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Tom Fisher

page created 17th Oct 2010, amended/updated Thursday, 18 November 2010

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Tom Fisher in his garden
 Tom in his beloved garden at Bank Cottage

Tom Fisher as santa in Dec 2001
Tom handing out presents and good cheer in the Grotto,
 Welney Parish Hall, December 2001
Tom Fisher died on the 3rd October 2010 aged 85 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Kings Lynn, having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

Thomas McCall Fisher was born in a hamlet near Edinburgh in January 1925. The story of his early life will no doubt be told by his family; suffice to say here that he graduated from university as a civil engineer and started work with Scottish Oils Ltd., a subsidiary of Anglo Iranian Oil Co which later became British Petroleum (BP).

In 1958 he married a Yorkshire lass, Cath, in her home town of Doncaster. Ten years later they and their three young children acquired Bank Cottage on the Hundred Foot Bank as a holiday home. They were then teaching and lecturing in Leeds but they spent as many weekends as they could in their second home, and nearly all their annual twelve weeks holiday too, living, working and playing in Welney. Tom spent a good deal of that time planning and planting a flower garden, vegetable plot and a "woodland walk" with an astonishing 1,400 trees.

Tom loved adventure and of course his family, and there were times when he waded through the flood-waters on the Wash Road with a rope around his waist towing a small boat with three excited children aboard.
In 1987, after 19 years as part-time Welneyites, Tom, Cath and their family moved into Bank Cottage permanently.

Tom's father had encouraged him to learn to play the accordion when he was eleven and although tutored by a fine player, he nevertheless tended to play by ear and  played regularly at dances, social evenings and as accompanist at pub sing-songs. When Tom and Cath became regulars at the Three Tuns pub next to the Parish Hall on Bedford Bank East, the accordion was soon introduced, and so began the Saturday night sing-songs for which The Tuns is so fondly remembered.

Tom also introduced the idea of Hogmanay at the pub on New Year's Eve, and that too became a tradition. After some years, John Waring, husband of the Tuns licensee Mabs, thought it would be a good idea to serve Haggis during the evening's festivities, and so it was that Hogmanay at the Three Tuns incorporated a Burns-night style celebration. Tom, dressed in full Scottish regalia, with kilt and dirk, would bring in the haggis held aloft on a platter, to the music and words of Burns ode "To the Haggis".

As well as providing much fun and entertainment at the Three Tuns and being the genial Santa in the Grotto at Christmas Fayres in the Parish Hall, Tom's more serious side was seen in his role of Parish Councillor from 1995 to 1999. He soon became Chairman of the Wash Road Committee (following on from Ken Sorensen, whose own death occurred recently). Also, like Ken, Tom assisted in preparing the Council's annual budget.

Perhaps Tom's greatest civic achievement in Welney was managing the Parish Appraisal, published in early 1997 just seven months from the inaugural meeting and less than 12 months after the idea was first raised. This was not of course just Tom's work; 25 people were involved in total, of whom 13 contributed to the final text. Tom's philosophy was to encourage both collective and individual effort. The task of research and writing sections of the report was given to individuals (sometimes with Tom's assistance), the drafts then being read to the group for comment, and perhaps amendment. However, Tom thought it important that individual styles of writing should be retained.

From that Appraisal came the idea of a parish newsletter, and soon the "Welney News" was launched, in the autumn of 1997, and Tom took on the role of distributor for the Hundred Foot Bank area, a task he maintained for nine years by which time he was in his eighties.

Tom's funeral at Fenland Crematorium in March was somewhat unconventional, reflecting his passion for music and poetry. His coffin was borne in accompanied by a jaunty rendering of The St. Louis Blues (which Tom had often played on the accordion), followed by personal reflections from his family, more music, songs and poetry, all with a Scottish flavour, and ending with - what else - Auld Lang Syne.

Tom was a man of many parts. An engineer and lecturer, a musician, poet and singer, a committed Marxist and one-time distributor of The Daily Worker, a linguist, gardener, loving husband and family man. To his grandchildren he was an "ancient with attitude". To patrons of the Three Tuns, including the many visiting anglers, caravaners and campers, he will be remembered, and very sadly missed, for his fun and music and for encouraging others to join in. To the wider community he will be remembered, and greatly missed, for getting things done; quickly, efficiently and engaging with others in a joint-effort.

Tom's ashes will be scattered in his beloved garden at Bank Cottage, amongst his sunflowers, in the spring of 2011.

Peter Cox, Nov 2010
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