Rites of Passage

Can you imagine attending your own funeral? The old joke is that it’s the best party you’ll never go to, but that may no longer be true.Last year, in his Channel 4 series Grayson Perry helped to create a ‘living funeral’ for Roch, a man who’d been living with Motor Neurone disease, and it was […]

Will you have a cup of tea, father?

I was a big fan of Father Ted – and not just because Father Dougal and I share a surname. A bit further down the billing but no less important to the show’s success was Mrs. Doyle, housekeeper of Craggy Island Parochial House, played by the brilliant Pauline McLynn. Her catch phrase invariably comes to my mind when someone offers […]

A Greener Way to Go

I was delighted to see this article in today’s Guardian, not least because it prompted me to visit my archives, where I found this piece I wrote about resomation for Humanitie Magazine in 2010.  When a body is buried in shallow soil, one of the principal biochemical aspects of natural decomposition is alkaline hydrolysis carried […]

Thank you, thank you

I get lots of cards and messages from families and friends after my funerals and it’s hard to know what to do with them. Even though speaking about death is become a more accepted part of contemporary life, it doesn’t feel quite right to share them on social media, or at least I haven’t yet found […]

Speaking at Funerals

I saw a story the other day that took me aback a bit. Father Joseph Anthony Toal is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell and he found himself all over the papers when an instruction he’d sent to his clergy was leaked to a journalist. He even made the Daily Telegraph. He told his priests to refuse requests […]

Joe’s Toes

There are emails you don’t want to get, and this one from Marie and Keith is one of them.  On 8th February 2014 you married myself and my husband at Dundas Castle. It was a beautiful ceremony and we were thankful we chose you to conduct it. This is a really difficult email to write […]

Grayson Perry – Rites of Passage

I’ve long been a fan of Grayson Perry. Not just of his work as a potter which is as subversive as it is beautiful, but also of his clear-eyed attempts to understand and explain the human condition. He’s a gifted communicator, whose easy directness allows him to connect with people from all cultures and walks of life, and […]

You want a physicist to speak at your funeral.

Many humanists are scientists, by inclination if not actual training, and I noticed today a new summation of what humanists believe that places emphasis on ‘science and reason’. As someone who failed physics ‘O’ Level and had a chemistry essay published in his school magazine as an example of ‘humorous writing’, you may already have […]

A Cockney Jock

I’ve conducted a number of ceremonies recently for former members of the armed forces, and I’ve been very touched to see their old comrades turn out wearing their berets and regimental ties, accompanied by a standard bearer with the colours bearing their battle honours.Peter’s funeral had all of those elements, but what made it extra […]

Willie The Wizard

Willie the Wizard, Indian Willie, One Match Willie, Oor Willie – whatever you called him, there is no doubt that Willie Taylor was an unforgettable character.  At first glance, he was a bit like a tiny,  Edinburgh version of Lemmy from Motorhead, so it seems a appropriate that his main interests in life were music and motorcycles.  I […]