Original article by Farmers Weekly –
In a peaceful country cemetery in the hills of Snowdonia lies the grave of Gruffydd Roberts, the dates on his gravestone a poignant reminder that his life was cut short at just 24.
The much-loved son of livestock farmers Peredur and Glenda Roberts, it was Gruffydd’s premature death in 2013 that encouraged his father to put in motion a career ambition he had nurtured for decades.
“Ever since I was 16 I had wanted to be an undertaker,” Mr Roberts reveals.
Sadly, the first funeral he arranged was that of his son “I wasn’t working as an undertaker at that time but I had looked after Gruff all his life, it was the last thing I could do for him. No-one was going to do that for him but me.”
Peredur grew up at Derw Goed, the family farm at Llandderfel where he now runs a herd of 100 Limousin suckler cows and 400 ewes.
He loves farming but recalls telling his uncle before he left school that he wanted to go into the funeral business.
“He discouraged me because he was keen for me to farm so that was that,” Peredur recalls.
But the calling never left him and, as he was about to enter his fifth decade, he knew that if he didn’t follow it through then, he never would.
Funeral directors don’t need to be licensed but it is an industry surprisingly difficult to break into because many are family businesses that pass from one generation to the next.
For Peredur, that opportunity came when he trained with a Welshpool undertaker, Geraint Peate, who also happened to be a sheep farmer.
“The days I spent with Geraint passed very quickly because he was interested in farming and I was interested in the funeral business.”
After 18 months of learning the trade, Peredur felt the time was right to set up his own business.
He was still farming but with his son, Dafydd, now at home, he was confident he could run both businesses with the support of his family.
He found a suitable building to rent in the village of Pentrefoelas, a 20-minute drive from the farm, and converted it into a chapel of rest.
A local undertaker had retired and there was little provision for local people.
Peredur invested about £30,000 establishing the business – creating the chapel of rest, refrigerated storage for up to 12 bodies and buying a hearse.
As his reputation has grown so have the number of funerals he is asked to conduct. Last year he arranged 30 – eight of them in one week – but in the first seven months of this year he has already conducted 25.
One question he is frequently asked is what drives someone to become an undertaker.
“I don’t know the answer to that one, it’s just something that’s there inside you. I like to be with people and to help them,” says Peredur.
“It is very rewarding, nothing compares to the feeling of someone taking you by the arm and thanking you.
“It gives me a real sense of purpose to be serving the community. I can understand what other families are going through as I have been there.”