It takes a special kind of person to comfort grieving families and escort the dearly departed to their final resting place day-in, day-out for 60 years.
But Harry Peel has the necessary qualities for such a difficult and important job.
A gentle and caring soul with the common touch, undertaker Harry has been a mainstay of our community since he first became a funeral director in 1953.
“When you’re dealing with people who are grieving, you’ve got to relax them and do everything possible for them,” said Harry.
“We look after them. To me, they are a person and not a number.”
Harry’s firm has operated on exactly the same site on Bare Lane for 60 years, handling up to 200 funerals a year; which works out at around 12,000 in total.
“It’s the finest job anyone could have,” said Harry.
“I enjoy helping people and it’s very job rewarding.”
A true sand grown’un, Harry was born at the Auckland Hotel on Morecambe promenade in 1923 to parents Stanley, a chauffeur, and Elizabeth.
When Harry was eight, he moved with his mum and dad to Leeds.
He got his first job in Leeds for a joinery and undertaker firm in 1937.
When he returned to Morecambe two years later he began working for J H Brooke funeral director on Sefton Road.
“I just had a knack for that type of work,” said Harry.
He went into the navy in 1942 then returned to Brooke’s after the war.
In 1950, he built his own house on Manor Grove at the back of Heysham High School. He still lives there 63 years on, and speaks proudly of his staircase, conservatory and particularly his garden, where he grows all his own vegetables. I love gardening, it’s a relief from the pressure of work,” he said. “To me, it’s amazing to plant a tiny little seed and see a tomato grow from it.”
Harry’s business in Bare village first opened in 1953. It originally did funeral work, joinery and sold sun blinds under the name C.H. Overend, who was a cousin of Harry’s grandad.
Harry used to ride to work every day on a push bike from his house.
His firm has seen some changes over the years. Forty years ago, the old building was pulled down and replaced with a new one.
At one time Harry leased part of the building to a pet store and shoe shop, and for several years Overends was a DIY store.
Today, the premises at 5 Bare Lane is divided into Bare and Torrisholme Funeral Services and a sun blind showroom.
Harry’s wife of 48 years, Barbara, son Terence and his staff help him run the business, dealing with many of the day-to-day tasks in the office and workshop.
Father-of-three Harry himself still works five days a week, visiting the homes of relatives and accompanying the funeral car and hearse to services.
And although he turns 90 this year, he has no intention of retiring. “I’m dedicated to my job and I enjoy it,” he says.
“It’s nice to be working at my age. There can’t be too many still doing that.”