When a loved one dies, the coffin is transported to the location of burial or cremation by a hearse. It is simply a vehicle used to transport the coffin and is usually the first vehicle in a funeral procession. You’ll usually see motorised versions today, as opposed to their horse-drawn forebears, but a hearse can be any vehicle. So, it’s not uncommon for relatives to consider the deceased’s hobbies and passions when selecting a funeral hearse.
Modern hearses are long, vehicles with glass windows that transport the coffin or casket. In the past they were often black to reflect the somber situation but of late, white, silver and dark blue have also become popular.
The word itself is derived from the anglo-french word ‘herce,’ which means ‘harrow,’ an old farming tool. The wooden structure that supported the coffin at the funeral was known as the ‘herce’ in the Middle Ages, owing to its resemblance to the shape of the harrow farming tool.
The use of horses to draw coffins rather than people carrying them became popular in the 1600s. Horse-drawn carriages are still used today, although motorised hearses are the most common.
A body may be transported in any privately registered vehicle in New South Wales and some other Australian jurisdictions. However, only bodies delivered in a hearse, or a registered funeral vehicle are accepted by the majority of cemeteries and crematoriums. Please confirm with the cemetery, crematorium, or organisation in charge of overseeing funeral services in your area.
When it comes to which hearse to use, your loved one may have specified in their will how they wanted to be conveyed. They may have nominated some of their hobbies and interests to set a unique tone for their funeral hearse or procession. Really, the sky is the limit.
Aside from the standard hearse, some people prefer something a little more classic. Horse-drawn carriages are elegant and modelled after traditional Victorian or Edwardian models. Many horse-drawn hearses are over 100 years old, but they can accommodate modern coffins and have flower rails. The horses usually arrive in pairs or fours, with a groom dressed in traditional attire to drive them to the service.
Funerals are held in a variety of ways around the world; for example, jazz processions with live bands lead mourners in New Orleans. When Winston Churchill died in 1965, his funeral procession included a boat ride down the Thames and a 60-mile train ride from London to Oxfordshire.
As funerals have evolved from a solemn event to a celebration of a person’s life, a wide range of classic and vintage automobiles have been converted into funeral cars and hearses to make these occasions more personal affairs.
Over the years, funeral processions have included some truly “unique” hearses, such as:
The cost of a hearse is determined by your requirements. The most common, and thus the least expensive, is the standard motorised wagon-style car. More elaborate hearses might incur additional costs.
At Alex Gow Funerals, our range of funeral packages include the provision of the hearse as well as the coffin and pallbearers, departure from an address of your choice, and your choice of route to the service. Many choose to have these processions travel past significant places from the loved one’s like workplaces, sporting facilities and even their childhood home as it is an opportunity for others to view the funeral cortege and pay respects. A traditional funeral procession is usually followed by limousines or private cars transporting mourners, which we can also arrange.
Traditional funeral processions will usually include a lead car. This is a vehicle that goes in front of the hearse with its hazard lights flashing. This alerts other vehicles and passers-by that a funeral procession is in place. The funeral director may also walk in front of the lead car. This is known as “paging away” and comes from the era of horse-drawn vehicles. Walking in front allowed the funeral director to stop any other approaching carts.
More frequently today, the pagers will walk in front for a short distance then return to the lead vehicle and continue to the service by car.
If you want to know more about the hearses on offer from Alex Gow Funerals, please call us today.