4 NOVEMBER 1972, Page 15

A grave story

Sir; Mr Cameron's description of a Scottish burial and re-burial puts me in mind of the old Warrington story of Grandfather Clayton's Funeral. According to this, old Mr Clayton, who died sometime in the late nineteenth century, had for many years made a habit of driving each week in his pony and trap from his home in Great Sankey to Wigan market, His route lay through Warrington, Winwick, Newton-le-Willows and Ashton-inMakerfield, and at intervals along it were a number of public houses at which he was wont to call for a quick one. In those times, of course, they were open most of the day. After making the journey so many times the pony, Owd Bess, was perfectly familiar with the road, and followed it without needing any guidance, pulling up automatically outside the pubs the old man favoured.

When he died it was found that Mr Clayton's will provided for his burial at Wigan Parish Church, on market day, and he stipulated that the funeral procession should be led from his house to Wigan by Owd Bess in the trap, and wherever she stopped on the way the mourners were to get out and have a quick one in his memory. To defray the expenses, and ensure a good turn-out, he left forty sovereigns to pay for the drinks — in those days a considerable sum of money. On the appointed day the cortege set out, including several coach loads of mourners, and to tell the story properly involves relating what happened at each pub along the road, which takes a long time and which in any case I have forgotten. I think they started swopping hats with the women at the Old Swan at Winwick. Anyway, they were hours late at the church, and in view of their condition the vicar barred the door and refused them admittance. Since it was market day a large crowd soon gathered, hooting and Jeering at the bearers, who were trying without much success to get the coffin up the steps to the church door and to persuade the vicar to let them in. The old man's brother, who was holding the kitty, found himself at the back of the crowd, and, unable to see what was causing the hold-up, shouted, "Eh, What's up?" and the mourners shouted back, "It's t'parson — he won't let us in — he says we're all drunk!" "Oh, bugger that, then," he replied. "Let's tek him t' St Helens; we've got fourteen quid left yet." The story goes that Grandfather Clayton is buried in St Helens to this day, in front of the Town Hall.

J. 0. Stans field Flat 55, Clare Court, Judd Street, London WC1