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Friday, 8 February 2013

An island funeral.....



Today was the funeral of John Procter of Windywalls. He and his family had lived on the island for the last 18 years, having moved up from Lancashire to farm on the island. John had been ill for some time, nursed at home by his wife, Mary. Sadly his health deteriorated at the end of January and he was air-lifted in the air ambulance to the hospital in Kirkwall where he died a few days later at the age of 71.

Family and friends had arrived from south and were staying at various homes on the island and joined the community in paying their last respects to John - Big John as he was known on the island as he was so tall and Big!

The day had started with a fairly strong wind and sleet showers, but this gave way to a bright, if cold day. The mid-morning ferry left Stromness, taking John on his last voyage home. The ferry went to Hoy and picked up a few folk from that island and then arrived at Graemsay. The men folk were at the pier to receive the coffin, and, appropriately for a farmer, the coffin was put on the back of a four-wheel drive truck to go to the service in the community hall. (Can't get a hearse onto the island).

Those of us with vehicles were at the pier to take the visiting mourners up to the hall too. Some musicians from Hoy, who are now good friends of Graemsay, came over to provide music during and after the service.  Fran Gray played a tune on the keyboard she had composed for John & Mary's Ruby wedding called, naturally, "John & Mary".  The Church of Scotland lay minister came from Stromness to conduct the service and spoke some words about John. Hymns were sung and prayers were said.  Then the cort├Ęge set off round the island, taking John past his farm and on down to the Kirkyard.

The kirkyard is on the shore and looks over to the Hoy hills, it's a beautiful, reflective place to be and a beautiful last resting spot.

I stayed in the Hall to help set out the buffet which had been prepared by folk on the island. There were pots of soup to be warmed, sandwiches, savouries and cakes to be put out, the drinks (plenty of Whisky at a Scottish funeral) to be prepared for when folk returned.

The family wanted to celebrate John's life and so there was music provided by Fran, John & Leslye Budge and young Sam, all from Hoy.  Accordion's, bodhran and keyboard together with John Budge's mellow singing voice provided a lightening of the mood, and later the family and old friends of "BigJohn" sat around for a blether (chat), with lots of tea, coffee and whisky as an accompaniment.

Then it was time to get folk gathered to return to the pier and home again, and we returned to the hall to join in with the family and old friends.  The consensus was we gave "Big John" a good send off....

10 comments:

  1. What a lovely way to celebrate John's life and tell him farewell.

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    1. Yes - I think he had a good farewell.

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  2. I like the fact that you have alcohol at funerals.

    What a lovely hospitable island you live on.

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    1. Oh yes - alcohol at funerals is mandatory in Scotland :-)

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  3. Sounds like the perfect service for "Big John."

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    1. Yes I think it was. And for his family to say farewell to him too...

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  4. Country funerals have always been good, Sian, but it sounds like island ones are something quite special.

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    1. Small communities are good at this sort of thing I always think.

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  5. That just tells it like it was Sian---you have certainly caught the atmosphere and sentiments. I think Big John would have been very pleased at his send off.

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