'Doffing One's Hat' As A Funeral Cortege Passes

AMoffatt

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My wife works as a Marketing Manager and recently was undertaking (every pun intended!) some work on a brief for a large national funeral company. On the back of anecdotal reports from funeral directors suggesting that these days many people have little respect for passing funeral corteges (and in some cases drivers following behind them have sounded their horns aggressively, over-taken and shouted abusive language at the bereaved) my wife was searching for a vintage stock photo showing people respecting the passing procession through the act of 'doffing one's hat'.

However, even after searching the web and looking at countless old images of funeral processions she was unable to find a single one which showed men taking their hats off and bowing their heads as a mark of respect to a cortege! I tried to find one myself and could not, leading me to question whether I had ever witnessed or heard of such a custom and, if not, where I (or anybody else for that matter) might have assumed the belief that it might have ever existed in the first place. I did, however, find the attached which suggests that -in some parts of the Western World at least- there may have been a custom that dictated that men should remove their hats at the graveside during a funeral; however, this 1892 US newspaper article talks of abandoning the custom altogether and my wife's original search was for images of men showing respect to a STRANGER's funeral cortege as it passed by in the street rather than at the graveside of a family member or friend where it is more likely that they would have shown this mark of respect.

https://lancastergraveyardrabbit.wordpr ... 892-style/

In light of these findings, I would like to throw this open to the forum: In these hat-free times have you ever witnessed any individuals stopping whatever they were doing in a public place and bowing their head as a funeral cortege passes (this doesn't include the inhabitants of Wootton Basset who dutifully attend the corteges of repatriated soldiers killed in Afghanistan)? Have you ever done this yourself? Were you always told as a child that you should do so by your parents or grandparents? And, finally, if anyone still does wear a hat (or even a hoodie!) would you feel it appropriate to remove it as a mark of respect to the dead as their coffin passes by?
 

McAvennie

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In the hustle bustle of day to day life I would usually just ignore a hearse. However, I guess is I was in a small village and one passed and I saw it approaching I'd perhaps pause and bow my head as it went by. In a built up area though, live and let die so to speak...
 

Mythopoeika

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I've done this myself, as a teenager. No hat to doff, but stood with head bowed solemnly as a stranger's coffin went past.
My friends thought I was mad. :)
 

Sogna

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I've seen someone cross themselves as a funeral passes, whether from respect or because it's a bad omen, I couldn't be sure.
 

ramonmercado

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Sogna said:
I've seen someone cross themselves as a funeral passes, whether from respect or because it's a bad omen, I couldn't be sure.

Among catholics it would be a mark of respect.
 

oldrover

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Round here some people hold onto their collars.
 

ramonmercado

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oldrover said:
Round here some people hold onto their collars.

A hangover from the days of detachable collars? Perhaps pickcollars were particularly active as funeral corteges passed.
 

Ronnor

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A policeman saluted as the hearse carrying my maternal grandfather's coffin passed him - this was in Bury in 1997. He would have loved it if he'd seen it!
 

bigaggie1

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The last funeral I attended was my mothers six
months ago, and unfortunately was a little too preoccupied
to notice whether anyone did this as the hearse went past
but I definitly remember it happening at my grandfathers
funeral. The hearse had stopped at a set of traffic lights,and
I glanced out of the car window and saw an elderly gentleman
remove his cap and stand with his head bowed. I saw it again at
father-in-laws funeral a couple of years later (I am going
back 12 years though)
 

CarlosTheDJ

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I don't normally wear a hat but I'd pause and wait for it to pass yes - seems like the right thing to do to me.

To be honest I'm usually driving if I see a hearse - there are two crematoriums right next to each other in Brighton and they just happen to be near the old driving test centre. When I was teaching we would often have to deal with a cortege on a driving lesson - the horse-drawn type always cause a stir.

There's something about funeral horses that really creep me out, I think it comes from seeing footage of Queen Victoria's funeral when I was young.
 

escargot

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I too live near the cemetery/crematorium and several undertakers' premises so I'd be falling off my bike all day if I had to stop and salute all the passing hearses.

Holding your collar is a superstition thing. I remember kids doing it when hearses and ambulances passed in the 60s.
 

Cochise

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I'm not sure doffing the hat was ever done as a general thing, in my lifetime at least. If there was a cortege from your own road, you might stop. It's an awful long time since most people had hats to doff, anyway.

But certainly drivers used to respect the slow moving of a funeral procession, and in fact they used to go a lot slower than they do now. Drivers would avoid getting between cars in the procession, for example. The same used to be true of weddings. (Not the slowness, I mean avoiding getting between the cars with ribbons on)
 

oldrover

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Drivers would avoid getting between cars in the procession, for example. The same used to be true of weddings. (Not the slowness, I mean avoiding getting between the cars with ribbons on)

Are you saying you've seen people overtake and cut into a funeral/wedding procession? If so Christ almighty that's rude.
 

Cherrybomb

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I have seen a load of school kids shouting abuse at a funeral procession. I couldn't believe it :(

I was told that if someone who lives close by dies, you should draw your curtains for the day of the funeral. Not sure where that, or the hat doffing came from tho.
 

Jerry_B

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I seem to recall a series of photos from Eastern Europe circa 1995, one of which showed a man on one knee, head bowed and hat removed as a funeral cortege passed by.
 

JamesWhitehead

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It was certainly common practice in the North of England to close the curtains as a mark of respect if there was a funeral in the street, regardless of whether you knew or liked the deceased. We were Catholic but I think the habit was not limited to RCs. Older people can still be seen to pause to acknowledge passing hearses. At a family funeral a few years ago, the procession was led through the streets by a smartly-attired mistress of ceremonies on foot - a rather impressive display that made people pause to watch. I don't remember if hats were doffed, though. :?:
 

Ringo

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I stop and bow my head each and every time a hearse passes. I have no idea why I started doing it. It just seems respectful. I must have learned it somewhere or from someone but I have no idea when or who.
 

Spudrick68

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Preston is full of Catholics and as a kid we were always taught to stop what we were doing and pay respect as the cortege passed. Older people still make the sign of the cross out as it passes.

My wife's first husband passed away about three years ago, he was a biker. We attended the funeral and afterwards several of them revved up their bikes loudly. I was told that this was their tradition and their way of paying their respects. But I digress...
 

Cochise

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oldrover said:
Drivers would avoid getting between cars in the procession, for example. The same used to be true of weddings. (Not the slowness, I mean avoiding getting between the cars with ribbons on)

Are you saying you've seen people overtake and cut into a funeral/wedding procession? If so Christ almighty that's rude.

Yes. And cut into them on roundabouts.
 

escargot

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Where I live, near the cemetery - and I've mentioned this before - you often see funerals pass at junctions and roundabouts. Drivers stop for them and it's tempting to spot which vehicle is the last funeral car and who's sneaked in at the end. That car with two blokes in suits and a woman crying? Certainly. The next, with a young woman and a youth, both looking smart, hankies? Yes. The van with a ladder on top? Possibly not. :lol:
 

DougalLongfoot

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Cochise said:
oldrover said:
Drivers would avoid getting between cars in the procession, for example. The same used to be true of weddings. (Not the slowness, I mean avoiding getting between the cars with ribbons on)

Are you saying you've seen people overtake and cut into a funeral/wedding procession? If so Christ almighty that's rude.

Yes. And cut into them on roundabouts.

Sat at a roundabout for a couple of minutes today waiting for a rather large funeral procession to got through. At my grandmother's funeral (which was 20 years ago) I noticed the local parking inspector stop and take off his hat as we passed by.
 

pornosonic1975

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I am a northerner and it was custom until at least the 1980's/90's for people of the older generation to close the upstairs curtains for a period of time as a mark of respect for deceased neighbours. If it was a family member, the bottom curtains would also be closed. I can't remember for how long, however I distinctly remember my Grandma doing it and telling me about it in the mid 1980's. I think that this practice is discontinued these days, now that her generation has almost passed on.

I was always told my an older relative that I should remove my any headwear when a funeral cortege passed me on the road, however I only did this in practice when I became a Police officer. Each time, a funeral procession passes me on the street, I will always stand still and remove my hat until it passes if it is practical to do so. I must stress however, that this is not a Police instruction of any kind and that it is just something that I always do as a mark of respect as a uniformed official.
 

escargot

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This morning, at traffic lights near the cemetery, I gave way to a hearse turning right in front of me. As it sped by I noticed that it only carried a driver and passenger, possibly a clergyman, and had no coffin in the back. I was amused to spot a couple of empty limos following some hundreds of yards behind.

Presumably the hearse was on way to collect the Departed from the house, with the limos in no hurry to catch up as they'd be sitting around waiting outside otherwise.

Had all that worked out in a flash. I didn't get a Master's in criminology for nothing. ;)
 

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escargot1 said:
This morning, at traffic lights near the cemetery, I gave way to a hearse turning right in front of me. As it sped by I noticed that it only carried a driver and passenger, possibly a clergyman, and had no coffin in the back. I was amused to spot a couple of empty limos following some hundreds of yards behind.

Presumably the hearse was on way to collect the Departed from the house, with the limos in no hurry to catch up as they'd be sitting around waiting outside otherwise.

Had all that worked out in a flash. I didn't get a Master's in criminology for nothing. ;)

The limos were empty? You didn't find driverless limos following a hearse in any way odd?

Did you get your Masters from Bob Jones University? By snail mail?
 

ampman48

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Some years ago a letter appeared in our local paper from a man who's father's funeral had taken place a few days before. At that time a local stately home used to put on jousting displays with knights in full armour on horses and quite often one of these knights would be on horseback at the end of the road leading to the venue where it meets the main road.
As the funeral cortege passed by the young man on his horse removed his helmet/vizor and bowed his head until they had gone by. The letter writer found this action immensley moving and comforting on such a difficult day.
 

oldrover

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Fair enough, you wouldn't expect that would you.

Yes. And cut into them on roundabouts.

What can you say about that. How much of a vacuous, senseless, selfish little twat can you (they) manage to be. That really winds me up.

Exact opposite to this;

Each time, a funeral procession passes me on the street, I will always stand still and remove my hat until it passes if it is practical to do so
 

bugmum

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When my grandma died, back in the late 1970s, my sister and I were left with a neighbour whilst the funeral took place. I remember standing in her front room with the curtains closed as the cortege left, and her telling us that this was a sign of respect. Quite a few houses along the street similarly had their curtains shut. (And then I remember going back into my grandfather's house with the neighbour and my older sister, and my sister and I drinking all the sherry that people had left in their glasses. Burgeoning alcoholics at 8 and 11...)

When my husband's grandmother died, mid 90s, I recollect seeing, from the funeral car, an old man pausing on the pavement and bowing his head as the cortege passed. This was in Liverpool.

Certainly if I was to encounter a funeral cortege whilst I was on foot, I would stop and bow my head because it seems the 'right' thing to do.
 

yorkslad

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Passing funeral cortege

I have been visiting the site for years and reading FT but have'nt ever posted before!
Three years ago i was sat in the back of one of the limos following my fathers hearse to the church, i was in a daze as you often are in these situations but clearly remember passing a young lad in stereotipical chav clothing, and as we passed he stood still bowed his head and removed his baseball cap.
It did raise my spirits and boost my faith in human nature as sadly i would not have expected it of someone i presume to be approx 16 to 18 yrs of age!
Also being a northener i can also vouch for neighbours closing curtains down a street when there had been a death and my wife remembers the collar touching when a cortege passed.

Mike
 

AMoffatt

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Some very interesting observations and anecdotes here. I had not heard of the Northern tradition of closing of curtains as a mark of respect (or to prevent the dead from seeing into the room, perhaps?).

This weekend, I bought this black and white photograph (see link) which shows the military funeral of a soldier in the West Yorkshire Regiment taken in the late 1930s or 1940s. Several of the men are saluting and others are clearly lowering their heads but the interesting thing is that they have left their hats on whilst the men carrying the coffin have removed theirs and have them strapped over their shoulders (presumably since it it would have been impractical to leave them on whilst carrying the coffin). Perhaps this is where the tradition of hat doffing comes from; an act of mirroring the coffin bearers who would have removed their hats for practical reasons?

http://i1093.photobucket.com/albums/i42 ... /army2.jpg
 
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