Craftsman carried on cart
PUBLISHED: 13:19 11 January 2007 | UPDATED: 10:05 31 May 2010
THE body of former West Wratting resident Ken Donaldson was taken to his funeral on the 19th century bier he lovingly restored a decade ago on Saturday. Mr Donaldson, 70, was a trained cabinetmaker and requested in his will that his four nephews pull the
THE body of former West Wratting resident Ken Donaldson was taken to his funeral on the 19th century bier he lovingly restored a decade ago on Saturday.
Mr Donaldson, 70, was a trained cabinetmaker and requested in his will that his four nephews pull the wheeled contraption to St Andrew's Church in the village, where his wife Sybil, who died in 1979, is buried.
Daughter Christina Prescott-Walker said: "My father moved to West Wratting in 1974 from Somerset and was very involved in the life of the village until he moved in the mid-1990s, first to Stretham and latterly to Linton in 2000.
"He was very fond of West Wratting church and for many years he looked after the mowing and maintenance of the churchyard."
Mr Donaldson, who died after suffering a heart attack on December 22, discovered the antique bier, which has not been used for half a century, in the late 1970s rotting in a collapsed shed next to the 14th century church.
Many village churches used wheeled biers to take coffins from homes to the church in the 18th and 19th centuries, but very few survive to this day.
"My father was operations director of the now defunct Ely furniture firm Dinette until his retirement 10 years ago, and the restoration of the bier was an opportunity for him to practice his long disused cabinet making skills," said Mrs Prescott-Walker.
"He replaced the wood frame and the leather straps and restored the wheels and other metalwork.
"Several years ago he decided that when the time came he wanted to make sure the bier was put to good use, hence the stipulation in his will."
The bier, which has resided in the nave of the church for the last decade, was brought to the West Wratting sign at the top of Honey Hill and the coffin pulled along to the church by nephews Trevor and Paul Donaldson and Kevin and Colin Cousins.
Mr Donaldson's son, Gary, supervised the transport.
Mourners gathered outside the church and followed the bier up the church path to the porch where the coffin was taken off and carried inside by pallbearers.
Mr Donaldson's will also stated that his nephews would be rewarded for helping pull the bier to the church.
"As a final twist, the will stipulates that each of his four nephews will receive a small legacy for their funeral duties," said Mrs Prescott-Walker.
"The sum of money was to be increased in the event of rain and doubled in the event of snow!