Frederick David Smith "David"

River Boat Funeral - 28th November 2018

In nearly 60 years service to our community and surrounding villages, E Hill & Son experienced a first last week. We had the privilege of looking after the funeral of David Smith from Fladbury. David was the proprietor of Avon Leisure Cruises, Evesham and died rather suddenly on November 7th. He spent most of his life messing around with boats on the river as well as having a passion for engines and collecting classic cars. With his strong connection to the river, his wife Geraldine felt that David would have loved one last trip on board his boat down the Avon. I must admit, I was a bit apprehensive when she told me of her wishes; however, I rose to the challenge to try to give her husband the perfect send off. I needn’t have worried too much though, as David’s relatives, friends and crew all wanted to help make this special occasion happen and I found myself working with a great team.

The day of the funeral started by transporting David to Evesham, using our conventional hearse, to meet his boat “Frederick” at 8.45am sharp. We then, with the help of his friends placed David’s casket onto the stern of the boat for the trip down river to Fladbury. The flotilla consisted of two tug boats forming a guard of honour, one leading the way, one at the stern, David’s boat “Frederick” carrying David’s coffin and “Bluebelle” carrying family and friends. The tug boats were manned by members of  'ANT’ The Avon Navigational Trust. I was amazed as they stood to attention on their boats for the whole one hour and forty-minute journey to Fladbury, it really was a sight to see.

When we reached Fladbury we were greeted by Geraldine and lots of other family and friends in David’s back garden, as this backed on to the river. Geraldine, ceremonially caught the mooring rope, as she had done many times when David returned home from a boat trip, and brought the boat alongside the mooring. Once safely docked, with the help of David’s friends again, we proceeded to remove the casket from the boat and carried David up his garden to our hearse, which was waiting on the front drive to carry him to church. At this point we paused for about 20 minutes as David, for the first time in his life was early.

We left David’s house at about 11.15am and walked the short distance to church, with The Reverend Nancy-Murray Peters and I leading the hearse, with about 40 mourners following on behind. Again, the friends carried the casket into the church, where about 170 mourners joined in a wonderful service of celebration, led by Nancy. After the service David was laid to rest in the churchyard.


In my 32 years of experience I have been involved in many different styles of funerals and thought I had seen them all, but obviously not. This was certainly one for the memoirs.


My grateful thanks to Geraldine for entrusting me to carry out her instructions and to David’s many friends and colleagues that made my job easier on the day. Well done everyone.