Quarantine has affected us all in different ways. We may fantasise about nights out, drinks at the pub, trips to the theatre or parading through the city centre in in a hearse, but until we no longer have to adhere to social distancing, I’m afraid all such things must remain pipe dreams.
However, in 1871, such restrictions were not in place and many women in the western world were enjoying a few baby steps towards emancipation. However, mourning etiquette and all its trappings dominated the lives of most women, especially those of socially aware families. Death was an enormous part of everyday life and understandably, many began to tire of their governed mourning and the ever-present lingering cloud of death over their heads.
One such woman in Quebec, Canada chose to ‘mock’ death by renting a hearse and having a damn good time riding through the streets of the city, puffing on a pipe and watching the public go about their business.
Sadly, very little about the woman is known, save for an oft-circulating illustration of the incident. However, the lesser known accompanying article reads as follows:
‘A Quebec Woman Creates a Sensation, Riding Through St. John Street in a Hearse, Reclining on the Coffin-Bed, and Smoking a Pipe.
What will women do next to distinguish themselves, we wonder! A female in Quebec, the other day, perpetrated a ghastly joke, mocking death in his own domain, by lying down in a hearse and smoking a pipe in a funeral chariot was driven through the street.
If this exhibition had been made in the United States, our neighbours at the North would have made it the subject of very strong animadversions.’
But how would a modern woman go about re-creating such a fun and relaxing outing?
There are two main things to consider: cost and legality.
Firstly, obtaining a hearse. Naturally, any undertaker or funeral home will have their own hearses, and may hire them without the necessity of a funeral for the right price. Depending on whether one would require a modern car hearse or a traditional horse-drawn hearse would bring their own problems.
Take note – Keep an eye on your budget and plan your route before taking your trip.
Basing costs from the UK-Based Co-Op Funeral Care, the average cost of a ‘traditional hearse’ – including ‘necessary personnel to conduct the funeral for up to three hours (from leaving our funeral home to returning) and includes up to 30 running miles.’ Is £520, with an additional mileage charge of £1.70 per mile, beyond 30 miles.
If seeking a more elaborate, Victorian affair with horses, the prices understandably spike.
A black, glass-sided hearse, similar to that used by the lady in Quebec, comes in with a base cost of £1310. However, should one require a pair of horses with an outrider or even four or five horses, the cost could spiral to around £2,305, before you’ve even considered where to travel.
Due to the risks involved with horse-drawn hearses, especially if hiring an outrider, the highway agencies may have to be informed or even close roads for your journey. This has the potential to incur even more extra costs.
If wanting to recline in a car hearse, a seatbelt arrangement may have to be installed into the car to secure you as you travel. However, if the hearse is pre-1966, there may be a loophole. Prior to ’66, many cars were not fitted with seatbelts as standard and subsequently, contemporary classic car owners are under no obligation to wear seatbelts. In 2010, a hearse driver was fined for driving to a funeral without a seatbelt, so as a category of cars, they are not free from the law.
When travelling in a campervan, two point seatbelts are also necessary if sitting in the back. Sadly, there are few articles online concerning the legalities of non-deceased hearse passengers.
Another issue to consider is that any contemporary hearse (whether horse-drawn or otherwise) will be strictly non-smoking. So, unless your chosen hearse is a personal possession, one would think it best to substitute the pipe for a vape or nicotine patch to save the additional fine for damaging the transport.
With the average cost of a vape pen costing around £20 with a 50ml ‘short fill’ liquid coming in at £9-14, the very least one could expect to spend in recreating the wondrous Quebec display (with horses) is approximately: £1339.
I’m not saying you should re-create such a bold display, but if you do, give me a call before-hand and I’ll grab my vape.