We got our GROVE on

Last year my colleagues at Agnostic Scotland and I discussed an idea to support a project run by Trees for Life, a conservation charity dedicated to rewilding the Caledonian Forest which is a rich habitat found in the Scottish Highlands. So on Christmas Eve 2019 we bought a digital grove and began to donate trees. The Agnostic Scotland digital grove has now been populated with 60 trees. You can have a look here & learn about the native species that are planted on our behalf.

Loch Katrine

Our plan is that our grove will be planted in honour of the communities and the families whose ceremonies we, as Agnostic Scotland Celebrants, conduct.

As Agnostic Scotland celebrants we are privileged to support people as they navigate important transitions in their lives and planting trees in support of this wonderful rewilding project is such a perfect way to show our appreciation to all the remarkable individuals, families and communities we are lucky enough to encounter through in our work. It is also an opportunity to express our respect, gratitude and hope for the natural world that sustains us all.

Therefore, from now on when communities come together to collaborate and celebrate through ceremony and ritual I will plant a tree in support. Every time I have the honour of working with a couple who are getting married, exchanging vows or expressing their life commitment to one another I will plant a tree to celebrate their union. When blessingways and naming ceremonies welcome new babies I will plant a tree to celebrate their arrival. When families gather to celebrate the life of a loved one who has died I will plant a tree in their memory.

For those of you who I have connected with recently or am working with currently I have donated trees to thank and honour you. I feel quite a buzz thinking of your native Scottish tree happily growing into mature trees that will transform hillsides into young woodland, then mature into wild forests for future generations to enjoy.

‘the clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’

John Muir

Dead Good Film

Me and my Gladioli last summer,
flowers that symbolise strength and moral integrity

The Glasgow Film Festival hosted Rehana Rose’s documentary Dead Good Film last week and I went along with my daughter.

Motivated by a series of bereavements in her life Rose was moved to explore the world of funeral directors. She interviewed and spent time with many companies but only two agreed for filming to take place ‘behind the scenes’. The families, their experiences and the funerals were documented beautifully, and it was very thought provoking for me. I know I harp on about the parallels of the birth world and the death world but this film confirmed that connection even further.

The funeral directors she did document were very inspiring. Especially Arka. I loved their philosophy. They were so grounded, compassionate, empathic and they weren’t playing a role, it was their vocation, part of their identity. It was all so wonderfully simple, caring, beautiful and empowering. As Cara, from Arka says :

” I come from a world of empowering people and want to continue that in the funeral world’.

Yass!! That is midwifery talk. The staff at Arka work in partnership with, and facilitate choice for, families just as midwives do for childbearing women, their partners and their families. Arka are midwives. Death midwives.

Midwives and funeral directors have history

Search far enough back in history and you will find the local village handywoman or midwife performed laying out and childbearing services. As part of the evolution of midwifery, The Midwives Act 1902 prohibited the dual role but in 1907 it was amended allowing midwives to lay out after securing permission from the local supervising authority. This was thought to be due to demand from the bereaved townspeople and villagers. They were insistent that the washing of the dead be undertaken by someone known to them.

At that time it was the local joiner who became the ‘undertaker’. They had the tools, the space and the skills for coffin making. The handywoman would lay out the deceased and perform the last offices, attending to both the deceased and the bereaved. The undertaker would make the coffin and deliver it to the house where the deceased would rest in the front room or parlour until the funeral.


Here we are in 2019 and Rehana Rose’s film, and the discussion after, certainly highlighted to me all the varying needs the bereaved may have and more saliently, that this is important, must be recognised and at this time in families lives they may need the support of someone who is also an advocate.

To me, being an advocate is about honesty, information and respecting the right for people to be informed, have choices and make decisions. As midwives, funeral directors or celebrants we must appreciate that these rites of passage and rituals, whether it is birth or death, also need rites of protection. When you understand, believe and support the concept of informed choice, which is underpinned by human rights, you empower. With empowerment, even through grief, community, communication, companionship and human relationships can only be enhanced.

Go see this film.



Dead Good Film https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dlshemr9qLA

Opening nationwide May 2019


Death grief and Poverty in Britain 1870-1914 J M Strange