the story of 'Old Tom'... part 5


As a faithful salesman of the War Cry and other Salvation Army periodicals, Old Tom went his rounds on his tricycle with the papers strapped on his back and on the handlebars. Often Tom was accompanied by a couple of his young grandchildren who thought it a great honour to ride, standing on the back of the tricycle - basking in the reflected glory of belonging to Old Tom.

In their later years, Tom and Betsy shared a beautiful harmony of spirit and sweet contentment. Though Tom was becoming increasingly short of breath, his petite wife was still strong and dainty, and cared for him efficiently and lovingly. The family, a larger community now, continuously visited him in the home on Sidley Road; the grandchildren and great-grandchildren adored Tom and Elizabeth who never tired of their presence.
For two years Old Tom was confined to his room and the terrible cough (the result of the lifeboat accident years before) became increasingly troublesome. Finally Tom became bedridden and the end of his earthly life was approaching. Near the end, his troublesome cough had ceased and he lay quietly awaiting his translation. On July 4, 1928, after being semi-conscious for a while, a beautiful smile was seen to touch his lips and a light suffuse his face. As he opened his bright blue eyes to look upon his loved ones who had gathered, for the last time on earth, he raised his right hand a little and pointed upwards towards Heaven, with his first finger... and thus ended the life of 'Our Tom', 'Old Tom Boniface'.

The funeral procession of Old Tom,
as it proceeds down Langley Road in Eastbourne.

The Eastbourne Herald reported his funeral
with front-page headlines!

His widow lived until 1939, and now Tom & Elizabeth lie peacefully, in a single unmarked grave at Ocklynge Cemetery, Eastbourne, near his ancestors. This ends the story of 'Old Tom' Boniface.

The story of Old Tom Boniface was made possible by the written recollections and documented information provided by the late Lily May Boniface Rand (his grand-daughter, who was present at his passing, and also the late Ethel Bennett (his grand-daughter and my grandmother, who was raised by 'Old Tom' and Betsy) and Thomas Bennett, my uncle, who has done much follow up research. From this wealth of information Old Tom's story has been compiled and edited by Michael Thomas Bignell.
©1999 - ©2003

Even in recent times the old-timers on the sea front still remember 'Old Tom'. In 1992 I met an older gentleman who was selling hand-made souvenirs on the Eastbourne Pier, and in the course of our conversation about 'Old' Eastbourne, I mentioned that Tom Boniface was my Great-Great-Grandfather. The gentleman became emotional, and actually asked if he could shake my hand, because he remembered Old Tom fondly and very well, from when he himself was a little boy. He recounted sentimentally, Old Tom riding his tricycle on the promenade promoting his Salvation Army magazine 'The War Cry'.
Michael Bignell

The Story of Old Tom Part 1 ... Part 2 ... Part 3 ... Part 4

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