Sad farewell to former Grantham funeral director Sheila Holland

Sheila Holland passed away on Friday aged 84.
Sheila Holland passed away on Friday aged 84.
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The ‘driving force’ behind one of Grantham’s most renowned funeral directors has passed away.

Sheila Holland, wife to the late David Holland and beloved mum to Robert Holland and Susan Hodgson, passed away at Harrowby Lodge Nursing Home on Friday, aged 84.

Double act: David and Sheila Holland opened the first purpose built funeral directors in Grantham in 1969.

Double act: David and Sheila Holland opened the first purpose built funeral directors in Grantham in 1969.

Known to many people as the lady with the tape recorder who listed the names at funerals, Sheila has left her mark on many people around Grantham, and the funeral directors on St Catherine’s Road has been inundated with phone calls, cards and letters from people wanting to share their memories and to pass on their condolences to Robert and Susan.

Robert said: “It’s been overwhelming but extremely touching.”

After Sheila met David at a dance, they married at St Andrew’s Church in Helpringham eight months later, with Robert and Susan arriving shortly afterwards.

In 1969, David decided that he would start his own business in funeral directing and became the first purpose-built funeral directors in Grantham, managing 38 funerals in their first year.

Sheila promised to help so long as she ‘only had to do the books and didn’t have to deal with the deceased’. But before long, she was fully emersed in the business and doing every job she could, including removals, preparing coffins and also presenting the people in the chapel of rest, which she took great pride in.

Sheila enjoyed her role so much that she was encouraged to take a diploma in funeral directing and became the first female in the county to achieve it.

Robert added: “She was your original career lady.”

Sheila loved working alongside David and his death in 1994 hit her hard. Susan said: “My parents were a double act so when Dad died, the light went out of Mum’s world, but ever the professional, she kept it together for the business and for my brother and I. She was also a super grandma to her grandson Edward and was thrilled when she became a great-grandma to Thora last year.”

Over the years, Sheila threw herself into many different local organisations as a member of both the Grantham Business and Professional Women’s clubs and The Mothers’ Union, but her family and the business were where her heart remained.

Robert said: “She would always say that we have no right to do someone’s funeral but if they choose us, then they expect and deserve the best. It didn’t matter if you were part of the lorded gentry or a person off the street, you were all treated exactly the same. She would also say, ‘treat every funeral as if it was my funeral’.

Susan added: “She was driven by the local people and you would never catch her buying anything outside of town. She would always say that we got our living from the people of Grantham, so we need to give back to the town.”

By the time that Sheila stopped working 10 years ago, she had helped with over 26,000 funerals.

Robert said: “We learnt so much from Mum. She was our shining light. She has now taught me to know what it is like to be on this side – in my customers’ shoes.”

It is this thought that has kept Robert going as he directed other funerals this week, adding: “As mum always said, ‘the show must go on’.”

Sheila’s funeral service will take place at St Wulfram’s Church on Monday, July 3 at 11am. Donations will be collected for Parkinson’s UK in her memory.