Wednesday 18 September 2019

From eco-friendly coffins to burying rockstars - a glimpse inside life at one of Ireland's leading funeral directors

Alan Fanagan, Director, Jody Fanagan, Managing Director and David Fanagan, Director. Picture Jason Clarke
Alan Fanagan, Director, Jody Fanagan, Managing Director and David Fanagan, Director. Picture Jason Clarke
Sorcha O'Connor

Sorcha O'Connor

THERE is now 35pc of families choosing to cremate their deceased loved ones, according to a leading Dublin funeral director.

Fanagans Funeral Directors have been in the business of burials for 200 years now and have seen some stark differences emerge over the centuries – and particularly in the last 15 years. 

There has been an increase in the use of biodegradable or eco-friendly coffins too, while many families are opting for non-denominational and humanist services rather than traditional religious ceremonies. 

The majority of funerals are now taking place on the one day, with families choosing to gather in their home or a funeral home the evening prior to the funeral as opposed to a formal removal service. 

Now the changing face of Irish funerals will be documented in a book about the funeral directors’ 200-year history.

They have directed the funerals of a wide-range of leading figures in Irish society, from former Taoisigh to rock stars like Thin Lizzy’s Phil Lynott in 1986.

The funerals of Sean Lemass, President Erskine Childers, Lord Louis Mountbatten, Sean McBride, Dr Gareth FitzGerald and Albert Reynolds were also arranged by Fanagans. 

The book Fanagans of Dublin – a 200-Year History will be launched in City Hall tonight. 

The venue holds significance to the family as William Fanagan, great grandfather of current Managing Director, Jody Fanagan, was a city councillor between 1881 and his death in 1905. 

The Dublin funeral of Charles Stewart Parnell was arranged by Councillor Fanagan and the body was received by the city councillors at City Hall before his burial at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Written by Charlie McCarthy, Alan Fanagan and John Fanagan, the book charts the evolution of funerals for the last 200 years. 

Broadcaster and historian John Bowman will be a guest speaker. He believes the book is an important tool for prompting further research into how the Irish bury their dead now and in the past. 

“The Irish in the nineteenth century had an obsessive preoccupation with death which was often noted by contemporary travellers: but the rituals associated with death have been relatively neglected by Irish historians since,” he said. 

“The Fanagan story is a micro study of one family business. But the Fanagan archive is likely to prompt further historical research on the Irish way of death. How did funerals in Dublin differ from those in rural Ireland? What was the impact of class? And of religion? And why was the opening of Glasnevin Cemetery such a transforming moment in Dublin’s history?”

Meanwhile, managing director Jody Fanagan said it was a proud moment for the family:

“Personally, it is a fantastic honour for the current fifth and sixth generations of the company as we celebrate this milestone with the launch of our book Fanagans of Dublin – a 200-Year History,” she said. 

“Our family ethos, which has been passed down through the generations, is to provide an exceptional service to every client family in the most professional and dignified manner. Our mission is to pass this legacy on to future generations of the family.” 

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