Friday 29 March 2013

Looking So Sharp?

One for my non-Irish readers but one which has amazed me since I have been 'over here' - Funerals are MASSIVE. When a funeral takes place, at least in the rural areas EVERYBODY goes - the whole village and for miles around. Everybody who is even remotely connected to the departed. It is just part of the culture. It is what you do, what is expected and how you have to show suitable respect to all those in your local area. In my 55 years so far I have probably been to no more than half a dozen funerals. John Deere Bob, our near neighbour has probably been to around 3 or 4 a month for as long as we have lived here and presumably for most of his life. Driving through the local towns and villages I am amazed at how often we come upon an obviously BIG funeral - scores of parked cars lining the streets around the church or cemetery and every church with a huge car park, maybe 40-50 spaces or so. There are whole websites for death notices and all the papers and local radio stations do big sections on funeral details.

With tongue in cheek, when I moved here Liz passed me a superbly amusing book, "How to be Irish (uncovering the curiosities of Irish behaviour)" by David Slattery ( Orpen Press, ISBN 978-1-871305-24-1, pub 2011). This very funny book gives lovely insights into what makes the Irish tick and has a long and detailed chapter on the etiquette around funerals. It covers the important stages of the process. First the corpse is 'laid out' and 'reposes' either at the house or in the funeral home. Second is the 'removal to the church' where the coffin is processed from funeral home to church. The next day will be the funeral service and burial (or cremation, but normally burial in rural parts; the nearest crematorium may be as far away as Dublin). David Slattery also divides the funeral 'guests' into levels of importance a bit like celebrities, the Immediate family being 'A-list mourners', wider family and close friends being 'B-list' and so on down to 'D-listers'. Today and tomorrow we are definitely D-list mourners.

Half a dozen doors down the lane lived a gent named James Harrinton, 100 years old when we moved in and 101 this year, living with retired nurse daughter whom we guess will be in her 70's. James (Jim) passed away on Wednesday evening and when JD Bob phoned us to tell us we took that as a heavy hint that our attendance might be expected. We have never met the chap, so we'd be D-listers but knew we had to be there.

The 'repose' and removal were this evening down in the local village of Loughglynn so we ate fairly early and then scrubbed up and headed out. I still have an old dark business suit which almost fits, plenty of shirts, a black tie and shiny shoes. Liz has a nice black Jaeger two-piece, dark tights and black shoes, plus the vintage mink coat.

We arrived to find a huge queue waiting to go through the funeral home - there are two doors and you shuffle through the rooms and corridors, pay your respects to the departed (open coffin) and then pass along a line of seated relatives (15-20) shaking hands and mumbling 'Sorry for your trouble' to each. Then you shuffle out past the book where you write name and townland. On any other day than Good Friday, Liz tells me you adjourn to the pub to await the 'removal' at (in this case) 20:30 pm. Pubs are shut here on Good Friday though and there is a bitter NE wind blowing up the main street so the consensus seemed to be that you can hop back into your car and drive home, possibly returning for the removal or maybe waiting for tomorrow and the service and burial.

So that was that, for now. As I said, a lot of this is about respect between village folk, so we were pleased that we had a chance to sign an on-line condolences list, and to sign the real book at the Home, plus that we were seen by Mike the Cows and then, on the way home, by Tony who keeps the local shop/post office. Tony was amazed and delighted with us, saying to Liz that I "shine up well" and saying to Liz that he "had never seen her looking so sharp". Tony (and his wife and post office lady, Anne) have only ever seen us dressed in farm grunge. Finally, I wondered whether anyone would have thought to tell Vendor Anna so I texted her and she thanked me for the news. She went to school with "all of Mr Harrinton's children" and will be coming to the funeral tomorrow.

So, there you are. Our initiation into a great piece of Irish culture.



Mr Silverwood said...

They are a little different and take a little getting used to, took me a while, but they do take their funerals seriously over here.

mazylou said...

And the funeral teas are good. Also, we don't hang around, do we?