Celebration Of Life – Edna Welford

A ceremony of remembrance and a celebration of the life of Edna Elizabeth Welford (née Payne) was held on 4th January 2012 at the Mortonhall Crematorium, Pentland Chapel, Edinburgh  Edna was born on 27th November 1913  and died on 21st December 2011.  The celebrant was Alex J MacLeod of the Humanist Society of Scotland, who is the author of this article. A PDF version of this is available if you wish to have a printed copy.

Order of the funeral service

Edna’s Celebration Of Life

Music: “HMS Pinafore, Overture”, Gilbert and Sullivan

Welcome and introduction: by Alex MacLeod

Good morning and welcome.

We are here to remember and to celebrate the life of Edna Elizabeth Welford who  died on the 21st of December 2011. You have come to say your farewells together  and to share these quiet moments in tribute to her. She was unique and so is her  ceremony. With reminiscences from her family we will share some of the defining  moments in her life and some of the happy memories you have of her.

My name is Alex MacLeod and I am honoured to have been asked to conduct this  ceremony. I am from the Humanist Society of Scotland and this will be a Humanist  ceremony. Humanism has ancient roots and is not concerned with religion; it is a  philosophy which focuses on making sense of the world using reason, experience,  compassion and shared human values. Consequently there will be no religious  content in this ceremony but there will be a Pause For Reflection, a quiet interval  when you may wish to say your own farewells privately according to your own  convictions.

There may those among you for whom religious faith is a central part of  life and who are familiar with a different form of ceremony. However I hope that we  can agree that there is a common human bond that unites us in support for each  other at times of difficulty, and in sympathy and compassion at times of grief. I hope  that when we leave at the end of this ceremony you will be glad that you have taken  the opportunity to say your farewells together to someone who in the course of her  life has touched all your lives in one way or another.

A Tribute To Edna Welford

edna portrait

Death is the inevitable consequence of being born and living, every living thing has a  beginning and an end. We all know this, but even with this clear and certain  knowledge the death of a loved one is still the most distressing and stressful of all  experiences. Grief is the price we pay for loving and caring. This is a time of grief; it  is a time to mourn. However by expressing and sharing grief and sorrow and in  comforting and supporting each other you may eventually come to accept what has  happened and come to treasure the true riches of a full life well lived.

In doing this  there is no greater honour that we can pay to those whose lives are over, no greater demonstration of our love for them, than to turn back to life and to live it to the full.  This does not imply lack of respect or forgetfulness. It simply means that we have  learned, through living with them, that life is for the living. The best way to face the  reality of death is to turn back to life and to embrace it with all our power. This is  especially true when thinking of Edna, one of her defining characteristics was that  she was “full of life”.

This sense of acknowledging loss while recognising life goes on is expressed in a  piece based on the writings of Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh.

We should not speak of our love in the past tense. Love is a thing that does not fade  in a faithful heart and our love for someone does not die with them. This being true  our lives must be a continuation of theirs, with all its significance. We must reflect on  all that was beauty and nobility in that person and make sure that those around us  and our surroundings do not lose anything through their death so that the seed that  has fallen onto the earth may give a hundred fold harvest in the hearts and lives of  others.

Living together on this planet we are all members of a global human community and  through this we are all concerned, directly or indirectly, with the life and death of any  human individual. In the course of our lives we may fill many different roles within  this great community. Thus Edna was variously, amongst other things, daughter,  sister, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother; schoolgirl, shop-keeper  and, especially, friend. It is through this community that there is continuity in spite of  death, continuity in the form of our lineage and our heritage.

Our lineage is those to  whom we are related, our family. Our heritage is the various ways in which the lives  of others both within and beyond our family have been shaped, to a greater or lesser  extent, by our attitudes and actions. Thus each of you holds a part of Edna’s heritage  in the various ways in which your lives have been affected by knowing her and in the  memories that you have of her. With this each of you remains close to her.

You are here today as members of the community shared with Edna. By your  presence here each of you is paying a great and most eloquent tribute to her, to the  woman and her life, and the esteem and affection you had for her. Now, together, we  will remember Edna, the story of her life and her great joy in being alive.

Edna Was Born In Hartlepool

Edna had a long and colourful life. She had mostly a good and enjoyable time but  certainly also faced significant challenges. She was born on the 27th November 1913  to Samuel and Mary-Ann Payne living in Old Hartlepool on Teesside. Edna was the  youngest of their four children, following her sister Emily, the eldest, and brothers  Edward and Howard. Edna was 13 years younger than Emily and was essentially  brought up by her as their mother appears to have been a chronic hypochondriac for  much of her life and was content to leave the management of the household to her  daughters.

The eve of the first world war was certainly not the most auspicious of  times to have been born and this was certainly brought home to the inhabitants of  Hartlepool when on the 16th of December 1914 it was the first place on the mainland  of Great Britain to be attacked by German forces. Three fully armed battle cruisers  sailed into the bay and bombarded the harbour and the town killing 86 and injuring  424 of the townspeople.

Fortunately Edna’s family were not directly affected by this  episode and in general it appears that she had a happy childhood, she enjoyed a  great deal of freedom and recalled playing on the beach. She was lively and high  spirited, her family were not poverty stricken and she was well cared for. Although  the evidence of her later life is that she was clearly highly intelligent and bright  enough to have taken her education much further she was not selected for grammar  school, something which seemed to have haunted her for the rest of her life.

Edna’s life changed dramatically when she was 14. Her sister Emily married so Edna  had to leave school to keep house for her long suffering father and her two brothers  as well as her difficult and demanding mother who was clearly not going to do this.  Edna obviously felt this was highly unfair and it soured their relationship until her  mother died in 1956.

Edna Married Tom Welford

Edna met Tom Welford at a mutual friend’s 21st birthday party. They were  immediately attracted to each other and were married in 1936, setting up home in  West Hartlepool. At first Tom was a traveller for a confectionary firm, taking and  delivering orders to shops in the area. However Tom developed Type 1 diabetes at a  time when controlling the condition using insulin was only just becoming possible  and the management of the treatment was not well understood even by members of  the medical profession. Tom was the first patient in the area to receive insulin and his  doctor seemed to be prepared to proceed on a “suck it and see” basis. Edna was not satisfied with this and found a library book that gave her more structured  information about the condition.  So she became in effect an unpaid nurse,  keeping an ever watchful eye on Tom’s diet, his sugar level and demeanour.

With his diabetes, Tom was unable to continue his job as a traveller and so in the late  1930s he and Edna set up a corner and grocery shop at 92 Welldeck Road in West Hartlepool. At first they  lived in the fairly cramped accommodation behind and above the shop. They worked  hard and made a great success of the shop which became a focal point in the local  community. The shop had one of the few phones in the area which brought people  into the shop regularly to use it.

Edna and Tom Raise A Family

welford family 1944

Edna and Tom’s children were born when the family was living at the shop, Barry in  1937, John in 1940 and Sue in 1944. Edna was a loving and caring mother, she was  proud of her children’s achievements and was pleased as they set up their own  families.

In due course Edna was delighted with the arrival of her grandchildren. And  she was later thrilled when Katie, Kim and Phil were followed by her great-grandchildren Aidan, Sam, Beatrix and Holly. She took a great and close interest in  all their lives and enjoyed their company. She certainly liked a good joke and a good  laugh so she enjoyed the occasion when her two young grandchildren visiting from  Canada discovered that her name was Edna. Their only previous knowledge of this  name was through the cartoon character the mean minded “Evil Edna” and so there  was a lot of good natured fun over that discovery.

It is a tribute to Edna’s skill as a mother that in spite of working almost all hours in  the shop and with little money to spare her children recall very happy childhoods and  all three made it to Grammar School. Edna was a good cook and an excellent baker.  Her scones were legendary and people very much looked forward to spending the  morning at the Welford’s. There was a very strong community spirit in the area  around the shop and Edna and Tom were very much part of it. The adults had  fortnightly whist drives followed by dancing to gramophone records. There was a trip  for the children every year and at the end of the war there was a huge street party.

Edna encouraged her children to get involved in social activities, in the Scouts, the  Guides and the church choir. Barry and John went with the choir to sing at the  Festival of Britain on the Southbank in London in 1951. Edna was rather more laid back in her approach to running the shop than Tom was. Edna would grant herself  extended lines of credit when using items from the shop for the family. Tom was  much more rigorous about managing the shop, which was only closed on  Wednesday afternoons and Sundays, and he would even spend the Wednesday  afternoons doing the books. When Sue and Paul got married they had to have their  wedding on a Wednesday afternoon – early closing day.

Edna On The Go

Edna was a health adviser’s nightmare. Apparently she went to see the doctor during  her 40s and was advised to diet and lose weight. She never returned and continued  to enjoy her fatty food with a high salt content, her cigarettes and her regular glass of  sherry. With this she was physically robust and as we know lived to be 98.

In the late 1960s Edna and Tom sold the shop and Tom took a less strenuous job in  the Civil Service. It was typical of Edna that in her 40s in the 1950s she had learned  to drive and they bought a small car. This gave Edna a real sense of achievement,  she loved driving and was a good, confident and spirited driver. Freed from the  restriction of running the shop she was able to drive Tom on holidays to Scotland  which she came to love. She said she loved the Scottish people and scenery and  that she wished she had been born in Scotland.

Edna loved music of all kinds, including popular classical music, especially Gilbert  and Sullivan and in her later years she welcomed the annual trip to the King’s  Theatre in Edinburgh to see the latest G&S amateur production. She also enjoyed  joining in any sing-song, for example when going on bus and car trips. One story  goes that the young daughter of friends of the family, Marion, preferred to travel with  Edna and Tom, rather than her own parents, “because the singing was better”.

Tom died in 1983, and then in 1992 Edna moved to Scotland to be closer to her  children and their families. At first she lived in sheltered housing but as her health  deteriorated she moved into the Thornlea Nursing Home in Loanhead where she  lived for the last six and a half years of her life.

Condolences and tributes from family and friends:  read by Iain Cram, grandson-in-law

Edna’s grandson-in-law Iain Cram will share a few  extracts from some of the many tributes and condolence messages received from the many people who knew her.

From her son Barry Welford in British Columbia, Canada

To her family, she was a shining example of how to enjoy life and we all learned from  her. It seemed as though she would live for ever and she almost did. Now we only  have great memories of all the good times together. We’ll miss you terribly, Mum,  but I’m sure you’ll be looking out for us as you did throughout your life.

From her nephew John Witty in Darlington

I liked her very much. She was always so kind to me: I particularly liked her happy  disposition and sense of humour. I have very happy memories of staying with her in  Welldeck Road.

From her niece Liz Roberts in London

So sorry to hear the sad news about Auntie Edna. She was a great lady and my  favourite auntie. She taught me all her bad habits, and her memory will live with me  for ever.

From a friend of the family Bill Orley in Teesside

Edna Welford was a common-sense, intelligent woman who was helpful and friendly.  She was very level-headed and had a great sense of humour -as well as baking  wonderful chocolate cakes! She will be greatly missed.

From another friend of the family Marion Agar in Hartlepool

She sends her condolences and recollections of Edna’s singing, especially in the car  on her holidays to Scotland.

And finally from granddaughter Kim Welford in Newfoundland, Canada.

I am grateful to have known my Gran, despite the distance that separated us.  There were fewer memories as a consequence but all so very dear.  It was a privilege to spend time with her.  Her wit, her good cheer, her social butterfly ways.  I only hope that I have inherited some of these traits to go along with our physical  likeness.

Marrying a Scot was the best thing I ever did; for among other things,  it allowed for more frequent visits with her over the last few years, and  it allowed for my son to meet his Great-Gran.  My only regrets are that she did not meet her Canadian great granddaughter and  that she never got her centenary letter from the Queen.  Trifles really when compared with the happiness that she spread  and the loving life that she led.  Rest in peace, dear Gran, with your fondest memories restored.  We will treasure your memory always.

Much love from those of us floating around on a rock in the North Atlantic,

Kim, Colin, Sam and Beatrix

Pause for Reflection

We have been remembering the character and life of Edna, a woman who loved her  family dearly and unconditionally. In spite of the many challenges in her life she  remained a remarkably cheerful and positive person. She was definitely a “glass  half-full” person although when it came to her sherry a full glass would undoubtedly  have been more welcome.

We will now take a short Pause for Reflection when you may choose to say your  own, private, farewells to Edna.

Music: “Für Elise”, Beethoven.

The Committal

With love and affection we have been remembering the life of Edna. We have  already committed her safely and warmly to our hearts. Now it is time, in quietness of  spirit to let her go. We move towards committal when her body will be taken from our  presence.

Every living thing has a beginning and an end.  For each of us there is a time to be born and a time to die.  And so death has come to Edna  Now as we bid her farewell,  we commit her character and personality to our memories  and her love and friendship to our hearts.  Finally we commit her body to its natural end,  To rejoin the great cycle of nature.

Closing thoughts and thanks

Edna’s family would like to thank all of you, family and friends, for your comfort and  support at this difficult and distressing time and for coming today which is greatly  appreciated. They would also like to thank the staff of the Thornlea Nursing Home  whose care and attention to Edna made her final years as pleasant and comfortable  as they could be. You are invited to join the family in the Toby Carvery, directly  opposite the entrance to this site, after this ceremony to continue your celebration of  Edna’s life. As you leave at the end of this ceremony in a few minutes there will be a  collection in aid of Alzheimer Scotland.


The music we have heard today has been chosen by the family to reflect something  of Edna’s tastes and life. As we entered this chapel we heard the Overture to Gilbert  and Sullivan’s “HMS Pinafore”. During the Pause for Reflection we heard  Beethoven’s “Für Elise”. Tom was a pretty competent pianist and if the family were  going out once he was ready he would pop into the front room and start playing  while the rest of the family got themselves ready. This piece was one of his  favourites. When we leave we will hear “I could have danced all night” from the  musical “My Fair Lady”. Edna loved romantic musicals and also loved to go dancing.  This piece, with its sheer exuberance, mirrors Edna’s life-long joie-de-vivre and her  unquenchable enthusiasm for life and for living.


Family and friends, the comfort of having Edna as a close, caring and loving  companion and friend may indeed be lost, but the consolation of having known that  love will never be lost; the consolation of having known her, of having shared in her  life and of having shared yours with her. A consolation of which you become  especially aware at this moment as you fix her living image in your minds and recall  the personal qualities that made her unique, that made you love her.

Continue to  remember her and to talk about her, recall her in anecdotes with a laugh, she would  have liked that. You know her better than I do and I have no doubt that you can tell  the stories better relaxed together in your own homes. Hold on to the things about  her that made you love her and you will find that she will never be far from your side.

With these thoughts of Edna in mind I would like to bring this ceremony to a close  with some lines by Anne Brontë.

Farewell to Thee! But not farewell
To all my fondest thoughts of Thee;
Within my heart they still shall dwell
And they shall cheer and comfort me.

Life seems more sweet that Thou did’st live
And women, more true that thou wert one;
Nothing is lost that Thou did’st give,
Nothing destroyed that Thou hast done.

Music: “I could have danced all night” from My Fair Lady, Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe

Footnote: This video version features the voice of Audrey Hepburn. In the film version, this song was sung by Marni Nixon, which was the version played at the ceremony but cannot be embedded here.  You can watch the Marni Nixon version on Youtube.

Author Notes: The content above was written by Alex J MacLeod, who was the Registered Celebrant and who is a member of the Humanist Society of Scotland , which is a Registered Charity (SC 026570). You can contact him via e-mail at alex.macleod@humanism-scotland.org.uk  Click here for a printed version of this celebration of life.

One thought on “Celebration Of Life – Edna Welford”

  1. What a wonderful tribute to Auntie Edna – a real celebration of her and her colourful life! You did her proud. Mx

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