The Queen’s Retreat

An article by Graham Duff

Last week I was retained to do a funeral ceremony and, as occasionally happens, was warned that, as there was no next of kin and no announcement was being placed in the local newspapers, in all probability there would be no one attending.

As rarely as this occurs, it is very upsetting for all involved; the funeral directors and the staff at the crematorium, as well as the Celebrant.

In this situation I, like most others, attempt to track down anyone who can offer any insight into the life of the deceased.  After a couple of phone calls, I had tracked down the Police branch who had handled the case. The deceased had been discovered at home after a concerned local had spotted a light on for an extended period. The concerned local, as was confirmed by the police, did not know the deceased.

A conversation with the police turned up the name of a neighbour. Contact details were found and I called the neighbour in question.

Firstly the neighbour confirmed he was happy to talk, but stated that as the deceased was a very private person, he wasn’t sure how much help he would be. Despite being neighbours for twenty years, there was very little person information that could be gleaned, other than the deceased’s habit of going to his local ever afternoon to play dominoes and to enjoy a quiet pint of lager.

The neighbour asked for the time of the ceremony but had to apologise saying he would be “unable to attend but that he would pass on the details to the pub”.

The date and time of the ceremony duly arrived. My Ceremony, light on personal detail but full on historical aspects of the departed, was in my folder waiting to be delivered to an empty chapel. The attendant and myself saw the hearse arrive and went to the door to greet it.

To the astonishment of all, the funeral director, the staff and myself, there were about forty or so mourners waiting to join us. True to his word, the neighbour had spoken to the landlord and the regulars, and they had decided to come and wish their Domino partner farewell. Instead of an emotionally draining and depressing ceremony, we were able to mark the deceased’s passing as we would anyone with a family and friends.

Should anyone in my hearing ever question the beneficial roll of “The Local” in some people’s lives, I now have a ready answer.

So stand up the Landlord and regulars at the Queen’s Retreat in South Queensferry, you deserve to be recognised and thank you for reaffirming my faith in the humanity of my fellow men and women.

Graham Duff