Home > Analysis, Obits by Country > Obituaries in Wales are just so different

Obituaries in Wales are just so different

I always find it’s interesting to explore the different writing styles across countries. When I first got the assignment of obituaries in Wales, I expected it to be more or less influenced by British ones, probably due to the geographic reason.  But when I deep look at them, it seems I’m wrong. I tried to come to a conclusion about how obituaries in Wales look like in general. The result was I couldn’t. Different papers seem have different tastes.

Here’s a national paper South Wales Echo, whose obituaries seem more like resumes to me. I’ll show you an example.

Obituary: Emyr Currie-Jones

Dec 2 2008 by Catherine Mary Evans, South Wales Echo

EMYR CURRIE-JONES was one of the most worthy and estimable figures in local government, especially in educational affairs in Cardiff and Glamorgan, during the past half century.

He figured prominently in the resolution of several highly controversial issues during that period.

He was also the first chairman of the newly-created South Glamorgan County Council, serving from 1973 to 1975, and a member for the city’s Ely ward from 1981 to 1989.

Mr Currie-Jones, beloved husband of the late Mary, was born in Caernarfon and became a well-known and highly respected solicitor in Cardiff.

He acted as prosecuting solicitor for the Cardiff City Council from 1950 to 1955 and subsequently as partner in the practice of Rees, Currie-Jones, Davies and Evans in the Castle Arcade Chambers North until his retirement in 1987, later as consultant solicitor.

He was a past president of the Cardiff and District Law Society and a member of numerous councils and committees including the Welsh Joint Education Committee and Welsh Language Council.

For more than 20 years, Mr Currie-Jones was also a member of the Council of the then University College of Cardiff.

A fluent Welsh speaker, he had been involved in the affairs of his chapel at Minny Street, devoting many years to the chapel as its secretary.

He also served as a member of the Council of the Welsh Congregational Churches.

He was a past member of the Courts of Governors of the University Colleges of Swansea, the Council of the Welsh National School of Medicine, the Court of the National Library of Wales and the Welsh Books Council.

He also served for years on the Council of the Royal National Eisteddfod of Wales and was the chairman of the executive committee of the National Eisteddfod when it was held in Cardiff in 1978.

He received a warm welcome when he attended some of the sessions of the Eisteddfod held in Pontcanna this year.

Mr Currie-Jones was awarded the CBE for his work in local government in 1976. He died on October 13.

It’s not an exception. All the obituaries I read from this newspaper mostly focused on the job titles of the deceased and whether he/she was awarded any kind of honorship without the detailed stories. So they didn’t really tell what this person’s life meant to the society, but a list of big titles.

Another national paper, the Evening Post, has a different approach. Its obituaries mainly focus on the interaction between the deceased and his/her family or friends. The article always starts with the funeral information, like this:

“MOURNERS are tomorrow expected to pay their final respects to a man who was allegedly murdered at his Llanelli home.

Richard Shrapnell, aged 36, died after an incident at his Ty Elizabeth flat on March 4.”

It’s a very typical lede of obituaries on the Evening Post. And the full article got a lot of the quotes from someone close to the deceased to talk about their feelings toward the person, like this:

“Richard was popular with a lot of people around here, and I’ll always remember him as a lovely man who would always help you out,” she said.

“He liked a laugh and a joke, and was full of life. I really feel for the family, especially his father — I don’t think it has sunk in for them yet.”

However, the obituaries didn’t tell the life story of the deceased. You may get a sense by reading these two examples.

The obituaries on one of its local newspapers, Western Mail, tell more stories. Those are not in a British way, which is my favorite style. But still, there is something interesting to explore. Like this one about Tony Whitehead, a local film programmer:

Whitehead, a former Ormskirk Grammar School boy, doubtless garnered some of his writing and lecturing skills as a student at East Anglia University where he fell under the beguiling spell of Charles Barr, all-round British film expert and author of a definitive book on Ealing Studios. Whitehead revered those studio comedies of the late ’40s and early ’50s but he was equally loquacious discussing the merits of the Boulting Bros, with their scabrous, sometimes ambivalent, satires on social mores, or Launder and Gilliat.

See, this is a story, not something put on resume…However, one thing I’m so confused with this paper. It’s really uncommon to see the author writes as “the first person”. Like this:

He made me realise that Leigh was a Dickensian satirist – or more pertinently perhaps satirist in the Cruikshank, Hablot Browne (Phiz) or Hogarth mould with his propensity for drawing larger-than-life idiosyncratic characters or quintessential types, frayed with life or curling at the edges.

Hmmm, interesting…What do you think?

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  1. COLIN TAYLOR
    December 1st, 2009 at 06:45 | #1

    I am originally from Wales,newspapers on average have a social status within the communities that they service.My uncle felt that upon his demise his obituary should be read in the “Telegraph” befitting his social status!

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