THE GUTTER SNIPER: Even the Most Violent Go for a Religious Funeral

Article excerpt

Byline: Reg McKay

IWAS brought up to believe that funerals are a time of celebrating life. But, beware, they can also damage your healthToday, hundreds of thousands will turn up in Rome to say farewell to Pope John Paul II.

Forgive me for not joining them, even from afar.

I parted company with religion when I was a nipper, just at the end of the phase where I wanted to be a holy man spreading the good word and turned into a long-haired, bell-bottomed Pink Floyd fan.

From potential preacher to actual crime writer - not much difference, eh?

For me to give more than passing attention to today's events in Rome would be like gatecrashing someone else's funeral, hoping for free sausage rolls and chicken broth at the reception later.

But for an increasing number of folk these days, the religious aspects of funerals are secondary. More of us are even opting for non-religious burials.

To meet this increasing need, the Humanist Society lately advertised for people to train in funeral ceremonies. Now taking the cloth because of your faith is one thing, but who volunteers to officiate at funerals? Better folk than me, that's who.

The humanists won't be much needed at street players' funerals. It's one of those seeming contradictions that our most ruthless, violent citizens still opt for the full religious ceremony.

Do you think they're betting on some type of forgiveness? God knows a lot of them will need it if there is a hereafter.

The minister at Godfather Arthur Thompson's funeral really struggled to find the right words to say at his graveside.Who could blame him?

Stewart 'Specky' Boyd, the gang leader from Glasgow's southside who was killed in a car crash in Spain, presented similar difficulties.While the holy man in charge wasn't looking, the local Priesthill Young Team slipped a chib and bag of coke into Specky's grave.

A couple of years back, the funeral of Gordon Ross, a henchman of Thomas McGraw,The Licensee, was very bad for one man's health. …