Undertaker reflects on 20 years of serving the community

Funeral director Alan Winfield  received congratulations from Gillotts Funeral Directors partner Joanne Hutsby.
Funeral director Alan Winfield received congratulations from Gillotts Funeral Directors partner Joanne Hutsby.

A man who achieved his boyhood dream of becoming a undertaker is celebrating the 20th anniversary of joining a Stapleford business.

Alan Winfield, 59, is marking two decades of service at Gillotts Funeral Directors on Derby Road.

He was already 18 years into his career when he joined the firm in 1997, by now he has made funeral arrangements for thousands of families across south east Derbyshire.

Gillotts partner Joanne Hutsby said: “Alan has worked with so many people down the years and has become a familiar face in the community. He has earned people’s trust and respect, which is so important in our industry.”

It could all have been very different, Alan said: “I had two uncles who worked in the industry and I wanted to be an undertaker since I was a child.

“My dad didn’t want me to go into the industry, saying it wasn’t the right job for me so he got me an apprenticeship at a sign-writers.”

Alan’s unhappiness in his work led him to ring up his local funeral directors to ask if they had any jobs, and landed a role as a driver.

Alan, who lives in Derby and volunteers as a chaplain for Derby Mountain Rescue in his spare time, has never looked back since.

He said: “The most satisfying aspect is sitting down with a family when they’re at their lowest and helping them work through the arrangements.

“It’s like we’re taking a journey together, from the moment they come in to the moment the funeral is completed and we go our separate ways.”

He added: “It’s a unique role - a way of life than a job. I find it extremely rewarding.”

In Alan’s early days, most funerals consisted of a traditional black hearse, wooden coffin, black clothing and service at the local church.

All that has changed now, with a vast array of options for clients to choose from and personalise their send off.

Alan attributes the change to another event of 20 years ago, he said: “The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the outpouring of grief was a watershed moment for the industry.

“People now use funerals to show just how they feel about their loved ones and celebrate their lives.”

He added: “The role of a funeral director is the same, but the work is far more complex.”