When The Funeral Celebrant Visited The Crematorium

Funeral celebrants are a strange breed. Most people, when they go on holidays, visit beaches, scenic areas, buildings of historic interest. On my staycation last week, I visited the Island Crematorium (link) in Cork, South-West Ireland. I tapped into the power of my network to arrange the visit, and the crematorium manager Brian Johnston said he’d show me around.


You see a long corridor made of stone, with stone walls on either side. There’s a slight bend in the corridor and you can see strip lighting on the left and right-hand side of the corridor. I took these pictures on my crematorium visit by kind permission of Brian Johnston.

The Island Crematorium is located just outside Cork City, where the River Lee meets the sea. It’s in an area with a strong military tradition and the building itself used to be a gunpowder hold in the eighteenth century. This means its thick stone walls have really lasted the test of time – though 200 years of grime had to be scrubbed off the walls during the restoration process.

What’s The Crematorium Like?

Being a slightly warped funeral celebrant, I was fascinated to see the area where the cremations actually happen. But only authorised personnel are allowed in that area. Still, there was plenty to see in the public areas of the crematorium. The entrance alone is quite striking. It’s a long corridor that curves through the stone, with strip lighting on either side of the path.

You find yourself in a long room, softly lit with lamps. Chairs are spaced out across the floor, in line with COVID restrictions. There is a lectern to the side where the celebrant delivers the ceremony. And the coffin rests in a platform called a catafalque, cut into a wall. The platform is surrounded by blue gates, and when the time comes to say goodbye, the blue gates gently close.


The picture shows a long, dimly lit room, with wooden chairs on the right-hand side and a black lectern on the left. On the left-hand wall, you can see two blue gates. These are the gates that close around the coffin at the end.

Three Questions From A Funeral Celebrant

As a funeral celebrant, I had three questions in my mind. How long can a family spend in a crematorium? Who handles the music? And who presses the button at the end? I know that if you’re grieving, that last question isn’t something you want to think about it. And I don’t want to think about it either. I want to deliver a beautiful, dignified ceremony for you, and these questions are all critical in helping to deliver that.

First, ceremonies at Island Crematorium happen every hour, on the hour. This is different from other crematoriums where ceremonies happen every 20-30 minutes. I’ll still make sure to keep my ceremonies at 20-25 minutes. That gives you and your family time to settle in and then have a little chat afterwards, Plenty of time at either end for you to give each other comfort, and for me and the crematorium staff to comfort you.

You can find out more about the funeral services I deliver on my Funerals page.

The crematorium staff then handle the music. If I’m your funeral celebrant, I’ll have helped you choose some music: a favourite song your loved one listened to, or a song that you feel will fit the mood of your ceremony. I’ll then tell the crematorium staff what music you’ve chosen. They’ll load it up through the power of digital music. And then all they have to do is press a button at the right time to start the music.

And finally, there’s that incredibly poignant moment when you say goodbye to your loved one for the last time. This is why I’m so anxious about who presses that final button. I want you to be able to say goodbye with dignity. The crematorium staff make this very easy, for me and for you.

The Final Moments

As I say the final goodbye words, the blue gates on either side of the coffin begin to close. They close very slowly, while music plays. We know that this moment is going to be heartbreaking for you, and we’ll tell you that in advance, so you’ll be in some way prepares.

And then while that moment is happening, everything will be done to ease your pain as music as possible. All you’ll see is those blue gates, sending your loved ones onwards to their final journey.

If you’d like to find out more about the funeral services I deliver, in a crematorium or elsewhere, send me a message on info@celebrantderv.ie

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