Week in the Life:

Andrew Henwood, funeral director and life-long Newquay resident.

Newquay Voice

10th March 2004

YOU COULD say that Andrew Henwood was born into the funeral trade. He began work for his father's funeral directors at the tender age of 18 and has since gone onto become the director of the longest running independent funeral directors in Newquay.

Being born and bred in the town has undoubtedly been a massive boost to the business he holds so dear.

Andrew was born in Springfield Road 42 years ago in the town in which he now works.

He attended both Newquay Junior and Tretherras schools before taking up a mechanics’ apprenticeship with Hawkeys Garage at Chester Road at the age of 16.

Unable to be a tearaway because of his family's standing Andrew worked hard at his job but soon found that he wasn't cut out for the mechanic's life.

In the 1960's his father, Tony Henwood, ran a successful construction company but when the building trade started to slow down he diver- sified into the funeral business.

The funeral directors had a "slow start" according to Andrew.

He continued: "But it soon took off because there was always that element of the locals who knew who you were and trust you. There is always a core who know who you are."

Andrew hadn't planned to follow in his father's footsteps until he was 25 but decided that at the age of 18 he was going to leave mechan- ics and join the family funeral directors.

It wasn't a difficult decision for Andrew to make.

He said: "When I was growing up it was something you took for granted you were going to do, just something you went into.

"I knew it was going along in the background, there was always someone on the end of the phone."

As Tony Henwood had become President of the National Association of Funeral Directors and was often away on business, Andrew was taken under the wing of Des Rothey, his father's right hand man.

"Des taught me all the ins-and- outs," he said.

Realising his potential, Andrew soon left the business and headed off to Worcester to obtain his funeral directors' diploma.

For six months he studied at college with fellow would-be funeral directors and embalmers on an intensive course.

It wasn't all hard work and Andrew remembers several episodes of high spirits, which included him once being screwed shut into a coffin.

Nonetheless the serious work got done and Andrew left college with the distinction of getting the highest marks in the whole country for which he was awarded the 'Scales' Award.

deceased

It was in Worcester that Andrew first came face to face with the reality of his job, a deceased person.

"I've accepted it now," he says of see- ing dead bodies on an almost daily basis, "and it is interesting in a way.

"To be honest it makes or breaks you and not everyone can do it but it doesn't affect me at all. It's a job that has to be done. It's not a job for everybody but after all there are jobs I couldn’t do."

After completing the course Andrew went back to work for his father and Des. His duties included looking after the cars, preparing coffins, collecting bodies and some- times having to take them back home, often miles away.

Andrew says: "I was generally on call 24 hours a day, I had to ring in every hour, you get used to it, being on duty all the time."

In 1988 the Henwood company was sold to a national chain of funeral directors and, as his father chose this time to retire from the trade completely, Andrew went in as manager

Just three years later however he left the company because he found working for a national chain difficult.

"They didn't seem to know our way of life down here. They are only interested in money which I didn't like doing so I resigned," he said.

Contractual obligations made working back in Newquay impossi- ble for Andrew so instead he brought a funeral directors in Redruth called Morley Martins.

He ran the business successfully for three years and got invaluable first hand experience of running his own funeral directors.

strength

When his contract terminated he was able to return to his Newquay home to start up his own funeral directors, Andrew Henwood's.

Andrew is the first to admit that he couldn't have got where he is today without the help of both his father and Des Rothey.

Both men guided Andrew along the way and helped to smooth the transition from employee to businessman.

Debbie, his wife of 19 years, has also proved to be an invaluable asset to the business.

"I couldn't work without her and I couldn't have done it without the help of father and Des," Andrew said. "They have all helped shape the business."

Andrew now works closely with Norman Bailey as his right hand man and a team of part-time bearers.

Despite the help, Andrew and Debbie are constantly on call and like to be available to answer the phone 24-hours-a-day. "It's very rare that I get through the whole weekend without getting a call."

Over the years he has learnt to build a wall of professionalism around what could be a very distressing career.

"You get called in at a very emotion-al time to do a job and it's important not to get drawn into it," he says. "Compassion does come naturally and you certainly feel it more when it's youngsters involved.

"We give people advice but you're there to do a job, it's a vocation. 

It's great going out helping people, that's what

you're there for. Sometimes it's a pity to have to charge people for what you do but you've got to make a living.

do a funeral without being seen the people who have died.

you've been successful. We guide people in and then we guide people out, that's why people come back.

"A smile goes a long way even in the funeral trade."

While he remains as professional as possible Andrew says it is the element of helping people that is one of the main attractions of the job. That and the fact that every day, every grieving relative and every funeral is different.

"It's great going out helping peo- ple, that's what you're there for," he says. "Sometimes it's a pity to have to charge people for what you do but you've got to make a living."

changes

During his career Andrew has noticed some big changes to the way people organise and plan relatives' funerals.

He said: "It's the music at the churches that's the biggest change because nowadays you can play anything. Some of it is quite appro- priate, before it was so formal and was the same words over and over again but now they're making it more individual for families.

"The other biggest change we have noticed is in people pre-plan- ning and pre-paying. A third more of all funerals are now pre-paid. The deceased just wants everything arranged for the children to make it easier for them."

Funerals can be an expensive business costing up to £3,000. At the other end of the scale a social service funeral can be done for around £900. The average funeral is around £1,200 to £1,300.

The vast majority of this financial assistance comes out of the estate of

For the cost of a funeral, however, Andrew Henwood can take all the worries away for a bereaved friend or relative.

Describing the work he does Andrew said: "You plan to do every- thing you can and look after everything from the flowers to the hymns.

bereaved

"We can't register deaths but from the initial phone call we will visit the bereaved and go through all the details.

“We can normally do a funeral within a week, we give guidance on certificates, contact the newspapers, collect the body, dress them ready for the chapel of rest. “Relatives can come whenever they like and you go out of your way to do everything they want. There are different types of coffins such as painted or cardboard and we can also help search for music.

"We also supply cars, hearses, limos, and afterwards memorials or headstones."

Out of work, Andrew likes to spend time with family, children Laura 15 and Tom 13. He occasionally plays golf but much prefers driving in his Caterham sports car.

Seeing the local funeral director speeding past in a bright yellow sports car may not be everyone's stereotypical image.

"People do expect you to be the archetypal funeral type. My own death is always there in the background but I don't think about it too much," he adds.

And, in case you were wondering, yes he has planned his own funeral. But to give away the details would be telling.

 

Top five: Funeral scenes from the silver screen

From funeral directors to film directors: taking a look at some of the most memorable funerals to feature in films.

Live and Let Die (1973)

Who better to kick us off than international man of mystery, Bond, James Bond. The opening scene of this instalment takes place in New Orleans where a nonchalant British Secret Agent watches the slow march of a funeral parade. But he becomes a lot more involved than he would have hoped when he is killed and bundled into the coffin whereupon the mourners break into colour and dance and everyone as if nothing ever happened. 

Wedding Crashers (2005)

The phrase ‘never meet your heroes’ is illustrated to perfection when Vince Vaughan and Owen Wilson meet the inspiration behind their spate of wedding crashes. When they realise he has tapped into an entirely new phenomenon of crashing funerals to meet potential suitors they retreat quickly for a long hard look in the mirror. 

The Godfather (1972)

When Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone collapses in the orange garden outside his house it spells the beginning of a troubled time for the family. But the funeral itself provides interesting insight into Sicilian culture with giant ostentatious headstones and dazzling floral arrangements as guests line up to present the family with single roses.

The Third Man (1949)

No one talks about the significance of the funeral scene in this critically acclaimed Orson Welles drama but in truth this scene kicked off the entire plot. Purposeless novelist Holly Martins meets Harry Limes at the funeral of a mutual friend as the story of the deceased’s suspicious death becomes clearer through the pooling of information.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Even Hugh Grant at his dithering best was momentarily outshone in this excellent romance film by John Hannah’s punctuating reading of W.H. Auden’s ‘Funeral Blues’. Eulogising the ceremony of his lover, Hannah read: “My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song. I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.”