One of Market Rasen’s longest-running businesses is marking its 65th anniversary this year, and its owner is proud to be continuing to serve the townsfolk in their time of need.
J Marshall Funeral Directors in Market Rasen’s Queen Street was started in 1953 by Jack Marshall and remains one of the town’s independent family-run businesses.
It is now run by Jack’s son, William - or Bill as he is known to many - who took over the business in 1984, at the age of just 22.
“It is quite rare these days to have a family-run funeral directors,” said Bill.
“I am proud our business is still going strong after more than six decades, and we intend to be here for many more years to come.
“We are here to support the local community and we hope the community will support, not just us, but all their local businesses.”
Things have changed a great deal since Bill first became involved in the business at such a young age.
He said: “Nowadays, in most cases, the service itself is a celebration or thanksgiving for the life of a person.
“It is no longer the Victorian morbid service, but a more joyous occasion.
“It is though, of course, still an upsetting time for the loved ones, but it is a time to remember the good times too.
“That is why we offer such a bespoke service.
“It is important families receive the guidance they require at this very difficult time and that they get a service specific to them and their individual needs - and budget.”
There have been changes too in the skills required by funeral directors.
Bill said: “Local cabinet maker Cecil Fridlington trained me up from the age of 12 to make coffins.
“We continued making all our coffins on site up until 1986, but now they are made to order by another family-firm in Derbyshire - still all by hand though.”
In days gone by, because of the skill in making coffins, the local undertaker was also generally a joiner too.
This was the case for Jack Marshall, who did his apprenticeship with Market Rasen joiner, undertaker and wheelwright Seth Towle.
In 1950, when Seth retired, Jack started his own business in the Swan Yard, with his father Tom, also a joiner and undertaker, helping him out sometimes.
Then, in 1959, he moved his business to 49 to 51 Queen Street, from where J Marshall Funeral Directors still operates.
Working for Jack at that time was Keith Mason and George Hildred.
However, the successful business was dealt a blow with the sudden and untimely death of Jack in the early 1970s.
Charlie Richardson took over the running of the business, with Jack’s wife Cynthia always in the background helping out, as well as bringing up her three young children.
Bill joined the firm in 1978 at the age of 16, although he had been helping to dig graves from the age of 12.
Bill said: “I always fancied being a pilot, but as events went, with my dad dying so young, things changed.
“I did a four-year CITB course at Lincoln Tech College in two years and then did my NAFD (national Association of Funeral Directors) Diploma when I was 22.”
And the rest, as they say, is history.
With the business continuing to expand, six years ago, Darren Shipham took on the management of the day to day business.
“Darren has been a great addition to the business,” said Bill. “He enjoys the job and looking after people’s needs is his priority, which is something very important to us”
So what of the future for J Marshall Funeral Directors?
“I am sure J Marshall will see another generation coming through,” said Bill, who has two children.
“I want the kids to go away and see a bit of life, then they might think about coming into the business.
“I would be delighted of course if they decide to become part of the business, but there is no pressure for them to do so.”