It‘s time to meet another member of the Freeman Brothers team! Today we’ve profiled Russell, who’s progressed through the company and is now Funeral Director at our Hurstpierpoint branch…
Freeman Brothers Funeral Directors was first established in Horsham, West Sussex in 1855. With offices across the county – in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint – the independent and family-run business employs an increasingly-diverse workforce in a variety of roles. Today, we’ve profiled Funeral Director Russell Martin, who not only celebrates his anniversary at the company this month, but has also recently successfully completed his Certificate in Funeral Arranging and Administration. Read on to find out more…
How long have you worked at Freeman Brothers? I started at Freeman Brothers in 2012, so this month marks my 8-year anniversary.
What did you do prior to working at Freeman Brothers? Immediately before joining the Freeman Brothers ranks, I was working as a chauffeur and bearer for another firm of funeral directors. Before that, I was a driver and worked in a plant, dismantling mechanical devices. Practical, hands-on tasks have always appealed to me more than office work: I enjoy manual work as it’s productive and active – it keeps my hands busy and my mind engaged!
What made you want to work at a funeral directors? Years ago, when my father died, my family used an independent, family-run firm of funeral directors who were superb: they took all the pressure off our family and, having gone into the branch muddled, confused and distressed, they quickly relieved our worries and gave us some much-needed clarity. The owner’s son, in particular, was very personable and offered a huge amount help and support. It showed me just how important this job is to people and inspired me to want to do the same for others.
In your darkest moments, I think it is so important to have someone with a friendly face, good local knowledge and a wealth of experience to support you. Independent firms are so good at this because they specialise in specific areas and are often run by families who have grown up learning the necessary skills. Sadly, the firm who served my family are no longer independent, having been taken over by a national chain, so they aren’t able to personalise their services as easily. Part of the reason I enjoy working for Freeman Brothers is being able to really get to know my clients and create a bespoke service for them – not just offer inflexible, set packages.
Describe your role for those who may not know what it involves… I’m a real Jack-of-all-trades at work, which I love because it’s so varied and interesting. I have to be really flexible because I have multiple responsibilities and am constantly on the move, working with staff from each of our four branches, wherever I’m needed.
As a Funeral Director, I’m involved in planning and arranging funerals, but I’m also an experienced conductor, which means I often have the privilege of working with a family throughout the whole process. I think this sense of continuity, and of having a familiar face for the whole journey, can be very comforting for families who are saying goodbye to their loved ones. I love to see clients, who initially came to us in distress, find peace and relief because of what we’ve done for them.
There are still a lot of practical aspects to my job – helping out in the workshop and mortuaries from time to time – but I’m generally more office-based now, which is a good challenge and has allowed me to study for a professional qualification: something I haven’t previously had the opportunity to do. It was difficult but I’m glad I’ve done it. Even though I’ve been working in this industry for over ten years, there was plenty to learn and it felt good to develop my skills fully.
What’s your favourite part of your job? Being able to help and support families is a great feeling – there’s no better satisfaction! My very first arrangement was for a family whose loved one had died on Christmas Day. Obviously, this was particularly traumatic for the family so I was really pleased to be able to help them and very proud that the service went off without a hitch. Maintaining good relationships, and having a teamwork dynamic, are key to co-ordinating a successful ceremony, and doing this job has allowed me to meet lots of interesting people. Whether colleagues, clients, celebrants or suppliers, I’ve built a really strong network of kind, supportive people who I can call on.
If you could help people to understand one thing about your job/funerals, what would it be? Why buying a funeral feels so expensive! External factors, like inflation and scarcity of resources, impact funerals as they do every other aspect of life. Unfortunately, this means that many of the necessary costs involved in arranging a service are out of our hands. We simply pass these costs on to our clients and our fees cover only the skilled, professional services provided in-house. This can often make the sum feel overwhelming, but our reputation speaks for itself, and my colleagues and I pride ourselves on giving families the best possible service.
Has your job changed your own approach to discussing death, dying and bereavement outside of work? Given the choice, I prefer not to talk about it outside of work – it feels like a busman’s holiday! – but I’m happy to discuss it with people and offer advice, if I’m asked. As a general rule, I’m quite pragmatic about death, having had treatment for cancer myself at the age of 17. The experience meant I had to face up to my own mortality pretty quickly and, though I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, going through that in my own life makes me more sympathetic to what others are going through.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the funeral industry whilst you’ve worked at Freeman Brothers? Cost. In the 10 years I’ve worked in the industry, prices have risen for suppliers and stockists, which we unfortunately have to pass on to clients. On the plus side, this has prompted a much wider range of options and alternatives to be developed, meaning we’re able to personalise a funeral service like never before – so much is possible!
What do you think funerals will be like in 20 years’ time? Probably totally different to today, with everyone wanting to put their own original stamp on the process, but I hope that people will be more pragmatic and less inclined to feel guilty about not spending enough.
Which songs would you like to be played at your funeral/memorial? It has to be Michael Bolton – I want a double time-slot at the crematorium so they can play the whole of the Greatest Hits 1985-1995 album, though I fully appreciate no-one will want to stay once I’ve been carried in – least of all my wife-to be!
As part of our 165 for 165 campaign, Russell is completing a Tough Mudder in September, taking on the challenge in support of the Teenage Cancer Trust. We’ll be reporting on Russell’s Tough Mudder training via the blog – stay tuned for updates on him and Funeral Service Operative, Kit, who’s also taking part. If you would like to sponsor Russell’s efforts, please click here.
Tel: 01403 254590
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