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Chris Lock & Kate Slugget on the Changing Nature of Funerals at St John’s

[Leigh Winsbury] (0:00 – 0:20)

Hello again, this is Leigh Winsbury, the Vicar of St John’s, and I’m here with Kate Slugget and Chris Locke of Locke’s Funeral Directors, people I work with probably more often than we all wish we did, but a regular part of our life here. So can I ask you both, how long has the family business been looking after funeral needs in these parishes now?

 

[Chris Lock] (0:22 – 0:38)

Well me and my father, Norman Lock, we first started doing funerals in the early 70s when I was just let go when I was 16. So I’ve been coming to Hatherleigh for quite a few years.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (0:38 – 0:41)

Was it your father’s first business or did it come out of something else?

 

[Chris Lock] (0:43 – 1:34)

Well when I let go, father took me in a partnership and we worked the business from there. My grandfather really started it at Shebbear back in the 1920s where he was just a carpenter and a wheelwright. They always used to come and ask him to make a coffin, and the deceased would always stay in the home, whereas then he’d make a coffin, they’d take and obviously put the deceased in the coffin and no hearses in the old days, and they’d set off to the local church or chapel carrying the coffin from the local farm, which sometimes could be a couple of miles, and you can imagine there would be several of all the neighbours and that would take it in turns carrying the coffin to the church.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (1:34 – 1:37)

And because it was all done in a couple of days back then wasn’t it?

 

[Chris Lock] (1:37 – 2:09)

It was a lot quicker than it is today. When I first started, a funeral would obviously from the time of death probably wouldn’t be any more than at least three days, four days would be a long time. Deceased then would obviously still stay in the home a lot. We were the first to have a chapel of rest around this area and that was obviously I think brought us a lot more business because obviously people got to the stage where they didn’t want to keep them in the house, so they had to be brought back and we looked after them.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:10 – 2:12)

So Kate, you’re in the long line of the family business.

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:13 – 2:14)

I am fourth generation, yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:14 – 2:15)

How does it feel picking it up now?

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:16 – 2:28)

Yeah, it’s not something I ever planned on doing. It’s something I kind of started doing by accident but actually really enjoyed it and yeah, it’s not, every day’s different.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:28 – 2:30)

Did you have another career path in mind?

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:30 – 2:31)

I wanted to be a nurse.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:31 – 2:31)

Okay.

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:32 – 2:48)

I had a place at university to do nursing and I was deferred for a year and then I started helping out in the business and actually really enjoyed it and I looked into what qualifications I could do in this instead. So I went down that line and got my diploma in funeral directing and embalming, so.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:49 – 2:51)

Interesting, not looking back?

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:51 – 2:52)

No, definitely not.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:52 – 2:56)

Good, I’m pleased to hear it. Because I do want you to do me when my time comes.

 

[Kate Slugget] (2:57 – 2:58)

Hopefully not for a long time.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (2:58 – 3:06)

Not for a while yet but you know. So you must know pretty much everyone with all the family connections around here, you must have got to know.

 

[Chris Lock] (3:06 – 3:27)

Used to, used to know a lot of people in the town but times are changing and new people coming in and so obviously we don’t know, you know, like we used to, like a lot of the old families, you know, once you’ve done one funeral you do the whole family sort of thing and we’re still doing that really.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (3:27 – 3:27)

Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (3:28 – 3:33)

But obviously there’s a lot more new people arriving into the town.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (3:33 – 3:34)

Yeah, I’m sure.

 

[Chris Lock] (3:34 – 3:36)

Which we’re still, we’re meeting a lot of them as well.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (3:37 – 3:47)

They seem to be, certainly the new estate people moving on there that I’m aware of, they seem to be joining in well. Yeah.

 

They’ve come here because they like what it is and seem to be joining in.

 

[Kate Slugget] (3:47 – 3:48)

Nice community feel.

 

[Chris Lock] (3:49 – 3:56)

With me being outside I don’t get that feel because obviously Kate now lives in Hatherleigh so, you know, I get a bit more of a feel for it.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (3:56 – 3:58)

Yeah, you’re picking up the new folks around there?

 

[Kate Slugget] (3:58 – 4:07)

Yeah, I see a few people around and at preschool there’s a few new people that have started that I’ve met. Yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:07 – 4:11)

Because two of them are my mother and my mother-in-law so it’s kind of nice having them close.

 

[Kate Slugget] (4:11 – 4:12)

Keep it in the family.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:12 – 4:18)

Bring up the place a little bit. So there’s been a lot of change over your years of doing.

 

[Chris Lock] (4:19 – 4:20)

Oh yes, a lot of change.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:21 – 4:21)

Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (4:21 – 4:41)

Yes, I do remember the old Methodist chapel where before this new one was built, we took funerals there where we had to go up all the steps because the actual chapel was above, the Sunday school room was underneath and the chapel was on the top. So all the deceased had to go up the windy staircase to go up to the top.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:42 – 4:43)

Skilled bearers required.

 

[Chris Lock] (4:43 – 4:44)

Yeah, it was.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:45 – 4:50)

Yeah. When was that building changed, you know?

 

It does look quite new, didn’t it?

 

[Chris Lock] (4:50 – 4:52)

It is. There’s a plaque inside.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:52 – 4:55)

They’ve just had a 50 years anniversary or something, 40.

 

[Chris Lock] (4:56 – 4:57)

It probably is that, yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (4:58 – 4:58)

Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (4:58 – 5:00)

There is a plaque just inside the door with the dates on.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (5:01 – 5:08)

Yeah. Ours of course, St John’s has had no such changes, just the recent hiccup of the scaffolding around the tower.

 

[Kate Slugget] (5:09 – 5:13)

And a fairly significant event of the spire falling into the church.

 

[Chris Lock] (5:13 – 5:17)

That did actually change the inside of the church quite dramatically.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (5:17 – 5:18)

Made a lot more room at the front, didn’t it?

 

[Chris Lock] (5:18 – 5:36)

A lot more room at the front. It used to be very congested and I know years ago I was told by somebody in the town that the step, that if you’re somebody to go up onto the top step, but anybody else sit on the bottom step.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (5:37 – 5:37)

Get on.

 

[Chris Lock] (5:37 – 5:44)

Yeah. But when we started, everybody went on the top step because we treat them all the same.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (5:44 – 5:51)

Absolutely right.

 

They’re all going to face their maker in the same condition, aren’t they? Yeah. Oh dear no, that sort of thing going on.

 

[Chris Lock] (5:52 – 5:55)

I’ve seen quite a few vicars go through as well.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (5:56 – 6:04)

I bet you have, yeah. I’m sure you could tell a few stories about, without names I suppose, who are some easier to work with than others, do you think?

 

Be kind to me.

 

[Chris Lock] (6:07 – 6:12)

Yes, yes, obviously, you know, obviously one went on to be higher things to a bishop.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (6:12 – 6:13)

Indeed, yeah.

 

Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (6:15 – 6:19)

I can only remember two, I think I worked with two.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (6:19 – 6:21)

Two before me or two including me?

 

[Kate Slugget] (6:23 – 6:25)

Two, well you and somebody else.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (6:26 – 6:32)

Because I know when, I haven’t been here long, I remember, I think one of my first funerals with you, I said, you know, if you think I’m doing it wrong, do say.

 

[Chris Lock] (6:34 – 6:41)

And I think I met you the same afternoon. I was in my old clothes, you was in your old clothes and we looked at each other and thought, do we know each other?

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (6:43 – 6:46)

Yeah, you were fitting stone somewhere, weren’t you, poking around the church.

 

[Chris Lock] (6:48 – 6:53)

But yeah, yeah, yes, I have known quite a few of the vicars go through, yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (6:54 – 7:12)

So every once in a while I get this slightly strange thing where you’re just doing your normal thing, talking to people and you’re suddenly aware they’re treating you a little bit different because you’re the vicar and that they’ll get the gags in the pub about, oh mind your language.

 

And do you get any of that sort of treatment? Do you ever sort of find that you’re…

 

[Kate Slugget] (7:12 – 7:43)

I do occasionally if people obviously know me from, I’ve got obviously friends in the town who know me as me and then obviously certain people know me as the funeral director. So you get a few comments made if you’ve just gone to the pub or whatever. Yeah, we’re not ready for you yet or you always get a few comments, yeah. A couple of weeks ago somebody said to me, it’s so strange you were burying my grandad on Tuesday and I’m sat in the pub having a drink with you on Saturday. But then they went on to say actually how lovely that was, that I’m just a normal person.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (7:44 – 7:57)

I think it is and I get that all the time, that you know, that they think, oh you’re just accessible because you’re around and about and we know you are. So it’s certainly something I tried to do when I got here was to know people so it wasn’t too much of a shock when I turned up.

 

[Kate Slugget] (7:57 – 8:12)

And that’s a lot of, one thing that we hear a lot from people is how lovely it is that you get involved with things and people know who you are. Quite often you’ll go to a place and you say, oh who do you want to take the service and they’ll say, oh we don’t know the local vicar. Whereas you don’t really get that here because everybody knows.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (8:12 – 8:29)

Well it’s not how many people it is. It’s a bit easier. And I know that’s true with you, people, I always feel very secure when it’s you taking the funeral because I know everything’s going to be as it should be and those sorts of partnerships.

 

When I worked in a bigger town it was always a little bit hit and miss.

 

[Chris Lock] (8:30 – 8:53)

Yeah, we tried to, you know, because sometimes we’ll go, who would like to take this over? Oh we don’t know. So then we sort of like would introduce you to say, well we’ve got a nice vicar here in the town, we’ll come and visit you and talk about the service and that. Oh that’ll be nice, yes, can we do that? And that’s how we bring you in a lot of times to do that.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (8:54 – 9:06)

Yeah, I’m very aware I see a very small proportion of the funerals of those that die. I mean what sort of proportions do end up in churches as to other options?

 

[Chris Lock] (9:07 – 9:09)

It’s decreasing every year I’m afraid.

 

[Kate Slugget] (9:09 – 9:14)

I would probably say if you worked out over the year, probably 40% are religious.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (9:15 – 9:16)

Oh as much as that?

 

[Kate Slugget] (9:17 – 9:48)

Yeah, I think in the more rural places everything is a lot more traditional and obviously we’re based quite rurally, but there’s a lot of people that come in and say, there’s a lot of civil celebrants around and people will say, oh well we don’t, dad wasn’t very religious or mum didn’t go to church or whatever. We’ve been to a funeral, I think the more of these civil celebrants that get around, the more people are aware of different options and they say, oh we really liked who did so and so at his funeral, can we ask them or whatever?

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (9:49 – 9:51)

There’s a lot of grace about it, oh she’s moved actually.

 

[Kate Slugget] (9:51 – 9:56)

She has moved, yeah we haven’t done a funeral of grace for a little while now, but she’s very good at it.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (9:57 – 9:59)

She was excellent, worked with one or two.

 

[Chris Lock] (10:00 – 10:18)

When I first started it was either church or chapel and that was, there was no celebrants or nothing around, you’d be always in the church or chapel and if you hit the crematorium they used to have rota ministers up there, so you’d still have a religious service that has to you know.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (10:18 – 10:19)

Do they still do that?

 

[Kate Slugget] (10:19 – 10:29)

No, although a lot of people think that’s what happens. You say, oh they want a funeral at the crematorium or I’ll just have whoever’s up there. They just think there’s somebody there just ready and willing to take a service.

 

[Chris Lock] (10:30 – 10:49)

Yeah, they don’t realise the background work that has to go on to make a service personal. I was speaking to a retired minister the other day out at Barnstable and he used to be on the rota there and he said one week he took 14 services at the crematorium and that was half an hour slots.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (10:50 – 10:55)

I don’t know how you could retain enough to make those personal at that sort of rate.

 

[Chris Lock] (10:57 – 11:03)

It wasn’t so personal as it is now. It definitely wasn’t so personal. It was sort of straight out the book sort of thing.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (11:03 – 11:08)

The old prayer book service was nothing about the person at all was it? Good job that went.

 

[Kate Slugget] (11:10 – 11:28)

One of the advantages of a religious service or having you’ve got the aftercare. The celebrants will do a lovely service at the crematorium. They’ll visit beforehand but you don’t get the aftercare and the support afterwards which is often when people need the most support. That’s one of the downsides of it.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (11:29 – 11:38)

One of the challenges is actually making sure that happens but yeah it is important. It’s nice for me it just happens naturally here because I see people around and about.

 

[Kate Slugget] (11:39 – 11:48)

I’ve only been doing this 16 years so not half as long as dad but even in that time I’ve noticed such a increase of or decrease of religious services then.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (11:49 – 11:56)

So it’s a fairly sudden decline. A bit much like the experience in the churches. We’re bucking the trend in Hatherleigh.

 

[Chris Lock] (11:57 – 12:01)

Yeah that’s a good thing. People have just got so much choice today.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (12:01 – 12:09)

There’s a lot more choice than what it was years ago you know with printed sheets and you know the coloured pictures and the montages and all that.

 

[Kate Slugget] (12:09 – 12:10)

Coffins.

 

[Chris Lock] (12:10 – 12:18)

You know coffins, wicker, widow, banana leaf and what have you. Cardboard, traditional ones.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (12:19 – 12:22)

Because you do a great job on the service sheets though don’t you?

 

[Kate Slugget] (12:22 – 12:27)

Thank you. I spend a lot of time doing it and some take longer than others.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (12:28 – 12:29)

I keep saying wedding couples.

 

[Kate Slugget] (12:29 – 12:31)

Yeah I’ve had a few.

 

[Chris Lock] (12:32 – 12:52)

Because when I started.. There wasn’t this thing called a service sheet. It was hymn books out the church and that’s it and it was a big funeral. The church wardens and everybody was rushing around borrowing books from here and everywhere. Make sure everybody had a book to be able to sing Abide With Me, The Lord’s My Shepherd and The Day Thou Gavest, because that was about the three hymns.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (12:53 – 12:57)

They do get worn out. Do you get, does it drive you nuts hearing the same songs and hymns all the time?

 

[Kate Slugget] (12:58 – 13:04)

There’s a few. All Things Bright and Beautiful for me. We had it six times in six days once.

 

[Chris Lock] (13:05 – 13:07)

Every funeral had All Things Bright and Beautiful.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (13:08 – 13:11)

Yeah I must admit I can’t bear it. They want it for weddings as well.

 

[Kate Slugget] (13:11 – 13:22)

Yeah and if it’s not sung well, although it’s supposed to be a cheery, happy hymn, it can sound really dreary if you haven’t got a congregation singing it well.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (13:23 – 13:34)

And it’s got that awful verse in it that thankfully usually gets cut about the rich man in his tower and nobody knowing their station isn’t it. It’s terribly fascist.

 

[Kate Slugget] (13:35 – 13:37)

Yeah that one doesn’t pop up very often at all.

 

[Chris Lock] (13:37 – 13:53)

We had a funeral once and they sung Abide With Me and they found a version with eight verses and they sung all eight verses very slowly as well.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (13:55 – 14:08)

I had one somewhere I’ll not name and they had five hymns because the deceased’s mother insisted that they would all sing. Nobody sang.

 

Full church and I was doing a solo for five hymns. Yeah wow glad when that was over.

 

[Kate Slugget] (14:09 – 14:16)

I had a short list for our wedding of nine hymns. We managed to cut it down to four. I just couldn’t decide.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (14:16 – 14:18)

We had loads. Our wedding went on for ages but that’s jolly.

 

[Chris Lock] (14:20 – 14:22)

Through Covid they weren’t allowed to sing.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (14:23 – 14:30)

It was a really awful time wasn’t it. I’ve not got that on my little list here but the funerals and it was changing all the time the rules.

 

[Kate Slugget] (14:30 – 14:41)

We could barely keep up with it and we’d go and see a family with one set of rules. That evening we would get an email to say all the rules had changed and you’d have to go back and say oh actually no we can’t do this we can’t do that. It was a nightmare.

 

[Chris Lock] (14:42 – 14:48)

The first funeral we had in Covid was supposed to be 160 people there and it ended up to be seven.

 

[Kate Slugget] (14:49 – 14:56)

They wouldn’t even allow the grandchildren to attend because it was only immediate family so spouse, mother, father, son or daughter and that was it.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (14:57 – 15:03)

That was dreadful and nobody allowed to hug each other. I remember doing a couple in the crematorium all spread out.

 

[Chris Lock] (15:04 – 15:08)

This was at the crematorium and it’s the only time we got stopped by the police.

 

[Kate Slugget] (15:10 – 15:12)

What is the purpose of your journey?

 

[Chris Lock] (15:12 – 15:23)

There was a hearse and a limousine right behind and then the police officer was just stopping every vehicle and he didn’t really look up he just I was driving the hearse and he just stopped and he said what’s the purpose of your…

 

[Kate Slugget] (15:23 – 15:27)

and before he finished his sentence he looked up and realised he goes I’m so sorry please carry on.

 

[Chris Lock] (15:28 – 15:30)

We can get some funny bits.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (15:33 – 15:37)

Anything funny you can say without recrimination that’s happened?

 

[Kate Slugget] (15:40 – 15:41)

Vicars falling in graves.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (15:42 – 15:46)

I’ve heard it happening. I thought that’s why I’ve got a short cassock. That’s really happened to you is it?

 

[Kate Slugget] (15:47 – 15:51)

Not to me but Grandad used to tell a story about how he grabbed a vicar by the cassock.

 

[Chris Lock] (15:52 – 15:54)

He used to grab all his cassocks he’s always afraid he’s going to pull it and it could fall in.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (15:57 – 16:01)

I think I was warned about that one before I started.

 

[Kate Slugget] (16:02 – 16:03)

You’ve nearly fallen in the grave before.

 

[Chris Lock] (16:03 – 16:06)

Yeah I’ve only been in once or twice.

 

[Kate Slugget] (16:07 – 16:09)

It was very wet underfoot.

 

[Chris Lock] (16:09 – 16:23)

I’ve heard well we had one where the bearer got up got up on and he missed his foot and he spun around and sat directly on the coffin in the middle of the flowers.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (16:26 – 16:28)

Well it could have been worse I guess.

 

[Chris Lock] (16:29 – 16:40)

Yeah yes and uh yeah most people giggled about it but I’ve heard of people getting caught out by the width of the wicker coffins when they first came out that they wouldn’t fit in the hole.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (16:41 – 16:42)

Has that happened to you?

 

[Chris Lock] (16:43 – 16:43)

No.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (16:43 – 16:44)

No good.

 

[Kate Slugget] (16:44 – 16:50)

We generally try to double check and triple check the measurements and then we try and go into the grave beforehand.

 

[Chris Lock] (16:52 – 16:53)

Double check everything.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (16:53 – 17:04)

Yeah absolutely that’s why I’m always stupid early. So what would you say if there are any what do you think are the benefits to having a church funeral as opposed to anything else?

 

[Kate Slugget] (17:06 – 17:14)

Well if you compare it a service in a church as to a service in the crematorium you don’t have the time constraints to worry about. That’s a very practical benefit.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (17:15 – 17:17)

I think that’s huge for me not having to rush.

 

[Kate Slugget] (17:18 – 17:20)

You can personalise the service a lot more.

 

[Chris Lock] (17:21 – 17:38)

The time constraints and for the families having to travel all the way to because we haven’t got any close ones here. So if you’re looking at sort of a more than two hour window from you know to go to a crematorium and back again probably a bit more.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (17:39 – 17:56)

Yeah it’s quite traumatic having all the driving and the time constraints isn’t it?

 

Yeah I think like in a town as well a lot of people might not travel to the crematorium but they’ll go to the local church for the service. Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (17:56 – 18:00)

So it gives them a bit more chance to be able to say goodbye as well.

 

[Kate Slugget] (18:01 – 18:12)

It’s a comfort for families to have the service in a familiar place rather than somewhere completely different. They’ve got the comfort of the familiar surroundings and they can go back and visit if they want to.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (18:14 – 18:26)

Yeah I mean so we we make quite a bit of the fact that that church building becomes special to people because lots of different family events will have happened there. Yeah. And it becomes a focal space that they can easily access.

 

[Kate Slugget] (18:27 – 18:39)

We often hear in eulogies that they got married here in whatever year and the children were baptised there and we go on to have the funeral there so it’s a it’s got a strong connection with other dates in the past.

 

[Chris Lock] (18:39 – 18:48)

Sometimes the grandparents met first time at a event in a church or a chapel because then it is how far the pushbike would take them.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (18:49 – 18:49)

Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (18:49 – 18:53)

Not like today where long distance relationships involve nearly all over the world.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (18:54 – 18:54)

Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (18:54 – 18:57)

It wouldn’t be in the next parish that would be a long way away.

 

[Kate Slugget] (18:58 – 18:58)

Yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (18:58 – 19:06)

It’s either that or it’s something about the village dances at Winkleigh. I don’t know how many funerals I’ve done where the couple met at a village dance in Winkleigh.

 

[Chris Lock] (19:07 – 19:09)

It must have been the place to go.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (19:09 – 19:09)

Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (19:10 – 19:14)

We often hear they were at a Young Farmers event. They met at a Young Farmers event.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (19:15 – 19:17)

I think that’s what Young Farmers is for really.

 

[Chris Lock] (19:17 – 19:39)

When our local village they used to have dances and many people you know met and married from that from years ago or at Sunday school or anniversaries at chapels and all that type of thing. You know we hear so many eulogies and tributes to people how they met and all that.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (19:39 – 19:40)

Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (19:40 – 19:47)

And you just want to you know wind you back a bit and you think well you know what was life really like back then. Yeah. You know.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (19:47 – 19:55)

Well you’ve got the local connections to remember more than an incomer like me as well. So you’ve got those stories from your family backgrounds.

 

[Chris Lock] (19:56 – 20:04)

Yeah funerals today are taking a lot longer as well to you know. You’ve got a job to get one in in seven days now. You’re struggling.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (20:04 – 20:07)

Oh I don’t think I ever have. It’s always about these two weeks.

 

[Kate Slugget] (20:07 – 20:28)

So a burial would be possible but a cremation you wouldn’t be able to do that in a week. Everything take it takes longer to get a death certificate from the doctors. It takes longer to get an appointment to register the death. That has a knock-on effect. And then by the time you’ve sorted out the hymn sheets they want to go in the paper three times and everything just takes a long time.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (20:29 – 20:29)

Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (20:29 – 20:46)

And funerals seem to be an inconvenience to people. Before you’d say oh we’ll have it on that day and they would move events or holidays for the funeral. Whereas now it’s like oh we can’t do that day. We can’t do this day. What about three weeks next Tuesday? Nobody’s in a hurry to do a funeral at the moment.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (20:47 – 20:51)

Do you think that just people’s lives aren’t that busy or they’ve just turned in on themselves a bit?

 

[Kate Slugget] (20:52 – 20:58)

People are busy but I think they don’t see it as a priority like they used to I suppose.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (20:58 – 21:11)

I’ve noticed the difference though even between a big town like Biddeford and here where people do show up. Like you know the crowds do come into honour that person in a way that in the towns I think is not the same.

 

[Kate Slugget] (21:12 – 21:24)

It was a tribute in Covid. We started a bit of a trend of walking down through the town so people could pay their respects and it was quite incredible to see the crowds of people that would come out just to see the coffin go past.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (21:24 – 21:26)

Yeah yeah that’s very moving actually.

 

[Chris Lock] (21:27 – 21:37)

Dennis’s (Bater) was the first one that we had to come down through and there was you know a bit like a carnival day. Not quite so many people but yeah there was a lot of people.

 

[Kate Slugget] (21:37 – 21:38)

Streets were lined.

 

[Chris Lock] (21:38 – 21:51)

But that’s the only way they could pay their respects. I know a lot of people did say well we’ll have a memorial service later but after 12 months there wasn’t hardly one.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (21:51 – 22:07)

There was talk of that but there was so many and then we did that all soul service which was fairly full but it was lousy weather that night wasn’t it?

 

Putting people off. A lot of people did come to that yeah because to go over again doing memorials for all of those would have been very hard.

 

[Kate Slugget] (22:07 – 22:13)

I think initially we just thought it was going to be six weeks it’ll be over and done with and then it just went on and on and on.

 

[Chris Lock] (22:14 – 22:29)

It was getting worse and worse to be quite honest you know with everything that was going on. Of course now we got Covid brought in a bigger trend of direct cremations with no services whatsoever.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (22:31 – 22:33)

What do you think of that folks?

 

[Chris Lock] (22:34 – 22:43)

It has its place but in one way I think it’s quite sad but then when you hear what people say I think you can understand it.

 

[Kate Slugget] (22:44 – 23:12)

When there’s no family then it’s the logical thing to do. If there isn’t a lot of money then it’s an easier way of saying goodbye for people. We’ve noticed that people are having a direct cremation and then they’re doing something with the ashes afterwards which is fine because they’re still having that time to grieve but it’s when you’ve got families that would like a funeral and it’s the deceased wish just to go off and be cremated. It doesn’t give the families the chance to grieve because at the end of the day the funeral is for the living.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (23:12 – 23:27)

Absolutely and I think for me I think there’s not been that moment of seeing a close to that loved one’s life. It’s just gone as if nothing happened isn’t it and I wonder what impact that has down the way for grief.

 

[Kate Slugget] (23:27 – 23:56)

Yeah I think there are a few people that think oh I’ll do that that’s a good idea at the time and then perhaps regret it afterwards but we offer direct cremations the same as the bigger companies but we do say to people if they want to come and see their loved one in the chapel of rest they can do. We will let them know the time and the date of the cremation so they can have a quiet moment or whatever. I know some of the bigger companies the body just gets taken and that’s it they don’t give you the information. Yeah I think it’s here to stay so I think it does.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (23:57 – 24:07)

Yeah and I’ve had a couple of occasions where I’ve gone with the family into the church at the time when they know it’s happening and said a few prayers and lit some candles and yeah I think marked it.

 

[Kate Slugget] (24:08 – 24:18)

At the time they think that’s a good idea we’ll just do that but when it actually happens they think actually we do need that time we do need something just to commemorate the person.

 

[Chris Lock] (24:20 – 24:34)

Yeah we would still you know if they want to come to the chapel of rest they’re quite welcome to say goodbyes that way so what I’m dressed in their own clothes and still do all that sort of thing so there is you know the opportunities that they can come and say goodbye.

 

[Kate Slugget] (24:35 – 24:58)

I think we’ve had a few instances where families have been spread across the world and it’s very difficult to get them all to one place so they’ve said we’ll just do a direct cremation now and then have something with the ashes later and that has happened and I think that it’s a good thing because there’s no dignity in holding a body for months on end waiting for people to be able to travel and that way they still get their closure of the service with the ashes.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (25:00 – 25:17)

Yeah and they can be just as poignant can they. So this project that we’re doing specifically relates to St John’s in Hatherleigh and connections there which I’m sure you have many but I don’t know if you’ve got any particular memories or recollection of St John’s involvement there.

 

[Kate Slugget] (25:18 – 25:18)

Bell ringing.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (25:19 – 25:20)

Are you a bell ringer?

 

[Kate Slugget] (25:20 – 25:21)

I am.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (25:21 – 25:21)

Oh wow.

 

[Chris Lock] (25:22 – 25:28)

I used to come in and ring every Sunday to the Sunday services at Hatherleigh St John’s.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (25:29 – 25:32)

I would say well they’re still there but they’re not. They’re coming back.

 

[Chris Lock] (25:33 – 25:43)

I’ve rung there several times with local ringers as well. The funny story was St John’s in Hatherleigh it’s the only time I ever saw a vicar airborne.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (25:44 – 25:46)

Oh that doesn’t sound like it’s a good idea.

 

[Chris Lock] (25:47 – 25:59)

Because it was so windy we were going around to the grave and his cassock opened out like an umbrella and the wind got under it and he was about six inches off the ground.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:00 – 26:04)

Wow. Not just with pure holiness.

 

[Chris Lock] (26:04 – 26:05)

Not with holiness. No.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:08 – 26:18)

I thought I was going to go flying and put the cloak on one day to you know Captain Greyfield. I thought that was going to take me backwards but I’m a chubby chap so I’ll stay put.

 

[Kate Slugget] (26:18 – 26:21)

It’s probably the church we’ve done the most funerals in.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:21 – 26:23)

It doesn’t surprise me. Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (26:24 – 26:26)

Compared to any other.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:27 – 26:36)

I was actually married in Hatherleigh church as well. Okay. Okay.

 

I know we’ve got grandma as a new congregant.

 

[Kate Slugget] (26:36 – 26:36)

Yes.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:37 – 26:38)

It’s nice.

 

[Kate Slugget] (26:39 – 26:48)

She would often say that she wanted to come but didn’t feel like brave enough to do it almost but it’s lovely that she does feel like she’s able to do that.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (26:49 – 26:55)

Yeah she’s got a bunch of friends she sits with and my mum’s one of them so it’s just nice seeing that going on. It’s lovely.

 

[Kate Slugget] (26:55 – 26:59)

I want to start bringing my children when they’re a bit more capable of sitting still.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (27:00 – 27:02)

No I shouldn’t worry about that. I’m happy with them running about.

 

[Chris Lock] (27:05 – 27:17)

Yeah because when obviously the spire went in they redone the church and they put a lot of the chairs there and my father actually engraved because people gave those chairs.

 

[Kate Slugget] (27:17 – 27:17)

Yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (27:17 – 27:22)

The little plaque. My father actually engraved all the plaits for them. Is that right?

 

Yeah. I should have another look.

 

[Chris Lock] (27:23 – 27:28)

Yeah he engraved all the plaques and put them on the movable chairs.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (27:29 – 27:38)

You know we’ve got a permanent kids table in there now so you can always get there’s always a few goodies on there and a few bits of craft to mess about with and I never mind a bit of noise it’s good to have.

 

[Kate Slugget] (27:40 – 27:50)

I do find it fascinating sitting in the church and just looking just seeing how it’s all been pieced back together using the old wood and with the new wood and there’s always something to look at.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (27:51 – 27:52)

Yeah it’s genius isn’t it?

 

[Chris Lock] (27:52 – 27:53)

It’s very cleverly done yeah.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (27:53 – 28:00)

And because now we’re doing the same thing with the stone in the tower lots of new stone going in. Yeah. You know you will see it will show.

 

[Chris Lock] (28:02 – 28:10)

Because when the spire went in they actually the main central pillars was actually uprighted they actually took them down and uprighted them.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (28:10 – 28:18)

Yeah because it was all over the place. It was lying over quite a lot.

 

They took the moment to do it fix up a few things didn’t they?

 

[Chris Lock] (28:18 – 28:31)

Yes they did. Well it brought the church, whether you’d say it’s a blessing but it did actually bring the church into the 20th century really made the building more sort of usable.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (28:32 – 28:38)

Nearly. A few things I wish they’d done at the time that we’re working on now but never mind.

 

[Chris Lock] (28:38 – 28:42)

Yeah with the big area where they could do plays and that sort of thing up the top because you couldn’t do that before.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (28:43 – 28:45)

So the pews went right to the rail.

 

[Chris Lock] (28:45 – 28:47)

They went right up there was only a small aisle.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (28:47 – 28:48)

Because everything at the front there moves.

 

[Chris Lock] (28:49 – 29:02)

Yeah you’d only go up to probably about a meter from the rail that’s where the last pews were and there’s always the the you go up through and there’s raised pews on at the step.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:03 – 29:04)

Yeah. I don’t think they are though.

 

[Kate Slugget] (29:04 – 29:04)

They’ve all gone.

 

[Chris Lock] (29:05 – 29:16)

Yeah there’s always the raised pews and so the ones that was unfortunately sitting in where the front is now they’d be looking straight in because the others was another six inches higher. Yeah just look at the back of the pews. All they could see was the back of people.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:17 – 29:19)

Didn’t think that one through did they? Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (29:21 – 29:21)

But yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (29:21 – 29:24)

They’ve made it a much more usable space.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:24 – 29:29)

Yeah that’s one of the things I liked about when I first saw it. I thought oh could imagine doing stuff here.

 

[Kate Slugget] (29:29 – 29:32)

Yeah and you do have concerts and all sorts of things.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:32 – 29:40)

It’s great for weddings having all that space at the front as well. Places like Exborne are really tight. You’ve got a bridge in a big dress, you have to come down in single file. Yeah.

 

[Chris Lock] (29:41 – 29:44)

So I’m looking forward to when the bells come back and see what they’re like different.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:44 – 29:47)

Yeah the clock it’s all out.

 

[Kate Slugget] (29:47 – 29:51)

Yeah. It’d be nice when the scaffolding’s gone.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:52 – 29:52)

Yeah.

 

[Kate Slugget] (29:52 – 29:53)

And we can actually get to the graveyard.

 

[Chris Lock] (29:54 – 29:55)

Yeah that is a bit of a pain at the moment.

 

[Leigh Winsbury] (29:56 – 29:57)

We’ve got off very light.

 

[Chris Lock] (29:57 – 29:58)

We have got off very light.

 
[Leigh Winsbury] (29:51 – 30:13)
So I’m guessing, like me, like the vicar, you live with a certain amount of expectations from other people. Is that a burden? Or do you live with that quite normally?
 
[Kate Slugget] (30:14 – 30:27)
Sometimes it’s a burden. If you know there’s going to be a lot of people attending a funeral, and it’s a very complicated one, it can be quite stressful to make sure everything goes as it should do. A lot of double-checking, triple-checking, everything.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (30:29 – 30:33)
I’ve never seen anything go wrong, but maybe it has, and you’ve just covered it very professionally.
 
[Kate Slugget] (30:34 – 30:57)
Quite often things go wrong, but generally just minor things. Yeah. Like, whilst at the crematorium, we had one not very long ago, and the time was ticking by, and because of the time constraints, they ended up having to cut out most of the service, because one chap just got up, went ad-libbing, and just ran away with himself.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (30:58 – 30:58)
Oh.
 
[Kate Slugget] (30:58 – 31:00)
And we completely ran out of time.
 
[Chris Lock] (31:00 – 31:02)
That’s me at the back of the crematorium, pointing at the clock.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (31:04 – 31:16)
Yes, I had one at the crematorium. Three people were supposed to be speaking for three minutes each.
 
The first one did ten, and I’m looking at what I can cut and slash from what I was going to do. Yeah, it got very awkward.
 
[Kate Slugget] (31:17 – 31:21)
You can never tell what’s going to happen, you’ve just got to deal with it as and when it does happen.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (31:21 – 31:24)
Of course, if you’d been in a church, it wouldn’t have mattered, would it?
 
[Kate Slugget] (31:24 – 31:33)
Exactly, no. We’ve had a very, very full church, not in Hatherleigh, but somebody overheated and passed out. But you just…
 
[Chris Lock] (31:33 – 31:35)
Yeah, I wasn’t there that day.
 
[Kate Slugget] (31:36 – 31:48)
No, and I very stupidly ran over with a bottle of water that I had in the hearse, and she said to me afterwards, once she’d come round, she said, you’re the last person anybody wants to see when they… [laughter] So since then, I just stand back.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (31:50 – 32:10)
I used to hate doing that. We had to do a spell of hospital chaplaincy, because nobody wants to see a vicar walking towards their bed in a hospital. I got out of that as quickly as I could.
 
So Kate, you’ve got two little kiddies now. Do you think they’ll want to pick up the family business? How would you feel about that, about their futures?
 
[Kate Slugget] (32:10 – 32:40)
It would be entirely up to them, if they wanted to. I’d be more than welcoming to let them join me, but it would be completely up to them. I never wanted to do it when I was younger.
 
I was petrified of it, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the chaplain’s breast, the hearse. I was not interested in the slightest. So, who knows, things can change, so it would be up to them, really.
 
It’s not the sort of profession that you can say, you’ve got to do it, because it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, and you’ve got to be the right sort of person to do it.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (32:40 – 32:51)
Yeah, definitely the personality is everything, isn’t it, really? You’ve got to be a good listener, like yourself, probably, sometimes. Yeah, picking out the little details that matter, that are going to make the differences on the day.
 
[Chris Lock] (32:52 – 32:59)
It’s no good going in thinking, I’m going to be out in half an hour, to arrange a funeral. You’ve got to have the time to do it.
 
[Kate Slugget] (33:02 – 33:19)
Everybody deals with it so differently, and you’ve just got to kind of read the room a little bit, and see how they are dealing with it. Some people are very matter-of-fact about it, and some people you’ve got to visit three or four times, but you’ve just got to do what you’ve got to do. There’s no right and wrong.
 
It’s not black and white.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (33:22 – 33:30)
Anything you’d really like to say, before we wrap this up, that you’re thinking, it’d be great if the world knew this, about what we do?
 
[Chris Lock] (33:32 – 33:34)
Well, I’m a pensioner now, so…
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (33:36 – 33:38)
Well, you work jolly hard for a pensioner, Chris.
 
[Chris Lock] (33:38 – 34:21)
Like I say, I’ve seen a big difference in all the years that I’ve been doing it. It’s been very rewarding, I must admit. A lot of times, helping people through a very difficult time. To be quite honest, I know that Kate’s obviously come into business with me. It’s been a pleasure, really, because obviously I didn’t know where, because I was the only child, so the only way it can go is if the business is down the line, and if there was no one to take it on, then I don’t know what would have happened.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (34:22 – 34:25)
Well, it seems to be in very good hands to me.
 
[Chris Lock] (34:25 – 34:25)
Yeah.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (34:25 – 34:26)
Fantastic.
 
[Kate Slugget] (34:27 – 34:30)
We’ll just try and continue, and do a good job like we have done.
 
[Chris Lock] (34:31 – 34:53)
But I think Hatherleigh is in quite a strong place with the church, St John’s, and the Methodist as well, but a lot of the smaller parishes, I don’t know, it’s beginning to, with Highampton now closed, and Petrockstowe closed, and a lot of the Methodist chapels closed now.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (34:54 – 34:58)
Yeah, I’m trying to hold on to mine, keep going. It is a challenge across the country.
 
[Chris Lock] (34:58 – 34:59)
It makes you wonder.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (35:02 – 35:23)
Because the churches really are only as strong as the people that go. Go, exactly.
 
I’m told of 600 churches in, parish churches in Devon, 400 of them have a congregation of six or less, in their 80s, averaging in their 80s. So, we’re heading for a bit of a crisis with our parish churches. I think we are, yeah.
 
Short of a bit of a miracle going on.
 
[Kate Slugget] (35:23 – 35:32)
Didn’t they say that COVID accelerated the demise quite significantly? They brought it on about 20 years or something, didn’t they?
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (35:32 – 35:37)
Lots of people left and just didn’t come back. Come back, people!
 
[Chris Lock] (35:37 – 35:51)
I do remember thinking, and I did say to her, I said, I just wonder where, this was probably 10, 15 years ago, I said, I wonder where churches and that will be in the next 25 years. We’re three parts of the way through that.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (35:51 – 36:03)
The odd thing is that people do seem to keep coming out of the woodwork. They get a little bit older and suddenly start thinking, oh perhaps I’ll go to church. Just when you think it’s all over, you get a bunch of newbies turn up. It is odd.
 
[Kate Slugget] (36:04 – 36:07)
Sometimes it’s just two or three families kind of holding it together.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (36:09 – 36:11)
Yes, they’re the fragile ones, they really are.
 
[Chris Lock] (36:13 – 36:25)
I must admit, though, like yourself, a minister comes in and you’re here for a short time, what you do in that short time makes a big difference in that church.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (36:27 – 36:28)
Good or bad.
 
[Chris Lock] (36:29 – 36:33)
Exactly. It can be bad and people gone.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (36:34 – 36:36)
But like yourself, you’re drawing people in.
 
[Chris Lock] (36:38 – 36:41)
It must be very hard and frustrating sometimes, I would have thought.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (36:41 – 36:50)
Yes, it’s quite tricky. You feel like two steps forward, one back.
 
I think we’re… I don’t fear for Hatherleigh’s future.
 
[Chris Lock] (36:50 – 36:50)
No.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (36:50 – 37:08)
Some of the others are going to have a bit of work to do, but I think Hatherleigh’s going to be here for a good generation without any great concerns now. Plenty to do still, but not in any fear for it. Which is good to say.
 
Well, thank you both very much for your time.
 
[Chris Lock] (37:08 – 37:08)
That’s all right.
 
[Leigh Winsbury] (37:08 – 37:12)
People will be fascinated by what you’ve both said.
 
Thank you.
 
[Kate Slugget] (37:12 – 37:12)
Thank you.