A celebrant swearing at a funeral service – how very Irene Hamilton


Categories: Opinion

I DON’T think I have ever been at a service where the celebrant swore so much.

But then I’ve not been to many funeral services so carefully choreographed by the deceased.

Recently, we said goodbye to my friend and office staffer Irene Hamilton.

The air was blue at Alloa Town Hall. Irene had been determined to go out with a bang.

She’d chosen the music. She’d chosen the photographs which filled the big video screen. And she made sure that the tears were interrupted by laughter.

The poor celebrant had been left with no choice.

Irene liked to swear, and she had scripted some choice quips for posthumous quotation.

The sedate auld hall rocked to music from the 70s and 80s. Every seat was taken – even the galleries had folk who had known and loved Irene looking down on events below. All agreed they’d been to gey few funerals like it.

Irene’s bravery in the face of her cancer was an inspiration. You see Irene never said, “I can’t”. Her motto was always “give it a try – what’s the worst that can happen?”

When she lost her arm to cancer more than a decade ago she learnt to take photographs using just the one airm.

Long walks across her beloved Clackmannanshire resulted in professional images of snow on bracken, mist over the Ochils, and countless full moons in all their pale, luminous wonder.

Some of us were lucky enough to get one of her end of year calendars with her favourite shots selected.

Irene was passionate about her county and passionate about her country, devoting time and toil to Scottish independence, a cause she held close to her heart.

Many in the hall for her funeral remember her days as a Clackmannanshire councillor. Indeed, the council had marked her death by flying their flag at half-mast.

She was remembered as a tenacious advocate, working tirelessly to resolve her constituents’ problems – the very model of a fine local government elected representative.

When she decided she liked you there was ne’er a more loyal friend.

She came to hear me speak at my first hustings when I applied to be a candidate in Ochil and South Perthshire. And when I was selected as candidate she was the heart of the campaign dispensing wit and wisdom with endless tea and sickly sweet cakes.

When I won – as I told the congregation at her funeral – it was blindingly obvious that I needed her on my staff. I invited her to join me the day after the election.

“Aye fine” she said, before asking whether I’d be holding a celebration party. When I told her I would, she said: “Great. But no Village People noo. I know you gays love the Village People. But I canna do the YMCA.”

This was said as she demonstrated her wan-airmed version.

I saw Irene shortly before she died. She was sitting in bed at home, her quick-tempered cat Indy lying protectively at her head. She looked up at me, laughed and said: “Well, John, look at me. Just living the dream.”

Irreplaceable Irene Hamilton. Funny, kind, and brave. I will miss her. We all will.