Rossweisse
RIP Rossweisse, HellHost and long-time Shipmate.
Please see the thread in All Saints remembering her.

Funeral Procession

When I was ministering in a group of country towns, it was the practice that the Funeral Director and I would walk slowly in front of the hearse as it left the church. If to the cemetery, then we would walk all the way. Were the deceased prominent enough in local life, shops would close on the route and their proprietor and customers stand respectfully outside. If to the crematorium, then the Funeral Director would hop back into the hearse after a couple of hundred metres or so, and I would hoof it back to the church to disrobe. This is still the custom in many Australian country towns.
Now in a suburb of North Queensland's de facto capital, I try to bring rus to urbe by walking out of the church grounds exit driveway in front of the hearse, then at the entry driveway 100m or so away, the Funeral Director and I hop back respectively to the hearse and the church.
At my most recent funeral, of a WWII veteran, when I turned to go back to church I saw that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had been following, holding aloft a framed photo of their beloved patriarch.
Is this custom followed in other countries?

Comments

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    At my most recent funeral, of a WWII veteran, when I turned to go back to church I saw that his grandchildren and great-grandchildren had been following, holding aloft a framed photo of their beloved patriarch.

    I very much like that, especially if they had worked it out amongst themselves.

    The practice at St Sanity is that the crucifer and presiding priest lead the hearse out of the driveway and then the first hundred metres or so along the road. Just when they leave sometimes demands a bit of calculation. They don't step out in front of a bus, for example, and try to finish the little procession without holding up any traffic.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    2 other customs: before the entrance procession, the church bell is rung once for each hour of the day (for a service started at the half-hour, it's rung for the next full hour); and at the end, the bell is rung once for each year of the deceased's life.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Around us one of the funeral directors will lead the way from the church on foot, usually in tails, top hat and black cane.
    It is a very solemn look.
  • The procession is becoming a bigger thing here because of restrictions on funerals due to Covid 19. When we could be "normal" the funeral director led a procession about half way to the cemetery - which is a mile off - and then got into the hearse. Now, when only family and a few invited friends can come (max 20, Scotland), and most often the entire ceremony is at the grave, the funeral director advertises the chosen route which the hearse will take through the village - past the deceased's house, or the golf club or workplace, or what has been important. The village, which would in the past have all been in or at the church - funerals were the best way to get them in the doors - will line the route to watch the coffin pass by.

    Interestingly, possibly worryingly, there have been a few instances where the procession has been the only funeral. Where the big church funeral is no longer possible, some families have opted to have the procession as the only wordless tribute and have then buried (or cremated, which isn't so common here as it's a fair way off)without further ceremony. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the next months, when standing outside will be colder and wetter.
  • For some reason*, I don't find the lack of words too worrying - although, if it's a Christian funeral, presumably something is said at the graveside, or the committal?

    *It may be because I'm finding services in church these days so overloaded with words that I really don't want to attend anymore...
  • That’s the thing. These are funerals which would have had Christian content, because if they used the church they would also have to use the (or a) Christian celebrant. But now they are having no words at all. No content.

    However this morning I was planning with two siblings for a nice Christian funeral for their Dad, which will include a procession past the golf club for the rest of the village to pay tribute.

    Now off to take a wedding!
  • I remember reading a description of the funeral of Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891), politician, atheist, and founder of the National Secular Society.

    He was buried at Brookwood Cemetery, in a completely silent 'ceremony' - no words at all - and the dignity of this impressed itself on the assembled mourners.

    Sometimes, silence is better than sentimental or jejune words.
  • Except for New Orleans and perhaps among groups like the Amish, walking funeral processions, particularly walking ahead of or behind the hearse, are unheard of in the US, at least in my experience.

    In my part of the American South, unless the place of burial is adjacent to the church or funeral home chapel, the procession consists entirely of cars and often go for a distance of a number of miles. It’s typically led by a police car, with blue light on, followed by the hearse, then a car with the clergy, then cars with the family, then cars with others. Traditionally, all cars in the procession have their headlights on.

    Also traditionally, it’s understood that cars in the funeral procession always have right of way, regardless of stop signs or traffic lights—that’s one of the reasons for the headlights, so that others know who’s in the procession (and where it ends). And it’s customary for all other cars to pull over and stop while the procession goes by. These customs are still practiced in rural areas and small towns, but not so much in larger towns and cities.

  • ... we do it in St Louis (the car thingy). The reason for not having walking processions in the US by and large is that cemeteries are way, way too far away, and even pretending to have a walking processional would be laughable. Graveyards are either immediately adjacent the church (as in, surrounding it) or else up to ten, fifteen miles away (city planning requirements).
    I will say that I have never lived in really small-town America, and things may be different there.
  • Colma where the dead outnumber the living (living 1,500, about 1.5 million dead). It is the last stop on one of the BART lines though I don't think BART has ever been used for a funeral procession. Not sure what happens if one plays Colma in Mornington Crescent.
  • Colma where the dead outnumber the living (living 1,500, about 1.5 million dead). It is the last stop on one of the BART lines though I don't think BART has ever been used for a funeral procession. Not sure what happens if one plays Colma in Mornington Crescent.

    The dead rise and reclaim what is rightfully theirs. :neutral:
  • Does anyone remember when people in the UK anyway used to pull down the blinds or close the curtains when a death in the house was announced. ? At that time the deceased's body would usually be kept in the house until transfer to church or cemetery
  • Yes, though it's a good mumble mumble decades ago since I last saw that.

    In what were then often more settled neighbourhoods, and when people knew that X was ill, I guess it was a dignified way of letting everyone know that X had passed away.

    In some places, of course, the church bell would be tolled (one bong for every year of X's life) - see Dorothy L Sayers' The Nine Tailors for more information...

    Yes, X's corpse (suitably dressed and coffined) would often be kept in the house - for The Viewing - prior to the funeral. See H G Wells' The History of Mr Polly for more information...
  • Here the practice is still that of The Coffining, conducted at the home of the deceased, usually in the presence of the minister, where the coffin is sealed, possibly then being transferred to the church to await the funeral (no refrigeration for bodies here so funerals happen swiftly, usually within a few days).
  • Forthview wrote: »
    Does anyone remember when people in the UK anyway used to pull down the blinds or close the curtains when a death in the house was announced. ? At that time the deceased's body would usually be kept in the house until transfer to church or cemetery
    Forthview wrote: »
    Does anyone remember when people in the UK anyway used to pull down the blinds or close the curtains when a death in the house was announced. ? At that time the deceased's body would usually be kept in the house until transfer to church or cemetery

    Yes. I last saw it when living at home in the late 1960's. As neighbours to the deceased the curtains in windows facing his home were closed on the day of the funeral marking respect.
  • @Arethosemyfeet - does The Viewing still take place prior to The Coffining?

    Given, as you say, the need to avoid delay, I would assume that The Viewing would take up only one or two days...

    TBH, it all sounds very civilised and dignified. No hiding from the fact of our common mortality!
  • Yes, though it's a good mumble mumble decades ago since I last saw that.

    In what were then often more settled neighbourhoods, and when people knew that X was ill, I guess it was a dignified way of letting everyone know that X had passed away.

    In some places, of course, the church bell would be tolled (one bong for every year of X's life) - see Dorothy L Sayers' The Nine Tailors for more information...

    Yes, X's corpse (suitably dressed and coffined) would often be kept in the house - for The Viewing - prior to the funeral. See H G Wells' The History of Mr Polly for more information...

    My Grandfather tolled the bell on such occasions. The last was in April 1967. He had been specifically asked by the person to do it - indeed he was summoned to the sick bed for the conversation.

    It was the custom to toll the tenor bell for a man, the 4th bell for a woman and the treble for a child. Both dad and granddad worked for the churchwarden - a farmer - and were given the time to do this. Dad used to sit in the belfry with a rope on the clapper ringing every 30 secs watching the progress of the funeral down to the cemetery 15 mins walk away: grandad was usually a coffin bearer.
  • I repeat - very civilised and dignified. Words are, as I have already remarked, often superfluous.

  • In the wake of the Scottish Reformation there were no religious services in Scotland on the occasions of funerals. The 'chesting' or 'coffining' ,,as Arethosemyfeet says,was an important ceremony when refreshments would be served to those who came. I can't remember the special name for the refreshments, but it came from the word 'dirge' from' dirige me,Domine' in the preReformation service for the dead. /Gradually the minister would come along and say a prayer of blessing over the refreshments and by the early to mid 1800s the minister would accompany the body to the cemetery and say some prayers for the mourners,exhorting them to lead a better life.
  • As a child (in England, in the Home Counties) during the late 1950s/early 1960s, I was sent out by my mother to see if anyone else in the street had closed their curtains on the day of a neighbour's funeral. I assume that those were the days when the custom was on the wane, since she felt the need to check.
    Today, if the hearse brings the deceased to their home on the way to the funeral, the undertaker will walk in front to the end of the street. Other traffic does normally give way. (I do not know what happens from the Church to the cemetery. I do remember a shaken whisper from my daughter "Are they going to walk the whole way?" the first time she saw a procession led by someone on foot.)
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    In very secular, post-Christendom kiwiland the bell-tolling (in fact any bell-tolling, funereal or not) often generates tsunamis of complaint. My former cathedral practised it, and if a centenarian (or near-to) was farewelled the phones were likely to ring hot with "shut that fornicating bell up" type anonymous calls.

    OTOH religious funerals are few and far between here.
  • john holdingjohn holding Ecclesiantics Host, Mystery Worshipper Host
    Nick Tamen wrote: »

    In my part of the American South, unless the place of burial is adjacent to the church or funeral home chapel, the procession consists entirely of cars and often go for a distance of a number of miles. It’s typically led by a police car, with blue light on, followed by the hearse, then a car with the clergy, then cars with the family, then cars with others. Traditionally, all cars in the procession have their headlights on.

    Also traditionally, it’s understood that cars in the funeral procession always have right of way, regardless of stop signs or traffic lights—that’s one of the reasons for the headlights, so that others know who’s in the procession (and where it ends). And it’s customary for all other cars to pull over and stop while the procession goes by. These customs are still practiced in rural areas and small towns, but not so much in larger towns and cities.

    I'm past 70, and when I was a child, I'd heard of these sorts of things in small towns in rural Canada. But it's been many decades since anything of the sort has come into my view, partly I suppose because I have always lived in cities, where such customs really don't fit. Police certainly don't get involved with private functions in this way, four or six lane roads don't lend themselves to pulling over, and almost every car built in the last 15 years must have its headlights on at all times, day and night.
  • Funny. Police do it here, not because it is private but because the custom impacts public movement, and the population has decided that the custom is worth the inconvenience. To be sure, such processions rarely get onto the freeways--they take surface streets whenever possible. But that's a sensible move when you don't want to lose 50% of the procession due to needing to merge.
  • As I recall, no bell was rung or curtains drawn when my father died, but we didn't need to announce his death to any neighbbours, because simply seeing my mother, my sister and myself in church together the next morning (which was Christmas Day), meant that not one of the three of us who had been taking turns to sit with him needed to do so any more.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Zappa wrote: »
    In very secular, post-Christendom kiwiland the bell-tolling (in fact any bell-tolling, funereal or not) often generates tsunamis of complaint. My former cathedral practised it, and if a centenarian (or near-to) was farewelled the phones were likely to ring hot with "shut that fornicating bell up" type anonymous calls.

    OTOH religious funerals are few and far between here.

    I set out out St Sanity's bell-ringing customs, and there have been no complaints from neighbours. Perhaps that's because religious funerals here are as rare as you set out. I don't have any statistics, but most services these days are held at the (combined) cemetery/crematorium, and most of those are non-religious. 80% of weddings are non-religious and I'd not be surprised if the percentage is not higher for funerals.
  • I'm 56, and I remember the funerals of my childhood in my small, remotish town having a police escort. The two cemeteries were a couple kilometres away in opposite directions, so there was no foot procession. I haven't seen a procession there in years. (I have a contact at a local funeral home - I'll ask her.) There is a trend to no observance whatsoever (well before Covid restrictions), beyond an obituary in the local newspaper. In my father's case (he was a rock ribbed atheist) I hosted an afternoon reception at the local Royal Canadian Legion Hall. I can't say that I like it.
  • I am over 80 and I remember when funeral wreaths with a black bow were placed on the door of the house when someone had died. This was in Washington D.C. USA. I also as many of you may remember Jackie Kennedy walking behind her husband's casket.
  • ... we do it in St Louis (the car thingy). The reason for not having walking processions in the US by and large is that cemeteries are way, way too far away, and even pretending to have a walking processional would be laughable. Graveyards are either immediately adjacent the church (as in, surrounding it) or else up to ten, fifteen miles away (city planning requirements).
    I will say that I have never lived in really small-town America, and things may be different there.
    It’s similar in small-town America, except that the cemetery will be closer than 10 or 15 miles.


    I am over 80 and I remember when funeral wreaths with a black bow were placed on the door of the house when someone had died. This was in Washington D.C. USA.
    In my part of the American South, it was traditionally a spray of white flowers—lilies and others—hung on or near the door. I still see it sometimes.

  • Forthview wrote: »
    Does anyone remember when people in the UK anyway used to pull down the blinds or close the curtains when a death in the house was announced. ? At that time the deceased's body would usually be kept in the house until transfer to church or cemetery
    Forthview wrote: »
    Does anyone remember when people in the UK anyway used to pull down the blinds or close the curtains when a death in the house was announced. ? At that time the deceased's body would usually be kept in the house until transfer to church or cemetery

    Yes. I last saw it when living at home in the late 1960's. As neighbours to the deceased the curtains in windows facing his home were closed on the day of the funeral marking respect.

    In my student days in Ireland in the 1970s, this was the standard practice-- I recall when a local carpenter died, and the neighbours stood outside as his coffin was taken away-- at the time this was exceptional, as this was the only Protestant family on the street. Through the wonders of Whatsapp I spoke with a recently retired GP friend (a sign of may age is that my friends from the professions who in times gone by ran afoul of the Guards during the Great Dartmouth Square Bicycle Streak, are now retired) who confirmed that the practice of drawn curtains will still be found in rural areas or in the older parts of Dublin, but only most rarely in the newer suburbs.

    In the windswept frozen wastes of the Ottawa Valley, funeral processions have been vehicular time out of mind, but the funeral directors have little flags inscribed with "Funeral" so that the cars might pass through all but major intersections. At major intersections, the procession breaks to admit the passage of cars, and the forward parts of the procession halt or travel very slowly until the rest follow up. In a small Valley town (Pembroke), I have seen a municipal police car with the procession, but that is the only time I have noticed this. This might be as most smaller centres contract their policing to the provincial force.
  • AmosAmos Shipmate
    We still toll the bell here (9 strokes for a man, 7 for a woman, 5 for a child, plus the age), and the funeral director and I lead the procession to the cemetery on foot. Sometimes the family follow on foot. During the months since lockdown, the funeral directors have taken to driving the hearse around the village before the service so people can stand outside and pay their respects. At a recent funeral here, the family had hired a jazz band to pitch up at the War Memorial and play for the people standing outside and the cortege going past. There were about 250 people socially distanced on the pavements around the village for that one.
  • cgichardcgichard Shipmate
    What did the band play @Amos? Let me guess: did it include "When the saints go marching . . ."?
  • RuthRuth Admin Emeritus
    The procession of cars from the church to the cemetery, led by local police, was standard in the small city I grew up in and in the small towny grandparents lived in. It's been a while since I last saw one here in the big city, and the practice may be dying out, partly because of the difficulties of doing it in city traffic and partly because of the decline in traditions in general. But when the former mayor's husband died, the funeral was at the church I work for, and you can bet there was a procession. The minister rode with the widow.

    He told me that the cemetery officials tried to get the widow to leave after the graveside committal, but she refused to go, and while normally they would have insisted, for this very popular former mayor they made an exception. He said she stood watching while the casket was lowered and the grave entirely filled in, and she didn't leave until the workers were finished.
  • cgichard wrote: »
    What did the band play @Amos? Let me guess: did it include "When the saints go marching . . ."?

    I thought the *traditional* tunes (perhaps in New Orleans?) were Just a closer walk with Thee on the way to the grave, and When the saints go marching in on the way back!
    :wink:

  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    cgichard wrote: »
    What did the band play @Amos? Let me guess: did it include "When the saints go marching . . ."?

    I thought the *traditional* tunes (perhaps in New Orleans?) were Just a closer walk with Thee on the way to the grave, and When the saints go marching in on the way back!
    :wink:

    I wonder what these excellent people charge?
    https://youtube.com/watch?v=oThwrtMaH9c
  • Bishops FingerBishops Finger Shipmate
    edited October 2
    :lol:

    Seeing the link, I straightaway thought of Tuba Skinny, and yes, there they are!
    :grin:

    Dunno if they do marching - they mostly seem to sit out in the street...
    :wink:
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    :lol:

    Seeing the link, I straightaway thought of Tuba Skinny, and yes, there they are!
    :grin:

    Dunno if they do marching - they mostly seem to sit out in the street...
    :wink:

    Put them on a float in front of the hearse. Have only recently discovered them. Superb musicians.
  • AmosAmos Shipmate
    cgichard wrote: »
    What did the band play @Amos? Let me guess: did it include "When the saints go marching . . ."?

    It did indeed.

  • I have seen several very solemn funeral processions in a small Welsh town, led by a lady dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a staff. On the one hand, it looks very respectful and dignified. On the other hand, it does rather look like a remake of The (original) Avengers. Quite a contrast to the low key funeral of my Welsh Grandmother back in the day, where the funeral was conducted in the front room by the Methodist minister.
  • Chorister wrote: »
    I have seen several very solemn funeral processions in a small Welsh town, led by a lady dressed in top hat and tails, carrying a staff. On the one hand, it looks very respectful and dignified. On the other hand, it does rather look like a remake of The (original) Avengers. Quite a contrast to the low key funeral of my Welsh Grandmother back in the day, where the funeral was conducted in the front room by the Methodist minister.

    Yeah it looks rather posed unless done with exceeding dignity. It's not an opportunity for showing off
  • KayAreCeeKayAreCee Shipmate Posts: 10
    At least in some parts of the United States, the automotive funeral procession having right-of-way over stop signals isn't just custom, but actually enshrined in the traffic laws of the various states. I've been a part of funeral processions, either as clergy and/or as mourner, in Iowa and Pennsylvania, and I just checked both states' vehicle codes; in both states, funeral processions don't have to stop for signals. In Iowa, but not in Pennsylvania, cross traffic has to stop for a funeral procession. (I've seen funeral processions both with and without police escort to help maintain a cohesive procession; in one town, the police would escort the funeral to the edge of town and then let them make their way to the cemeteries in the countryside on their own).

    I'd suspect that most of the other states in America have similar laws, though whether or not they're always enforced can vary.
  • ZappaZappa Ecclesiantics Host
    A funeral procession in NZ is likely to be honked and have the finger flipped at it :cry: … though Jacinda is doing her best to make us a kind nation there are one or two aspects on which we fall far behind
  • edited October 20
    (Talking of dignified processions - I thought yous might enjoy an anecdote from a friend at work in his mid 70s who came back to engineering after 'retiring' and taking a number of other PT jobs, including assisting at an undertakers.

    He had to help a colleague collect a body, in a coffin (as the family chose) from the 7th floor of a tower block. One of the lifts was out, but they got the box to the flat and installed the occupant with due dignity. Then they realised they would have to stand him in the corner of the (one remaining working) lift, as the doors would not close with him horizontal on the bier. They pressed the button - and the lift went up, as it had been called from above. They had to put on a dead straight face, stand in front of the deceased propped in the corner, and eyeball those who were waiting above as the doors opened, in silence. Then the lift went down - and stopped again, and again, and again, as anyone needing a lift, was relying on that one only. It sounded like quite a journey :smile: ).





  • AmosAmos Shipmate
    If the local custom is for the funeral director to wear formal clothes and walk ahead of the hearse, it shouldn't make any difference if the funeral director is male or female. Female undertakers have had to adopt costume like that of their male colleagues because the clothes etiquette prescribes for women when men are wearing top hats, tailcoats, and striped trousers are impractical for any sort of work.
  • Indeed. When our local undertakers first began to employ a woman, she was issued with the more feminine form of formal dress - skirt and high heels! After seeing her sink into the turf at the cemetery I suggested to the boss that he re-think that policy. She is now trousered with flats, and looks great.
  • Alan29Alan29 Shipmate
    Cathscats wrote: »
    Indeed. When our local undertakers first began to employ a woman, she was issued with the more feminine form of formal dress - skirt and high heels! After seeing her sink into the turf at the cemetery I suggested to the boss that he re-think that policy. She is now trousered with flats, and looks great.

    Our lady undertaker leads the procession in a black 3/4 length skirt, frock coat, top hat and black walking cane. While it looks very stylish it does strike me as being somewhat saucy - must be the cane. I half expect her to turn to someone and say "Come here. Who's been a very naught boy, then."
  • Female funeral directors I've known have also had a modified formal uniform of knee-length skirt, a kind of frock coat with short rounded tails, more of a neat bowler, than a top hat, and flat shoes. Sometimes trousers instead of black and white checked skirt. Very neat and unexceptionable. Demeanour and professionalism is what carries it off! Some undertakers have a number of 'looks' depending on the family's preferences. Maybe lounge suits rather than black formal eg.

    I notice that where I am currently in Scotland there's still a tradition of a walk (usually quite short) in front of the hearse by the undertaker, maybe to the entrance of the crem building. Or away from the church for a short distance after the service on the way to the committal, when the coffin has been loaded into the hearse. In Ireland it was expected that the clergy would also walk with the director. But not here I think. In Ireland (maybe more in rural parts?) the walk could be considerable, through a whole village, or down most of the main street. Drivers knew what the score was, and bystanders would sign the cross, stop on the footpath and wait for the hearse to pass etc. But in such places there'd often be a large crowd of mourners behind the cortege.

    In Scotland of course there is often a piper leading the hearse, too!
  • Piper, funeral director and minister all Merced’s in my part of Highland Scotland. We usually go down from the church onto the mains
    Street and a bit a.kng, and then after a while the piper gets into his strategically left car and we get into the hearse (before the new situation which means I can’t ride in hearses) and off to the memetery where the procession re-forms and then, while I do my bit at the grave the piper quietly climbs the nearby hill to do a lovely distant lament when it is over.

    This week I took the funeral for a distinguished player of shinty, the Highland sport, and the real religion in this village. After the first procession we went to the shinty ground, where players past and present, wearing their ceremonial sweaters (not their strip) made two lines, 2metres apart. Each held a ceremonial shinty club, of black wood, and they made a guard of honour with them while the hearse drove through the ranks, across the pitch where the deceased had so often lead his team to victory. With the autumnal hills behind it was beautiful and very moving. Then 20 permitted for a funeral and I then went on the the cemetery to finish as usual.
    In the old normal such a player would have had the “shinty boys” of all ages in their blue sweaters attend the service in a body and make a guard of honour at the gate of the cemetery.
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