Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Eulogy For The Funeral Of Tommy Jarvis

Thomas Henry Jarvis, put under starters orders on the 9th October 1910, ran the full race distance clearing all the jumps, crossed the finish line on the 2nd April 2009.
Tommy was the son of Henry Jarvis and Mary Hannah Yorke, who had been married on New Year’s Day 1910 in Darlington.

Tommy’s father died when he was just 3 years old. Henry was a railwayman and had been called out to a train crash on a winter’s night, the crossing man had been drunk and not awakened in time to open the gates for the Teeside express, which was derailed with no injuries. Henry however contracted double pneumonia on top of his existing cold and died shortly afterwards.

When Tommy was still at school he had a paper round, and aged 9, although he told the milkman he was a year older, he took on a milk round. He also worked at the corner shop weighing out goods and taking out deliveries on Saturdays. These jobs were to support the household, the family were poor after the death of Tommy’s father and without the income he provided the family would not have been able to stay in their home.

When he was aged 14 his Grandma Yorke died, and he came to live with and work for his Uncle John Lancaster, a Menston farmer. Tommy laboured on the farm, he was a ploughman, delivered coal for Burley Co-Op and invested, with a partner, in some pigs. One day, unbeknownst to Tommy, his partner sold the pigs and emigrated, catching the boat to America from Liverpool. When Tommy arrived to feed the pigs, even the hut had been sold, this taught Tommy a lifelong lesson about partnerships in business.

Tommy met Elsie at the Blue Lagoon in Guiseley and walked her home that night, they arranged to meet the following Saturday. Elsie asked Tommy if he would to join her and Burley Ramblers on a walk around Fewston reservoir, Tommy replied that as he spent all week walking behind two horses backsides, he’d rather not.

Tommy asked Elsie whether she would prefer an engagement ring or the deposit on a house, Elsie said that it was a funny proposal, but she chose the house. Tommy knew a builder who was building houses in Fenton Street, Burley-In-Wharfedale for £250 each, Tommy asked if he would take £5 less for Number 11, and that’s what he paid.
Elsie was working as a nurse, at Scalebor Park Hospital, she told Tommy there was a job going and he arrived promptly for his 10am interview, he was seen rather less promptly at 2 that afternoon having been kept waiting for four hours, but he interviewed well and got the job.

He started the same day as two other well liked local men, Harry Renton, uncle of the present Red Lion landlord Sam, and Stan Bonner, whose son is a well known electrical engineer from Ilkley. He quickly qualified as both a State and Mental Registered Nurse.

Tommy and Elsie were married on 22nd February 1936 at Burley Parish Church, the reception was held upstairs at the Malt Shovel, they would remain happily married until Elsie passed away in 1986.

Tommy began taking bets at Scalebor, and on some days was a racecourse clerk for a certain William Hill.

In 1940 Tommy had become friendly with a number of jockeys, and one jockey was convinced that his horse was going to win the Lincolnshire Handicap, Tommy and a group of friends from the snug at the Red Lion were about to put a large amount of money on the horse when Tommy had another meeting with the jockey, this time the rider had news for Tommy. In training another horse had run against him and had beaten the syndicate’s horse soundly, this horse was called Quartier Maitre, and Tommy’s syndicate switched their bet.

Grandad was a great natural story teller, and although I am not going to tell you the whole story of the race, the impressions of the commentators that Grandad could do were marvellous, he could remember and repeat word perfect the race commentary and it was a story I always enjoyed the telling of.

Quartier Maitre won the race easily, coming in many lengths clear and between them the syndicate won over £2,000, a considerable sum of money.

Tommy had a few beers to celebrate, and then a few beers more and showing another Jarvis trait, a bit of temper, decided he was going up to the hospital to tell them where to stuff their job. Elsie told him he was going to do no such thing and helped him fill the pannier of his pushbike with bottles of ale to distribute to his workmates.

Tommy and Elsie had two sons, my father Jack was born to them in 1940, and Alan in 1945, the two sons brought him nothing but joy and happiness and never fell through the door drunk or borrowed and crashed his new car. Elsie had two sisters, Lillian and Mary, and Mary’s daughter Margaret became like an older sister to Jack and Alan, and Tommy treated her like a daughter. They remained firm friends throughout their lives, they talked on the phone every week until Margaret passed away and were a regular fixture at family do’s, chattering away together and making sure the barman was kept busy.

Tommy was attacked at work by a violent patient, an attack which left him blind for two weeks, and retired from Mental Nursing in 1944 through injury. He began bookmaking full time, opening a small office in Burley-In-Wharfedale, shortly after this he also started a football coupon business and he always said that the fastest and most reliable checker of coupons he ever has was his dear wife Elsie.
Tommy had eight betting shops, including the old cinema in Shipley to which coach loads of punters came out from Bradford to place bets. Tommy used to tell me that even if a man had lost all his wages, he always gave him his bus fare and the price of a chip supper.

“That was very generous of you” I said.

“Generous nothing,” replied Tommy. “If a man has to walk home hungry I’ll not see him again, but if he rides home with a full belly he’ll be back next week.”

They moved from their first house on Fenton Street to a larger property, Great Normans on Southfield Road, and moved again in 1963 when he had his own home designed and built for him on Langford Lane, Aintree as it was named was a very modern place and won the architect’s award for home of the year.

Tommy was very busy outside the bookies, he was a member of the Bookmakers Protection Association which campaigned for the legalisation of betting, he was an Ilkley Councillor, was twice master of Olicana Lodge, owned the Wharfedale Finance Company and also stood on the greyhound tracks at Bradford and Keighley. He was also a life member of York and Ripon racecourses and an honorary life member of Burley Rifle Club and Ilkley Bowling Club.

In his time as an Ilkley Councillor he was once telephoned at midnight with a complaint that a gentleman’s bins had not been emptied, Tommy waited until 2am and then phoned back to assure the gentleman his bins would be emptied promptly that morning, the gentleman’s 2am reply I’m afraid unrepeatable.

Elsie was Tommy’s first and only girlfriend in his youth, they had been married for exactly 50 years when Elsie died in 1986. Tommy moved to Leconfield House in Ilkley, and two years later he re-met the sister of his best man, Tommy and Alice struck up a great friendship and they enjoyed holidays and time together until Alice moved to Spain to be with her daughter Carol.

Tommy loved family, and in his later years nothing made him happier than seeing his Grandchildren and then Great Grandchildren, he always had a smile, and a pound or two, for the little ones, and Elizabeth, Kirsten, Thomas, William and myself, the grandchildren, and Joseph, Ellie, John and Aimee, the great grandchildren, will warmly remember his kind smile, his tales, and his generosity. When his Granddaughter Elizabeth used to visit him with his Great Granddaughter Ellie, Tommy would tell Ellie to put both her hands out, he then placed a pound in each hand and they both said together “One for Ellie, and one for Joe.”

He wasn’t always an angel though, during the Second World War a police sergeant pulled Tommy over as he was driving home, Tommy realising too late that he had an open envelope filled with petrol vouchers on the passenger seat. The sergeant helped himself to a handful of vouchers and thanked him for his contribution to the Police Benevolent fund. “I’m just glad he didn’t ask me to open the boot,” he said later. “There were two freshly slaughtered pigs in there and I didn’t want to donate those as well.”

One afternoon at the Red Lion we had a bit of bother and had to eject two local roughs from the pub, five minutes later we had to run up the road to rescue Tommy who had gone after them waving a pool cue, he was eighty years old at the time.
We had to stop Tommy from driving when his eyesight began to fail, one day in Burley he stopped for me as I walked over the zebra crossing, I gave him a cheery wave which was not returned. In the pub I asked him why he had been so miserable and hadn’t waved back, “My eyes arn’t so good,” he said. “I can’t really see much beyond the end of the bonnet.”

Tommy loved a party, he liked a drink or three, and he loved the family, he was always happiest when these three things could be combined, I remember him at my wedding regaling one of my friends with the words “I’m Eighty Seven years old and I can still drink 15 pints.” That was my Grandad, the oldest teenager in town.

Tommy lived independently until the day when he went to hospital where he died peacefully in the company of his sons. Tommy had decided to donate his body to medical science and his body was duly offered to the teaching hospital, who sent it back with a note saying “This man’s liver appears to have been pickled in Carlsberg.”

Some people are taken before their time, but Tommy Jarvis was not, he led a very long and full life and I am sure everyone here was grateful to be a part of it. Our vicar Michael Burley will now say a few words, and afterwards we ask that you all join us at the Red Lion at Burley for a beer or three and more of Tommy’s tales.


  1. Well done, YS. A lovely tribute to a truly remarkable man.

  2. DSP Andy9:10 am

    Nicely done my friend.

    Please accept our deepest condolences...

    Andy & Eva

  3. Squirt9:57 pm

    Love you big brother. As always, you are a credit to the family xxx

  4. The Lurker7:52 pm

    Beautiful Mick. Sorry Carole and I couldn't attend but you and all the family were in our thoughts.

  5. Anonymous9:24 am

    Dad said...
    Elequent Mike, and there are many more stories
    to remember. Lets do so on the next family get
    together...Squirts Big 40 Perhaps it will be the longest day yet?