William Thomas Wakenshaw
7th January 1950 – 11th October 2015
This Memorial webpage is dedicated to the memory of my Father, William Thomas Wakenshaw.
We remember him with endless pride and boundless love. My father was greatly known within the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed and his life stands as a testament that in serving your community and loving your family brings great happiness.
I can still remember that morning, on the 11th October 2015, with great sadness and the deepest pain. I never could have imagined in my darkest hours that I would be coming home alone, to an empty house no more than 12hrs later. Dad was taken from us long before his time. Not long before he had been given the all clear for his Cancer treatment and had retired from his post as Lifeboat Operations Manager at Berwick Lifeboat Station. He held so many hopes and dreams and wishes that he would have seen fulfilled, sadly he was not to continue on his journey in this world.
Our only comfort is that the manner of his death was swift and with little awareness of the events that were happening to him. He passed onto the great adventure beyond at 15:14 that Sunday, peacefully and comfortably. His Daughter (Kirsty), Son (Euan), Brother (Reg) and Partner (Margaret) gathered at his bedside.
What he left behind has been an unimaginable void in our lives. Our every day is affected with his passing and not a day goes by that we don’t wish we could see him again. Our love for him is as strong now as it has ever been and, with all our hopes and love we wish him well... wherever his spirit is journeying to.
We love & miss you Dad, don’t be a stranger in our dreams.
Born on the 7th January 1950, to parents Mary (Maymie) & William (Wink), in Dean Drive, Prior Park, Berwick-upon-Tweed. Younger brother to Jennifer and elder bother to Reg. Known to all as Tom. From birth Tom had been affected by Polio, which had left him with a weakened arm. However, this never stopped him from pursuing any of his goals in life.
Tom was born, raised, lived and died in the town of Berwick-upon-Tweed. Brought up as Catholic although never practiced in his later years, Tom still held a deep religious belief in his day-to-day life. As a child Tom attended St Cuthbert’s First School followed by Spring Hill Grammar School.
At the age of 16 Tom went to work for British Gas as an apprentice and attended Charles Travelyan College in Newcastle, obtaining a City & Guilds qualification in gas engineering. During his time at college he stayed with Wilma (aunt) and her husband Michael. Tom continued to work for British Gas, based at the local Spittal gas works. Unfortunately, due to his Polio condition and relating complications he was forced to retire through ill health just short of his 25 years service, in 1990.
During his life Tom had a keen interest in Music and Theatre. In his early adulthood he had been a local D.J for Berwick Hospital Radio Station known as “D.J Patti”. He also took to the stage with Spittal Variety Group along with friends Ivor Dixon, John Mabon & Billy Knox. He starred in many productions but most notably as ‘Buttons’ in Cinderella and the lead role as ‘Curly’ in Oklahoma. Tom would often be heard bursting into song with “Oh what a beautiful morning…” when he was in a particularly good mood. Later in life he helped in front and behind the curtain for the local Emergency Services Pantos, occasionally wearing drag to bring cheer to the masses (and a degree of embarrassment to his family!). One particular show saw him portray a homosexual Native American named "Walks Lightly". Oh dear.
He met his future wife, Janet Doig in the early 70’s, by means of a blind date set up through a friend. In 1973 the two were married at Corstorphine Old Parish Church, Edinburgh (Janet’s home town).
In 1976 he became the proud father of his first child Kirsty, followed by the birth of his son Euan, in 1981.
In 1996 he gave Kirsty’s hand in marriage to Mathew Stephenson of Seahouses. In 1999 he became a proud grandfather with the birth of his first grand daughter, Georgia, later followed by Jessica in 2001. He adored, doted and spoiled his girls. Ever proud in all their accomplishments and stunned at what beautiful woman they would become.
In 2004 Euan became an employee of the East Coast Main Line at Berwick-upon-Tweed Railway Station. Little did Euan realise that his father was a secret train spotter and absolutely loved a trip on the train. Tom and Euan had many trips together- London, York, Newcastle and Edinburgh. For fathers’ day 2015 Euan arranged a trip to Inverness, coming back the next day from Aberdeen. The scenery was grand, breath-taking and endless. Tom sat back in his seat and watched the vastness and beauty pass by.
Tom also loved to travel further afield. His passion and keen interest in Ancient Egypt lead to many trips to Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza and the many temples and sites of the Nile. His first adventure to Egypt in 1993 saw the insides of the Great Pyramid of Giza and the mask of Tutankhamun. Ever the chancer with luck on his side, an armed guard protecting the mask offered Tom the opportunity to take some photo’s of the relic… for a small private donation, of course. The resulting photo’s were much more impressive than the overpriced replicas in the gift shop!
Sadly, in 2003 his marriage to Janet ended. After some time to recover, he got back on his feet and met Margaret Lees in 2006. He would come to love Margaret deeply and they would together form a deep love and friendship that lasted until and beyond Tom’s death.
Tom became a keen photographer, focussing his passion for ‘gadgets’ into the equipment needed for such a hobby. He was very rarely found without his camera around his neck and captured many beautiful images of friends, family and the local area. He was often asked to be the official photographer for weddings, the RNLI, the local newspaper (The Berwick Advertiser), the Rotary Club and many other organisations in which he volunteered (and many who just knew Tom and needed someone to take a good picture!). At one point he had considered starting his own photography business, which was to be known as “In a Wink” (a nod to his father). However after much personal reflection he decided to keep his hobby as just that; something that he enjoyed on a casual basis, with no stresses or pressures. In 2008 Tom won an award from the RNLI, the "Photographer of the Year, 2008 Winner" in the Wild Life category for a snap of the local team rescuing a dog from the river Tweed (picture below).
In 2012 Tom was diagnosed with Bowel Cancer. For anyone who has been through any kind of Cancer knows how hard and crippling this announcement can be. Although scared and unsure, Tom met this challenge like he had met so many others- with dignity, courage and charm. He fought hard, endured much and at the end of the day was fortunate enough to win his battle. In September of 2015, only 1 month before his death, Tom had been given the news that he was “all clear” and he could not be happier and we could not have been more proud of him.
After his early retirement from British Gas Tom had to keep busy the only way he knew how- to serve others. In 1990 he ran for local council elections and was elected as a Liberal Democrat Councillor for Prior Park (Tower Ward) with Berwick Borough Council, in which he served the people for over 12 years. During this time he became Chairman of the Housing Committee, a member of the Freeman Trustees, and served as a Harbour Commissioner as the council’s representative (this appointment was particularly meaningful to Tom as his father, Wink, had been foreman of the local Docks all his life).
The highlight of Tom’s political life came when long time friend and fellow Councillor, Graham Exley, asked him to serve as town Sheriff (Graham having been appointed as Mayor for 2000-2001). Tom was proud and honoured and thrived in the position, loving the challenges and all the pomp and ceremony that was thrown at him. Tom and Graham worked well together as they were such good friends behind the political scenes, over seeing many civic functions together. The highlights of which include representing the civic party at the Queens annual Garden Party, hosting visitors and creating new friendships with Berwick’s twin town in Poland, Trzcianka and, the granting of the “Freedom of the Town of Berwick-upon-Tweed” to the Coldstream Guards on July 25th 2000.
He had noted on several occasions how hard it was to come back down to earth after such a memorable year.
When his time with the local Council came to an end he became a member of Berwick Rotary club. As a committed Rotarian Tom lived up to the organisations motto ‘Service above self.’ He was never happier when carrying out his duties for the Rotary club, working again with many of his dear friends including Graham Exley and Hazel Bettison. Tom loved the social aspect of the club, volunteering for as many events as he could, always willing to help in any way.
Tom also severed as a member of the Askew Housing Trust, which provided housing for the poorer residents in (or associated with) the Borough of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
Search & Rescue:
Tom joined Berwick H.M Coast Guard in 1967 where he had served as an Auxiliary until 1991. In 1995 he obtained a position on the Men’s Committee at the local RNLI Lifeboat Station. In 1996 he joined the crew as a ‘Shore Helper’ on Launch & Recovery, moving on to become a Deputy Launching Authority in 1998, then Lifeboat Operations Manager in 1999 (as well as press officer from 2000-2006), where he managed the station until mid 2015. In June 2015 he was presented with a long service award surrounded by his the crew and supporters of the Lifeboat.
To say that Tom was proud of his work with the RNLI was an understatement. He loved the station, the crew and the organisation and what it all stood for. One of the highlights of his career was during a visit by the Duke of Kent, who personally recognised the hard work of the entire station. Tom couldn't have been more proud or delighted in his station.
Day or night, even during his Cancer, Tom would answer the call of his pager. For him this was the ultimate service to others.
Honorary Freeman of Berwick-upon-Tweed:
Before Tom passed away preparations were already underway, by the Town Mayor and long time friend Councillor Hazel Bettison, to award him with the title of Honorary Freeman of the town. This was in recognition to the years of service Tom had provided to the local community. At a meeting on the 26th October 2015, local town councillors voted unanimously in favour of this.
In a small discreet ceremony conducted in Berwick Guild Hall the Town Mayor awarded the title of Honorary Freeman posthumously to Kirsty & Euan, along with brother Reg and partner Margaret. The Mayor commented on the fact that she had a feeling that before he died Tom had an inkling that the honour was coming his way. It makes us smile that he suspected this honour was coming his way. We know he would have been bursting with pride and deeply honoured at receiving this title.
It is a fitting last tribute to a man who gave so much to his community and asked so little in return.
We are so proud of the man we call friend, brother, partner and Father. Although his loss leaves a deep hole in our lives it also serves as a reminder that we are here for each other, that we must help and support each other. Our families, loved ones and communities should always be at the centre of everything we do. Tom knew this and we hope to carry on his legacy with the same devotion, dignity and pride as he did.
We all miss you, sleep well dear friend x