Funerals are Joe McNamara’s business. As director of Corrigan and Sons, Funerals Directors, of 5 Lower Camden Street, he’s a part of an unbroken line of family involvement in a company set up by Patrick Corrigan in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
Dapper, discreet and diplomatic, he’s the essence of the Corrigan and Sons ethos, respecting death, the dead and the feeling of the bereaved.
Marriage since the very beginning has been the way of continuity and consolidation in the Corrigan firm. The company’s founder, who had a carriage business, started the trend when he married Dora Head, daughter of a Cook Street coffin maker.
The combined companies made for an undertaking business which was consolidated when Dora and Patrick moved, in 1884, to the Camden Street site still occupied today.
Corrigan’s, from the beginning, brought panache and a dignified style to the business of burial. The original premises had hay, oats and coffins lofts. The stables could hold up to 30 horses and work started at 6am, when they were taken out, cleaned and fed.
The role of the horse was crucial: the animal drawing the hearse wore white plumes if the deceased was unmarried, black if the person was married.
Then there’s the embalming side of the business. Joe McNamara, with scant prodding, moves from a discussion of the art as practiced by the Egyptians some 5,000 years ago to the fact that these days “embalming is becoming more and more acceptable” and his belief that it, too “helps the healing process. And embalming means there’s less likely to be deterioration of the body of the person who has died before the funeral.
People are more anxious than ever before about what death looks like, so, as an embalmer, you need to be sensitive to how a person looked in life. A photo is useful; so is a person’s own make-up, in the end, thought, it comes down simply to whether or not the family have confidence in you as an embalmer. If they’ve had any bad experiences, they don’t want to know. There’s a code of ethics around embalming which involves confidentiality and respect for the dead.”