Tributes paid to long serving funeral director

AFTER almost thirty years in the job, Jack Glenn, Branch Manager of Adair and Neely funeral directors received a warm send off as he contemplates taking life a little bit easier.

Jack, who has organised around 6,000 funerals was treated to a special ceremony at the Guildhall, where he was presented with a replica of Roaring Meg to mark his retirement.

Mr Glenn, who said he was delighted to be presented with something so symbolic of Londonderry, also spoke to the Sentinel about his experiences as a Funeral Director, since he first began working at the local firm in the early 1980s.

He said: "When I started it was called William Adair and sons. Alan Adair and his brother Billy were running it, and Billy sadly passed away.

"Thankfully Alan gave me the opportunity to fulfil my boyhood dream. It was built into me. This is a story I have told many times. When I was a young fellow my mother used to say if there were funerals in the area I would have gone missing. I would have been at the wakes or in the funeral procession of people that maybe had nothing to do with me.

"It came out of me and I was given the opportunity by Alan in 1981. In 1990 when Adair and Neely amalgamated I took over working for Adair and Neely's as the general manager. Since then the rest is history."

He said that over the years he has met many different people: "I have done 6000 funerals, so that is 6000 different families. People had all wished for different things, so there is that uniqueness of the funeral. There is no stereotype funeral. Everybody is different in their wishes, everybody reacts to death differently.

"There are so many ways you can do a funeral. Some people want to be buried at sea, some want cremated. There are non-religious funerals and there are the ethnic communities as well. It is not just the two traditions here, there are Chinese people, Hindus, Muslims, people from overseas who die when they are here on holidays, who need sent home to England, New Zealand. It is not a nine to five, there is no stereotype funeral."

He spoke of how the profession has changed since he started working as a funeral director: "I started in '81 so that is the guts of thirty years. The funeral profession has changed drastically in that time. There has been a lot of legislation brought forward, legislation from the EU and environmental health rules. You have to have your own premises fully equipped and up to the standards.

"Although the basic profession hasn't really changed that much over the years. Back to basics, the basic role is helping people in their time of need. People who were bereaved thirty years ago react the same now.

"One thing I have noticed is that the traditional wake is not as powerful now as it used to be. I have found a trend of people using our premises for wakes, and that is for practical reasons as well; some of the houses now mean it is not practical.

"I am very humbled and honoured that people have entrusted me with their loved ones. I am humbled and honoured that I have been given the opportunity to provide care to people in the hour of their most need.

"As I have said before, the funeral doesn't end with the ceremony. We like to keep in contact and bereavement care is available afterwards."

Jack Glenn made sure to pay tribute to his family and friends who have helped him in his job: "I have to mention Thomas (Wilson), he has been my right hand man and he is now taking over. I have to thank all the staff in the office as well as my sons, Wayne, Colin, Gordon, Reggie, Johnny and Colin."

Mr Glenn, who suffers from Parkinson's and is president of the local Parkinson's Society, also paid a special tribute to his wife.

"I know this sounds very romantic but I really mean it. My wife Violet worked with me for twenty years as well as running the home. You might say that she was a bit of a funeral widow. She was left alone at home many a night, I was working seven days a week. I would like to pay tribute to her resilience and her loyalty. She was a big help in the office, she kept things ticking over 100 per cent, and she kept the home 100 per cent.

"Again, it is a bit of a cliche but behind every successful man there is a good woman. It sounds romantic and all that but I really mean it. Since the Parkinson's it has been more and more. I have been carried for a few years now."

Speaking about the event at the Guildhall, he added: "I suffer from Parkinson's and the mayor (Paul Fleming) had adopted us as a charity so he knew me from the Parkinson's world. Thomas organised the event at the Guildhall and I was presented with a civic gift, a Model of the Roaring Meg as a parting gift. I was very grateful for that because it is a symbol of the city."

Commenting on his retirement Thomas Wilson said: "Jack is a perfectionist with extremely high standards and enjoys a strong work ethic. His loyalty, support and dedication is second to none and we will miss his tenacity, humour and charm. After serving the families of this city and beyond, Jack is hoping that retirement gives him more time to spend with his wife Violet and to live at a more leisurely pace."