Crematorium trainee now fully qualified

Date published: 07 August 2020
Tony Kirkham

Working in a crematorium is a specialised and sensitive role – which is why at West Lindsey District Council we pride ourselves on offering the best training to staff.

Lea Fields Crematorium, which is run by the local authority opened its doors in February this year following a £6 million investment. As well as investing in the service - it is equally important to the Council that it invests in its staff.

We are delighted to announce that our first Trainee Crematorium Officer, Tony Kirkham has successfully completed his Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme (CTTS), with the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM).

Tony (59) joined the Council in January, just a month before the new crematorium opened its doors. Following a rigorous training programme over the last 8 months, 18 assignments and a video examination, Tony is now qualified.

He said: “I have been very fortunate to have had Karen Smith who is our Senior Crematorium Officer as my mentor, as the amount of work involved in the assignments is quiet mind blowing and her support and encouragement has been invaluable.”

It has been a little more unusual for Tony, who has had to complete his training during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Like all crematoriums nationally the team have had to respond to changes in guidance in order to keep grieving families safe at what is one of the most difficult times of their lives.

In addition to the assignments, Tony had to learn how to operate the cremator and all the tasks involved in performing cremations, of which there are far more than he could ever have imagined when he first started the role.

Tony said: “It has been challenging, fitting the assignments in around learning how to cremate was a balancing act, but I had great support and help from Deborah Balsdon Crematorium Manager for her constant encouragement, Celia Chapman and Trudi Hayes who while on secondment to the Crematorium have also given me great support.”

Tony, was a funeral arranger prior to starting at the Crematorium and has a strong background in Customer Services, which is a key element to his current role.

He said:  “I am always honoured to be a part of a family’s grieving process. My aim is always to ensure families get to say the final goodbye that they want. And, as daft as it may sound, if they don't notice that I'm there (especially when doing chapel duty) then I've done a good job.

“I never take anything for granted, and I always treat the deceased with the same respect and care as I would any of my own family. I hope families take away a sense of knowing their loved one is being well looked after on the final journey.”

Tony said that now he has passed his qualification, he will be taking a much deserved break from studying.

“The last time I had to do so much course work and revision was way back in the 1970's!  On this course, I was supported absolutely brilliantly by Karen, Deborah and Alan Robinson, Director of Corporate Services. I've been very lucky to have had such support. It was very strange being assessed by video, as before it started I was informed I couldn't say anything about what I was doing, also I never got to see my examiner“, explained Tony.

Prior to Covid-19, the practical exam and multiple choice questions were carried out on site by an examiner from the ICCM. However, under the current circumstances this was done via a video call.

Lea Fields Crematorium has continued to operate during the pandemic, providing a vital service to the local community during a difficult time. This has not been easy with social distancing rules limiting the amount of people who can attend funerals and now with the latest guidance on families wearing face coverings when attending.

However, it was recognised early on that this was a vital service that needed extra support to make sure it was resilient. The Council is currently putting two more members of staff through the training.

Karen Smith Senior Cremation Officer at the Crematorium said: “Tony is a valued member of our small team and has really embraced the role and all the training involved, especially considering the demands and rapidly changing guidelines involved during the current situation.

“He has dealt with everything we’ve asked of him in a professional and empathetic manner. The Crematorium Technicians Training Scheme is an intense and time consuming course, which Tony has successfully completed alongside learning about all the other aspects his role entails.

“Mentoring three trainees at the same time was always going to be a challenge but their enthusiasm and professionalism has been outstanding, and made my role a pleasure. They are all a credit to Lea Fields Crematorium and West Lindsey District Council.”

Please don’t forget that from Monday 10, August it is mandatory for anybody attending a funeral indoors to wear a face covering.

To find out more about the crematorium you can email: or visit: or call: 01427 67650

At Lea Fields Crematorium we understand that finding a fitting tribute in celebration of a person’s life can be difficult, to help you we offer a selection of memorials visit:

For the latest news on West Lindsey District Council visit our council news pages

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