Voice from the grave is Ireland's latest fad

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While the ancient Egyptians were buried with jewels and other earthly treasures and Viking warriors were buried with their weapons, in Ireland a small but growing segment of the departed are leaving this world equipped with the latest electronic gadgets, and mobiles are top of the list, said Seamus Griffin, of Kirwan's funeral homes in Dublin.

A decade ago it was common to see people buried with their favourite tipple or bottle of whiskey, along with photographs, wedding rings and other personal items, he said. But with the recent explosion in popularity of mobile phones and other personal electronic gadgets, people now see them as extensions of themselves that will follow them to the grave. "I've seen it a few times. I've seen people buried with all kinds of things, even a pager," he said.

Keith Massey, another Dublin funeral director said he had also noticed the trend, especially among young people.

"Some people, especially young girls, live their lives by their mobiles and feel it's part of them," he said.

"Some other people may be terrified they'll wake up in the coffin, so they take along a mobile to ring for help to get them out," he said. However, certain rules would apply, including making sure the mobile is switched off or on silent before it accompanies the deceased.

The trend away from strictly religious ceremonials at funerals in favour of a more personal and relaxed approach is also making the practice of being buried with unusual items more acceptable, Mr Griffin added.

"It has opened up and people aren't afraid to express their loved one's wishes."