I have just finished Tom’s eulogy and am going to post it on my blog. If any one has anything the want to add or take out before Thursday’s funeral just tell me. Even if you didn’t know Tom, please tell me what you think. I really want to do him proud.
I was so honoured when Edie asked me to do this for her beloved Tom.
I’ve sadly been involved in a few eulogies, over the years, and you get the odd one where good words are hard to find; Not for Old Tom.
It doesn’t matter who I’ve spoken to, the words for Tom Stobbard are a lesson for us all.
Whether helping Shap swimming pool; or the Youth club; or winning trophies in his 25 year role as the football club secretary; or even just handing out bunches of his flowers to the ladies; Ar’ Tom will be remembered for all the right reasons.
Tom has left Shap with a lot of good memories. In fact, I must apologise in advance if I miss out any cherished snippets, but if I don’t, the likelihood that I would still be stood up here in three days is extremely high.
And I didn’t bring any chips.
As most of you know Tom came to Shap from the North-East.
He was a big man and I know it may be a cliché, but he was your archetypal Gentle Giant.
He never had a bad word to say about anybody.
It’s no coincidence that one of his passions was Shire horses; the gentle giants of the equestrian world. He used to tell me of his youth in Chester-le-street. That bright smile of his would widen every time he talked of the horses. I remember one particular tale where he was heading home, being pulled, in his cart, by one of his favourites, Sparky.
“By, she was a fast-un!” He told me, his eyes sparkling with the memory.
It was war-time and the blackout was in force. A couple of lads he passed had warned him that the coppers would arrest him if they saw him.
“They’ll not catch me!” Tom told the lads and, with a crack of the reigns, he and the horse sped off into the night. The next day he heard that the lads had been the ones caught by the coppers.
His rotund size and love of food worked well for Tom and he even saved the life of one Gordon Slee due to it. Gordon, a man of slight build was up a ladder, painting, with Tom at the bottom when Gordon slipped and fell screaming to the ground; right on top of Ar’ Tom.
Apparently the nurse said if it wasn’t for the soft landing Gordon would’ve been a gonner!
Another of his passions was gardening. On all accounts it started at school. The headmaster would get Ar’ Tom to do the school gardens.
A lot of people put his growing skills purely down to green fingers, because he was the only person that could grow, among many plants, orchids around these parts; I don’t think it was just that. Most folk that lived near him spoke of his green house and the little furnace he set up to keep the flowers warm. He was seen at all hours tending that furnace.
That’s a lesson in dedication and care if ever I’ve heard one.
Yet another passion was singing. Word has it that he had a deep, rich, baritone voice and could be found in the Bull entertaining at all hours, for the price of a pint.
His favourite party-piece was to dip his hands in the coal bucket, black his face up and sing “Mammy!” to his beloved mum.
The singing didn’t stop as he got older; he was always serenading my missus.
He had such a genuine way; especially with the ladies. I don’t know many that could get away with his cheekiness. He just flashed a gummy smile and it melted you girls.
Whatever he had it needed bloody bottling.
I think the thing that defined Tom Stobbard was that he was a beautiful man. I could see that and I only knew him for a year.
A wise person once said to me that it isn’t how long you’ve known someone, but how they’ve touched your life. Tom touched my life unlike many before.
He would hobble into the chippy, pained and ancient, and flash the cheekiest, warmest smile a man could offer. He told stories with a glint of joy that made clouds vaporise. He stood, in this alien community that he had adopted, like a colossus. He never moaned or complained; he just got on with it.
I am proud to have known “Old Tom”.
He got me. He got my silly sense of humour.
We sang and joked.
But nothing pleased me more than to see Tom sucking down a fish and saying, “My, that was a good bit of fish, that, lad,” and then struggling to rise out of his seat, with a smile, and saying, “I’ll see ya tomorrow.”
Legend has it that he once owned had a pair of falsies. He took a bite into a fresh cream Éclair with such relish that he snapped them and vowed never to wear them again.
Before I get ushered back to my pew, I think Tom would want me to thank a few people. Namely John Lowis for caring for him (Tom must have really enjoyed your company, John, to risk you shaving him with a cut-throat!); also Les Steadman for, among other things, the quiet drink tests in the green house and the football years; Henry for being a good friend and fellow choir aficionado and, last but in no way least, his loving sister Edie. My god, have you done some miles walking and shopping! You must get through some shoe leather, missus.
Goodnight Tom. We miss you. Sleep well; you deserve your peace.