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Yorkshire woman who became funeral director at 19 explains what drew her to profession

In 1947, Nicola Major’s grandfather established an independent funeral home in Harrogate. Fifty years later, in 1998, nineteen-year-old Nicola followed in her family’s footsteps, making history as one of the youngest women to be appointed as Funeral Directors in the UK.

Reflecting on her career path, Nicola noted she’d never purposefully looked for a job in funeralcare.

Instead, she remembers seeing an advertisement in the local newspaper for the role of Assistant Funeral Arranger with the Co-op. Empowered by the recent decision to introduce female vicars in what used to be an otherwise male-dominated industry, and inspired by her family’s tradition working in funeralcare, Nicola decided to apply.

Nicola was taken on as a Trainee Funeral Director - a position much more senior than the one advertised.

She began working at the Co-op Funeral Home in Harrogate in April 1998 and has been heading into work at the same address ever since.

Nicola explained that she now wants to support the younger generation of funeral directors.

“Here in Harrogate, I have been very lucky with the staff I’ve worked with, we really are all one family,” she said.

“Having climbed through the ranks and being in a management position now myself, I want to do the same and help the younger generation who have chosen to join the sector, just like my colleagues supported me when I was starting out.”

When asked about what makes her feel excited about returning to work every morning, Nicola stated: “What I want people to understand is that this isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation.

“The satisfaction you receive from seeing how impactful your help is to your community has no match.

“Even when the funeral service is done, you remain in close contact with the families in your community, offering support and advice when needed, which makes working in funeralcare really special.”

One of Nicola’s proudest moments in the industry includes being shortlisted for the Butterfly Award back in 2017, which she was nominated for by a bereaved father whom she had supported through the loss of his daughter.

Despite not winning the award, Nicola said she keeps the memory of attending the award ceremony close to her heart, as a constant reminder of how impactful the work of her and her colleagues is to members of the community.

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