'To boldly go': Star Trek theme played on man's final journey at Shannon Crematorium

Anne Sheridan

Reporter:

Anne Sheridan

After opening this June, the €2.4m crematorium, the only one along the west coast of Ireland, has seen more than 120 cremations take place

After opening this June, the €2.4m crematorium, the only one along the west coast of Ireland, has seen more than 120 cremations take place

THE theme tune to Star Trek has been one of the more unusual pieces of music played at Shannon Crematorium, heralding a man’s passing “to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

It’s unlikely to be heard in a church service, but one man’s love of ‘space, the final frontier’ prompted him to request that piece of music for his own final journey.

After opening this June, the €2.4m crematorium, the only one along the west coast of Ireland, has seen more than 120 cremations take place.

“The beauty of a cremation service is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. We generally ask the family to pick three pieces of music – one as the remains are brought into the chapel, the other mid-way through, and then the final piece during the closing of the curtains,” explained manager Dara O’Callaghan.

With more than 20 cremations now held each month and rising burial fees in the Mid-West, some undertakers locally are fearing that it may impinge on their businesses given the price disparity.

Mr O’Callaghan said the demand for business is now coming in on target, garnering customers from Limerick, but with a wider catchment area stretching from Tralee to Knock.

However, when asked if the crematorium is reducing business for Limerick undertakers, Mr O’Callaghan said “it has been a very quiet few months for funerals,” which was a view supported at the recent Funeral Times trade show in Dublin.

Donie Daffy, of Daffy’s Undertakers in Croom, agreed that there have been fewer deaths in Co Limerick recently, but said there will always be a certain percentage of county people who prefer burials.

Seamus Cross of Cross’ Funeral Homes in Limerick city said he believes the number of cremations is now simply due to the fact that this option is available and more convenient than previously for people locally, and not merely down to prices.

Added to that, he said, is a “new and somewhat strange concept” for Irish people in cremating remains but burying the ashes for “closure.”

While the ashes of Limerick’s most famous author, Frank McCourt, were scattered in Limerick this year – some eight years after his death – his urn is buried in a plot in Connecticut, in the same graveyard as author Arthur Miller.

The cost of a cremation in Shannon is some €750, while the cost of a single plot for one grave in Limerick is in the region €1,200, said Mr Daffy. 

This does not include the other associated costs of a funeral, such as flowers, singers, an organist, the headstone and a payment to the celebrant. A second plot in the same grave costs a further €1,000.

The crematorium opened in county Clare to cater for “increasing demand” along the western corridor.

Built by entrepreneur and helicopter pilot Jim Cranwell, he said the business is targeting an annual turnover of €1m within the next three years, and anticipates in the region of 500 cremations a year.

“The interest has been greater than we thought. Up to now the only other option for people has been to go to Dublin or Cork, and the only other crematorium in a rural location is in Cavan.

“In the west of Ireland, it can only grow, as Cork has had a monopoly for a long time, and we think the catchment area could stretch a lot further than the Mid-West given the available road networks," he said.

Mr Cranwell said their projected turnover is based on the population of the surrounding area, the national death rate and the available statistics in relation to the utilisation of cremation services in Ireland to date.

Ireland's cremation rate was 16.9% in 2015, up from 12% in 2010. 

Mr Cranwell said that the market is still underdeveloped, pointing to Japan, where the cremation rate is 99%.

In the UK the rate is 73%.

The growth in demand for cremation is evident in the development of a new crematorium in Dardistown in north Dublin, which has recently opened, and the proposed development at Shanganagh crematorium in south Dublin.

There will five crematoria catering for the Dublin region and the east coast, while Shannon Crematorium is the only facility in the West.

The Shannon Crematorium comprises of a congregation space to seat 140 people and a secondary congregation space for smaller services, seating 60 people. It has a capacity for eight cremations a day.