Farewell to ‘old Tom’ from Old Newton

Rev Val White, who conducted Tom Borley's funeral service last week with Rev Barbara Bilston, holding a photo of Tom
Rev Val White, who conducted Tom Borley's funeral service last week with Rev Barbara Bilston, holding a photo of Tom
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With pews full, mourners stood in Old Newton’s church gallery on Thursday to bid farewell to their friend Tom Borley.

Having insisted a cauliflower was the only flower he wanted at his funeral, vegetables were all that decorated the much loved and admired 96-year-old’s coffin last week.

Tom Borley's coffin decorated with vegetables

Tom Borley's coffin decorated with vegetables

Tom played an active part in village life in Old Newton and, with the exception of four years’ war service, had attended St Mary’s Church every Sunday since the age of two, when his father carried him there.

He served as an ‘exceedingly efficient and conscientious’ verger for 60 years, up until 2014, after having followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather who, between them, held the same office for 90 years.

He was known for not suffering fools gladly but also for not bearing grudges and he set a fine example for others.

“He believed passionately that everybody in the community had a part to play and he set a cracking example himself – whatever was going on, he was there,” said Reverend Canon Barbara Bilston in Tom’s funeral address.

She added: “He was on the Community Council at its beginning. He ran Little Ernie [the village lottery] from its beginning in 1964.

“There was the bowls club – he used his professional skills in draining the ground and helping lay the bowling green turf, and he played on it.

“He was involved in organising the printing and distribution of the Old Newton Crier, and a member of the Evergreens.

“All was done faithfully, and well, for many years. Tom did nothing by halves - if he did a job, it stayed done.”

Tom – who worked for Thurstons, a land drainage firm in Old Newton, for 48 years – had been a widower since 1982 and had one daughter, Pearl.

He had received a number of awards, including the Bishop’s Long Service Award, and in 2009 became a Royal Maundy Pensioner when the Queen came to St Edmundsbury Cathedral.

He will be remembered as a ‘pretty extraordinary’ man, and as a ‘character’.

Rev Bilston said it was a privilege to have known him.

She added: “Tom was known by his faith, his openness, honesty, devotion to his work, his family, his friends and workmates, loyalty and service to this church, his love, all in the service of God.”