The Year is 1999
A new millennium is rising to the fore like the morning sun over Montego Bay. A time of the dot com boom, Y2K and Destiny’s child. It’s a time where the possibilities of ever-increasing globalisation and ever decreasing limits are gripping the world over. It’s still a surprise however, when the phone rings. An unmistakable accent greets Fearghas Quinn, and it isn’t a Ballymena one. He introduces himself as Dale Delapenha. He says he is on a family holiday in Co. Kerry and came across a traditional Irish funeral. Dale’s jaw dropped when he saw the hearse. He just had to find out where he could buy one. And so he asked the undertaker, who gave him this number. Fearghas offers to give him a site visit.
“Come up and see the factory, see what we do and we can get a chat in person.”
Two days later, Dale does just that. The whole family is welcomed into the Portglenone factory to see the build process of the Mercedes hearses on offer in 1999. The group talk figures. They agree. And work is scheduled to begin.
Mid 2000 – S Class 3 Door leaves Belfast harbour
In mid 2000, the S Class 3 Door leaves Belfast harbour, Kingston-bound. Like the ship, there was a sense of adventure with the Quinns as they embarked on a new chapter in the business. A connection between the Northern Ireland funeral sector and Jamaica seemed like the unlikeliest of links, and yet it was so. When the vehicle arrived safely and was immediately put to work, the momentousness of the occasion sank in. And not just in Portglenone. Soon, newspapers got in touch. There was an interview scheduled for BBC News. A local company making this kind of connection was quite novel, and gained interest as a feel-good story. A microcosm of the possibilities a new millennium could bring. With the further integration of Ireland into the EU scheduled, this represented something that we could hope to see more of.
Later that year
Later that year, Dale was on the phone again. The former Governor General of Jamaica, Florizel Glasspole had passed away, and Delapenha Funeral Home had the honour of being used for the state burial. People lined the streets in Kingston to pay their last respects to a man who had been at the forefront of nothing less than a social and economic revolution in Jamaica. The Irish hearse, with its glass sides displaying the casket to the crowds of mourners, became a centrepiece for the ceremony. That continues even today, the same S Class is used for funerals, looking as good as ever. A timeless reminder of an incredibly unlikely link.
Governor General of Jamaica, Florizel Glasspol’e funeral
Twenty years on from the chance meeting between Dale and Fearghas. The world has changed. There is a lot more economic uncertainty. The Celtic Tiger has been and gone, Brexit has reshaped the landscape, and one of the biggest pandemics to ever hit the world is just around the corner. The phone rings. Fearghas’ daughter Deborah answers. She doesn’t recognise the voice at first, but the accent is unmistakable.
“Hello, its Dale”
Soon, an ambitious project is set out. Quinn’s will build their first hearse based on a Mercedes V Class. This isn’t going to be an Irish hearse exported. This will be a Jamaican hearse. This vehicle will be big. Bold. With the Causeway deck front and centre. With the flag poles on the wings as standard in the Caribbean, with Landau bars on the sides and strobe lights on the front. This hearse will have identity. It will have soul. It will be centre stage at every funeral celebration. Just a few months later, its ready. Again it’s waved off at Belfast Harbour to cross the Atlantic. 20 years apart but some things never change.
Six weeks go by, and a phone call once more from an international number.
“I love it!”
Delapenha Funeral Home is a family ran business, much like Quinn’s, and have been serving the people of Montego Bay for more than 35 years. Their passion for their work, and ability to relate to people of all backgrounds means that it was no surprise that the business relationship took off. And it continues, as Dale is in continual contact about upgrading their fleet as their business continues to grow. And as they have been for the past 20 years, Quinn Hearse and Limousine are happy to oblige.