We’re venturing north of the border for this month’s Featured Funeral Director! Stay with us as we talk bagpipes and scone bribery with Tony Foster, founder of Fosters Funeral Directors.
With branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Ayrshire, Falkirk, Dundee and Aberdeen, Fosters Funeral Directors is a swiftly-growing independent funeral directors based in Scotland. Founded by Tony Foster in the early 2000s, it’s a business with a decidedly warm and friendly vibe – so we had no problem stealing some of Tony’s lunch break to find out more about what makes Fosters special.
I got started due to a friend of mine who used to be a funeral director and wanted to get back into the industry. Believe it or not, I had a car accessory shop at the time, but (it being the early 2000s) a lot of people were coming into our shop, then turning around and buying online. But because it was the first-ever premises I’d had after I started working for myself when I left school, I didn’t want to let it go.
So, when [my friend] came to me … I said, “I tell you what, why don’t we change the showroom into a funeral parlour, and I’ll fund it for you?” So, that’s what I did.
How would you describe your way of doing things at Fosters? What makes you different?
I’d describe us as modern. Very modern, and forward thinking.
We’ve always been about trying to add value through great service at a low cost … and by marketing that, we are able to cut down on our resources, which rolls out into the client having better value for money. And we are very much about trying to celebrate life.
I’d like to think we provide more in terms of service than anything else. When I’ve organised funerals, people have asked about organising the craziest of wee things. And the answer’s always been yes: just tell me what you need, and we’ll sort it. Anything’s possible.
You also have a bag-piper …
Tom, he’s our resident piper. He’s not got particularly great legs. I’ve got better legs.
Is that necessary for the whole kilt thing?
Ah, yes. He’s got the kilt on, and all the rest of the stuff. And he is a true Scotsman, but we’ll not go into that … it’s very popular. I think it’s fair to say that he’s pretty much playing every other day. They’re that kind of shiver up your spine, aren’t they? When you’re at a funeral and the piper’s playing in front of the hearse, it’s a pretty special moment, you know?
Earlier, you mentioned crazy things: what’s the most memorable funeral you’ve arranged, and what was the craziest?
I would say the most memorable was for a gentleman who was a pilot in World War II. We had his funeral take place at the Linn Crematorium in Glasgow, and they had two fighter jets plus a bomber fly over … it’s quite amazing when you see these jets at low altitude.
[As for] the craziest request we’ve ever had [from a family], let me think … We did have a party once with somebody that had died – that was a crazy one. She [was] sat in the chair, all dressed, make-up on, the whole lot: life of the party. She always liked a party, so we had a party.
Over the last 12 years, there have been some real sad funerals, but there have been some really happy ones as well, celebrating people’s lives. More and more, [what] we’re trying to promote is the actual celebration of life.
We noticed that your parents are on the staff at Fosters Funeral Directors – how did that come about?
It’s a slightly sad story in the sense that the person that we started the partnership with when we transferred the showroom into a funeral parlour left six months after we opened it. So, my mother and father decided to come in and help out, and [they] kept the place open for several years trying to get some visibility in the community. They would literally try and drag people in for a cup of coffee and a scone.
So, they’re really the reason that the company is still here: in the early days, it could easily have gone the opposite way. We owe quite a lot to them.
So, why did you sign up to Beyond?
[You’ve] invested money in promoting the funeral industry and promoting choice and transparency, and you know, that reads well with what we do here at Fosters.
It was at a time and place in the market where very few people – and even still to this day, there are very people who actually are – transparent about the prices, and because the history of Fosters has always been about service and transparency, I thought it worked really well.
As do we! Any final thoughts?
Just to say that we’re genuinely very privileged to have been able to help many, many families, and we’re going to continue to strive to make things better and be different. We are pushing very, very hard to make a difference, and our door’s always open.
Without our families supporting us and recommending us, we wouldn’t be here. But we have a great team, and that great team allows us to continue to do things right for people. That’s very important.
This interview has been edited for clarity. Want to find out more about Fosters Funeral Directors? Check out their Beyond profile here.