Coronavirus: Farmer honoured at drive-in funeral attended by more than 100 people

Sarah Young
·3 min read

A farmer planned his own drive-in funeral so that more than 100 of his friends and family could attend amid coronavirus restrictions, which only permit 30 people to attend a funeral.

Peter Cole, 80, died suddenly at home in Sibton in Suffolk on 20 September after suffering a heart attack.

Mr Cole, who was active in his local church, had spent much of lockdown calling for outdoor services so people could be together and helped organise the village's first event the week before he died.

After attending the event, the farmer said he would like something similar for his own funeral held on Sibton and Peasenhall playing fields, where he played football as a child.

“After we helped him run the church service he just said to us 'you know what to do now. If I die you can run a funeral on the field',” his daughter-in-law Michele Cole told PA.

“Unfortunately he died the following weekend.”

She added that Mr Cole had also seen people in the local area who had died have very small funerals and noticed how much people were struggling with that. So, he came up with the idea for a drive-in funeral so people could be together.

Mr Cole, who had 10 grandchildren, asked for the hearse to be parked in front of the goal he defended as a goalkeeper for Peasenhall United.

He had also already spoken to the minister he wanted for the service, who had retired but travelled from Lowestoft to lead it, and had arranged for the musician Eg White to perform.


Mr Cole requested a song called Beyond The Sunset and his family discovered after his death that he kept the lyrics in the pocket of his jacket he wore to church.

On the day of the funeral, on 12 October, more than 100 people in 60 cars turned up to celebrate his life.

Friends volunteered as stewards to direct cars to park at a safe distance from each other, and the service was played through individual Bluetooth speakers in each car with the help of a drive-in cinema company.


Mrs Cole said the drive-in cinema company thought it was a hoax when they first got in touch to ask for help.

“Nobody had spoken about running drive-in funerals before,” she said. “But when they realised we were serious they were great.”

Speaking to the BBC, Mrs Cole said it meant “so much” to the family to be together.


“We hope this will inspire other families who have lost someone during the pandemic to think outside the box,” she said.

Mr Cole lived in either Sibton or Peasenhall his whole life and was caretaker of the chapel used by the two neighbouring villages.

The chapel was closed during lockdown and Mr Cole pressed for outdoor services because many older people in the village were unable to access online church services.

“Peter used to say that his father had said: 'Always look after the people in the village',” Mrs Cole explained.

”He had that in the back of his mind for a lot of the time as well as making sure that his family were ok. Those were the things that drove him forward.“

According to the latest government guidelines in England, funeral ceremonies must have no more than 30 people attending, whether indoors or outdoors. This number does not include funeral staff and is more than the 15 permitted for wedding ceremonies.

The government said that the guidance has been developed to ensure that “bereaved people are treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect” and so that “mourners and workers involved in the management of funerals are protected from avoidable risk of infection.”

The rules state that if mourners are from different households, they should still stay at two metres distance from each other, or one metre with extra steps to reduce transmission, such as wearing a face covering.

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