Wednesday 13 December 2017

'The removal in the city has almost completely disappeared' - The death of the removal as live streams bring us future of grief

Undertaker, Gus Nichols whose family business is over 200 years old, pictured outside their Lombard Street offices in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath
Undertaker, Gus Nichols whose family business is over 200 years old, pictured outside their Lombard Street offices in Dublin. Photo: Frank McGrath

Jane O'Faherty

Is this the death of the removal?

Eulogies via live stream and more non-religious ceremonies are fast replacing the traditional church funeral.

A major seminar on the modern face of death, and how we deal with it, will this week discuss the changing landscape of grief.

Gus Nichols of Fanagans Funeral Directors said the traditional removal ceremony the night before the Requiem Mass was falling away, particularly in urban areas.

Ciarán Wallace, a historian with Trinity College Dublin, has studied Irish funeral traditions over the past century and has also noticed this trend.

"Now the removal in the city has almost completely disappeared," he said.

"Last year, one undertaker said 10pc of city funerals had a removal. But in the countryside, many would continue to have removals.

"At a public talk we gave, people commented on how rare it is to have a removal now. One reason is extra cost, but it could also be down to a shortage of priests."

Mr Wallace and fellow historian Lisa Marie Griffith published 'Grave Matters: Death and Dying in Dublin, 1500 to the Present' last year.

Meanwhile funeral director Mr Nichols said he had also noted a fall-off in the number of religious funeral service, with more and more people choosing civil or humanist ceremonies.

"You could argue that it is a disaffection with the church, but there's the same fall-off with other denominations," he said.

But he also pointed out that 80pc of funerals in Ireland still took place in churches, and that time-tested traditions such as wakes hold strong.

However, there is still major change afoot - as modern technology has brought a lot to funerals in Ireland.

"You can now live stream funerals for people who are abroad and can't make it," he told the Irish Independent.

"People can also watch it on YouTube an hour later.

"We have had people with photo montages being projected during the ceremony."

Meanwhile, a "natural" graveyard in rural Co Wexford says it is the first of its kind in the country.

Colin McAteer of The Green Graveyard Company outlined how the six-acre cemetery is a meadow filled with wildflowers and trees, but does not offer headstones or concrete walls.

Mr McAteer added that graves were marked with simple wooden markers, while wildflowers were allowed to grow all around them.

He also pointed out that maintenance costs in the cemetery were very low.


"We cut the grass a couple of times a year, so it's a very sustainable manner of keeping a graveyard," he said.

After seven years on the site, Mr McAteer said interest was growing all the time.

Funeral directors, cemetery owners and academics will be sharing their thoughts on how Irish burials have changed at the 'Death, etc' event in DIT on Friday.

Hosted by the campus and funeral information site, it will also feature discussions on everything from post-mortem photography to coping with grief.

Irish Independent

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