IN days of yore the village undertaker would also be the local joiner. The two professions went together as the joiner made the coffins.
Mike Shaw, former editor of the Colne Valley Guardian, recalled this combination of occupations when he read the recent piece in this column about funeral directors. In particular, he remembered James William Thorp from Linthwaite who was probably one of the last of this particular breed and who died about 50 years ago aged 84.
He made his own coffin from a piece of solid oak, chiselling it out by hand. And as it progressed, he would quite often try it out to make sure it was comfortable.
“He wanted it to be his life’s masterpiece,” says Mike.
It took him months to complete and another 20 years before he had to use it and even then he made sure his funeral was memorable.
He lived at Bankfield on Manchester Road and had been in the habit of walking to The Bull’s Head at Blackmoorfoot for a Sunday evening drink. He left instructions to his family that his funeral take a roundabout route to Linthwaite Parish Church and stop at the Bull’s Head where everyone in the cortege should have a drink on him.
“You must stop going because I shan’t be with you coming back,” he said.
The cortege did stop in his memory but no-one had a drink. They saved that until after the funeral in memory of a real Colne Valley character.