A Galway amusement rental salesman is renting out black bouncy castles to use at funerals.
Kenneth Gilhooly, 48, decided to provide the service so that children attending funerals could be occupied while the adults mourn.
Glhooly said came upon the idea after providing a bouncy castle to a Christening party in a house where there had just been a bereavement. In keeping with the somber tone of funerals, he enquired about getting a darker-colored castle to replace the loud pink and red castles he normally provides.
"I made enquiries and ordered the black castle from Hungary where it was especially made for me. I have since ordered two, but am in the process of getting some more made up so that I can expand the service in the west of Ireland," he said.
"Some people were initially horrified at the idea of a bouncy castle at a funeral or any fun element, but more and more families are seeing funerals as an opportunity to celebrate a person's life more than the old tradition of the Irish wake, "he said, adding that the demand for it arose from some funerals with a large attendance of children.
"At funerals, children have to be there, but there is nothing for them to do as they are too young to understand the emotion of it. I had a call from a man whose father had died and all the 20 grandchildren were attending, so it would have been crazy trying to accommodate them all in the house.
"Obviously, you can't have a loud pink and red and yellow castle in the garden of a house with a funeral, but the darker one, the black one, does not stand out as much.
"I only spread the word informally as I wanted to test the waters before I took out any advertising in the local newspapers or on the radio. I mentioned it to a few undertakers and it is they who made the discreet enquiries for me, but so far this summer I've had eight funerals where I've put up a black or a black and grey bouncy castle in the garden of a house where there is a funeral.
He said he did not feel that the bouncy castle was disrespectful, and that he was only providing a service at the request of the families.
"In that regard, I'm the same as a cake maker or a woman who makes dinners for the funeral, I'm just providing a service and if the family were going to take offence, then they wouldn't bother hiring me."
Apart from the more dark color, the bouncy castle has a layer of fine Nylcro netting which gives a light soundproofing to keep down the noise of the playing children.
"The netting came from Korea where it was used to soundproof outdoor martial arts classes. It deadens the sound and neutralises it, making the castle more soundproofed than the open ones."
"Normal castles are available to rent from about €80 for a day, but the funeral castle is available for €150 including installation and removal.
"Obviously, the booking of them is more express than would be the case with a communion or a christening, but we come in and erect the castle discreetly so that we do not offend any people's sensibilities," added Gilhooly.
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