Bearer

BEARING

It is an honour to be asked to be a bearer for a family funeral and we hope to ensure that you are able to carryout this task safely and with dignity. We have prepared this brief guide so that without the prior experience or extensive training that we give to our staff, you can at least be prepared for what is in store. All these points will be repeated on the day of the funeral before and during each procedure, either by the Funeral Director or personal contact.

 

Some general points:

  • Firstly: Do not use the handles on the coffin – they are decorative only. Always handle the coffin by the base. The coffin always travels “feet first”. Before any lifting that is required the command will be given by the Funeral Director “Ready? – Steady – Lift” and everyone should answer “No” or “Stop” if they are not ready and otherwise lift on the “L” of “Lift”.
  • It is usual for there to be 4 bearers and it is best if they are paired in height, the shortest at the front, the tallest at the back. Sometimes it might be necessary to have 6 bearers or maybe 8 or to use a trolley - the Funeral Director will be able to advise. The remainder of these instructions assumes 4 bearers.
  • When carrying the coffin on your shoulder you may like to consider wearing padding on your shoulder(s). Shoulder slings can be provided if requested.
  • Traditionally a coffin will always travel "feet first" (unless the person was a member of the clergy). We would always try to do this unless we consider that it is safer to do otherwise given the particular circumstances, e.g. if turning round is too hazardous.
  • If at anytime you would prefer not to do a particular part of the bearer’s duties or would prefer not to be a bearer please let us know as soon as possible so that we can arrange for our own staff to be available. If you would like a training session together, this can be arranged by contacting the Funeral Director. A risk assessment is also available, please ask.

INSTRUCTIONS

 

The first action is to remove the coffin from the hearse. The two bearers at the back “back bearers” stand behind the hearse and the two bearers at the front “front bearers” stand either side.

 

The back bearers pull the coffin out and the two bearers at the front come in to take the front end of the coffin. The two bearers at the front need to lift the coffin, just an inch, before the coffin comes all the way out.

 

Usually, the coffin needs to be turned around. To do this carry the coffin at waist height. We always go clockwise, unless it is quicker to go anti-clockwise.

 

Carrying it by the base, follow the Funeral Director to the required position when the signal “Ready? Steady, lift” and you lift the coffin onto your shoulder, positioning yourself comfortably on the corners of the coffin.

 

Putting your arm around your fellow bearer, or linking arms, will prevent you from drifting apart. Try to keep an upright posture. When preparing to walk whilst carrying the coffin, set-off with your outside foot forward. This stops the coffin from rocking from side-to-side.

 

The Funeral Director will explain the route, any obstacles such as steps or low doorways and how to tackle them. The back bearers can watch the feet of the bearer in front because they will not be able to see where they are going directly.

Waiting at the hearse
Taking out the coffin

GOING INTO CHURCH

 

There will be trestles or stools at the front of the church and the front bearers stop when they reach the trestle or stool, forcing the back bearers to stop. Take the coffin off your shoulder, carrying it by the base, sidle along the stools or trestles until they are in the middle of the coffin and then lower the coffin to rest on them, bending your knees if you can as you lower.

 

You may rejoin the family now.

 

On the way out of church, the same things happen in reverse. All the bearers take positions on the corners of the coffin and lift when instructed, bending your knees if possible. The Funeral Director removes the stools or trestles and the coffin is turned around. A second instruction to lift is given to lift the coffin onto your shoulders ready to walk out. The coffin is loaded back into the hearse by placing the front end into the hearse and the bearers step away allowing the back bearers to push the coffin in the rest of the way.

 

BURIALS

 

The grave will normally be surrounded by planks, supported at the corners and covered by artificial grass with two cross-bearers (putlogs across the grave at equal intervals. Webs are used to lower the coffin into the grave.

 

The webs are coiled up. Taking one end of the web, pass it down through the handle, underneath the coffin, and pass it to the bearer opposite you. They then take the web and pass it up through the handle on their side. Continue to feed the web through until a black mark across the web is seen and goes under the coffin. You should now have half each.

 

Fold up the remaining loose web and prepare to take the weight of the coffin on the web. When the Funeral Director or deputy gives the “Ready? Steady, lift!” instruction lift the coffin off the trestles/stools/trolley a little and the Funeral Director will remove them. Move the coffin forward a little so the front bearers can place the foot of the coffin on the end-plank. The front bearers then step up onto the planks. Move the coffin over onto the grave and the cross-bearers a bit at a time by shifting your weight from one side to the other. Do not attempt to walk along the planks whilst carrying the coffin.

 

When the back bearers reach the planks they too step-up and continue to move the coffin along until it is aligned with the grave. When in position, hold the web and release the loose web behind you and out away from the grave. Stand upright holding the web until the Funeral Director gives the signal “Ready? Steady, lift!” when, bending your knees if you can, lift the coffin off the cross-bearers and the Funeral Director will remove them. Then lower the coffin into the grave feeding the web through your hands. Do not allow the web to slip through your hands – this is uncontrolled and can lead to burns if the web slips suddenly.

 

When the coffin reaches the bottom of the grave, stand on the web with one foot and let go of the web so that it lies outside of the grave then you will not trip over the web. Leave the grave when indicated by the Funeral Director, so that you do not interrupt the officiant in the middle of prayers.

GOING INTO CREMATORIUM

 

You should stop when reaching the caterfalque (or table) and the front bearers place the front of the coffin onto the end and the back bearers push the coffin along the rollers. The front bearers walk with the coffin as it proceeds down the caterfalque. Take care to get the coffin straight.

 

You may rejoin the family now.

GOING INTO CREMATORIUM

 

You should stop when reaching the caterfalque (or table) and the front bearers place the front of the coffin onto the end and the back bearers push the coffin along the rollers. The front bearers walk with the coffin as it proceeds down the caterfalque. Take care to get the coffin straight.

 

You may rejoin the family now.

DID YOU KNOW?

 

Pall bearers are so called because they were the staff of the "undertaker" who would carry, or bear, the pall which is a cloth that would cover the coffin during some of the funeral rites and ceremony. They would have other duties too like carrying the coffin. Nowadays we rarely use a pall but carrying the coffin is still the main part of the job. Our bearers get training every year to refresh our skills and many of them come from choral backgrounds and so we enjoy singing the hymns too.

 

 

Registered address:

24-26 High Street, Cam,

Dursley, Glos, GL11 5LE

Directors:

Mr Jeremy Clutterbuck, BSc

Mrs Lynn Hallam

VAT Registration

number:

771 5292 25

Company Registration

number:

4716310