‘Spectacular’ send-off for Fort William woman in horse-drawn hearse

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Thefirst of its kind in more than 60 years, a horse-drawn hearse made its way through Fort William last Friday in what was described as a ‘spectacular send-off’ for a Lochaber lady.
Mother-of-three Sandra Gemmell was just 36 when she died at the end of last month and on Friday April 7 a private service was held in St Mary’s Church, Fort William, before she was laid to rest at Glen Nevis cemetery.
It was at the request of Sandra’s family to have the horse-drawn hearse as she was part of the travelling community.
The service was conducted by Fort William funeral directors John McLennan & Co. Speaking to the Lochaber Times, director Scott Greenless said: ‘The service was the first of its kind in Lochaber for many years. The last one was probably between 60 and 80 years ago.
‘Of course, years ago they would have to use a horse and cart but it’s been a long time since that has happened here.’
Scott said the horses, Spot and Toby, who belong to Biggar Shiels carriages, were well behaved on the two-mile journey through town. He added: ‘They parked up at Glen Nevis cemetery and then the horses came through the town.’
And although the horses are used to busy roads and lots of traffic, Scott said the animals ‘managed very well’, and that drivers in the town were very patient and respectful. ‘We had a lovely trot through the town and up to Glen Nevis. The horses did well because it can be quite tight through the cemetery.
‘It was a lovely service and a nice send-off for Sandra.’
Scott said he thinks he might see more horse-drawn processions in Fort William now people have seen it can be done. ‘People often think, “We are in Fort William – we can’t have that”, but if that’s what people want or families wish for, then they can. I have no doubt we will have more because it really is beautiful.’