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councils hold ashes

Are councils refusing to hand over ashes in the cases of ‘pauper funerals’?

Right, a controversial subject. Let’s us attempt to set out the stall in a nonpartisan fashion. A Pauper Funeral is an old-fashioned/emotive term for funerals where the local authority are required to step in as the family are either unwilling or unable to pay for the funeral. Technically these are known as public health funerals in England and Wales and as national assistance funerals in Scotland.

Why have they been in the news? An article in the Sunday Times (Councils refuse to hand over ashes to families after pauper funerals). A reporter posed as a family member wishing to have the ashes of a relative returned after a ‘pauper funeral’. The Authority in question was Glasgow. The article lead with “Town halls are accused of callously trying to deter the poor from seeking financial help when loved ones die” and “Councils are refusing to give poverty-stricken families their loved ones’ ashes in an apparent ploy to reduce demand for paupers’ funerals, it can be revealed.”

“In a recorded conversation, an official told a woman posing as a representative of a dead man’s sister: “It’s us having to pay for it, so, as I say, she will not get his ashes back.”

Asked if the sister could scatter her brother’s ashes at a special location, our reporter was told: “I’m afraid not. No.”

The official stated the policy three times, explaining that families had no right to the ashes because the state was paying and they would be disposed of in the council-owned crematorium garden.”

Add a bit more of: how your hard-earned cash is being used to subsidise such things and you have created an argument.

However, this is not the whole story. Why do journalists do this: report what they think will cause outrage at the start of an article then report the whole truth towards the end?

When they pursued it, the council said they didn’t have such a policy and they would educate the team responsible to make this clear.

Glasgow city council said it was legally responsible for “the remains of the deceased” and sometimes a number of people tried to claim the ashes “with no reliable or legal way of determining who should take precedence”.

“However, where this is clear, we can and do pass remains into the care of family members.” It added: “The council is currently creating a fund to support families struggling with funeral costs.”

I suppose Over Officious and Insensitive Crematorium Officer Gets Policy Wrong is hardly article worthy. I am not saying that the council are shining lights of virtue, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some that use tactics to shame families into paying, particularly if they believe a family was using this route, even though they had an ability to pay.

Why was the Times investigating? These funerals have been on rise in recent years. Research by the Citizens Advice Bureau in Stirling shows that 82% of paupers’ funerals in Scotland involve families who are unable, or sometimes unwilling, to pay, up from 44% a decade ago.

Why are they on the rise? Their use has risen in recent years in response to the growing cost of funerals and the declining value of government aid to the bereaved. The Department for Work and Pensions has capped “social fund” extra expenses for funerals at £700 since 2003. The scheme pays towards coffins, flowers and funeral directors’ fees, but eligibility rules are strict and those in work are often excluded. Since 2003 the average cost of a funeral has risen from £1,920 to £4,078.

Couple for things:  Stirling is not a huge are to sample, but I agree they are on the rise. The reasoning for this is perhaps more complex than the capping, but I would imagine it has a lot to with it. Also, average funeral cost isn’t referenced and the price they have used is a bit naughty – that is the average if you bury, we are not talking about burial here we are talking about cremation which is around £3,200.

The article did contain an interesting table on what local authorities spent on these funerals:

If you had the time you could level this out against prosperity and population to give a more reasoned picture. What the article did point out was fascinating was the variation in cost between some of the authorities.

Research by the insurer Royal London shows that although some councils spend generously on paupers’ funerals — Birmingham tops the list, paying out an average of £1,847 on 376 occasions in 2015-16 — others keep the annual cost to three figures. Tamworth borough council managed to spend just £200 on one funeral. Broxbourne, Warrington, Chorley, East Staffordshire, Eastleigh and South Lakeland also spent under £1,000.

Why are there such variations? Good question, looking at the numbers you might expect the opposite: that those with the greatest cost would have the lowest unit cost. However that is clearly not the case. Tamworth’s cost were nine times less than Birmingham’s, now please excuse me while I dip into the land of supposition. Birmingham’s issue is much greater than most, so they needed a simpler solution: outsource. By getting a set price from a large funeral director for a direct cremation and use your purchasing power to get the price down – £1,847 looks suspiciously like the cost of direct cremation with a bit knocked off. Where Tamworth with just the one, with access to their own crematoria will just be paying for essentials like the coffin. It does beg the question why Birmingham CC don’t have an inhouse funeral directors, looks like they could save a lot of money – but I’m sure there are good reasons.

But how big an issue is it? Not that much in the scheme of things: Local authorities spent £4m on this, there were just over ½ million deaths in last year and 4000 authority funerals – equating to 0.8% of all funerals compared to around 8% of the population that are defined as being in “persistent income poverty”. So even 90% of extremely poor families are managing somehow.

One must also remember that austerity has meant councils needing to maximise income streams, therefore a dramatic increase in revenue from one of their cash cows – crematoria fees. Which is one of the main reasons for the increase in funeral costs recently.

So the article lead to the general array of comments which fall into three broad categories:  the uncaring / tough love brigade: ‘Come on! everyone can pull that sort of cash together’ or ‘Everyone dies they should have thought and saved for it, why should those that hard work pay’; the compassionates – ‘they must be desperate to use this option don’t make their lives any worse’ ; And the plain ignorant ‘All bodies get burnt together’

So there you have it, nothing hugely suprising.






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Cremation trends in south korea

South Korea has adopted cremation in a big way

In the 1994 20.5% of South Koreans chose cremation, this figure has shot up to 86% last year. A massive change in less than a generation.

I have never known any county’s funeral practises to change as radically as quickly, in the UK the same change took three times as long a an we are still not at 86%

This massive shift was reported in the Korea Herald and was based on a Korean the Ministry of Health and Welfare report.

The rational from the report was: “Many find it too troublesome to maintain grave sites, which require regularly cutting weeds and grass,”

“On top of people becoming more practical, there are environmental concerns as well. We live in a small country and there isn’t enough land for burial sites.”

Interesting the report also showed that more Koreans are also interested in eco-friendly ways to bury cremated ashes.

“I would like to choose to go back to nature after death, in the most genuine way possible,” said Jang Ha Yeon, a 27-year-old office worker in Seoul.

“Having a grave site for myself feels like being a burden to mother nature. I hope to be cremated for sure. I’m not sure how I would like my ashes to be treated yet. But the idea of ‘Bios Urn’ sounds nice.”

In response to this and the growing number of predicted deaths the Korean government is set to increase the number of crematoria and number on eco-friendly sites at which to bury them.

This all seems too quick to me, the rise in cremations that is. Funeral practises for any country tend to be follow a slow trajectory of change. Beliefs and traditions are established over generations and it takes generations to change them so why is Korea different?

Here I think is possibly one reason – Religion. I had a look at the religious make up of Korea and I found something that surprised me. Over half the population (56%- 2015 national census) identify themselves as having no formal affiliation with a religion. With remaining population made up mainly from the following the groups Protestantism (19.7%), Buddhism (15.5%), and Catholicism (7.9%).

Is it the lack of religious doctrine that has enable a population to radically and quickly change their funeral practise, more than their desire to be free of grave maintenance? Well I think it could well account for the rate of change if not the catalyst.

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Training course

Training Course: Scattering or Interring of Cremated Remains

Training Course: Scattering or Interring of Cremated Remains

Training Course. There is a growing trend for funerals to focus on the ashes element of the ceremony which is a very positive development. However, often those doing the scattering will have received little or no formal training. A small investment in staff training will have two major benefits, it will increase personal development for every trainee, and will provide a better customer service for your families.

Scattering Ashes has teamed up with Civil Ceremonies Ltd , the market leaders in ceremonies in the UK, to offer the first nationwide accredited training course on scattering or interring of ashes.

The course aims to enable cremation staff to create and deliver a personal ceremony for families who are scattering or interring cremated remains.

The course will include:

  • How to interview a bereaved family to obtain the information required to create a ceremony.
  • Creation of an appropriate and bespoke ceremony for mourners that encourages appropriate participation and the use of poetry and verse,
  • How to organise the mourners,
  • How to strew and scatter the ashes in a dignified and culturally appropriate way,
  • How to deliver an ashes ceremony and support mourners.

Participants who successfully complete the one day course will be awarded with a level one course credit value 1 from the issuing body ONE Awards. This is a government approved training scheme which provides access to HE diplomas.

Who should attend?
This course is designed for persons and organisations who are looking to deliver a more professional service around the scattering or interning of ashes, and for organisations interested in staff development.

Size: Small groups up to a maximum of 10 attendees

Duration: full day

Course Location

Devon: The course is delivered here in Devon in a beautiful location on the edge of Dartmoor. We can also provide good value accommodation and excellent locally sourced meals for a small additional sum tailored specifically to your needs and dietary requirements. We can provide meals & accommodation, from a simple lunch to an overnight stay with Bistro dining experience. Please contact us for the full range of options.
Cost: £185pp*

On site: We are very happy to come to your premises and deliver training directly to your staff on site using your specific location and premises. We require a minimum of 6 people per course.
Cost: £185pp*

* cost includes all course materials, certification & handbook.

To discuss or make further enquiries please email or call 01392 581012

For more details please use the contact for below

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cremation law

Changes to Cremation Regulations in England and Wales will impact ashes

Amendments to the cremation regulations are on their way they come into force on the 6th April 2018. They apply to cremations within England and Wales.

How have they changed and what will it mean, there have been two big changes:

  • There will be a new application forms which will include a section where the applicant (this is the person arranging the funeral) can state what they want done with the ashes after the cremation. You will be able to change your mind but this will need to be in writing.
  • There is one brave but necessary change that they have introduced. Previously there had been a tiny number of extremely distressing cases where the applicant had been an abusers or even a murder and these people stopped the ashes being taken by relatives who were the victims, causing even greater stress and sadness. Specifically this relates to where they have been imprisoned for causing the death of the deceased or have been convicted of violence against a spouse where the cremation was of their child. So the law now allows for the crematoria to give the ashes to someone other the applicant in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Now this is the right thing to do but is likely to cause the crematoria a huge amount of issues and open the door to litigation, nevertheless – well done policy makers. I will keep you posted if guidance becomes available.

Also worth noting:

  • You will be able to ‘sign electronically’ rather than a paper copy
  • There will be bilingual Welsh forms – newyddion gwych i siaradwyr Cymraeg
  • If your cremation has been organised before the 6th but carried after you don’t need to reapply

The Cremation (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2017 were laid in Parliament on 19th December and will come into force on 6th April 2018.


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survey ashes kept

Regional variations in our relationship with ashes

By and large us Brits are of a mind when it comes to cremation and the scattering of ashes – across age, political persuasion, gender and locality we are broadly similar in outlook. With one notable exception – The older we get the more we would prefer to be cremated.

However, the recent YouGov survey on attitudes towards death, cremation and scattering ashes threw up a few interesting titbits. Now as this article is not super serious I am going to play with the statics a bit,  in the same way that our delightful tabloid press tends to do, so the following can be gleaned from the data…

  • A UKIP supporter is five and a half times more likely to want their as to be kept compared to Lib-Dem.
  • Women are almost twice as likely as men to want to have their ashes kept.
  • Those that didn’t vote in Brexit referendum are 50% more indecisive about being kept or scatter compared to those that did vote.
  • Scots are the most likely to wish to be buried, however if they are cremated they are the most likely to want to be scattered (as opposed to kept).
  • Londoners are the most likely people in the country to want to be kept.
  • Londoners are ten times more likely to want their ashes to be kept than Scots.

So, there you go, who knew ah? well I did and now you do.

With a lot of the above you are dealing with small percentages so small differences can attract big labels, but I think the variation between Londoners and Scots in terms of who wants their ashes scattered is the most interesting. I think the reason could be twofold – Scots and Londoners very much see themselves as part of their landscape and London is concrete and crowded, whereas Scotland is a lot of wilderness and space (well mostly). Perhaps this is my imagination running away with me, but it makes sense in my head…

Anyway to see a breakdown of the figures go to:


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Scattering Ashes Service

Scattering Ashes Service across the UK and overseas

Scattering Ashes Service

Scattering Ashes Service across the UK and overseas. Are you looking for your loved one’s ashes to be scattering at a particular destination within the UK or overseas but are unable to do this yourself? We can help.

Many of us will have a place in mind that we want our ashes to be scattered over after we have gone. This can sometimes be difficult for family or friends to co-ordinate, especially if they are overseas. Do you need permission? How do you arrange the transportation of the ashes? Can you take the time away from work or home to scatter the ashes in the chosen location? It can be very difficult and we can help arrange this for you.

Your loved one’s ashes will be treated with the greatest of respect at all times. You will receive a picture of the ashes scattering service along with a certificate with the exact location so that you or future generations can visit at a later date. The certificate is included in the price, you can add a other ceremony items such as petals or seedballs for a small additional price. We can even arrange to have them scattering on water, for our boat service see this link.

Each Scattering Ashes Service request will be assessed on an individual basis and the price will be dependent upon the location (distance and travelling costs) and any permission factors.

If you would like a quote please fill in the form below and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

Your Name (required)

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*Please note we will always try our very best to fulfil requests however some locations are unavailable due to legal reasons, for general guidance see our advice page on permissions.

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time crematoria

Did you feel you had long enough for your ceremony at the crematorium?

We asked the public whether they had long enough for their ceremony at the crematorium for their service?

Yes the length of time was right – 56.25%

Just a about enough time              – 16.25%

It was slightly rushed                      – 8.75%

It was far too short                           – 5.00%


This was the comments that that left:

  • My funeral director advised to book a triple slot as that worked out perfectly for the double funeral of both my parents. Coychurch Crematorium gave us the last 3 slots of the afternoon from 2.45pm so there was no funeral after ours and so there was no rush.
  • We had a double slot to allow for time to greet everyone following the ceremony.
  • [There was a ] Conveyor belt feeling, despite best efforts of staff to manage it.
  • Service time fine but when we come outside talking and thanking family and friends the next service was waiting respectfully for us to leave and it made their time slot late.
  • [The Crematorium] has one chapel with 30 minutes slots and this does not give any time when you have a larger attendance because we had 40 people attending some older and slower.
  • These days most crematoria are on an hourly service and Mansfield should adapt to this too
  • The service is dependent on who your funeral service is conducted by.
  • I booked a double session to allow people to arrive and leave unrushed.
  • Unknown until all is done
  • We asked for a longer service and they allowed us to do this

So in conclusion: for most people the time allowed seems appropriate, one might hope that the percentage was higher, suggesting to me that timings could be looked at so that it is up near the 80% mark, as one has to accept it it will never be entirely satisfactory for everyone.

The other thing perhaps worth noting was the many people in the comments section booked extended slots, which provided them enough time, a very interesting point was made that with a elderly congregation in large numbers had a serious impact on time.

Finally, I hope also that funeral directors and crematoria alike inform mourners that this an option, clearly one respondent was unaware that this was an option.

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Crematoin survey

What do the public think of Crematoria – Part 1

We are running an on-going survey on the website asking members of the public what they think of crematoria. We understand that those offering cremation services are in a difficult position when wanting feedback on what they provide – they can hardly stand outside with a clipboard.

Over three posts we will shedding light on some of the highs and lows of what the public love and what they don’t.

We have been collecting results since the end of last year (2016) and we now feel we have enough data to make some broad statements. If you want to see the survey – here is the link – survey . Before any data collection experts haul me over the coals,  I have done my best to make it non-prejudicial or leaning, but others may think differently.

The headline figure is perhaps the most interesting. On the main question –

Overall how would you rate the crematorium the score was a whopping 4.4 out of five (with over 70% of respondents scoring 5 out of 5) for the overall experience.

What are the top 10 issues they most dislike?

  1. If there is nobody to greet them when they arrive and show them the way (this was the most common complaint)
  2. Not having enough time in the chapel
  3. A poor sound system
  4. Uncomfortable seating and/or lack of consideration for disabled guests
  5. Unattractive chapels with tired decoration schemes
  6. Waiting areas that are not private, uncovered or too small to accommodate everyone attending
  7. Poor parking
  8. Rudeness of those officiating
  9. Lack of time and attention from the priest or vicar
  10. Not being offered a cup of tea

Oh, and one person would have liked a water fountain! (which I thought was nice)

All issues seem fairly reasonable and things that one might expect. I hope those controlling the budget are investing in such issues. As cremation these days averages at around £750 – so one should expect things to be right.

Over the next two posts we will explore the public opinion on decor, gardens of remembrance and whether or not they thought the cremation was value for money, which is a difficult question to ask and to answer, but very important nonetheless.

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Crematoria: good or bad – we want your opinion please

When we die, most people in the UK are cremated as opposed to buried. In fact over three-quarters of us. Elsewhere places such as the US, Canada and Australia the percentage is over 50 and rising.

Cost is given as a reason for the increased numbers. However, cremation whilst still less expensive is far from cheap. Average cost as part of a funeral is upwards of £700 with parts of the southeast being around £900 and increasing year on year. Added to this there is a trend towards missing the church part out and having the service just at the crematoria, secularisation is given as a reason we are ‘skipping’ the church part. Making crematoria themselves a very important part of the funeral. So whilst costs go up, does that mean the value and the level of service increases too, are crematoria up to the demands we place upon them?

We want to know what you think? What ever information we find out we will share (anonymously of course) to help improve the way things are done.

Please spare some time to click on the link and complete our anonymous survey, there are only nine questions so it won’t take very long (they are mainly multiple choice)

Follow the link – Crematoria Survey

Many thanks

Richard Martin


Scattering Ashes

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good funeral awards 2016

Winner of the Crematoria of the Year 2016

Scattering Ashes was the proud sponsor of the Crematoria of the Year at the Good Funeral Awards 2016, we are keen to encourage improve the customer experience of this sector, and recognise this often chastised part of the industry.

There were six crematoria who made the long-list at the 2016 Good Funeral Awards.

Thornhill Crematorium, Cardiff

Gwent Crematorium

Kettering Crematorium

Mortlake Crematorium

Redditch Crematorium

Congratulations too all those organisations who entered.

The winner was Thornhill Crematorium. Why? well this is what the judges said

Thornhill crematoria has achieved outstanding improvements to its service provision in the last year.

  • The crematorium is addressing funeral poverty in imaginative ways. A privately run flower shop has opened on site, furthering the support for the Cardiff Council Funeral Service. The Cardiff Council Funeral Service was a pioneering initiative when it was established in a bid to address funeral poverty and to challenge the rising costs of funerals whilst making the funeral purchase more transparent. Approximately 12% of all cremations use the service.
  • Both chapels have been refurbished, and the Wenallt Chapel, which seats 168, has a new waiting room, toilets and exit.This was undertaken at no additional cost to the Authority and was achieved by clever budget juggling.
  • The Book of Remembrance has been re-sited resulting in an improved visitor experience as the new location in the central area of the Gardens of Remembrance has separated those visiting to remember their loved ones from those attending funerals. A digital Book of Remembrance has also been included allowing families access to their loved one’s name throughout the year rather than just once a year. This room has environmentally friendly lighting installed, CCTV and new cabinets to ensure these unique memorials are correctly housed.
  • The crematorium has a Green Flag and has undertaken initiatives designed to boost its eco-credentials. Recycling operatives on site recycle the wreaths to minimise waste and bins are provided split into green waste, plastic and general waste. All plastic waste is recycled and the green waste is composted.
  • Thornhill Crematorium has a 98% satisfaction and performs 2,700 cremations annually. Three memorial services are held per annum at Christmas, Palm Sunday and a Baby Memorial Service supported by Sands and the University Hospital of Wales Chaplaincy Department.

Martin Birch Operational Manager Bereavement & Registration Services for the City and County of Cardiff received the award : “I am personally extremely proud of the team we have in Cardiff and the service we provide. It is wonderful that the work we do has been recognised at a national level through such a prestigious award. This is a real positive lift for everyone associated with our service and we will continue to look to make improvements to our service for the benefit of the bereaved.”

The prize awarded to Thornhill was from the host of the evening  former GMTV host Penny Smith, the Photo is courtesy of Jackie King.

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cost money cremation

Cremation – what you get and what it costs

The average cost of cremation currently is just below the £700 mark. The cost of the fuel for the cremation is around £30.

What! I hear you cry that is outrageous! Well yes, but it is not quite as simple as that. The question is are we being ripped off? Or are we getting value for money?

In a BBC article from 2015 in quoted the following:

The cost of cremation at Mortlake Crematorium was £500

Cost of cremation breaks down as follows:

Spent on staffing                                                                                          £181

Profit allocated to improvements                                                            £163

Building maintenance, supplies, services and regulatory costs         £127

Fee for fuel                                                                                                    £29

Total                                                                                                               £500

So even with a relatively modest fee of £500 there is a profit. So what do Dignity (the main private crematoria operator) make from their activities, Surely they must be making a profit otherwise why would they be in business?

Their annual report for 2106 make interesting reading.

 “The Group remains the largest single operator of crematoria in Britain, operating 39 (2014:39) crematoria as at 25 December 2015. The Group performed 57,700 cremations (2014: 53,400) in the period, representing 9.8 per cent (2014: 9.7 per cent) of total estimated deaths in Britain.

Underlying operating profit was £34.6 million (2014: £29.1million), an increase of19 per cent.

This operating performance is driven by increasing average revenues per cremation, which has been assisted by the increase in the number of cremations performed in the year. Sales of memorials and other items have been strong, equating to approximately £276 per cremation compared to £262 in the previous period.

Progress and Developments

Investment of £0.1 million has been made to develop a location that was acquired from a local authority in 2012. A further £0.8 million is expected to be incurred in 2016 to complete the local authority development. The Group has also invested £2.5 million maintaining its locations in the period.

So looking at their figures they earn £1107 per cremation of which £607 is profit. Let us be clear this is profit for all their crematoria based services, so as well as the actual cremation this includes memorials, burial plots, etc. They declared that that make £276 per customer from memorial products, so if we assume they make 40% profit from these. The profit for each cremation would be around £500.

Now again this £500 isn’t profit profit, this is before loads of things have been deducted, not least wages and tax. Also the purpose of the annual report is to make thing look rosy for shareholders and investors. Nether-the-less this is significant.

In addition, I would say, private organisations generally tend to run a tighter ship than local authorities. So we can assume that local authorities running cost will be higher too. But still local authorities on the whole should be making a reasonably significant profit.

Now to the vexing question of cost of regulatory compliance. Many authorities claim their rising cost relate to the need to install more sophisticated abatement equipment to deal with their emissions.

From the BBC article, a spokesman for Northumberland County Council said “£1.8m was being invested in new air pollution control equipment to comply with increasingly stringent environmental legislation”. So there is large cost associated with environmental compliance although the article also points another spokesman who states “Because it has not yet installed the newer pollutant filters, the council must pay a £53 government-imposed levy per cremation.“ which a) is slightly concerning implying many have not yet installed this equipment and b) emission compliance cost represent less than 10% of cost.

So my conclusion is, from this limited information: there is money in cremation, not perhaps as much as some may think, but still a heck of a lot.



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cremation scattering ashes RoI

Cremation in the Republic of Ireland

Ireland and the UK have many similar customs. Cremation is not one of them. In fact very few people in the RoI get cremated and whilst it is on the increase it is still around 15% (compared to ~75% of us in the UK). Why? Probably a combination of belief, customs and tradition.

I found this rather interest article by Alison O’Connor: Facing up to one of life’s burning issues — cremation or burial where the author goes on an open day visit to her local crematoria, which she found entirely fascinating.

Follow the link if you wish to read the full article – it is rather good. However,I will cut to the chase and just relay the facts:

  • She dispelled the urban myths that a) more than one body is cremated together and b) the coffin does not cremated with the body
  • At the particular crematorium she visited it took 10 seconds for the coffin to ignite with the temperature rising up to a high of 1,000C.
  • The coffin burns within the first half an hour but the average cremation takes 80 minutes. In total it can be up to five hours before the process is complete, allowing the cremated remains to be cooled down, and then to be crushed, and the ashes put into the urn.
  • The remains are removed from the oven. At that point they are too hot to be further processed and are placed in a cooling cabinet before being taken to an ashes processor where they are further broken down.
  • Artificial joints etc are recovered and sent to the Netherlands for recycling with the revenue from this crematoria totalling €6,000 which went to local hospice.
  • From a practical point of view a low-grade, low-resin coffin works best for cremation. Irish coffins, however, are usually most suited for burial, and even if a cremation is planned, people could still spend up to €2,000 on a coffin.
  • Following cremation around 50% of families opt to bury the ashes in family graves, while around 33% are scattered.
  • The carbon footprint created was the equivalent of a one-way flight From Dublin to London, around 300kg of carbon.

She concludes:

“When my time comes I want to be cremated. If anything, what I saw on the tour, and the demystifying of it, confirmed that for me.

This was in stark contrast to the vast majority of people who I met before and after the crematorium tour who had great difficulty understanding why I was interested in it. “Why on earth would you want to do that?” was the standard question.

Maybe it’s a phase, or a particular stage of life I’m going through, but my own feeling was: why would I not want to do that?”

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Insurance survey scattering ashes

Survey from British insurance company on ashes preferences

There has been a survey of people ash scattering preferences and the following is the main content of a press release from insurance provider British Seniors Insurance Agency:

[They] looked into the weird and wonderful places that people want their ashes scattered once they die.  New research has revealed over half (55%) of the UK want to be cremated when they die with only 22% choosing to be buried and 20% unsure. It seems that many Britons already know exactly where they want to be laid to rest despite only 21% of them having some form of life cover in place to cover the costs of their funeral.

British Seniors Insurance Agency asked consumers where they would like their ashes scattered and the responses ranged from the very sentimental to the downright unusual. The most popular spots are: at sea; with a loved one; in a graveyard; in a favourite beauty spot; or in their garden.

One of the top places on the nation’s list were their favourite football grounds with venues up and down the country being the most popular selected resting spots including Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, the Emirates Stadium, Loftus Road, Hull City, Elland Road, Anfield, Celtic Park, Ibrox, Dorchester Town FC, Villa Park, all listed as spots where footie fans would like their ashes scattered.

And it seems that UK adults are an intrepid bunch with many wishing for their ashes to make a final journey to far-flung corners of the world with Las Vegas, the Maldives, Canada and the Ganges among popular destinations. 

However when delving into the stranger places people would like to be left, British Seniors Insurance Agency found the following:

  • Under a cannabis plant at the den project
  • Made into a firework
  • In the wash
  • In the bin
  • A haunted building
  • The Theatre stage
  • The pond of my finishing club
  • Family Vault
  • In space

Whilst this was presumably done to generate interest in their insurance company it does reinforce many issues we talk about on the site: the favourite places to be scattered; the popularity of water as a final destination; peoples obsession with football; and more anarchic options – all part of the UK’s interplay with dark humour and funerals.

There is one inescapable conclusion that seems to be overlooked – if you don’t know what you want then you are almost certainly going to be cremated (if you add the ‘would like to be cremated’ plus those ‘unsure’ you pretty much get the cremation rate in the UK)

I will ask if more info can be shared as asking 2000 people should throw up some useful information…


Bio-cremation: err it isn’t actually cremation

I am not a pedant, trust me. If you ask friends and significant other that would not make the list. Geek, yes sometimes, I’ll take that, but pedant, no.

There have been a number of articles recently about ‘bio-cremation’ a process by which the body is accelerated through stages of decomposition reducing it to a fairly small amount of residue that would take natural process many years. Promoters of this new innovative approach are lauding the environmental benefits – there is no ‘land take’ less air pollution etc. I have not seen actual evidence in terms of carbon consumption, but I can see they could have a point. Although what we choose to protect in the environment occasionally means a greater impact on another part for example cremation involves less land use but more use of carbon (compared to a green burial). I digress.

However this new process shouldn’t be called bio cremation, as there is no cremation involved whatsoever. The word cremation or cremate come from the Latin cremāre to burn. So if something doesn’t involve flame heat or what have you it seems a little disingenuous to call it cremation-anything, imagine bio-burial: the new alternative to burial where nothing gets buried!!

I love this: “Dale Hilton, the assistant director at Lannin Funeral Homes in Smiths Falls, Ontario, says the process is more environmentally friendly than both burial and what he calls flame-based cremation.”

“But it’s not just the green aspect that’s appealing, according to Hilton. He says many of his customers are choosing this new process, in part because it’s environmentally friendly, and in part because it’s a gentler way to deal with their loved one’s remains.”

Look, just so you know I am not on my high horse over this. I am sure Mr Hilton is sincere and lovely, it could be a great process, families may prefer it, it could potentially be more environmentally friendly…but the word cremation should not be used in its title – it is misleading. Dissolving, reducing, evaporating, and disintegrating – better but more unpalatable? I seem to think that now cremation has become acceptable in the lexicon we can now use it as a catch all even to the point of it being 100% inaccurate. Oh well, the joy of English language always changing.

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creamtion ashes family not present

The case of the Cremation without the family knowing

This is the sad case of Mr Fitzpatrick who passed way in August. He had suffered depression for some time and it is believed he committed suicide. At the time he was living on his own, his children had left home and he was estranged from his partner, with whom we was still on good terms and would regularly visit.

When he passed away, his ex partner asked the local authority to make the arrangements, as there was no money available from the family. The local authority, in this case North Ayrshire Council,  is obliged to do this, in their words: ‘The Council can be asked to step in to arrange and pay for funerals under the National Assistance Act when there is no known next of kin or no arrangements are being made by others for the deceased’

‘As such, responsibility is relinquished to the Council and the appropriate arrangements are made in line with the legislation.

‘In such cases any interested person is entitled to inquire about times and dates, and arrangements for ashes.

‘We were contacted by a member of the public who wanted to be notified of the date of his funeral.

‘We contacted the member of public on September 9 and left a voicemail message telling her the funeral was scheduled for September 15.

So the council says they left a voicemail to inform Ms McFadyen of the date of the funeral. Ms McFadyen denies receiving the voicemail. Consequently there was no family present at Mr Fitzpatrick’s funeral. This has outraged Mrs McFadyen, who thinks North Ayrshire Council have been negligent in their duties and she has filed a complaint.

Firstly, this is all very sad and one must feel compassion for the family in their grief. Secondly, if all the council considers they are obliged to do to fulfil any moral obligation is to leave a message on an answer phone then I would suggest that that is a long way from what most of us would consider a reasonable approach.

The question is it just black and white case of who is wrong? Ms McFayden said “saying goodbye is a right everyone should have.” Which is right, but are the council the only ones culpable in this, is there any apportionment of responsibility (not blame) for the family. Funerals aren’t cheap and funeral poverty is a real issue. When it is a choice between feeding the family rather than picking up the bill for a family member’s funeral then I am sure that is a truly tough decision. It would appear that only his eighteen year old son was involved, who is unlikely to be have the means. However, when one makes the choice to relinquish the responsibility, to what extent does that mean and does one also relinquishes any ‘rights’ too? I am not suggesting that what the family choose to do was wrong or that it was an easy decision to make. What I am saying is, if that is the choice made, even if another way seems impossible, there is still some responsibility to keep matter under control as much as possible and not necessarily leave the entire onus on a council officer who may be desensitised to such situations.

Ms McFadyen comments is telling: ‘I was so angry and upset. Alan had no family there – he was all alone. Me and our son were devastated. We wanted to say goodbye and lay him to rest. It’s not like messing up an order or a purchase. You can’t cremate someone twice.’ Which is right, but legally it wasn’t her ‘order’ to mess up.

I do think it is appropriate at this point to plug the brilliant campaign from the Quakers Fair Funerals, which is promoting more affordable services so that the family can retain control.

I also hope some good will come of this and the North Ayrshire (and other councils) will take heed and understand that leaving ‘an’ answerphone message does not amount to satisfying their duty of care, and that their procedures are updated to making reasonable endeavours.

Of some relief to the family is that they were able to retrieve the ashes before they were scattered at the garden of remembrance, so hopeful they will be able have a meaningful ceremony to commemorate the life of someone they loved.

Original story was reported widely, I mainly used the one reported in the Daily Mail

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cremation trends in the us

The changing trends towards cremation in the USA

Here is an interesting article from USA Today which has looked at changing trends in death rituals in the US and greater adoption of cremation. The article points to six noticeable changes in culture:

  1. More people are personalising cremation

The articles points to the fact that there is greater choice out there for people to memorialise, urns for water burials, ashes being put into coral reefs, urns where you can plant a seed that can grow into a tree.

  1. People are becoming more mobile, and costs are higher to ship and bury bodies

The more mobile to population the less people associate with a specific place or a need to return to that place. Shipping a body is very expensive shipping an urn isn’t. Costs in general are greater for a burial. The article stated:

–In 1960, the national median cost of a funeral minus the vault, which is a container usually made of concrete that is used to encase the casket, was $708.

–The national median cost of a funeral in 2012 was $7,045. If a vault is included, something that is typically required by a cemetery, the median cost was $8,343.

–The 2013 median cost of cremation with no memorial services, and including a crematory fee and a basic urn, was $2,260.

–The median price for a memorial service with cremation and no viewing of the body before cremation was $3,250.

–The median price of an adult funeral with cremation casket, which is a combustible casket, viewing and cremation was $5,410. Some cremation caskets can be rented for the viewing, which is a less expensive option.

Note: these costs don’t include the plot, the headstone or flowers! And the first one can be extortionate.

  1. Cremation is rising in popularity in Arizona and nationally

The U.S. cremation rate in 2013 was 45% and set to rise to 50.6 by 2018, according to the Cremation Association of North America. Some states are more in favour than other for example the Arizona cremation rate is slightly more than 64 percent.

  1. Religious norms have changed to allow cremation

The article point to the fact that the Catholic Church relaxed its view on cremation, but that was back in the 1960s, I guess these things take a long while to filter through…Or whilst it would appear that the US is still a church going society maybe strict doctrine does not have the hold it once did?

  1. Hearses and big limos are on their way out

The article reported that the use of hearses and limos were on the decline with the funeral director reported as saying that they had sold there fleet and now rented them. Well I can see you can perhaps do without the limos, but the hearse?

  1. Kitchens and other gathering places at mortuaries are in

This I also found interesting, people where still very much into the family gathering and the ‘wake’ plays a greater role, with mortuaries spending on kitchen equipment to allow outside carters to offer more than a cold cup of tea and a curly sandwich.

Anyway if you a bit more depth from a range funeral professionals, here is the article:

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environmental cost cremation india

The environmental cost of cremation in India

I would argue that the environmental impact of cremation is less than burial, there is a need to compare two issues which are difficult to equate – Carbon versus land-take. I think the land-take is a more significant issue. The argument is even more in favour of cremation if the energy source is renewable. However the argument is not clear cut.

I came across an article from the website India Today. This massive country has population of around 1 billion Hindus, whose funeral tradition is cremation. What is more the tradition is open pyres fuelled by wood. In environmental terms this has the multiple layered impact: less efficient; reduction in green space if trees are not replaced; pollution from water dispose of partially cremated bodies and more significant impact on air quality (from the burn and the loss of trees). Add these impacts together and put them on the scale of India and you get big figures and big impacts.

And that was not the only interesting aspect to this article, but let us look at the scale and impact first.

The article says that.

  • A traditional Hindu funeral pyre takes six hours and burns 500-600 kg of wood to burn a body completely.
  • Every year, 50-60 million trees are burned during cremations in India, which results in about
  • 8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide or greenhouse gas emissions.
  • There is around 1/2m tonnes of ash produced

Environmentalists argue for education persuading the population to opt for cleaner methods and thus to produce a cultural shift. However the shift on offer seems to be a push towards electrical cremation, and ‘Most people don’t opt for electric crematorium because of various rituals. Like, for example, the eldest son must break his dead father’s skull with a bamboo stick after lighting the pyre. Also, ashes of different corpses tend to get mixed up in electric crematoriums.’ .

There is also a debate around the provision of wood, where this is going and who’s paying for what, all wrapped with splendid amount of committees, bureaucracy, inaction and general confusion. Not all of which, I confess, I understood.

So anyway, if you want a depressing/sobering read have a look:


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dispute over cremation

How bad can it get: hiding a son’s cremation from an estranged spouse?

It never fails to surprise or sadden me the length some people will go get one over on an ex-partner. A trial is taking place in Stoke upon Trent of a woman who is accused of twice falsifying paperwork to prevent the son’s father from attending his funeral.

The deceased passed away at the age of thirty two of a life limiting condition and his mother arranged the funeral.

Originally she had gone to the Meir-based Co-operative Funeral Care and filled in a form stating no near relative was opposed to the cremation and no near relative had expressed any objection to the proposed cremation.

It seems that Mr Barber (the father) became aware of the situation and took legal advice where upon Mrs Hackney (the mother) agreed he could have his own service.

However she then sacked the Co-op services and then went to Harry Dawson Funeral Directors in Normacot, where she again signed the forms to say no one objected.

It would appear despite Mr Barber lawyers trying to intervene the body was released for cremation. And that Mrs Hackney was so keen to ensure Mr Barber was not present she arranged an early morning service where no one could present.

Mrs Hackney, denies two charges of signing a false certificate with a view to procuring the burning of human remains and one offence of making a false representation with a view to procuring the burning of human remains.

Her case is that Mr Barber knew his son was to be cremated and he did not object.

It makes you wonder what had happened between these two people to warrant such an extreme stance, surly anyone in that situation would consider the wishes of the deceased – not only was his life cut prematurely short, but his funeral appears deliberately arranged to prevent anyone saying goodbye, and not because he had done anything bad or wrong, due to malice aimed in another direction.

I’ll be honest I find cases like this depressing. I tell myself it is has made the news because it is rare and deeply saddening. And I suppose it must be as this is the first prosecution of its kind I have come across since I started writing the blog, so let’s take some solace from that.

Oh yes and on a minor techie point, it is interesting it is being heard at Crown Court as opposed to Magistrates, implying that it is an offence that could receive a significant sentence!

UPDATE 22 May 2015:

Cathleen Hackney was jailed for four months at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court by Judge David Fletcher.

The judge, who also ordered Hackney to pay Mr Barber £5,000 in compensation, said the breaches of the Cremations Act had led to Mr Moreland’s relatives being ‘kept completely in the dark’ about his funeral in 2010.

Judge Fletcher told Hackney: ‘I have no doubt that this is a case where your actions were intended to cause harm specifically to Mr Barber.

‘You willingly violated the criminal law to achieve that aim.’

Adding that Mr Barber had suffered psychological distress, the judge told his ex wife: ‘Your behaviour undermined a serious and important process in the most fundamental way.

‘Your behaviour has plumbed the depths and can properly be described as selfish and egocentric.

‘It’s an old-fashioned word, I know, but your behaviour was wicked.’

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ashes gold dental

The value of gruesome gold

The value of gruesome gold.. (all wording in italics is from the original author)

Question: What happens to the gold teeth when a body is cremated?

This was the question sent to the Citizen Times and here is the their answer

My answer: In this case, it seems, you can take it with you, mainly because, well, ewwww. 

Real answer: I’m not going to lie. I found this question strangely fascinating, mainly because I have a mouth full of gold-laden cavities. And yes, that’s my mouth in the photo. Food writer Mackensy Lunsford really earned her paycheck that day.

Now, on to an answer.

“Most funeral homes won’t remove gold teeth,” said Carl Boldt, a funeral director with Asheville Area Alternative Funeral & Cremation Services. “The gold in someone’s mouth is not worth as much as people think, and it’s not worth the cost to hire an oral surgeon to remove it.”

The funeral home tells clients if they want a loved one’s gold teeth removed, the family needs to hire an oral surgeon to do it. Gold fillings are not a high-purity variety, so the value is limited.

Dale Groce, funeral director at Groce Funeral Home & Cremation Services in Asheville, said it is a subject that comes up on occasion.

“We have had families that request that they be removed, but we do not do that,” Groce said. “Dentists have reported to us in every case that the qualify of the gold in a tooth is not worth the expense of removing it.”

After cremation, Groce said, the remaining gold is essentially “indistinguishable” from the ashes “to such a point it cannot be found.”

Other metals, such as those used in hip replacements or other orthopedic surgeries, can be removed by a magnet, Boldt said. His company contracts with a metal recycler to take those metals.

As gold is not magnetic, this technique doesn’t work to remove what remains from the ashes.

Oh. Well I think that could be true I did some digging for myself, it turns out the the gold in teeth could be worth something depending on the alloy used it varies from 10 -22 Karats  []. As for it not being worth it, well apart from it being gruesome and ever so slightly macabre – it could well be, although I am left wondering who would do it – I can’t see many dentists queueing up for the job. The obvious place would be to recover the precious metal after cremation. The answers from the funeral directors were true to a point. Gold crowns etc, are not metallic and as such will not be picked up by a magnet. However, there are a number of foreign components that are removed post cremation that are also non metallic and when one receives the ashes back there are no fussed parts implying that that they have been sifted, also I was a aware that in Japan this is very much part of what is recovered, so perhaps the full truth will be revealed in the fullness of time….

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cremation ashes urns Devon

Handmade Wooden Urns

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Handmade Wooden Urns

Handmade in Devon

Completely handmade here in Dartmoor, Devon, by our talented craftsman Simon, our wooden urns have been especially designed to look natural and rustic in your home. Simon crafts them in solid oak from wood that shows off it’s natural character and beauty.

They are all hand finished either with Danish oil, to give a subtle sheen, or a natural beeswax made from Simon’s own bees, he also makes fabulous honey, let us know if you want us a add a jar to your order!

Wooden Urn range

We have worked closely with Simon over the few years to design a range that has the full range of urn sizes.  There are two designs of companion urns (the Bearacleave and the Pullabrook) with a removable divider so the you choose to have two sets of ashes together or side by side.  There are three designs of standard urns that will hold a single set of adult ashes, two with a top lid – the Haytor and the Teign, and one with a sliding lid – the Yarner which that complies with Natural Burial Standards and can be buried in any natural burial ground. And finally we have designed a keepsake jewellery box with a discreet false bottom for keeping heirloom jewellery or other keepsakes as well as a token amount of ashes, and the Little Teign which will hold a small amount of ashes.



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