Chapter One....Tom Jowett's early days

The Eulogy to Thomas Jowett, written and delivered by 'the son he never had'

Eulogy to the Late Thomas Jowett

18.3.1914- 6.7.2001

We walk this way but once, across the stage that is life. We all walk it and in our own way we each play our role. Some play memorable parts that leave lasting impressions. Many in a lifetime paint their canvas for all to see. There are those of fame, those of infamy, those of heroics and those of cowardice, those of noble achievement and those of spurious intent. There are those of compassion and understanding, there are those of coldness and indifference. We walk this stage and as we play our part we encounter all the vagaries of its participants. We are what we are in our own hearts, not necessarily what people see us as.

 Tom Jowett was my friend. But how do you quantify friend? How do you tell those around you that this old man was not a victim of that friendship? You don't, you just live with the agony of malice and suspicion. In the end it doesn't really matter, for in the final analysis we cross that great divide and have to answer to a greater power than our own.

 Tom Jowett was my friend. To understand that and its fullness you have to understand the love of a man for his father. I was denied the opportunity to care for my father in his declining years. My father died in a nursing home, lonely and without companionship. When Tom Jowett faced the same prospect I responded, as I would have to my own Dad.

 Tom Jowett was not a man to attract friends. He was often rude, feisty and even nasty. The same man could be and was the epitome of kindness, consideration and often the quintessential English gentleman. He was a man who tolerated fools badly, he was a man who could manufacture and shape stories to suit the moment, he was, he often said a man who got through life by putting on a big act.

 In many ways Toms precarious temperament reminded me of not only my Dads, but also my own. It was not hard to relate to Tom because I saw much of Tom in myself. Tom often told me in his quieter contemplative moments that I was the son that he never had. Tom was very dear to me and in spite of the prickliness of his demeanour at times, we developed a bond that grew with time. My promise to this dear old man was that I would not let him down; I would never allow him to be institutionalised. On that undertaking trust and love grew.

 Not a great deal is known about Tom. There is fantasy, there is fact. There is pathos, there is joy, there is hardship and there is courage. For those of you who knew Tom in earlier years, I know there are many blank pages, but there are some details set in concrete.

 Tom was a Lancastrian, born in Wavertree. He was the last and by far the youngest of a large family of which I only ever recall hearing the names of four or five. His father died of war wounds in 1918, when Tom was only four. His Mother struggled to make ends meet living on a war pension of 28/4d. He used to deliver newspapers in bare feet and give most of his 4d to his Mum. Tom painted many memories of the days of his adolescent years, wandering the streets of Manchester, often being invited by old tradesmen to watch as they plied their particular craft. Toms thirst for knowledge became his education.

When he was 13 or 14 he ended up in Canada. This was the onset of the Great Depression. He lived by wit and tenacity, running away from a cruel farmer in a place called Stayner on the shores of the Great Lakes. He rode the rails, jumping on moving trains, to hitch a ride to the next town, a dangerous occupation, but the mother of necessity to desperate and hungry men.

 Tom related the story of a time when he was nearly drawn into a coal screw in the tender of a giant Canadian locomotive. He used to tell fascinating stories of how he survived in the jungles, formed along the permanent way, where men survived by animal cunning. His life was hard and it was these years that moulded the man.

 He returned to England in 1933 and married. A year later a daughter was born, but of this I have no details. Tom always said she died of measles at the age of nine. He carried her memory with a heavy heart. In 1939 Tom answered the call of his country. He was in the RAF and served for nearly five and a half years, flying Hurricanes, returning home wounded, badly wounded as it happened. It was at Tangmere that he met Douglas Bader. What faced Tom when he returned home was a period of great personal trauma. The years of being away had affected his marriage. He was a shattered man.

 In 1949 Tom arrived in Fremantle to begin life in a new country. He must have moved in fairly exotic circles for a time because he counted many celebrities as his acquaintances, people like Bobby Limb and his wife Dawn. For a while he worked in the Civil Service and in 1964 he met and married a Manchester girl Sheila.

I first met Tom and Sheila in 1986. They then lived down the street from where they were to move two years later. Now my next-door neighbour Tom became very interested in my public campaign against foreign ownership. We often spent hours going over speeches that I had written. He had a very sharp brain and was deeply informative with a great penchant for understanding how people worked. I had a great admiration for this self-taught man and it was sad to see him in latter years unable to articulate to the speed of his thoughts. It was a great frustration for him and one that really disguised his ability to understand.

 The transition from mere casual and infrequent acquaintance happened when I dropped a birthday card in Toms letterbox in 1999. He asked me to come back.

What I saw was the same situation that my own Dad had been through. I responded to Tom and nine months later he asked me to officially take responsibility for his well-being.

 In spite of all the efforts to have Tom incarcerated in a nursing home, the frustration and anger that he was subjected to, the bitterness and ongoing turmoil of litigation, Tom passed away knowing that he was loved for himself. He did not die abandoned, shunned or without a soul in the world.

Tom died, knowing that he had loved one around him, people who cared for him.

 Vale Tom Jowett, you passed this way, your canvas was rich in the colour of experience. Your traverse of the stage of life has ended. Yes you were feisty; yes you were as prone to life's foibles as any mortal, but you endeared yourself to those who took the time to understand and ultimately care for you.

 Your oft stated wish old friend of not being sent to a nursing home was a call that was heard.

 I therefore on behalf of Tom express my deep gratitude to those who gave of their time, their commitment and their love to make his final years comfortable and happy. I make special mention to Iris, whose devotion to tolerating my intolerance when the chips were down was a call beyond the call of any marriage. I thank her especially because looking after Tom took a big toll. Tom lived with us for nearly five months.

 Of Joy Willis, Toms carer of nearly fourteen months, no praise is high enough. A live-in position, where you are at the beck and call of a testy and often unreasonable old man, is far from being easy. Joy also went beyond the call of duty and it is a tribute and also indicative of the superb care that she administered that when Tom finally had to go into respite care in order to give her a much needed break, that he finally succumbed to his debilitating illness.

 Sue Marshall I must thank for being there when needed. Nothing was ever too much effort.

 A special thanks to those at the day respite who gave Tom much pleasure in those final twelve months.

 A very special lady sang Danny Boy to Tom only hours before he passed away. She momentarily lost the words. Tom with tears on his cheeks amazingly sang them to her. She knows who she is. This was a very poignant bond, I know, I saw the tears of both from time to time. An old mans fantasy, and a might have been daughters love. For Tom the time to let go had come.

 A final goodbye, a parting embrace and Tom slipped away in the early hours of the morning. The beauty of serenity and peace had settled upon his face.

 Finally, let me say that for me Toms passing has left a giant void. I loved that old man in a way that many would not understand or comprehend. I don't know that I understand it myself. My earnest hope is that I was able to fulfil the role of the one thing that he was never able to have, that of a son. Only God and Tom know the answer to that.

Tom always joked about the fact that by the time his mother gave birth to him, she had run out of names. Born March 18th 1914, he was named plain Thomas Jowett. His father John a printer by trade had already volunteered for service and joined the Armed Forces in Malta, late in September 1915. Discharged nine months later, he came home a 'shadow of his former self 'according to his wife, Elizabeth Jane. A man of small stature namely 5'1'', he was never-the-less a wiry individual. When he returned home he was suffering from acute influenza and pneumonia. Discharged on the grounds of ill health he suffered severe head pains, that lead to a series of heart attacks. Weakened from his damaged lungs he died on October 20 1919 as a result of a heart attack that his doctor said he was too weak to sustain.

Small as Tom was he never forgot the relentless load that his Mother carried in those dying days of the First World War. One of eleven children and by far the youngest he was the only sibling at home. Tom recalls his older brothers and sisters dropping in from time to time, but insisted that as they were married with their own families that his Mother would not entertain the idea of them staying over to help. Tom's recollections were of a Mother who carried on stoically, yet slowly being ground down by the daily endless grind. So moved was young Tom that by the time he was eight he was out delivering the Manchester Guardian. With a sugar sack fashioned to carry on his tender shoulders, he trod the streets of Manchester, often in bare feet, dispatching the evening news. Renowned for inclement weather, Manchester did not take kindly to the lad of tender years. Yet like his father before him and his mother, he did not shirk his lot. At the end of the week Tom would duly go home and present his Mother with four pennies, or as we used to say four pence. To his Mother it was mana from heaven. Seventy years on Tom Jowett still exhibited that deep love for his Mother.

Seventy years on I (Bruce Whiteside) was often spell-bound with sheer delight at the adventures of this lonely waif. I mentioned in the Authors Comments about an altercation  with a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in regard to the University of Life.
In truth Tom shaped his life on his thirst for knowledge. His 'University of Life', would see him crouched on his haunches, empty paper bag hanging from his shoulder, peering down at silver and goldsmiths plying their craft in the basement of old buildings, in the ancient streets of Manchester. Now and again he would take-off when one would look up at him. Like a boy playing at peeping Tom, he often felt as though he was prying, but he continued to be mesmerised by their skill. Before long he was invited in and thereafter became a very interested spectator. On one occasion he sold a newspaper to an immaculate gentleman who was carrying something under his arm. Tom always curious asked him what it was.
'Wallpaper', the tradesman answered.
Tom looked perplexed, but did not say anything.
The man realised Tom did not know what that was and put his hand on his shoulder and said 'You drop by later tomorrow and I'll show you what I do with it'.
Mr Hall was a kindly man, measured yet compassionate. He was impressed by this youngster and his ability to absorb information. In a sense he took young Tom under his wing and listened unobtrusively as he rambled on innocently about his home life, the loss of his father and the burden that it had placed on his mother. What Tom was not aware of and had he known it, it is debatable whether he would have understood, was that Mr Hall would in the days to come ease the burden of Mrs John Jowett. Granted a widow's pension from the Defence Department of 15/1, (fifteen shillings and onepenny) this was barely enough to keep the family of two afloat.
In his ailing years he often recounted the kindness of the paperhanger. Tom would recount the times when his adopted benefactor would hang 'flock wallpaper with white gloves'. Although seventy years had lapsed his memory for detail amazed me. As a paperhanger for fifty odd years myself I knew every facet of the trade and yet never once did I ever find fault with what Tom relayed. For one who had only watched and taken in the lessons of a master tradesman, his knowledge of the trade was remarkable.
So the youngster became a lad and in the latter days of the nineteen twenties his mother accepted a job with the Presbyterian College in Montreal Canada. Tom went off to New York where he was employed as a grocer's apprentice. For the first time in his short life he felt a sense of independence, a sense of achievement. Then overnight the bottom fell out of his world. Wall street crashed.

He was so proud of his job and was popular with the boss's clients, being polite, helpful and industrious. When the crash of 1929 occurred Tom was not fully aware of the implications and the effects of the overnight catastrophe. He did observe that people were shutting shop and not coming back. One day he asked his boss what was happening only to be told that his own job would not last much longer. His boss broke it to him as gently as possible because he liked the boy, but feared for his future. Tom, barely 14 years old accepted the news and then went about his job as usual.
Four months later it was obvious even to this slip of a lad that business was extremely difficult. People were hurting and the sight of men carrying sugar sacks over their shoulders was becoming an everyday occurrence. Some would even be brave enough to ask his boss for a small hand-out, but he would gently decline. Tom always referred such requests to his boss, but he could tell that he did not like to turn the men down.
One morning during a particularly quite break Tom made a cup of coffee and sat down with his kindly boss. "Mr Kennard I have been thinking that if this carries on much longer, I will become a burden You know what I mean'?
"Yes lad, I know what you mean but I have been putting that day off. You are a good boy and I do not want to put you off, but I may have to close the shop myself if this keeps up".
With a heavy heart and a ten dollar bonus, Tom left his employer to take his chances in a rapidly mad world where overnight the glitz and glamour of America had slowly faded into a harsh reality. Necessity and animal cunning soon rounded  Tom into a street-wise youth. By keeping his mouth shut and his ear close to the ground he joined a few who manage to hoist themselves onto a rapidly moving train. This mode of transport was not only illegal but extremely dangerous. Seventy years later the man who uninformed  lawyers deemed to have Alzheimer's, was to relate many a story about his life 'riding the rails'.


The harsh years of the Great Depression, shaped many a man. Tom, a mere kid of 16 years rode the rails in search of work in 1931-32

His first venture took him into Ontario, where he joined up with a kid that he always referred to as Billy. Tom saw himself as the elder of the two and took young Billy under his wing. Sleeping in parks and wandering the roads in the country they accepted a lift that found them in Buffalo. Although they had been offered a roof over their heads until they found work Tom declined the offer wanting instead to anchor himself in a job that had some future. Pressing on into Canada Tom and Billy often dropped into the odd farm or manufacturing business enquiring for work. They were met with 'sorry boys' or 'the work I want done can only be done by men". Yet undaunted and buoyed by the fact that they were but a small part of a vast army, they kept going. Hamilton, Brantford, Waterloo were behind them by dint of the odd lift. Sometimes it was in a car, or a trailer or on one occasion when it was raining a inter city coach picked them up; the coach being empty. In Guelph Tom overheard a gruff looking individual talking to a local sitting on wooden seat smoking a pipe. "you wouldn't know where I can find a helping hand or two, by any chance?'
The pipe smoker thought for a minute or so, "Can't say I do, but it should not be hard to find some around here'. He appeared not to be terribly interested and got to his feet and slowly limped off.
Tom went up to the gruff, built like an ox man and proffered, "My cobber here and I are looking for a job mister".
Jed Weiner looked at Tom and sized up Billy. 'If you can do a days honest work I'll give you a go; but no promises. You understand?" With that Tom and Billy hoicked themselves onto the tray of the Fargo and settled down among the odd bale of hay and farm chattels. After a two and a half hour ride they came to a small town and pulled up. Jed asked the boys how they were and told them that he would only be a few minutes gathering a few things and then they would arrive on the farm.
Tom and Billy soon found that their days were long and tiring. They were fed the basics and slept in the old stables. Whilst the work was not particularly hard it was the long hours that finally got to Tom. He took to shepherding young Billy because he found that Jed was a tough taskmaster. For twelve months they worked, every day with only the odd day or two off. Tom decided that he wanted to move on and tried to convince Billy that they should run away. Billy wanted to but was scared that their cruel boss would come after them. Tom had no such worries and when Billy would not come along with him, he made his escape late one evening. In his latter years Tom often wondered what became of his young friend.

For the next five years Tom roamed the countryside of Canada, by courtesy of the railways. He managed by skills that he learnt along the way to survive and obtain work, where others failed.
At 85, a lifetime behind him Tom would reminisce about those days. He would relate how the men would place themselves along the railway tracks but close enough to the station or shunting yard, so as not to be seen by railway police, yet close enough to be able to jump aboard with relative safety to be able to ride to their next destination. Desperate times he would say demanded desperate measures and the depression years brought out the best and the worst in men. He soon learnt the art of jumping aboard moving trains, prising open wagon doors and surviving in the freezing cold of a Canadian winter. Many nights were spent along side the railway tracks in communities they called 'jungles. There was a camaraderie of sorts, but there was always the portent for trouble as men, desperate for food or a coin or two would fight to obtain them. Many would lose their lives if caught. Murder was never far away. Tom learnt the skills of survival as eagerly as he had in the earlier days in Manchester. He survived he said by sheer wits and animal cunning. Yet the food and warmth supplied at these improvised communities was often the difference between life and death. Romantic in hindsight as riding the rails may appear now, the fact was that many died as a result of accidents, falling under freight cars or being thrown clear and badly hurt.

Men formed these wayside 'jungles' beside the  railway tracks. Here you shut your mouth, had eyes in the back of your head and befriended no-one. Violence often ended in death. You cheated and you died. This was no life for a young Tom Jowett, but he became a survivor.

Tom himself recounted an episode where he was so cold that he grabbed the opportunity of a stop and climbed onto the coal tender of the engine. The heat from the cab of the locomotive helped keep him warm but he became more than a little alarmed when the coal screw of the mechanical feeder began to drop the level of the coal and him with it. A surprised and concerned platform crew rescued him and gave him a hot mug of cocoa. The engineer then slowed the train before the next station so as to prevent him from being arrested by the railway police.
As the depression slowly began to lift, Tom found work back in the east. He met and married a young English girl Mary Featherstone and the following year they had a daughter In 1935 he worked his passage back to London and took a job at the Ford factory in Dagenham. For a while he remained in a stable job and was able to provide the boat fare for his mother to return home. However the rumblings in Europe were growing louder.

Tom was a member of that elite group of men who fought to save Britain in her darkest hour. Men like those above died so that unscrupulous lawyers could deny them in old age their dying wish. 

When Germany attacked Poland, it was only a matter of time that England would be at war. It was not long before the wheels of industry began to turn toward the manufacturing for war and Tom like so many opted to join the recruiting drive launched by the Royal Air Force.
It was to be a fateful decision. Five and a half years later Tom Jowett after going through the Battle of Britain and remarkably going through the war relatively unscathed he baled out of a Hurricane in the dying stages of the conflict only to be run over by a military vehicle that severely injured his spine. After having spent several months in a repatriation hospital he was sent home.
Tom Jowett was often a gregarious man, but in some matters he was a closed book. Many veterans of war close that chapter of their lives the day they are discharged. Apart from the revelations that he trained with Douglas Bader at Tangmere, that he fought in Hurricanes, Tom was one such man.
It was a bitter man who related that upon returning home that he found that his wife had acquired another man and that his daughter had died from German measles back in 1943. Tom never mentioned his wife other than to say that he had left her, since there was nothing tangible to return to.

In his final years I was given his Enduring Power of Attorney midst much legal bitterness that gives rise to this story. In his papers were divorce proceedings in which he was cited for having deserted his spouse for three years. The divorce went through with no opposition from Tom. With this behind him Tom left England never to return.

On July 4th 1949 Tom Jowett arrived in Perth Australia to start a new life. Unlike many who came as 'ten pound Poms', he paid his own way, forever the fiercely independent Scouse.

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