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Death in Scotland

Chapters From the Twelfth Century to the Twenty-First


Peter C. Jupp and Hilary J. Grainger

For the past twenty years, Scottish death culture has emerged as a focus of scholars drawn from a wide variety of disciplines. Death comes to us all but too often we treat it as a private or personal matter. The former taboo about death is slowly lifting and contemporary research is playing an increasing part. Accordingly, the fifteen essays gathered in this book probe the multi-facetted role of death in Scottish history and culture. They explore personal fears of death, anxieties about Predestination, prayers for the dead and the appeal of Spiritualism. They analyse the public face of death in law, economics and medicine: changes in capital punishment, funeral poverty, the teaching of anatomy and prevention of stillbirths. Within the worlds of religion and ritual, they consider the making of saints, burial practice following the Scottish Reformation and the tradition of keening within the Gáidhealtachd. With an Introduction by Professor Jane Dawson, these essays by specialists in the field not only highlight the richness of the primary sources for studying death in Scotland but reveal how death studies identify key features of Scottish life and society across ten centuries.

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14 Local Authority Funerals in Early Twenty-first-century Scotland (Glenys Caswell)


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14 Local Authority Funerals in Early Twenty-first-century Scotland


Local authority funerals occur when there is no one able or willing to organise a funeral, when there are insufficient financial resources to pay for a funeral, or the identity of the deceased person is unknown. In these circumstances the local authority takes responsibility for the funeral, typically engaging a contracted funeral director, placing a notice in the local newspaper, and employing a member of the clergy to conduct a suitable funeral service. The method of disposal may be burial or cremation. This chapter describes local authority funerals, drawing on qualitative sociological research carried out in the early twenty-first century to explore funeral practices in Stornoway, Inverness and Edinburgh. The concepts of figurations, reflexive individuality in liquid modern times and personalization help make sense of the findings, and the conclusion is drawn that local authority funerals do not make a clear break with pauper funerals of the past.


What would once have been called a pauper funeral is now known by a number of other names in the United Kingdom, including national assistance funeral, a public health funeral or an indigent funeral. In Scotland the term ‘indigent’ has been used by local authorities to describe a funeral where the person who died lacks family and friends to make the arrangements, has left insufficient funds in their estate to cover the costs involved, or where the...

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