Brian McInerney – Pioneer Funeral Celebrant

Brian McInerney

Brian McInerney: Pioneer Funeral Celebrant

Brian McInerney died on December 22nd, 2014

This heart was woven of human joys and cares,
Washed marvellously with sorrow,
swift to mirth.

The years had given him  kindness.
Dawn was his,
And sunset,
and the colours of the earth.

He had seen movement,
and heard music;
known Slumber and waking;
loved;
gone proudly friended;
Felt the quick stir of wonder;
sat alone;

Touched flowers and furs and cheeks.
All this is ended.
—————
(slightly adapted from Rupert Brooke)
————-

Brian McInerney was a man who could read, write and speak. He was a man of many parts but here I just want to talk about him as a funeral celebrant.

I first met him in 1972 when he was executive producer of English language radio programs for the ABC’s Radio Australia.The pressure of the job was affecting his health, so he resigned from the ABC in 1975.

The recently created marriage celebrant program established by the Attorney General Lionel Murphy had been enthusiastically received by the general public.

Marriages are very happy occasions and the original celebrants enjoyed their task immensely – but inevitably there came the time when clients of celebrants required non-church funerals. The marriage celebrant community, consonant with the culture of the times, vehemently rejected the idea of officiating at secular funerals. So we could fill the need, Murphy (then a Justice of the High Court) urged me and others to go out into the “highways and byways” and find non-marriage celebrants to respond to the need.

Mr “Golden Voice” from the ABC, as Brian Mcinerney was known, became one of the first funeral celebrants. He stepped into this totally new field as if he had done it all his life. He was such a natural. Brian was probably the most well read, best self-educated person I have ever met. Family members told me that he had read the complete works of Dickens before he turned fifteen years of age. In the days before Google and the internet, Brian was the “go to” person if you had a line or quote from a poem and you needed to know the source.

Today’s readers will find it difficult to comprehend that there was no such thing as a non-church funeral in the mid 70s. McInerney was a pioneer who established the new freedom and who set the new standard. For the first time in Western cultural history ordinary people were farewelled in a funeral ceremony which was framed by appropriate and carefully selected poetry, prose, music, symbolism, myths, and stories. The life of the person was recorded, their achievements recognised, and their character and personality described in a eulogy which set their special place in family and community history.

Brian, more than any of us, gained the reputation of writing eulogies for ordinary people which bordered on the masterful. The connections to history,  the allusions to literature, were skilfully inserted with animation and colour.

A new and exciting phenomenon, celebrants were, at this time, widely reported in the media. Brian Mcinerney was often featured. One famous account relates the funeral of the father of the family who evoked the story of the Knight in Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales”. Brian centred his eulogy around the story of the Knight and in doing so uplifted the spirits of everyone who attended the funeral. What he didn’t know was that one of the man’s children had arrived from the USA on the morning of ceremony. This young woman was a lecturer in 14th Century English Literature at Harvard University. Expecting a “nothing” funeral, she had the thrill of hearing her father eulogised in terms of the Knight.

Up to 1995 or so funeral celebrants throughout Melbourne were often called on to create funerals for the soldiers who had survived World War II. At our meetings and seminars, Brian would inspire his fellow celebrants with the poetry of Rupert Brooke, Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen. When Brian began to recite –

“Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge …”

we knew, in the vividness of our imagination, we were going to be transported to the horror of war. Thus inspired by Brian, we composed funerals for those old soldiers which did them proud.

The end of the eighties /early nineties was a time of high inflation in Australia. Brian and his wife Tina had three young children and were feeling the pinch financially. He needed to increase his income and so asked the funeral directors with whom he worked to give him a rise in fees. He had come to believe that the people he knew in the funeral industry were his personal friends and collaborators. They would understand his position and recognise his contribution. But at this request the smiles went off their faces. He learned later from one of them that they had rung around and decided to “put him in his place”. All funeral work suddenly ceased.

Brian was deeply hurt and disillusioned. To survive he had to capitulate. I don’t think he ever recovered his faith in human nature after that. To maintain his income with what had become a pittance of a fee, he had to take on more funerals and lower his standards – a decision which always cuts deep into the heart of the true professional. His health slowly deteriorated and he gradually withdrew from funeral celebrancy. But in his first twenty years of work he had set a benchmark standard for secular people in western society. The thousands of written records which survive his pen will be the joy of family genealogists and historians for centuries to come.

(Brian is survived by his wife Tina, his daughter from his first marriage, Jane, his stepdaughter Amy, his son Michael and daughter Sophie. A commemoration ceremony will be held for him on February 8.)

Brian McInerney recites the World War 1 Wilfred Owen Poem – Dulce et Decorum est.
Dulce et Decorum est. Explanation of the text

Dulce et Decorum est – the Poem

Celebrant Issues with Attorney-General-2014

Here are the priority questions I think should be dealt with by the meeting of the December 2, 2014.Celebrant to Bride

  1. The possibility of a new understanding of the relationship between the Attorney-General’s Department and working celebrants. i.e. Public Servants who are informed, supportive, and interested in what celebrants can do for individuals and society. AND celebrants who are informed with the knowledge of the history and purpose of civil celebrancy and who possess an attitude of cooperation.
  2. A thorough teaching of Section 48 of the Marriage Act – especially the last sentence of 48 (3). see – http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/pages4/Sect_48-Marriage_Act.html
  3. A Transfer of Section 39A to M – the powers of the registrar – to, mutatis mutandis, standing orders within the department – and the powers and responsibility be returned to the accountable minister i.e. to the Attorney-General.
  4. That public servants dealing with celebrants undergo a course of training in the nature and evolution of ceremony, the importance of culture, the psychological power of memorable events, and the nature of society. The course should include attendance at celebrant weddings, funerals, namings, and other secular ceremonies — with reports and critiques.
  5. There should be a serious ceremony at which celebrants are inducted into the profession, attended by the Attorney-General or his equal.
  6. That the Attorney-General assist celebrants expose our exploitation by Funeral Directors, who effectively control fees by not sub-contracting any celebrant who does not conform to their low fee, thus depressing standards.

There are many more issues which I have outlined in fate following articles and blogs:

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/07/21/celebrants-if-i-were-a-g-for-a-day/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/01/13/celebrants-bad-management-excessive-numbers/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/01/29/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/01/29/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be-2/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/01/29/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be-3/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/02/01/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be-4/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/02/02/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be-5/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2014/02/04/celebrants-what-is-and-what-ought-to-be-6/

https://iccdiplomas.com/2013/12/28/a-valid-marriage-yes-or-no/

http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/Pages5/DRM_To_AG_Brandis.html

http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com.au/pages4/roxonopenltr4.html

http://www.collegeofcelebrancy.com/pages4/OpenLtrToDreyfus.html

http://www.yourmarriagecelebrant.co/informs_re/Oz_CMCs-probs.html

Celebrants – Leadership, Numbers, Training. #1

LEADERSHIP – NUMBERS – TRAINING – SYLLABUS AND METHODS OF TRAINING

What is happening? What should be happening?

It is difficult to conceive of a government program that has been more mismanaged than the Civil Celebrant Program. Now is the time to attempt to try to fix it and get it right. We have a new Attorney-General and some new and, it seems, courteous public servants. ————————————————————————————————
LEADERSHIP – we haven’t had any – we haven’t even had an attempt at genuine interest or understanding for many years. Without a vision, the people perish. Nothing good can possibly happen until people in power take a real and genuine interest.

What should happen– the Attorney General and the public servants should cease the games of the past, and the dismissals of our concerns in the past, and assist us bring quality ceremonies to the Australian people. —————————————————————————————————
NUMBERS There is an excessive number of Celebrants. 1600 was enough, 2000 would be plenty, 2500 would be excessive – but we have 10,500! Also read this blog on The Numbers

What should happen –
There should be an immediate and indefinite Moratorium on appointments, and a program of reducing numbers begun immediately. There should be  balanced number of celebrants so that the public gets a sufficient and wide choice and celebrants themselves have a chance to develop and maintain skills and be given the chance to believe in what they are doing. In the first place The Attorney-General should ask every celebrant who was duped into applying on the promise of big and plentiful money, to resign. That should be the  first move. There are a number of other moves after that which could be made. ———————————————————————————————————— TRAINING
Most celebrants, in general, are badly trained in law and have virtually no training in ceremony.

What should happen – Celebrants should be trained especially well in ceremony and in law.
———————————————————————————————————— SYLLABUS AND METHOD OF TRAINING The syllabus for the training is inadequate and focussed too heavily on legal matters. Nationally Registered Training, based on the profit motive, compels the owners of RTOs to teach the least amount they can get away with, so that they can lower prices, and beat the competition. As such it is a failed and flawed system inherently and inexorably driven to lower and lower standards and thus internally programmed to self-destruct. Against all advice, previous Attorneys- General opened up to this  “Nationally Registered Training”.

As well as the basic deficiency mentioned above it is, as far as resources go, a leaderless, oppressively bureaucratic, and fractured-among-the-states system.  It is a  system open to exploitation. The “course” for celebrants, originally two years part time at Monash University, was gradually reduced to five, four, three, and finally two days, taught mostly, for seven years after the Downgrading of 2003 by non-celebrants. There now is a “Certificate IV” but it is still in the same system subject to the same inbuilt weaknesses.

What should happen – The syllabus, which the department, with some excellent public servants, got right in 1995, was badly diminished in the Downgrading of 2003. It should be taught by celebrant/educationists with proven skills in creating and delivering ceremonies, as well as the correct legal procedures. Such courses should be independently assessed and rated by properly briefed and genuine teachers who are not part of the current self defeating system. The training of celebrants should be adequate and more than adequate. It should be aimed not just “competence” in law  but in really high and professional standards in the creation of ceremonies, and with an awareness of the deep psychological and lasting good effects in the lives of individual and in the cultural infrastructure of society.