A Nottingham funeral director will mark 10 years’ service in a very different role in September – as the UK’s only chaplain for a mountain rescue team.
Alan Winfield, who works for Gillotts Funeral Directors in Stapleford, Nottinghamshire, has spent his spare time for the last decade on call for Derby Mountain Rescue, ready to join an emergency mission if required.
Alan, 58, is believed to be the only person in the country who acts as a chaplain for mountain rescue and his duties include offering troubled colleagues a listening ear or calming the fears of family members worrying about a missing loved one.
Alan said: “When the team are working, the adrenaline’s going and their training kicks in but it’s only when the adrenaline subsides, or maybe even weeks later, that people come to terms with what they’ve seen and experienced, which may be something distressing like a deceased person.
“I am used to working with death, but I understand that for many members of the team, it is something that they will never have come across before and the first time they are confronted by a deceased person can be a shock.
“My other role on searches can often be talking to the families. I can find out useful information or talk through their feelings of anger or guilt, which helps them deal with the situation and allows the rest of the team to get on with their job.”
Alternatively, if Alan is out on a call and the team finds a deceased person, then he will always volunteer to help remove their body.
He said: “It is the last thing that our team can ever do for that person, we are delivering them back to their family and that will hopefully give them closure, in the same way that working with a family and conducting a funeral gives them closure.
“I am very proud to have reached 10 years as chaplain for Derby Mountain Rescue. I find both roles hugely rewarding and I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction from walking away knowing that I have helped someone’s family at the lowest point in their lives, or seeing a team member going back out to do what they are there to do.”