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'.
procession of Old Tom,
as it proceeds down Langley Road in Eastbourne.
Herald reported his funeral
with front-page headlines!
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
Story of Old Tom Part 1 ... Part 2 ... Part
3 ... Part 4
by Dover Studio ©2003 All Rights Reserved
part of this publication may
be reproduced without prior permission from the author. ©2003