I brake for hearses



It seems a large number of you have ridden in hearses, despite being still alive! Apropos of our discussion of the funereal vehicles in AMT209, we’ve heard from Stephen from Greenock:

I play the bagpipes and in my student days made a good side-business piping at funerals. The one problem is I don’t drive. At one particular funeral, I asked the funeral director if I could hitch a lift in the hearse, as I’ve been known to do.

Most hearses are two drivers’ seats plus three behind, then the area for the coffin…but not this one. This has the two front seats (taken by the funeral director and priest) and a seat behind each of these. And instead of the third middle seat, the top end of the coffin went there. I therefore spent a very uncomfortable ten minutes sitting alone in this hearse at the church with the coffin (and within, the head-end of the deceased) right at my shoulder while the priest and funeral director chatted with mourners!

That, I would say, is an occupational hazard.

As we suspected, there’s a lively market for second-hand hearses, confirmed by Kevin:

During the summers my father was in college/university, he worked for a harpsichord builder who loved used hearses. You get them incredibly cheap because no one wants to be buried in a used one, they have very good suspension, and they already have rollers in the back for moving boxy wooden things about the size of a coffin or a harpsichord.

Very sensible! Far more so than the pre-owned hearse of Celeste from Elephant and Castle‘s acquaintance:

My uncle used to drive a hearse, in the 1970s or earlier. He is a bit of an eccentric, been a professional violinist since the age of nineteen, and has an interesting history of weird cars and motoring in general – buying a car without a reverse gear; leaving a jar of pickled gherkins in an old car of his, and having not screwed the lid on properly it leaked vinegar everywhere so he had to sell the car; and buying a gold-coloured Mercedes (to the horror of my aunt), as well as losing his license pretty much every year.

Back in his hearse days, I believe he was involved in a car crash (not his fault) and he, his now ex-girlfriend and her daughter suffered relatively few injuries because he was driving a hearse at the time, which was especially well padded/armoured/hardcore. So hearses are very safe – which seems a bit pointless as normally the people in the back are already dead.

Yes, but they are also in a big heavy wooden box, which could cause very comprehensive damage if it shot straight through an inadequate crumple zone. In a way, the death industry is foolishly protecting itself against getting extra work.


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