1 EAGLETON NOTES: An Island Funeral: Angus M Graham

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Monday, 28 July 2008

An Island Funeral: Angus M Graham

There is nothing quite like an Island funeral. There was no one quite like Angus Graham. So it was to be expected that Angus's funeral would be quite an occasion.

Most of you who read this won't even have heard of Angus Graham so I will just mention that he was a prominent Island politician from about 1984 until a couple of years ago. He and I worked very closely (though not without the occasional disagreement) and I respected him because, unlike so many politicians, if you were straight with him then he was straight with you.

About two months before I left New Zealand last April I had an exceptionally strong dream in which he figured (he was not someone I would usually have dreamed about!). It was not pleasant and it stayed with me for the rest of that day. It worried me to the extent that I emailed two people whom I thought would know if anything was wrong. Indeed it was. He had just been told that his cancer has returned and that it was serious.

I met him a few days after I got home and we had a chat. He commented that it was remarkable how the mind dealt with unpleasant situations. I think from what he said that, like many of us, it is not death of which we are afraid but the way in which we will die.

So this morning the Township of Back came to a standstill after the funeral service at the Back Free Church. I should explain.

After the service it is the Island tradition that the coffin shall be carried by the mourners to the hearse - in olden days it would have been to the cemetery (which often was not accessible to vehicles). I would estimate that there were about a thousand mourners. Eight mourners at a time carry the coffin on its bier - four on each side. The mourners who have not had a 'lift' form two lines behind the cortege and walk to the front of the bier. As the back person leaves go the others move one place back and the 'new' person joins at the front. Each person in a large funeral like this probably keeps his station for about 3 paces. It was a long walk today.

There is one road connecting the Back area with Stornoway. The cortege travelled along that road. After Back there are the Townships of Gress and the Tolstas. So if you were on one side of Back and wanted to be on the other side there was only one solution: patience.

I will miss Angus.

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