Morecambe antiques dealer gets final wish of a Viking funeral

Viking rowers take James' ashes to their final resting place.
Viking rowers take James' ashes to their final resting place.

James Whelan’s interests in all things Viking developed during family holidays to the Isle of Man.

So his final wish was for a traditional Viking funeral.

James Joseph Whelan.

James Joseph Whelan.

The antiques dealer, formerly of Morecambe, received his preferred send-off in a moving ceremony off Peel Harbour on the island which was once ruled by the Norsemen.

James Joseph Whelan, a renowned ‘bonne viveur’, used to run antiques shops in Morecambe on Regent Road, Yorkshire Street and Euston Road many years ago.

After he died recently aged 70, members of his family - partner Tanya and daughters Stella and Maria - contacted the organisers of the annual Viking longship rowing race in Peel on the Isle of Man, who gave permission for a burning longship burial off Peel harbour.

All that was now required was a model Viking longship to carry Mr Whelan’s ashes out to sea and on to Valhalla, the Viking afterlife. But where to get such a longship?

Maria searched on the internet and found James Paton, who lived in Skipton, who helped build a three foot replica Viking boat.

The family added the final touches, adorning James’ ashes below deck, with memories and things he might need for his trip.

The day arrived, but disaster loomed. The Peel viking boat race was cancelled that morning due to wind and tide.

But the organisers put out the call and eight strong sturdy Viking rowers appeared at noon.

They, along with James Paton and his cousin Marie, rowed the Whelan family out into Peel Harbour. The journey to sea was spurred along with moving Viking songs.

Longship alight, Stella’s partner launched it out into the Irish Sea. Mr Whelan was on his way, followed by a smaller replica boat adorned with beautiful flowers.

Ashore the rowers toasted Mr Whelan’s memory and the wake was underway. Reflections, stories, songs and memories continued throught the afternoon and into the evening.

A truly remarkable journey ended as Mr Whelan would have wished.