Saturday, April 08, 2006

Ivor Cutler, alt.obituaries and an obit postscript

Amelia Rosner posted some hilarious obits at alt.obituaries that the British papers printed for the late Ivor Cutler, an unlikely cult hero, in early March 2006.

In case you are as clueless as I used to be about alt.obituaries, it's a Google Group devoted to news of the dead. Go to, choose the "groups" option, and type alt.obituaries in the search field. That will take you to alt.obituaries. To find Cutler's obits, put his name in the alt.obits search field.

The bulk of the Cutler obit in The Independent of London was written by Colin Irwin, who I presume is a freelance obit writer like many of the Brit grimsters. His name appears at the end of his text.

Then the obit continues as follows:
Like many others, I had admired Ivor Cutler's stories, told in his graveyard Scottish voice, on Monday Night at Home when in my late teens, writes Caroline Richmond. I met him on computer dat-ing in 1966 and we remained good friends for several years.

Caroline Richmond? Our Caroline? Writer of obits for internationally known physicians, scientists and medical researchers? Identifiable at obituary writers conferences by her red Harry Potter glasses flanked by the letters L and K to form the word LOOK?

Yes. That's the one.

"When Ivor died, I emailed the Independent and said that I wasn't the best person to do him, but if they didn't get a better offer I could have a crack," Caroline wrote in response to my query. "They did have a better offer, so my additional comments were tacked on at the end. I was pleased about that."

I'm pleased about it too. All of the Cutler obits printed in publications across the pond offer glorious descriptions of this eccentric humorist, songwriter and poet. Caroline's mini-memoir offers details the others don't.

Like this:
I once went to watch him teaching at Fox primary school in Notting Hill Gate. He played "God Save the Queen" in boogie on the piano and got the children to sing it (difficult). Then he stopped the piano with some crashing chords and asked, glaring with feigned disapproval, "Who sang 'God shave the Queen'?" No one owned up, of course, because no one had. He ticked them off and restarted. Whereupon, of course, they all sang it.

I love her references to his graveyard Scottish voice and his wearing a straw hat that a donkey would have rejected.

Kudos, Caroline!

1 comment:

Amelia said...

Thanks for the plug for alt.obituaries! I was going to post something about Caroline's contribution to the Independent obit, but I forgot. So thanks for that, as well.