Jon Dee's passing away has got me thinking of funerals. His funeral takes place this week, and I'm sure it will be a fine one.
It's funny to think of a funeral as a fine one or a good one, but this has been important in the Welsh psyche for many, many decades. Of course, in the old days, when I was young, there was a definite format and structured style and arrangement.
Immediately, on a death, curtains were drawn in the house and, out of sympathy, in all the adjoining houses in the street. Relatives would visit with their condolences and if other family members, or friends that they were not talking to, arrived while they were there, then they went out through the back door and the new visitors would come in at the front door.
On the day of the funeral, the preacher would call at the house for the first service and if, in his oration, he had not managed to get everyone crying, or weeping or wailing, then he hadn't done his job.
Men gathered on the road outside the house and a hymn was sung before the funeral moved off. Men would walk in front of the hearse, many in bowler hats and with a strong air of mothballs about them, as the overcoats had their first trip out of the wardrobe for a couple of years, and the mourners would travel in the accompanying undertakers' car. It was always only men that attended funerals, whether it was a woman who had died or not.
At the graveside another hymn was sung and then, many mourners would return to the house for 'ham on plates' and refreshments. It was a great lifting of the spirit and a joyous lightening of the air when the curtains were, at last, opened.
One fellow I heard about from Cwmgors had a real love of funerals and he would look in the paper for details of one he might fancy. It was not unusual for him to go to three or four funerals a week. He'd often go back to the house for food as well, because the family was usually confused enough to believe he was a long forgotten cousin from 'the other side' of the family, so no-one asked close questions.
There can be confusion, because I, recently, went to the wrong post-funeral refreshments. I was on my first pint in the pub's gathering before I realised.
There can be great levity at such occasions too. I remember being at one funeral in Seven Sisters when, on the return from the cemetery, one fellow was stating that it was becoming a regular event for him. It was like having a Debenture Ticket at the Crematorium. He also said to his mate "Iorrie, you're not looking too well to me, is it really worth you taking the walk back from the cemetery now?"
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