Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Denise Williams (CEM 120)

  Re: Article in Manchester Metro news on 5 January 2001.

  I am a Black British woman born of an English mother and Jamaican father. The reason I state this is because of there are two completely different ways of burial from both sides of my cultural heritage. This needs to be taken into account when deciding how burials will take place in the future.

  The traditional English funeral is a very quick event, you attend a short service and proceed to the cemetery say a few prayers and leave. The gravediggers then fill in the grave. Were as the traditional West Indian funeral hold wakes for the deceased from the day of death up until the funeral were people come to your house (whether you welcome them or not) to pay their respects.

  On the day of the funeral which is usually an extravagant event should the family buy the most expensive casket opposed to a coffin, with the thinking that no expense would be spared. A typical Black funeral fills the church with hundreds of mourners, the service is long with songs and tributes followed by viewing of the body. Mourners buy thousands of pounds worth of flowers, once at the cemetery the mourners themselves fill in the grave while onlookers sing graveside songs. Whilst the grave is being filled in a mourner goes round with a hat and does a collection for the gravediggers. Finally all the flowers are unwrapped and placed in the ground then they go to a reception where cooked food is provided.

  My point is there are cultural differences playing a major part in the changes of burial patterns as caskets take up more space than coffins and bigger plots are now being dug this has directly impacted on the layout of cemeteries to day. In 1996, I buried by mother in a grave I bought next to my boyfriends who was buried in 1989. Because I chose to buy a casket I was told I could not put her in the plot I had bought. Finally, I had to agree to a shallow grave for only two people because they were unable to put the casket any further down without the graves on either side collapsing. My mother would have preferred cremation but neither my sister nor myself wanted that. It is too detached where as you can maintain a grave and know they are there. I do hope what I have said here is of some help, as I would not like the situation to arise where there is no choice, but to cremate your loved ones.

January 2001

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