Nicholas O’Hara have celebrated 40 years of business with a party for staff, friends, family and many people who have supported and worked alongside them during the businesses life. The business was started by Nicholas with the help of his parents at the head office on Rowlands Hill and during the 40 years many changes and progressions have been made with the opening of further funeral homes in Verwood and West Moors, changing the fleet colour to its distinctive silver livery, Nicholas’ wife Jackie and later children Anthony and Natalie entered the business and now the business have 21 staff of which 7 are still family.
Below is a copy of the speech Anthony gave at the event
Good evening ladies and gentleman or as I feel you all are here tonight as our family or friends.
Thank you so much for joining us here tonight, it’s not only a night to celebrate 40 years of our business but a chance for us to share this time with people special to us.
Many of you have been friends to us for a long time and to some of you we have been who we are – funeral directors, but I hope that at those times you’ve needed us you know how much we appreciate you allowing us to care for your loved one and support you at this time.
Where does a story of 40 business years begin, well actually over 50 years ago.
Nicholas’ father Pat was a local policeman someone people looked up to and listened too and youngest son Nick was no exception. Grandad had suggested different jobs for when dad left school and funeral director was on his list and nick had in his head decided this was for him. On the equivalent of careers days now, nick told his teachers he was to become an undertaker, so they phoned nicks mum Brenda worried about his mental state and she brushed them away saying simply “that’s what he’s going to be”. Nick wanted me to thank especially Mrs Lewis his English teacher at St Edwards Catholic School who suggested it was a good thing he was leaving school at 15! Nick left and the start of the very next week through his mum’s connections via the nursing home he started work at a local FD’s.
Nick had some experience though even before this of undertaking, grandad would bring dad home some shoeboxes from a local shop and Nick would bury his younger sisters dolls in them around the garden. And then too his two older brothers horror when they all shared a bedroom together Nick would have his full size skeleton hanging behind the door which he would take apart and put back together, thus meaning no girls would be brought home.
Talking of girls, the only time dad’s never wanted to tell anyone what he did was when chatting up the fairer sex, when asked of his occupation, his common line was he was a baked bean salesman.
In 1974 dad decided it was now time to venture on his own, he was both a diploma holder in the fields of funeral directing and embalming, had been well trained in London and locally here by Reg Paull someone who Nick will never forget for the time and knowledge he bestowed on him. Reg was like a second father to Nick and Reg’s son Allan and daughter Wendy are here tonight and still are friends of ours today. Probably one of dad’s greatest honours was conducting Reg’s funeral, a lifelong co-op man but he wanted no one but dad to do this.
Gran and Grandad were pivotal to the start of this new business venture, they had the building on Rowlands Hill which Nick had talked them out of selling at the 11th hour and without their encouragement and support both financially, physically and emotionally a very young Nick would never have got started.
In those early days grandad was dads right hand, they worked well together and it allowed dad to master all aspects of his trade while grandad would be in control of paperwork on his old typewriter, late in to the night typing clients letters or many paged essays to the bank on why they should not worry about lending his son money or the state of the overdraft as he was going to be the best funeral director in the area and it would be money well invested! Gran too was important she not only kept a few patients in the nursing home part of the building to keep money ticking along she would make sure dad was well fed, hence the O’Hara frame and she would follow on in her mini behind our first hearse as it had no space for a spare wheel and dad was paranoid of a puncture. People often asked if that was gran they saw following on, oh no Nick said I expect she’s home cooking.
From that first year of handling just 11 funerals we’ve come a long way. Looking back at all the many changes the most important and significant would be in 1988 when mum fully came into the business, gran and grandads share and also the building was purchased from them now allowing full control of every aspect. This came at a huge cost financially and like many of the projects we’ve done timing was never always perfect, interest rates where high and times were tough, feeding the 4 of us was a worry let alone the 150 here tonight! Many of mine and Natalie’s friends thought we were a rich family, yet money wise we were far from it, while all our friends were off on holidays, parents had a car each, some had all the new luxury items we actually didn’t, it didn’t every worry us cos we never felt like we missed a thing as kids as we had a strong, stable and supportive set of parents who we loved and gave us all kids actually needed.
Nick has always been a visionary, his greatest he would say was changing the vehicle fleet to silver at the end of the 1980’s, it has become one of our trademarks. But having the guts to follow his heart and his belief has been what’s taken us forward, being the first locally to open satellite offices in Verwood and West Moors was a huge risk and once dad and mum had completed them they then told the accountant to avoid his worry, as no one would have talked them out of it. Nick also was the first FD locally to have a bleep and then a mobile phone and the rest soon followed him!
If a business guru was to step into our world and look at why we’ve grown as a business and I feel a successful one he would have one answer. Dad. This is not a career choice for fame and fortune, of course there are rewards, hard earned ones, but it’s a lifestyle. Until I came into the business as did Natalie we couldn’t ever appreciate what our parents gave to it. All companies need a backbone or structure they rely on, it’s not simply dad and mum it’s deeper than that. From the first day Nick stepped into this career and even greater from the first day of Nicholas O’Hara funeral directors there were two words that would be our structure.
Service and Standards.
To be the best is not to be the biggest, most notorious, loudest or richest.
To be the best in my eyes is to give the best. Every aspect that dad and mum have created has had this focus. To provide a service second to none, by continuing to develop, change and adapt to the modern world but to still endorse traditions and values. To find ways of making the whole experience special and that’s done by having standards so high, that every detail is perfect, everything we do from our premises, turnout, vehicles, equipment and staff are of this standard, second rate is not acceptable, first class is what every family deserve. There are so many ways I could demonstrate this but just one and it’s what we’ve just completed I think demonstrates this. When most people at mum and dad’s age are happy with their lots and slowing down and thinking of time off, enjoying the rewards of their efforts dad is doing the opposite. The new building work competed at Wimborne sums him up, I think most who’d ever visited before would say we have a very special funeral home that’s impressive in all areas but come today and see what dads vision has created, it’s not just the front of house that has to be special it’s what goes on behind the scenes too. New garages, workshops, chapels, lounge area for families and a mortuary and theatre that Nick has always dreamed of. When asked by the bank how much more work this would create for us I answered for dad and said “potentially none, but it will make everything we do even better” and that’s would it’s about to us giving the best service and setting the highest of standards.
Secondly to this though but as important to our growth is people and It would be impossible for me to stand here and list all those people dad and mum would want to thank, the list would be huge, but I know firstly those here tonight they have invited you also as a way of thanking you for your support and friendship. The first on Nick’s list is from the very beginning, a local business women called Muriel Brown (Marianne’s mum) who stood against local business opposition in support of Nick, you wouldn’t argue with Mrs Brown and we conducted her funeral when she was 102 years old, obviously a lady of strong stuff.
The original dad’s army bearing crew, especially Uncle Bob your stories and memories live on and I hope you’d be proud of how we still look at after our vehicles; the many other funeral directors in this area who employed Nick for his embalming skills and supported him when needed and these include the late Jack Douch, the Tomes family and Peter Crutcher (thank you for being here tonight); Charles Cleghorn for being brave enough to supply us with coffins, the professional sector ministers, doctors, nursing homes, community workers, because without your kind recommendations families would often be lost on where to turn.
Our family and friends for your support, your appreciation and your encouragement.
Gran and Grandad who I know will be watching over us with the words “well done Son”.
Then there’s the many staff old and new because without you we don’t function, people change and move on but what doesn’t is the type of people we’ve wanted beside us with very few exceptions. Your hard work, your care and your passion for what you do is why we are successful together. Also to all our partners for your support and care of us. Again I can’t name you all but one person has to be, I know you want to say a few words but Chris you have ridden the roller coaster of life with us as a family, as a business and you’re not just our friend and colleague you are one of us, from your first day alongside dad a special bond was created as your natural care of people, your selflessness and your appreciation of dad’s ethos made you simply a much smaller version of him. Through the hard times you’ve been an unwavering rock of support and often you’ve taken the punches on those tough days, but every day you’ve come in the same, you are an example to me and I hope to all your colleagues on how you approach the work that we do.
Each year we try and support a local charity with meaning to us and over the past 5 years we have supported Julia’s House and managed to raise for them over £12,000 through various events and also by being our funeral planning charity of choice and because of this Nicholas O’Hara now have our own day at Julia’s House. We have now chosen a new charity again close to us as Natasha Jones the founder has been a client, a friend and her story is also inspiring on how and why she started the charity LEAF. I’d like to ask Nick to come and present this cheque to Tash on behalf of Leaf who from the start of 2015 will be our funeral planning charity of choice and we hope in some small way we can support you and the amazing work Leaf does.
Before I end on behalf of Natalie and I we would like to say the biggest thank you possible, we have the most amazing parents, who also are like our best friends but the support, love and opportunities you have given us in life are huge, to work in our amazing company together and to share nearly every day with you is so special to us and we hope you know we love you and appreciate everything you’ve done and continue to do for us.
Again thank you so much for joining us, I hope you’ve enjoyed the entertainment so far and will dance with us late into the night, but first can you all raise your glasses with me as we not only toast Nicholas O’Hara funeral directors 40 years but more importantly to Nick and Jackie.