Austin's Blog


Austin’s charity donations continue

February 3rd, 2016    Author:
MD Claire Austin hands over cheque for £5,972.15 to North Herts Samaritans

MD Claire Austin hands over cheque for £5,972.15 to North Herts Samaritans

Since Austin’s Charitable Fund was set up in 2002, it has raised over £125,000 for community-based and local charities. This month, Austin’s managing director Claire Austin was delighted to hand over a cheque for £5,972.15 to North Herts Samaritans, the nominated charity for 2015.

Says Claire: We are delighted to have been able to help the SAMARITANS who provide an invaluable service by supporting people in our community.”

Other charities that have benefitted from Austin’s Charitable Foundation include Cancer Hair Care, Tracks Autism, The Living Room and Homestart. This year’s charity is Stevenage Haven which provides shelter and support for single homeless people.

Every year, a percentage of Austin’s profits goes towards a chosen charity. Austin’s are also able to donate money from their annual Christmas Carol Service at Harwood Park Crematorium as well as the sale of funeral service CDs. Money is also kindly raised through the generosity of bereaved families who donate to the charity in memory of a loved one.

Austin’s would like to thank everyone who has helped to raise money for their nominated charities over the years and look forward to continuing to raise money in 2016.

Pictured – Alan Chaney, Chair of Samaritans Friends, Claire Austin Managing Director of Austins Funeral Services, Leigh Grigson, Branch Director North Herts & Stevenage Samaritans, Janet Moss Deputy Director of Outreach at North Herts & Stevenage Samaritans.

The History of the Victorian Mute

January 18th, 2016    Author:
Claire Austin acts as Conductor at colleagues funeral

Claire Austin acts as Conductor at colleagues funeral

During the Victorian era, when funerals were an extravagant business, the family of the deceased would often hire a mute for the occasion. A mute was basically a paid mourner, whose job was to keep vigil outside the house then lead the funeral procession.

A mute dressed in sombre clothes with a black top hat. If it was an adult’s funeral he’d wear a black sash and carry a black crepe-covered staff. For a child’s funeral, the sash and staff would be white.

Most commonly, men took on the role of mutes but there were some child mutes, including Charles Dickens’ famous character, Oliver Twist, who was taken on by the undertaker Mr Sowerberry for children’s funerals. Sowerberry told his wife:  ‘There’s an expression of melancholy in his face, my dear, which is very interesting. He would make a delightful mute, my love… I don’t mean a regular mute to attend grown-up people, my dear, but only for children’s practice. It would be very new to have a mute in proportion, my dear.’

Dickens liked to mock the Victorian’s obsession with mutes, believing them to be an unnecessary expense, particularly for the lower classes who could least afford them. In another of his books, Martin Chuzzlewit, he wrote: ‘Two mutes were at the house-door, looking as mournful as could reasonably be expected of men with such a thriving job in hand.’

Most mutes were day-labourers who took on funeral work as a bit of extra money. It was irregular work so they made the most of it – not least in the amount they drank! It was traditional to gives mutes gin to keep them warm while they stood outside, so drunkenness was prevalent. This is exemplified in a quote from the secretary of an English burial society, printed in the illustrated magazine, Leisure Hour, in 1862: ‘The men who stand as mutes at the door are supposed to require most drink. I have seen these men reel about the road, and after the burial, we have been obliged to put these mutes into the interior of the hearse and drive them home, as they were incapable of walking.’

Not surprisingly, the use of mutes began to decrease and by the turn of the 20th century these professional mourners had disappeared altogether.

It’s OK To Cry at a Funeral

December 14th, 2015    Author:

 ‘To weep is to make less the depth of grief’ – William Shakespeare

Many people worry about crying when they’re at a funeral. They may feel that it’s inappropriate to grieve publicly, or worry that they’ll embarrass themselves, particularly if they find themselves overcome with grief. For other people, they might be concerned that their tears will be upsetting for others, and feel anxious about how they’re going to keep their emotions under control.

When you’re saying goodbye to a loved one, it’s perfectly normal – and acceptable – to cry. You’re mourning the loss of someone you knew and feeling great sadness that they will no longer be there in your life. There’s no need to hold back the tears when they come.

Of course not everybody cries at a funeral. Some people prefer to grieve alone, and that is fine, too. If you’re giving a eulogy, you might want to be ‘strong’ so you can get through the speech. In fact, as you recall amusing anecdotes you might find yourself laughing at the memories – laughter, like tears, is a wonderful way of releasing emotions.

Crying can actually help with the grieving process. When we cry, our tears help the body rid itself of chemicals that raise the stress hormone cortisol. That’s why many people feel better once they’ve had a cry. In fact, in one survey, 85% of women and 73% of men said they felt less sad and angry after they’d had a cry. Allowing yourself to cry means you can slowly, bit by bit, release your pent-up emotions and move from a place of deep sadness to one of acceptance.

* Don’t forget to join us for mince pies and mulled wine at our annual Christmas Carol Service at Harwood Park on Wednesday 16th December at 7.30pm. It’s a wonderful way to remember loved ones who remain in our hearts if not in our lives. For your free ticket, call 01438 815555. Donations gratefully received for the Samaritans.

2015 Christmas Carol Service – 16th December

November 16th, 2015    Author:

Our annual Christmas Carol Service takes place at Harwood Park on Wednesday 16th December at 7.30pm. Tickets are available free of charge by calling Harwood Park on 01438 815555. Mince pies and mulled wine will be served following the service.

This service is always busy and it’s a lovely way to remember those who will always been in our hearts but perhaps not in our lives.

Donations gratefully received for the Samaritans which is our charitable fund for 2015.


Christmas Carol Service 2015