Home   Canterbury   News   Article

Muriel Laming of C W Lyons & Son Funeral Directors in Canterbury and Whitstable celebrates 50 years running family business

Overseeing almost 10,000 funerals would surely turn most people to despair.

But as Kent's Muriel Laming marks 50 years at her family business, she insists: "I enjoy every minute."

Muriel Laming has marked 50 years with her family business. Picture: Muriel Laming
Muriel Laming has marked 50 years with her family business. Picture: Muriel Laming

The 84-year-old is now chairman of C W Lyons & Son Funeral Directors, which has branches in Canterbury and Whitstable.

She has been in the "wonderful profession" for more than six decades, having worked for the Co-Op in London before becoming Kent's first female funeral director.

Despite having to deal with many traumatic deaths over the years, she has never considered quitting.

"Lots of people with their passing, it isn’t always natural - there are accidents, suicides, and other causes of death - they have got to me," she admits.

"There used to usually be one funeral in a month which used to stand out to me. I would go home and I would think that could happen to me or my parents.

Muriel Laming - pictured in her outfit in 1972 - was Kent's first female undertaker. Picture: Muriel Laming
Muriel Laming - pictured in her outfit in 1972 - was Kent's first female undertaker. Picture: Muriel Laming

"But I have never had a day where it has got too much for me - actually quite the reverse.

"To me it isn’t a job, it is about helping the community."

Muriel - a grandmother-of-two and step-grandmother-of-three - even moved into a flat above the Military Road branch eights years ago.

"It is not only my work, but my home," she says.

"I am a people-person, apparently, and I enjoy every minute. I have made so many friends over the years, which is incredible.

"I have never had a day where it has got too much for me - actually quite the reverse"

"A lot of families have come back and some people have asked me to go out for meals with them."

The biggest service Muriel has directed is the funeral of Patrick Steptoe - who co-made the world's first test-tube baby and was a pioneer of IVF treatment.

It was held in Bourne Park in 1988 and she describes the service as a "privilege". Two years later, she also led his wife's funeral.

Another service which stands out among the thousands she has led is that of popular comedian Charlie Chester, who died in 1997.

But becoming a funeral director was not easy for Muriel - as she faced discrimination for being a woman.

Muriel's cake to mark 50 years with the company. Picture: Mark Laming
Muriel's cake to mark 50 years with the company. Picture: Mark Laming

"The first four weeks I wasn’t accepted at the crematorium," she said.

"They said, 'We’re not going to have that woman come in here and dictate to me'.

"So when I went out for the first time, I was a bit nervous."

Much has changed over the decades. In more recent times, families have submitted requests ranging from pink hearses to jazz bands, which the firm is happy to fulfil.

"It was very strange to start off with to all funeral directors - especially the changing coffins," she said.

Muriel celebrated 50 years with the company. Picture: Mark Laming
Muriel celebrated 50 years with the company. Picture: Mark Laming

"I was one who wasn’t sure about it. Now families choose what they want - but of course are governed by price.

"But we are a family firm and we don’t like to overcharge our families.

"To me, dignity and respect is what we show everyone who comes through the door.

"We listen to what they want and advise accordingly. Money to me is not essential."

In her spare time when she is not running the business, Muriel enjoys riding on the back of her friend's bike, going to the Marlowe Theatre, shopping and watching shows at the O2.

Charles Lyons started the company as a combined carpenter and undertaker in 1911 and remained managing director until his death in 1942.

His widow Nora, and his three surviving children, Ella, Bill, and Phyllis then took over the running of the business.

Ownership of the company subsequently passed on to Christopher Laming - Phyllis’s son - in 1969 and he ran the company until his death in 2007.

The business is now run by Christopher's wife Muriel and his son Mark.

Read more: All the latest news from Canterbury

Read more: All the latest news from Whitstable


More by this author


Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More