Off to heaven on a wing and a prayer

Malcolm Brocklehurst in his Tango coffin .. on the pitch at Bloomfield  Road
Malcolm Brocklehurst in his Tango coffin .. on the pitch at Bloomfield Road
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P(h)ew, what a torture!

Yes, you read it right first time.

Ever wondered what it would be like to attend your own funeral?

Prolific local writer and former aerospace engineer Malcolm Brocklehurst, 78, knows –almost to the very last detail – as the rest of us find out tonight on Channel 5.

The aptly named programme Bizarre Burials digs the dirt on the last great taboo – what lies between death certificate and the final curtain falling on a life well lived.

And, as The Gazette revealed last year, Malcolm, as a lifelong Blackpool FC supporter and aircraft expert, has chosen to make that last journey by tangerine coffin plane.

You know when you’ve been Tangoed.

The Cleveleys eccentric’s choice of coffin has raised some eyebrows – but the curtains must have been twitching along North Drive when it arrived by flat top from a local garden centre the other day... and Malcolm replaced the compost for a chock’s away with a difference.

It’s one thing to have picked your coffin. It’s another to arrange the running order of the service and play a far more active role as the most honoured guest of all – particularly as the elderly poet doesn’t normally do non-speaking roles.

He’s a regular reciter of poetry and other passages as the head of Cleveleys Writers’ Circle. More Reciting Poetry then Rest in Peace.

But when Channel 5 got wind of his curious coffin the production team turned up to fulfil his final wishes – albeit ahead of his own schedule.

So how did it feel?

Malcolm explains: “It felt, and indeed was, a dress rehearsal for my command performance with the great author in the sky.

“It was a day like no other. The camera team arrived early and it felt weird being laid to rest in my aeroplane coffin although I insisted that they did not put the lid fully on... in spite of protestations from one or two pals who said ‘we’ve got him at last, nail it down fast.’ It was all in light hearted fun.

“Then outside my home, under a clear blue sky and with the Blackpool FC flag on my flagpole flying and flapping in the breeze, my aeroplane ‘coffin’ was lifted onto a flat top vehicle that Baguley’s Garden Centre had kindly provided.”

The cortege headed by local independent funeral director Hollowells left Malcolm’s home en-route for Bloomfield Road.

“It drew some glances en route but I hope it didn’t frighten anyone,” adds Malcolm,

“Then I was at the stadium, being airlifted into the penalty spot in my TANGO ONE aeroplane coffin.

“As the plane ‘landed’ on the turf it all felt surreal when grasping my latest novel House of Cavendish: Preston Chamade in my hand and wearing my full Tangerine kit I pushed off the lid and with an exclamation said ‘I’m not ready to go yet. I haven’t finished my book.’”

Amid the laughter, Malcolm switched out of Blackpool FC kit to white trousers, white dinner jacket and shirt, shades of Randall and Hopkirk Deceased, topped with a white cap and tangerine bow.

He then assumed the role of a spectre at his own feast.

“I leaned on the goal post observing my funeral. I listened captivated as a circle of friends gathered round and my pal Glenn McQuire read a eulogy. He had gleaned information I had long forgotten and I thought it isn’t many people who have the privilege of listening to a précis of their life.”

The cortege then left the football stadium and headed for Carleton Crematorium.

“I just sat musing over the day’s events as ‘the ghost’ took a back pew. Glenn said a few final words, read one of my poems and then to special song ‘Fry Me’ written by David Hennerley of Cleveleys Writers. The congregation of about 30 were invited to spin my propeller and say ‘Farewell and Fly to the Moon’.

“It was light hearted – but there was real pathos at some points. And everyone entered into the spirit of it all.

“My final thoughts on the day was that it was nice to see so many fellow writers from Cleveleys Writers and friends and neighbours who had come to celebrate my life.

“Later I attended my own Wake at the Victoria Hotel in Cleveleys.”

Malcolm’s coffin was bespoke by Nottingham-based specialists Crazy Coffins who will take on any request from skips to Rolls Royces, no matter how strange – so long as they comply with regulations concerning cremation or burials. The trend for novelty coffins has yet to take off locally.

Others featured in Bizarre Burials on TV tonight include a woman who collected her mother’s body from the morgue and took her on a four day trip around her favourite haunts before digging her grave herself. Channel 5’s commissioning editor says the programme celebrates the ultimate send-offs - particularly of the Seasiders fan. “We all know what fate awaits us and in this show we look at the people who decide to make their final event something to remember.”