blurring around the figures on the screen, no glasses were handed out nor was there any notifications that 3D glasses would be needed, didn’t ruin the show or the experience, a further enhancement to the show was a bridge that was suspended from the arena roof that lowered during the show, offering a great new dimension to the show, bringing the cast closer to the audience. All in all the arena provided an amazing venue for the acclaimed show, the views were superb, the sound and visuals were 10/10, the cast were the show has had in its entire run, lastly the outstanding music compose and conducted by Jeff Wayne was inspiring, as good as his original from 1978, just incredible from start to finish.

The Cast

Liam Neeson reprises his role as “The Journalist” with the very difficult task of filling the boots of Richard Burton the original “Journalist” from the hit 1978 recording, Neeson gives the performance a unique angle which to voice those iconic lines we’ve all come to know and can recite. His Ballymena accent is smooth and crisp as he delivered his performance, even though we all know the album, and can probably recite it in our seats, he somehow kept you on the edge of your seat waiting in anticipation as to what was about to come next? The way the holographic projection system worked was inspiring, it was as though he was there on stage, the choreography between him and the live actors was flawless and perfect. Neeson was worthy of “The Journalist” role and gave a performance that won’t be forgotten.

Liam Neeson as The Journalist

Justin Hayward the incredible lead singer of the legendary Moody Blues group returned as “The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist” firstly what a privilege to see him walk onto the stage, and at 75 years old his voice has not waned in any way! When he sung that iconic line “The Chances Of Anything Coming From Mars Are A Million To One He Said” echoed around the arena with a power like we were teleported back to 1978 and the original recording, his performance was flawless and crisp, his costume was superb, when he began to sing “Forever Autumn” I felt a sense of nostalgia maybe a moment of belonging, to see Justin sing as Jeff Wayne conducts just does not get better than that, incredible, amazing, nostalgic are just a few words to describe Justin Hayward “The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist”

Justin Hayward as The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist

Kevin Clifton (Strictly Come Dancing) joined the show as “The Artilleryman” his performance was show stopping, the energy he gave the role was unprecedented, running around the stage, down into the audience, across bridges etc. He really was fantastic from start to finish! What I found uniquely interesting was how he injected almost an air of childish innocence to the character, you genuinely felt sorry for him, you offered empathy when he started losing his mind, very clever way to draw the audience in, with such a moving and powerful performance, having seen Ricky Wilson and Shayne Ward play the same character, Clifton smashes it and then some by far eclipsing his predecessors, fantastic addition to the show, and I hope we get to see him again in the world renowned production.

Kevin Clifton as The Artilleryman

Duncan James (Blue) came into the show as “Parson Nathaniel” a hard role to fill as the character is unique in the mixed message he trying to give during the performance, following in the shoes of legendary Thin Lizzy front man Phil Lynott, as well as Jimmy Nail, Jason Donovan, Russell Watson to name but a few, but he came in and gave the character intensity as well as being completely believable, his voice has a fabulous bass to it which really delves in to that intensity I’ve mentioned, he was flawless in his movement on stage. His interaction with Liam Neeson was a sight to be seen truly inspiring, Duncan James came to the show as a great stage performer with a brilliant voice, he left the stage as an outstanding performer from all aspects and his voice was legendary.

Duncan James as Parson Nathaniel

Claire Richards (Steps) joined the cast as “Beth” Parson Nathaniel’s wife played originally by Julie Covington then reprised by such performers as Tara Blaise, Sinead Quinn, Jennifer Ellison, Liz McClarnon and Carrie Hope Fletcher to name but a few, soon as Claire walked onto the stage for her performance she owned it, controlled and powerful, hitting her notes perfectly but also injecting humility to the character as she interacted with James as Parson Nathaniel, they both hit it off on stage with perfect chemistry, her outfit was fantastic and she carried herself with poise and elegance, Claire was a fantastic choice as Beth and I only hope we will see her again in this production.

Claire Richards as Beth

The role of “Carrie” was reprised again in this live performance by the amazingly talented Anna Marie Wayne (Jeff Wayne’s Daughter) but lets be clear she got her part based on the incredible talent she oozes on stage, an accomplished actress and performer in her own right, her beautiful singing voice was perfect for Carrie, and gave the character meaning and sustenance, her notes were impeccable as were her interactions with others on stage, I would have been sorely disappointed if Anna Marie had only performed on VT! Seeing and hearing her live was an honour.

Anna Marie Wayne as Carrie

Nathan James as “The Voice of Humanity” and wow what an incredible powerful voice he has, absolutely blew the part away with his power, soon as he came on stage he commanded a presence, and you gave him your full undivided attention! As he went into his part and his power echoed that immortal line:

Sensing victory was nearing
Thinking fortune must have smiled
People started cheering
“Come on Thunder Child”
“Come on Thunder Child”

It made you shudder and absorb his energy, I’ve seen many performers take on this role and they have been good, but Nathan James owned and smashed it, I personally will never be able to envision somebody else as “The Voice of Humanity”

Last but by absolutely no means the least I introduce Jeff Wayne composer and conductor, he came onto the stage quietly greeting the audience with his hands raised and offering an appreciative hand clap, we have to remember that Jeff Wayne and his father acquired the rights in 1975 to adapt the work from Wells’s estate, which at the time was overseen by Wells’s son Frank. From there recording started between 18th May 1976 to 30th June 1977 at Advision Studios, Fitzrovia, London. The album was released on 9 June; four weeks later, Wayne said he was able to repay CBS its share of the album’s costs due to strong sales. In September 1978, the album reached its peak position of No. 5 on the UK Albums Chart, during a 20-week stay in the top ten. It has since been in the UK top 100 albums for 240 weeks, and has sold over 2.7 million copies in the country. In 2018, it was the UK’s 32nd best-selling studio album of all time. Elsewhere, it charted in 22 countries and reached number one in 11 of them including Australia, where it was top for seven weeks. In April 1979, the album exceeded platinum status in the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia, and gold certification in Canada, Spain, Israel, and Belgium. It has earned gold and platinum sales certifications in 17 countries. The album has sold an estimated 15 million copies worldwide.

Jeff decided to take the show on the road performing live shows across the globe, always complete sell outs whether it be medium concert venues or large arena’s, the enduring attraction of the album and the story living on from generation to generation, the music is iconic and legendary as is the man himself we can only thank him for giving us the privilege of sharing his work and living inside The War Of The Worlds and being submerged in such an amazing piece of work.

Jeff Wayne Composer and Conductor

The band performing the music to Jeff’s composing was the following:

Black Smoke Band 2022 (current)

  • Jeff Wayne – composer, conductor
  • Olivia Jageurs – harp, percussion
  • Accy Yeats – drums
  • Pete Hunt – bass
  • Thomas Gandey – keyboards, synthesizers
  • Neil Angilley – keyboards
  • Chris Spedding – electric guitar, acoustic guitar
  • Laurie Wisefield – guitars, mandolin, autoharp, tar
  • Paul Bond – electric guitar, acoustic guitar, keyboards, backing vocals
  • ULLAdubULLA Orchestra

They were fantastic never missing a note, totally in sync with each other, some new added chords making the experience even more enthralling, the sound was pulsating the Ulla’s were deafening the orchestra took us on a journey all the way through the performance, outstanding from start to finish, in particular the opening overture was something else captivating. Truly fantastic to be in the audience and witness such outstanding performing.

To sum up what a magical and amazing evening to watch this show, everything was 10/10 from start to finish the venue, the cast, the stage set up, the martian, lights, sound and visuals everything was sublime. Seeing the 50ft tripod descend from the roof gave you goose pimples gave the whole performance substance and reality absolutely amazing. I did not hear a disappointed word from anybody as we filed out of the arena, a massive overwhelming thumbs up for the entire performance in its entirety. Worth every single penny paid which was very reasonable to be honest, if Jeff Wayne takes The War Of The Worlds on tour again, I urge you to secure a ticket, go and see the show and live the experience for yourself.

Dan at Barton Aerodrome

On Saturday 19th March myself and my son James took Dan to Barton Aerodrome, I figured there is a restraunt at the Aerodrome so we could have lunch, and then watch some of the light aircraft and helicopters landing as well as taking off, something Dan really likes to do. Even though his mind is slowly deteriorating he loves to look around, watch people and absorb his surroundings, sadly by tea time he’ll of forgotten most of what he has seen, but who cares he’s had fun and seen stuff. So we set off from home around 1pm think we had travelled less than 2 miles and Dan was asleep, us James nodded off so quite ride for me!

Once we arrived at the Aerodrome, parked the car I could already see his eyes scanning around him, we got out the car into quite a brisk cool wind but bright sunshine, Dan said straightaway he was cold  so I asked if he would like his hat and scarf on? Which he replied “No thank you Paul its quite warm” yep it was a hand on head moment lol to cold to hot? You’ve got to love him. We wandered over to a vacant table, very quickly observing that a children’s birthday party was taking place, a Mazda car with Rusteze stickers all over it to resemble Lightening Mcqueen from the Disney “Cars” movie’s (tacky) also someone in a spiderman costume with a small beer belly was running around! Dan laughed when he saw him asking why someone was in a swimming costume? A swimming costume priceless, me and James just laughed at his comment, only Dan could think that up haha. Once I’d got him seated and James was OK I went to the kiosk to grab Dan a milky coffee and me and James a Diet Coke, also to see about food, unfortunately they said they weren’t serving till after 3pm, which was to late for us.

Dan spotted the air ambulance helicopter taking off, he was pretty chuffed when he saw it, then followed a small white propeller plane landing, it took a while for Dan to spot it but when he did, again he was really happy kept saying “look Paul there” and “James do you see it over there James” really nice to see him enjoying himself, and interacting with us, we took a stroll over to the fence as we noticed the pleasure flight helicopter was about to land, we got very close, Dan watched intently as passengers got on board, as the propeller spun quicker Dan’s smile got wider, then it lifted into the air, Dan never took his eyes off the helicopter until it became a dot in the sky.

From there we strolled towards the control tower I chatted with Dan asking him if he knew what various things around him were? Some things he was great with but other things he wasn’t, which was OK he knew some stuff which was fine with me, when we reached the end of the path at the fence we stopped and looked at the parked aircraft, Dan really enjoyed looking at them and asking different things about what he could see, he started asking if he could go up in a helicopter or an aeroplane, Dan said how amazing it would be to go up in one of them, and how much he loves flying? This became a topic he didn’t drop, continually mentioning about going flying as we walked back to the car, so once he was comfortable in his seat and James was strapped in, I quickly went to the Heli center to grab a priceless and to ask if Dan would be able to have a flight, which “yay” he can go up something I will figure out on a later date.

I spoke to my fiancée on the phone, she told me that she was walking the dogs staying with us in Sankey Valley Park and there was a restaurant called The Maltings, (another story) which would be ideal for dinner for us all. So our next journey began we set off for dinner and guess what? Dan fell asleep like clockwork, another day another adventure, this cruel  awful disease had stolen his memory of the day by teatime, and sadly had no recollection where he had been or what he had been doing, its so hard to understand how the brain works, and difficult to comprehend how somebody can have no recollection of what they had done just a few hours earlier, i even understand how people can feel frustrated in this scenario, but for us we just take him from one day to the next along with the carers, for Dan on saturday all he remembered was he wants to fly and spread his wings.

Dan & Dementia

This is Danzal or Dan as we like to call him, he is in his late 80s and sadly suffers from Alzheimer’s/Dementia which is progressing as each week goes by, we know we cannot stop this cruel disease, just make sure his quality of life is the very best we can make it, he lives with us and through a combined effort of myself and my family as well as some fantastic carers, we are working as hard as we can to give him everything he needs and try to let him experience as much of life as he can before the disease consumes him completely and he eventually disappears before our eyes. I will share when I can how Dan is connected to us and why we care for him, but that’s a story for another time, what I wanted to do is try to share insights into his days as best I can, to try and document as real as possible how he interacts with what’s around him, and how he embraces the world.

Now I feel it’s necessary to share some science bits on this disease as taken from the NHS official website, it’s important to understand what it is and just how cruel and life stealing Alzheimer’s and dementia really is! Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia in the UK. Dementia is the name for a group of symptoms associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. It can affect memory, thinking skills and other mental abilities. The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood, although a number of things are thought to increase your risk of developing the condition, increasing age, a family history of the condition, untreated depression, although depression can also be one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease lifestyle factors and conditions associated with cardiovascular disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, which means the symptoms develop gradually over many years and eventually become more severe. It affects multiple brain functions.

The first sign of Alzheimer’s disease is usually minor memory problems. For example, this could be forgetting about recent conversations or events, and forgetting the names of places and objects. As the condition develops, memory problems become more severe and further symptoms can develop, confusion, disorientation and getting lost in familiar places, difficulty planning or making decisions, problems with speech and language, problems moving around without assistance or performing self-care tasks, personality changes, such as becoming aggressive, demanding and suspicious of others, Hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that are not there) and delusions (believing things that are untrue), low mood or anxiety . Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65.

The risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia increases with age, affecting an estimated 1 in 14 people over the age of 65 and 1 in every 6 people over the age of 80. But around 1 in every 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease are under the age of 65. This is called early- or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

How Alzheimer’s disease is treated

There’s currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, but medicines are available that can help relieve some of the symptoms.

Various other types of support are also available to help people with Alzheimer’s live as independently as possible, such as making changes to your home environment so it’s easier to move around and remember daily tasks. Psychological treatments such as cognitive stimulation therapy may also be offered to help support your memory, problem solving skills and language ability.


People with Alzheimer’s disease can live for several years after they start to develop symptoms. But this can vary considerably from person to person. Alzheimer’s disease is a life-limiting illness, although many people diagnosed with the condition will die from another cause. As Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurological condition, it can cause problems with swallowing. This can lead to aspiration (food being inhaled into the lungs), which can cause frequent chest infections. It’s also common for people with Alzheimer’s disease to eventually have difficulty eating and have a reduced appetite. There’s increasing awareness that people with Alzheimer’s disease need palliative care. This includes support for families, as well as the person with Alzheimer’s.

Onwards with Dan

Through the job that I do (funeral director) I’ve spoken to so many families who have sadly lost loved ones to Alzheimer’s and Dementia, when speaking with these bereaved families I’ve learned so much about this cruel illness, how people with it forget who they are or forget their closest loved ones and friends, they can become aggressive lashing out or attacking loved one’s or attacking carer’s, they can become sexually aggressive speaking and acting like they never have before, which is both shocking and tormenting for the families that have to live with it, there are so many other forms and actions that it causes, which can be so devastating to the family living through it. I think when I speak with the families in question they very often have lived through such harrowing times with this illness, it’s sometimes forgotten that the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia sometimes do not know they actually suffer with the disease, or cannot recollect the actions they take? They just keep moving through life, being entertained or stimulated, consoled or managed,  being cared for and keeping going as best they can. But for the families it’s devastating, they suffer immensely from both physical and mental anguish as they watch their loved one slip away into a shell, sometimes not knowing who they are speaking with, but most often not remembering the personal things of that moment, many remember all the finer details of their former lives right back sometimes to their childhood or other points of their lives, but the immediate moment they forget, either where they have been? Or what they’ve eaten that day? Who they have seen? Or what they’ve done?

Dan is no different he can talk to you about his life in South Africa 60 years ago, but does not know what he ate for breakfast? Dan knows who people are in black and white picture’s, but cannot tell you what movie he has just watched, when he does go out by during the day by teatime he has no recollection of where he has been or what he’s done. It makes us smile when we try to get him to embrace life as much as he can, to enjoy as much as possible

whilst there are glimmers of memories left. Seeing him laughing and smiling is a reward in itself, knowing he has got the most from his day, is all I can ask for, when he’s home and settled seeing him drift off to sleep knowing he’s shattered after his days exertions, we know our job is done and we’ve fulfilled another day of his life. It’s not always going to be like this, we know his condition will worsen and as time goes on he will only get worse! Maybe he will forget who we are altogether? Maybe it will consume him and take his very existence away? Perhaps he will see those around him as enemies and want to defend himself aggressively? We do not know what will become of him, we can only live each day at a time, small steps only no major plans or planning ahead because we have no idea just how bad it eats away at him.

People of Leigh go ‘above and beyond’ with aid donations to Ukraine

This piece was written by Conal Cunningham of the Leigh Journal ourlocal paper,on the incredible effort from the great people of our little town.

THE GENEROSITY of the community in Leigh has been described as “phenomenal” following a public appeal for Ukranian aid donations.

Since the Russian invasion into Ukraine last week, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes and have headed to refugee camps in bordering countries.

Wishing to help in whatever way they can, people from all over Leigh have donated essential items, shared appeals far and wide, and volunteered to help collections run smoothly.

This has included Leigh Centurions, local businesses, and ordinary members of the community.

One of the main collection points in the town was at Leigh Parish Church, on St Mary’s Way. (Seen below)

Since appealing for donations on Sunday, February 27, the response from the community is said to have been “outstanding”.

Reverend Kevin Crinks, vicar at St Mary’s Parish Church said: “Since Monday morning, the donations have been flooding in – to the point where we had to order an extra van to pick everything up.

“People have been donating anything they can, bringing bags of stuff bought from supermarkets and asking can they help with the packing, sorting, and loading.

“The generosity of the people of Leigh has been phenomenal – but this is shown time and time again in times of need.”

With donations – such as blankets, toiletries, kids clothes, and first aid kits – coming in all week, these have now all been delivered to the Polish Integration Support Centre (PISC) in Liverpool.

One of the leading suppliers of donated goods across the North West, volunteers at PISC will drive the items onto the Polish-Ukrainian border for mothers, children, and all the refugees who have been displaced by the war.

For now, the Church is not taking any more donations but Kevin explained they will restart the effort if necessary.

Kevin added: “The amount of people who have wanted to help is fantastic, and the kindness of strangers has been amazing.”
“I’m so proud of Leigh, and it’s been a privilege to be a part of it.”


Step back in time in Kirkby Lonsdale & Kendal.

Me and my fiancée Michelle both up at 0800 the boys still sleeping a peek out the curtains the rain is falling heavy typical winter English weather, a hot cup of tea to start the day followed by a lightly toasted piece of bread, smothered in Lurpack butter yum.

Boys awake and up and about both looking like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards, hot chocolate for both and cereal for breakfast, whilst we plan the day ahead, taking into account the garbage weather ahead of us.

Few searches through Google to what there is to do? The railway museum in Carnforth before we head to Kirkby Lonsdale maybe? Sadly doesn’t open until 12pm ideally we want to be away before then, make a day of our adventures, although I would like to visit the museum as its where the 1945 movie “Brief Encounter” directed by David Lean starring Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard was filmed, so will be worth a notable visit definitely.

So as we progress to getting ready two adults and two (just) teenagers (big lads) all jostling for space, becoming like a comedy sketch, “to me to you” in a medium sized plastic Lodge, easy big enough for two, but feeling a little squished with these two as well! Boys typically ready without a wash or hairbrush (scruffs) whereas us both having a bath, before getting ready, all the morning pots washed and a brief tidy up, things progressing well.

So on the road and out before 11am not quite the 8am we were aiming for but nether the less we are out and away and heading towards Kirkby Lonsdale just over the Cumbria border a nice little hamlet, oozing oldie world features tiny little streets quaint little rustic shops and cafes, as well as a few really interesting historic places to see.

So after a 20 minute drive, down winding country roads across rolling countryside we reach Kirkby Lonsdale , after driving around aimlessly for 20 minutes trying to park my car, finally spot a place on the road so whip it in there only an hour but enough to have a mooch, we wander down the wonderful streets ladened with old cottages and buildings, dates of construction are on every building 1644, 1697, 1722, 1746, 1801, 1823 etc the age of the town is incredible and relatively unchanged over time, yes a few modern building have appeared but other than that, it’s like stepping back into another era, a by gone time lost in history.

St Mary’s Church

As we wandered around we noticed a large set of wrought-iron gates, as we went across to investigate,  we saw beyond the gates the stunning parish Church of St Mary’s dating back to the 12th century! On entering the church through the large solid wooden doors, it unveiled a beautiful architectural masterpiece of a Church, ornate columns, an amazing raised wooden roof along with a huge incredible stain glass window, the whole building just oozed history  there was a really nice lady inside, I guess she was the church warden or the verger she was really informative and happy to answer any questions I had, I think the boys enjoyed the church, although they were shocked as they wandered around the graveyard reading the inscriptions, and just how many children were resting in the graves, I tried to explain that from 1800 to about 1870, the major causes of death in children were tuberculosis, diarrhea of infancy, bacillary dysentery, typhoid fever, and the highly contagious diseases of childhood, especially scarlet fever, diphtheria, and lobar pneumonia (oh the power of Google).

Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery

We then wandered back to the car which was parked conveniently right outside the Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery which was established in 2009, so as we had 18 minutes left of our hours parking, we went in for a pint of locally brewed ale, I can say with confidence it was delicious, obviously the two boys both being 13 yes old couldn’t drink so they were bribed with a Nutella pancake dish, once we finished our beers time to head to our next stop Devils Bridge.

Devils Bridge & Ruskins Steps

Being a bit of a history nut and a fully pledged geek, I was really looking forward to visiting this historical site, I’d read up on the bridge and its history including the folklore which intrigued me further. The bridge itself spans the River Lune to the south and east of Kirkby Lonsdale this three-arched bridge is thought to date back to the 12th or 13th century, and is a scheduled ancient monument. 

If you look carefully at the bridge you’ll find a deep impression in the stone, known locally as the Devil’s hand print. There is, of course, a tale attached: Once upon a time there was an old woman lived on the banks of the Lune. One night her cow strayed across the river and couldn’t be tempted back. The Devil appeared and offered to build a bridge in exchange for the soul of the first body to cross it. He constructed the bridge himself and left a print in the wet stone.

The woman met him at the bridge, took a bun from her bag and threw it across the bridge. Her small dog went to retrieve it. The devil howled in anger at being tricked before vanishing forever. Makes a great tale but the bridge itself is amazing, in how it was built etc. Underneath amongst the ribs of the bridges arches, the stone masons that built the bridge have all chiselled in their own mark bit like a signature, really was a great place and we’ll worth a visit, after taking in this fine Medieval bridge we strolled alongside the river Lune upstream passing huge colossal ancient Oak Tree’ towering majestically above us, wondering what history they’ve witnessed? We carried on, on an easy level path which follows the river until it comes to ‘The Radical Steps’, 86 stone steps rising from the riverside all the way back up to St. Mary’s churchyard, built in 1819 by local man Francis Pearson, reputedly a bit of a political firebrand, hence the name of the steps…
After this pretty steep hard climb we came across a viewing point to the right… from here we found  ourselves overlooking the wide sweep of the river towards the Middleton, Barbon and Leck Fells, a view described by thinker John Ruskin as ‘’one of the loveliest views in England, therefore in the world.’’ It was an amazing view one that you need to take the obligatory photo of. From here we made our way back to the car our next stop was taking us away from Kirkby Lonsdale and up to Kendal to see the infamous castle.

Kendal Castle

After arriving in Kendal after a relatively short drive, I had to negotiate the endless one-way streets that seem to take you in the oddest of pointless circles? But after driving around like the Griswald family we found the turn off to get to the castle. A small pay and display carpark greeted us which wasn’t working? Tried paying online again not working? So in the end thought sod it and simply parked the car. A steep set of steps greeted us through a wood, quite slippy but given the current weather, as we proceeded through the wood me and Michelle took the sensible pathway whereas the boys opted for the Bear Grylls route up a steep muddy hill through trees and fauna (boys will be boys) the climb is quite a trek up but we’ll worth the climb and effort.

Built around 1200, the stone castle was built to replace the wooden motte and bailey on the opposite side of the river at Castle Howe. This 13th century castle, built on a drumlin (a glacial hill), was the seat of power and administration for the barons of Kendal for over 200 years, most notably the Parr family.

Katherine Parr, the most famous family member and namesake for a local school, became Henry VIII sixth and surviving wife. A feisty and intelligent queen, we’re more than a little proud to say she came from Kendalian stock. But on the death of the last baron in 1571, William Parr, it gradually fell into a ruinous state, and today only parts of the castle wall and one tower remain.

Over three hundred years later, in 1897, celebrations for the diamond jubilee of another strong willed queen – Queen Victoria – involved the purchase of Castle Hill for ‘public enjoyment’, by the Kendal Corporation.

You can stroll around the ruins today and imagine what it must have been like all those years ago. Kendal Castle is also a fantastic spot for a picnic, and a great place to relax in fresh air as you enjoy the wonderful views over our town. (That’s my cut n paste history)

But on walking around this now derelict site you are still transported back to a by gone era lost in time, visual aid boards are all around the site detailing facts about what your looking at! As I explored walking around what was the great hall, then down into the kitchens and where food and drink would of been stored, remains of what was probably a cooking fire complete with a chimney cut through the walls, old reminiscent stairwells for servants to move around silently without disturbing the baron’s of the property, an old dungeon cell, with only a crag of light, the remains of a tower where again, people of stature would of stayed, although the site is now derelict with just a few shapes of buildings remaining its still an incredible place to visit, and to stand quietly for a second in the middle of the court yard and transport yourself back to that time, imagining the smells, the sights the way life was lived and how the land would have been so completely different to the views we see today

Have to say the day has been superb absorbed lots of history all completely free of charge, done over 11000 steps good for the body, the boys have been dragged away from the Xbox and the mobile phones, and actually seen beyond their screens this in itself is a triumph!

No Second Chances.

There are many jobs, many professions, many businesses, where if at the first attempt you don’t get it right, you have the ability to have a second shot to rectify your mistake, in my role as a Funeral Director there are second chances, no opportunity to fix mistakes. The very nature of the service we provide dictates, that we must get it right first time every time, our very reputations depend on what and how we conduct ourselves. Our families that entrust us to care for their loved ones, need it to be right, they need to feel like they are the only family we will deal with that day, month or year. Everything has and must be perfect, as we do not get a second chance to right a wrong! I’m going to delve a little deeper.

The Moment of Passing

From the very second a person sadly passes away, the family or friends or the deceased is already subconsciously, deciphering what they need to do? Who they need to contact? Was there a plan? Do they have a will? What did they want? And many many other scenarios. The importance of firstly being compassionate and understanding when we receive that call, will pay dividends as the funeral progresses, empathy and consideration, understanding and sympathetic to the clients needs will better serve us down the line. Clear and precise information during the first contact, although to much information at this critical time, can bog a family down and create stress and cause undue anxiety. Ensuring the correct up to date information is passed to the team who will be bringing the deceased into our care, is key critical to the smooth removal of the person who has passed away. Minimal conversating during the removal only discuss the core points of what is happening and what comes next, personal interaction at this moment of grief can be construed wrong and may and very often will come back to bite you. You are there in a professional capacity keep it that way! Be empathetic and above all dignity towards the deceased at all times is paramount, this could quite easily be your loved one. No second chances or re-runs at this point, first impressions last!

The Precision of The Arrangement

The arrangement process is so critical to the success of a funeral, only precision, empathy, understanding and knowledge, will ensure the family get everything they need, from understanding the procedures, the legalities and the plethora of information being given to them, to helping them grieve and to take the vast amounts of pressure away from them. Funeral Arrangers is the role that is almost always overlooked? Be it by large funeral companies or small independent funeral homes, it is not a role anyone can do, being able to offer so much empathy as well as being calm along with professional all at the same time, takes a very special kind of person, empathy is something you either have or don’t have! It cannot be taught its something deep within our genetic make up, that sets us aside Funeral Arrangers have it it’s that simple.

From the moment a family walks into a funeral home, everything should be showroom standard, funeral homes should be immaculate well presented buildings, clean and bright, there should not be flaking paint or hanging wallpapers threads, there should be no damp on walls anywhere. Pictures hanging on walls should compliment the decor of the building, carpets should not be thread worn but fresh and purposeful. Arranging rooms should be calming places, not emblazoned with product advertising (we are not selling cars here) to much “in your face” product pushing can break a funeral and unnerve a family. Uniform or clothing our teams are wearing is also a very big part of that “first impression” old tired worn out uniform, presents the wrong picture, immediately indicating to a family that this potentially is how their loved one will be treated or how the buisness conducts itself! All this can be taken from that initial observation by a family, if you wear white shirts make sure they are white, make sure you match your colleagues this always presents a united front and demonstrates all are working the same way on the same page.

Once you are discussing the funeral with a family, it is so important that you have everything to hand that you need, it shows you are in control of the moment, there is nothing worse than constantly getting up and down during the arrangement, it un-nerves the family, know what your talking about and be clear and precise in your explanations and guidance never ever “wing it” as it will come back to haunt you! One of the biggest attributes I’ve found during any arrangement is the ablitity to shut up and listen to the family or whoever is arranging, listen to what they want or what ideas they have, remember the word “no” should be used very sparingly, families need to feel that nothing is off the table at that initial point of contact, as you build a relationship with the family/client, you can then delve deeper with requests and maybe the need to say “no” will arise but trust has been developed and relationships formed making conversations easier. During this most critical of interactions there certainly will be no second chances here, get it wrong at this point there is a 99% chance that the family will take the funeral elsewhere, or the family will remain with you but the trust has gone,the funeral process from here will be difficult and problematic which will in the end, become complaints and investigations reputational damage will have been done, and the level of service we always strive to achieve will be compromised.

Matching The Right Product

Throughout the vast experience you have gained through your individual journeys in the funeral sector, will arm you with the tools to match the right product or service in such a way, that these choices will make the funeral experience an unforgettable one for all the right reasons. Get this wrong you do not get another chance to fix it as the damage will have been done, it will be irreparable and will have dire consequences. All of these choices and decisions can be achieved easily by simply listening carefully to the family/client, service type, music influences, colours, places, people, time of day, favourite things, things they dislike etc. Know exactly what the aspirations of the family/client as well as the deceased wishes are critical, lets look a tad closer.

1. Obituary or acknowledgement? First and foremost do the family/client want these products? Obituaries are slowly losing there momentum as social media makes the giant strides it is currently doing! Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, WhatsApp and so on, all places family and friends can post messages about their loved ones funeral etc at zero cost, now the draw backs to this are by placing an Obituary on social media could turn the funeral into a free for all, and spoil the dignified experience that the family is seeking, also on a darker side the family are advertising that they aren’t home on a specific day and time! Sadly the world we live in today, can be callous and cruel opportunist thieves will always be looking for an opportunity, this can also be said by a newspaper Obituary, I’m always concerned about advertising dates and times as are 80% of the families I deal with. If the family does want an Obituary in a local newspaper, help them with the wording and presentation, make sure it’s proof read several times as once it’s published, there is no retrieval, make sure its submitted in plenty of time, nothing worse than missing a cut off and having to explain to a family, that the details of their loved ones funeral will appear a week after the funeral, same goes with an acknowledgement listen to the family and what they want, don’t forget any names that the family/ included or any specific thank you’s, do this at you peril, as all the work you’ve done arranging the funeral will crash down around you if this is wrong.

2. Minister, celebrant & venue three words and in the greater scheme of things should be a simple pairing yes? Absolutely not! It’s so important that we get this right, as if it goes wrong the family won’t hold the religious minister or the church or celebrant accountable, it will be the funeral director that is firmly to blame, and this can have long last implications for you as a Funeral Director, sadly word of mouth plays an enormous role in society in today’s world, one wrong comment or one bad critique can become a lasting weight around your business. Its important to remember that when you are asking a minister or celebrant to conduct a funeral, they are working on your recommendation, you have contracted them to do a job for you, very often this becomes cloudy as some celebrants feel they work for a family and will offer all manner of things, without discussing with you! Guidelines and boundaries need to be in place with your clergy and celebrants on what as a funeral home you can and can’t offer! This is especially important now more than ever with the covid pandemic, many of us have ramped our safety protocols ups etc. It’s important that this is communicated to the clergy or celebrant, as well as discussing with the crematorium, church or cemetery. It is also very important that you know and familiarise yourself, with all your churches, crematoriums and cemeteries, families will expect you to know these places like the back of your hand, nothing worse than aimlessly driving around a cemetery looking for a grave! Get to know the area’s in advance, try to visit all your churches so you know where a family sits and which side they should be on, sitting them down then asking them to get up because you’ve seated them in the wrong place will bite you, the way’s in and out as well as being familiar with the fire emergency route, these things will pay dividends should the need arise. As a further tip try and get your celebrants or clergy to email you their service including eulogies, if the worst case scenario occurs and the minister/celebrant fail to show up, you can continue the best you can with the service readings and the all important eulogy. At least by stepping in you can save the service.

3. Order of Service yes in terms of time can become a headache but if you do, do them in house or your company works with a printer, it is key critical that they are right from the first instance, when capturing the information for an OOS always repeat it back to the client, double check dates, ensure the right picture is in the right place, check and double check for spelling mistakes, always send a proof to the client, and try to ensure before they sign it off that it is perfect, as once its gone to print mistakes may be unrecoverable. Always question colours and designs to guarantee your client is getting what they want, confirm the amounts they want, always use your vast knowledge of your business, so if a client is under ordering you can advise them accordingly, likewise if they are ordering to many ask why they need such numbers and again offer advice based on your experience. Once everything has been signed off and both the client and you are happy with the OOS, ensure it is sent to the printers affording you plenty of time, to receive it prior to the funeral day. Once you have it in your funeral home always advise the client it has arrived, giving them the opportunity to come and see the OOS before it gets to the service venue. If you send your families/clients to independent printing companies, make sure they are the best around, if you use a cheap and cheerful printers who offer substandard work the family/client will come back to you! As it is you that has recommended them, there will be no hiding place and it will be left to you to rectify and fix, this may be completely out of your remit but it will be you that is accountable.

4. Music choices can make or break a funeral, the choosing of music is so important to families so getting it right is thee most important thing you need to do, 99% of the time music is sentimental carries great meaning to both the deceased in life and the family as well, so if a family choose lets say “Time to say goodbye” by Andre Bocelli and Sarah Brightman, but instead you pick “Time to say goodbye” by Katherine Jenkins, this can and will devastate a families experience and I can guarantee this will not be forgotten nor will it be left silently, I wrote a piece in my blog on 01st February 2021 titled “The Power of Music at a Funeral” have a read of this and it explains the importance of why music is so critical.

5. Flowers again can be adored by a family and become the CenterPoint of a funeral, or alternatively they can completely blow a funeral out the water because we simply did not listen to what our family asked for, talk through colours, flower types, arrangements etc. always ask if the deceased grew flowers at home? If they did what did they grow? Always lovely to include the flowers the deceased grew in the spray adds a massive sentimental value to the spray your arranging, make sure you are using an excellent reputable florist, always compare your prices, families will always price compare believe me! So if your chosen florist is charging £45.00 per letter yet other reputable florists are charging £35.00 a letter be sure that a family will demand an explanation as to why there is disparity! When the flowers arrive once ordered make sure you check them with the florist present, if they aren’t to standard get the florist to sort the issue out whilst they are present, no point letting them go then telling them there is an issue. You are in control and again the family will not go to the florist to complain if they are wrong, oh no! It will firmly be on you and you will not get a second chance, first time has to be right, your family is looking to you to be that perfectionist to look at every spray like its your own to ensure it is flawless, to make sure that when the flowers are with the deceased, it all works in perfect harmony.

6. Dressing the deceased can be a very distressing subject for a family, not always but very often the thought of picking an outfit out can be daunting, an act that some families really struggle with. Again listen to the family/client when they are talking about their loved one, try and build a picture in you head of the person, that way you can offer the right advice. As a rule I’ve always leaned towards dressing a deceased in exactly what they would be comfortable in! So often families/clients think the deceased has to be suited and booted when resting in the coffin, I stray away from this as it can paint the wrong picture for visiting family members, If their dad never wore a suit in his life, he would not look right wearing a suit in his coffin, the same can be said of a lady in an elegant dress, if that was something they never wore, the family will struggle to associate the clothing with their loved one, and will ruin the experience for them. Offer advice and try to emphasise on what possibly the deceased would want? As well as pacifying the aspirations of the family. It is so important that they can familiarise with their loved one at this final time before the coffin is closed, this will always be a lasting memory it needs to be right. Explain carefully and considerately what can and cannot go into the coffin be it a cremation or burial, make sure you have all the relevant up to date guidelines from your crematoria and cemeteries, nothing worse than telling a family on the day of the funeral that you’ve removed an item due to local rules, have this conversation prior so your family/client are fully informed. You won’t get a second chance to fix this if it goes wrong, this will be a lifelong memory and experience for the family.

We can keep going with many other aspects which could include coffin choice? Hearse and Limousine style and colour? Horse Drawn? Or any other type of Hearse? I feel the ones I’ve mention and focused on are the ones that can cause the most distress to our families/clients. If any of these critical choices go wrong based on logistics, time and sentimental attachment, it will be unrecoverable, listen to your family/client, offer the wealth of experience you have to make their journey not only seamless but one they will remember for all the right reasons, and most importantly through your expertise, the family get the closure they desperately need to move forward with their lives.

The Day of The Funeral

The day of the funeral is when all the work you have done comes together as a final experience. I’m using the word “experience” for the funeral as that’s what it is! It’s not a transaction, or a business product you’ve created its an experience that you want the family/client to remember, and get all they need from the experience you’ve created together.

For me as the Funeral Director there are certain things I’m looking for on the day that I feel are critical to the success of experience you are directing for the family and for your funeral home. Each Funeral Director reading this will no doubt have their own thoughts on what you deem more important on the day? But for the purposes of the piece I’m writing I’ll explain mine, first and foremost I will have been in constant communication with my arrangers, discussing the funeral that has been arranged with the family, understanding how the arrangers has created an experience from a funeral arrangement, this dialogue is critical, if you do not discuss the funeral with your arrangers regular then the funeral experience will crumble around you. The arrangers are the most important piece of the jigsaw, as they have met the family and created the experience, ignoring their input at this point, would be the worst thing you could do, talk to them learn off them and understand the aspirations of the family by listening to your arrangers. During all this dialogue I create what I my own A4 plan of all the key critical information I need, I gain this by reading the arrangement, speaking to my arrangers, speaking with clergy or celebrants, also talking to the crematoria/cemeteries, as well as talking to the family themselves. I capture all the information on my plan which includes everything I need for the experience to go exactly right.

For myself on the day of the funeral first and foremost is how my team look? Presentation is so important for the families experience, are my funeral teams shoes shining? Is their uniform laundered properly? Are they all wearing the same uniform? Nothing worse than one member of the team wearing a slightly different shade to the others he/she will stand out like a sore thumb! Does the uniform suit look tired or past its day? Keen eye for detail at this point is what set’s us apart. Turn up looking shabby and worn, will leave an impression, that’s how everything is done “shabbily!” you need to be able to demonstrate that all staff are of pristine quality, if for any reason it’s not consider the role of the person on the funeral and where you need them, remember it can also be embarrassing to your colleague they won’t want to stand out in the crowd for the wrong reasons, all this needs rectifying at the funeral home well before the funeral start time. I incorporate this into my briefing with my team, where I explain all aspects of the funeral, down to routes, times, bearers, locations, weather, family concerns or things to look for, where the families are going after etc. Having a brief with your team and explaining how you want the experience to proceed, will help eliminate any issues or worries down the line, everybody is on the same page and working as one unit together, armed with key critical up to date information, leaving no margin for error, I also listen to feedback from my teams as the information they have can be also be critical to the success of the funeral experience, as much as the information I’ve just passed. They may know route issues such as roadworks or temporary lights etc. Always listen to your teams as they are as important as the arrangers in the experience, ignore them at you peril.

Vehicle cleanliness is a huge bugbear of mine, it is so important that when a family see’s our hearse or our Limousine its of showroom standard, polished and clean, free from dirt and grime, if it is grubby it needs cleaning at the funeral home before the funeral, families/clients aren’t interested how busy you are or whether the car has been on a funeral prior. In their eyes they are the only family using that vehicle that year, they expect showroom quality, if you are not providing that then you are letting the family down, and destroying an element of the experience that you could easily avoid, look at your fleeting prior to the funeral day, challenge any funerals that are to close! Within my company we are still operating to the high safety protocols concerning Covid-19, we are adopting strict measures to keep our families and our teams as safe as we possibly can, once a family has used our vehicle the driver MUST disinfect and clean the interior as per our internal guidelines, hence enough time must be allowed for this critical health and safety procedure to be carried out, if time isn’t being afforded then we are letting our families down in a big way, as there is no way the vehicles can be cleaned and presented to a showroom standard in time for the funeral experience. Always put yourself in the position of “how would you feel?” If you had arranged a funeral personally and a dirty substandard fleet arrives, what would your perception of that company be? Get it right first time everytime no second chances here.

This may seem long and exasperated but in my role I do not get a second chance, first time has to be perfection, anything else simply will not and cannot do. There maybe points I’ve made you completely disagree with? There may well be things that you find equally important that I may have missed, always happy to receive messages as I’m always learning each and everyday, as we all are. Stay Safe Paul 25.10.2021

The Pirate Island by James Sargent aged 12 years old

A piece written by my son James, he is 12 years old, I’ve left the text body and layout exactly as he has written it, hope you enjoy.

 My name is John Jawline and I live with my mum in Scotland since my dad died 2 years before I was born. I was doing the dishes in my mum’s inn. The inn is a hotel with a bar and a mini café, so I had to help around a lot. So, one day we had a very unexpected visitor…

 A man came in with a gash in his left cheek and rotten, grey nails. I was almost sick, but he said ‘’You alright little fellow? I am seeking shelter you got any place I can stay?’’ I have to say he was the scariest man I have ever seen. Scared I muttered ‘’ye- yeah just go upstairs and turn right.’’ He stomped up the stairs and when he got to the top he said ‘’Watch out for a one-legged-man matey. A one-legged man?’’ I thought.

 I rushed over to my mum only to find her in my dad’s old bed looking at a picture of someone that looked like the man I just met 1 minute ago. It said a name at the bottom of the picture, and it was Fraser Froffs. That sounded like someone on TV, and it was indeed the man I just met. Rapidly, I ran downstairs and only to see another man.

 But this man was deaf and not to be mean he was hopeless. He was walking like he needed a wheelchair. Soon he eventually made it in the inn he said ‘’Give me your hand would ya? Me needs this to help me get in.’’ I hesitantly held my hand out and I suddenly felt his old, wrinkly hands crushing my arm like a vice. I shrieked in the pain I was in and he gave me a note and said ‘’Pass that to Fraser kid or you’ll be next.’’

 That scared me though, the way he said that in his groggy evil voice. I went up to Fraser and said ‘’This is for you.’’ He looked at it and I was expecting money or something, but it was just a boring black spot. But when he saw it, he had this look and his face went pale, paler than a polar bears fur. ‘’You, ok?’’ I asked. No response apart from a rustle from outside…

 Before I knew it people came rushing in and smashing everything in their path. Guns firing, swords banging and fire spreading. My mum came down and she grabbed me and started to run when I saw a piece of paper on the floor, so I stole it on the way out. We kept running, I do not know how long for, but we just kept running.

 We decided to go over to Saint Mina, famous town with mayor Goudal, when we got there, we went into the mayor’s office and showed him the piece of paper because as I left, I saw on the note a map with the letter X marked in various places. Goudal’s eyes lit up and he said ‘’you ready for an adventure?’’

 Soon we got in a big ship, galleon, and sailed to Saint’s harbour to find a crew to help us get the treasure or whatever there was at the mark X. But Goudal could not tell a soul and he is a person who cannot keep a secret. So, mum had to shut him up the whole way to the ship.

 Once we got on the ship the best thing was the emerald torches scattered around the ship and even on the bottom deck! It was fantastic. Soon the captain (Kale Writs) said ‘’Everyone hold on it is going to be a sharp turn.’’ We all nodded. He was quite scary because he had one leg and a golden eye patch with red scratches on it.

 After about 5 miles into see I remembered something. The one leg. Fraser back at the inn said ‘’Watch out for a one-legged man.’’ I gulped, I think everyone heard it, well I thought. Everyone was singing sea songs in the bottom deck drinking beer. Then I quickly signalled to Goudal to come here. I whispered to him ‘’At my mum’s inn we met a man, Fraser Froffs, he was the man I got the note from and he said to me watch out for a one-legged man!’’ He nodded and said ‘’ Fraser Froffs is the number one on wanted lists. We must assassinate Kale, and quickly.

 We had a plan to do this though, it was that we lure him into the bottom deck and then he will drink some beer and get drunk and then it will be an easy finish. ‘’Kale I need some help down here come please.’’ I heard Kale stomp down the stairs and heard some commotion down there and then heard ‘’I got him.’’ It was Goudal. Our plan was going perfectly until I went exploring. I wanted to be the hero, so I went down there with a gun.

 When I got down there someone was holding me in a head lock and right on time Goudal came down and I closed my eyes and heard, a big loud bang.

 He was dead, Kale was dead. Then we made our way to the island. It was only 5 miles away, so we sang a lot while one of the crew members Dylan went steering the ship. Before I knew it, we were at the island. Everyone shouted ‘’Whoopee.’’

 Then we used the ropes to climb back down onto the island. Next minute, after searching for a while we found a brown box sticking out and I screamed ‘’I think I found it!’’ Everyone rushed over and now I felt like a true hero. Some of the crew dug it up and when we opened the old, damaged box there was gold, bonds, platinum, diamonds, silver, copper everything you can imagine.

 But we decided not to stick around for long because there might be other pirates competing for this treasure. The 11 miles we sailed here for was all worthwhile. Soon we all got back on the ship and sailed back to Saints harbour.

 But later on, we sailed back to Saint’s harbour and we lived a rich, happy, tremendous life. But at the age of 21 I went on to be an explorer.

Churches Closing! Who’s Really to Blame?

Regardless of who you are or what your religious persuasion is? Whenever we see a church closing down, or see one all boarded up, there is a tinge of sadness, and we all begin to wonder, how could it of closed? Churches have lots of money? Shouldn’t be allowed? I could go on for ever with the different things we think, but usually it boils down to all but one single reason as to why our local churches close? It’s because we don’t bother going anymore! Really is that simple an answer.

Through my job as a funeral director I get to visit, many different churches throughout my region, all different faiths as well as different types of churches, be it a Catholic or Church of England Church, a Methodist or Baptist Church, a Jehovah’s Witness or Evangelical Church, all are important to the parishioners that use them and the area’s they are in, again regardless of what you think of religion, Churches provide people with hope, with a safe place to congregate and meet new people, a place where people feel important, a place where people can relax and allow whatever is weighing them down mentally and emotionally can be released, without prejudice are question, Churches are often beautiful old building’s steeped in history, stunning features inside and out, peaceful and cleansing spaces, but many are new buildings starting their new journey hopefully for many years to come.

I personally cannot help looking at churches when I see them, I find them amazing, and marveling at the architecture is always a plus, especially when I’m conducting a funeral at a church, gives me a short space of time to look around, read the gravestones, look at the pictures etc. As most of do when we enter a church we enjoy what we see, and feel a kind of safety net around us immediately on entering, the volunteers in churches 99% of the time are lovely people always willing to help, and so calm and friendly again gives you a nice sense of belonging, Clergy in churches the majority of the time are some of the nicest people you will meet, friendly, honest and sincere and again going out of their way to help you and assist, and again I know there are bad apples in the clergy, those who make the church experience a poor one, but I feel I’m safe to say the good massively outweighs the bad.

When I see churches closed and boarded up, I find it saddening to see just how low an area’s religious prowess has gone! Lets not beat about the bush here, Churches close because we don’t go really is that simple, the amount of time I see posts on social media from people disgusted that a church has closed down, then recalling that they had their communion in that church 50 years ago? or was married in that church 25 years ago, or their children or grandchildren were baptized their back in the day! Do people honestly think a church can remain open when the last time you visited was 50 years ago? or 25 years ago? Who pays for the church to continue running, whilst waiting for the day you might pop in again? simple fact is if we all went to church regular, churches would not close down, but sadly we don’t anymore we are simply to busy with life, to be bothered to attend, or we simply don’t believe in what the church represents to remotely consider going! I find this answer intriguing as I’ve heard it many times people say to me at funerals “Only here because it’s a funeral, I don’t believe in all this!” yet these are the same people that will go out and buy a newspaper? which is even less believable than what a church tells you, yet the same people who disregard religion buy The Sun or Express Newspapers each day, or sit and listen to the BBC news, I find it staggering.

Truth of the matter is we are all to blame for churches closing down, it is not the fault of the church itself not the minister who preaches there, the blame lies firmly with us who don’t go enough, that is the reason we see our beloved churches vanishing from our towns, disappearing from our skylines, and no longer being local focal points, in my home town of Leigh in Greater Manchester, I’ve seen three prominent churches close down XII Apostles and Our Lady of the Rosary both Catholic Churches as well as St Thomas’s a very large C of E Church, now sit empty, boarded up rotting away, no more will the sound of sermons echo around the walls, or the sound of choirs singing out loud, or the eerie moments of silence as one reflects, these buildings should not be closed, but as time moves on and our elderly sadly succumb to age, these are the last of their generations who have made churches a part of their lives, as these people sadly pass away, their seats on the pews are not being filled by anybody, thus attendances are reducing, financially crippling the church and forcing it into closure. I spoke with a C of E minister only a week or so ago locally, who openly said he fears for his churches future, as attendances are plummeting, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and obviously now the pandemic has plunged the fate of many churches even further into desperation, it is a sad reflection of the world we live in.

I asked Reverend Kevin Crinks minister at St Mary the Virgin Church (Leigh Parish) three simple questions that I was intrigued about, below are those questions and Reverend Crink’s honest answers.

What do you think the church brings to the community? The church provides a focal point for a community in times of celebration as well as sadness. We gather as a town or village and laugh, cry, mourn and sing, and above all else we pray TOGETHER.

Why is it important to attend church? Attending church is about learning, about looking outside of ourselves and seeing more clearly our interconnectedness with fellow human beings and the wider creation. We respond to the prompting of the spirit of god and make a difference to our world.

What impact do you feel closing a church has on the community? The loss of a building is the loss of memories, of rites of passage and life’s celebrations. How can we avoid this? Attend and support, don’t leave it to others to keep the roof on!

In a nutshell churches cannot survive on you having a communion there when you was a child and never going again. It won’t remain open if the only time you walk through the doors is to attend a baptism, wedding or funeral! It will end its days boarded up or demolished if you look at a churches position in the community as a given and will always manage! Simple fact is it won’t it needs us going through the doors more often, volunteer to help the many amazing things churches do for the communities, donate when you can, you’d be amazed at how far the church can stretch your donation and what good use it goes to. Don’t take you local church for granted support it where you can, get involved as often as possible, promote your local church. Our children are the generation now being tasked to save the life of the church, without active participation from our children moving forward, the church simply will not survive. Take care of yourselves Paul 10.05.2021