Gravedigger Jonny wins top prize for his caring work

Gravedigger of the year Jonny Yaxley (centre) with celebrant and funeral director Claire Turnham (left) and Evelyn Temple (right) at Henley Woodland Burial Ground
Gravedigger of the year Jonny Yaxley (centre) with celebrant and funeral director Claire Turnham (left) and Evelyn Temple (right) at Henley Woodland Burial Ground

A gravedigger who originally shied away from the profession now says it is the ‘best job in the world’ and has won an award for his caring work.

Jonny Yaxley, 45, is a landscape gardener and was asked to dig graves as part of council contract. He originally declined saying the job would be too emotional,

Jonny Yaxley, Gravedigger of the year

Jonny Yaxley, Gravedigger of the year

But Mr Yaxley had a change of heart and discovered that as well as being emotional, doing the job properly at the Aylesbury Natural Burial Meadow and Henley Woodland Burial Ground, is also providing an essential and dignified service.

He said: “I didn’t fancy the idea of it at first to be honest, but then as people left they handed the ball over to me.

“It was a bit of a struggle at first because you know the name of the person whose grave you are digging, I found it a bit emotional.

“But then I realised that what I was doing was actually an honour, it is the last thing that anyone ever has done for them and it is nice to do it properly.”

Jonny and his girlfriend Nicky attended the Good Funeral Awards on September 6 in Birmingham, where he was presented with his prize.

And Jonny says that meeting other professionals at the ceremony has given him even more faith in the industry.

He said: “I met so many lovely people at the awards and it made me realise how much the industry has changed.

“Funerals are much more geared up towards the person nowadays, and I think the business is more compassionate than ever.”

Charles Cowling, of the Good Funeral Guide, said: “Johnny Yaxley is a special person whose charm and commitment to making sure everything is beautifully prepared is a force for good.”