Robin Kinnear on funerals and clothing

Robin Kinnear interviewed by Julia Muir Watt in Port William, August 2012.

Robin recalls the clothing worn at funerals and how made-to-measure clothing could be quickly obtained. Robin also recalls how services used to be in the 1950s in Port William. The Kinnears ran a drapery business with shops in Port William and Whithorn.

  • Interviewed: 30 August 2012.
  • Ref: DG4/12/1/2.
  • Photo: Julia Muir Watt.
  • © European Ethnological Research Centre.


RK: Of course on a Sunday everyone was dressed-up to the nines in their best suit. And similar attire when they went to funerals. Everyone was always very, very smart for funerals. They always got the day off work to go attend the funerals. There were a lot of people and funerals were always, nearly always in Mochrum from this village [Port William]. And there was always a bus that ran mourners to there and then back again, because there were very few cars.

JMW: Yes, I’ve seen old bill-heads – and it may even have been your shop [Kinnears Drapery of Port William and Whithorn] – for family mourning. I suppose they [RK: Yes.] had to equip an entire family fairly rapidly?

RK: Yes, that’s right. And this was, eh, a tremendous urgency that could be done for weddings and funerals, was getting a suit made-up quickly if it was for mourning. You could wire [telegram] through the measurements or you could phone through to Yorkshire and you’d have it in three days, you know. Which was really quite astonishing. And of course, if you wrote a postcard off on a Sunday to Glasgow, if you got it away in the post before one o’clock, they would phone you up on a Monday morning inquiring about the order you had sent in. And it would be sent down that day by train and would come into Whauphill Station. And there was a lorry from the contractors, MacLeans the lorry contractor, who went three times a week to Whauphill, so these were all delivered to everyone – all these parcels, very, very rapidly. So if there hadn’t been a tremendous improvement in post and contact, you know [JMW: No, absolutely], yeah. Internet – they certainly would come very quickly and that is the, the biggest improvement in service now.

JMW: Yes, yes. In terms of the mourning, do you remember people wearing crepe around their hats? Or mourning bands, do you remember that?

RK: Eh, no. I can remember them wearing arm-bands on their jacket for several, several weeks afterwards. Eh, but not wearing it, they just, the ladies just came as they would be for church in their hats and always in pretty heavy mourning. But what you did notice, if there had been a death in the family, when you walked down the street all the blinds were drawn, were all closed. And that was a sign. And a lot of little cottages, you would, the minister would come and you would have the service over the coffin, in the house not at the church. And you would then go from that service – where practically only maybe a quarter of the people actually got into the house – and you would then go to the internment at the graveyard in Mochrum. But there were a lot of church services done in the houses.