MILLIONS of soap fans are sure to shed a tear or two tonight when the funeral of Hayley Cropper, one of Coronation Street’s most popular characters, is screened.

Rather than opting for a religious ceremony, Hayley has chosen a Humanist funeral and Timperley resident Duncan Battman, a celebrant at these events, welcomes the TV exposure.

But the 55-year-old from Deansgate Lane, insists there’s nothing unusual about these ceremonies which are popular among people with no religious faith.

After being trained by the British Humanist Association (BHA), he’s officiated at Humanist funerals for people from all walks of life and of all ages, from babies to a lady in her 90s.

He said: “There is no religion in there - we don’t have prayers or hymns. We have storytelling of the person’s life and music chosen, often readings and possibly poetry. I follow the line the family of the deceased wish to take. It is about the individual’s life and not about an afterlife.

“The ceremonies are not unusual - they are merely celebrations of someone’s life. There is nothing weird or strange about a Humanist funeral. It is merely the celebration of a person’s life rather than telling people they’ve gone to a better place. What brought me to Humanism was attending a couple of funerals of friends and thinking that meant nothing to me and would have meant nothing to them."

Duncan said these occasions have all the dignity of a Christian funeral and added that anyone who attends who has faith has no reason to feel excluded.

He said: “I do not stand up there and decry religion. I will always leave a place in every ceremony I conduct for those with religious beliefs to say their own private prayer in memory of the deceased.”

Subs - 3 pics Duncan Battman - pics in Gallery and SAM News taken by Sally - codes s140204,05. Caption - Duncan Battman Duncan Battman 2 - Submitted pic in SAM News. Caption - Coronation Street characters Roy Cropper (David Neilson), Fiz Brown (Jennie McAlpine) and Chesney Brown (Sam Aston) prepare for Hayley’s funeral at RE Jones Funeral Directors in Sale, which became G Washbrook & Son for the programme.

Duncan Battman 3 - Julie Hesmondhalgh as Hayley Cropper.