Thomas Edward “Ted” Richardson 1927-2019 (E 41-45) – Eulogy by daughter Mary Richardson
Thomas Edward Richardson, Ted as you all knew him – Dad to me – was born in Hull on 4 March 1927, to Thomas Richardson Senior and his wife Mildred.
He grew up in Anlaby with his older sister Betty, who would later marry a Mission to Seamen minister and move all over the world before settling in New Zealand. Ted Senior was a big character, who flew planes alongside Amy Johnson; got an OBE for teaching flying during the war; and had a speedboat on the Costa del Withernsea. Dad would recall falling out of the speedboat, and being terrified at being taken up in his father’s biplane with an open cockpit.
Dad went to Kingston High School, which was evacuated to Scarborough, Bingley and Bourne to avoid the wartime bombs falling on Hull.He was then moved to Sedbergh School in Cumbria, far away from the bombing. He thrived there, becoming both head of his house and captain of the school’s rugby team. In later years he visited his old school frequently, often recollecting the awful food, long runs over the fells, cold showers, and, despite all that, his love for the place. Next he did his national service in the Royal Signals from 1945 to 48. Serving as a lieutenant he also won a cap for playing in the Army rugby team.
This was immediately after the war, and Dad was much affected by the devastation he saw in Germany and back home in Hull. He explained that seeing hungry children begging Allied soldiers for food in Germany set him on his course in life to become a farmer. He felt there was nothing more fundamental nor important than feeding people – plus he didn’t fancy a desk job anyway. So after his national service he got a placement on a farm near Ripon owned by the father of a school chum William Frank, who became a good friend for life.
And following that he went up to Queens College Cambridge to study agriculture – and play rugby… becoming captain of the rugby team and head of college, in a repeat of his success at school. Students weren’t allowed to take cars to college at this time, so he kept his Austin 7 hidden down a side street…Dad knew he wanted his own farm so, in order to pay for it, after graduating, he took a job as manager of a tea and coffee plantation in Uganda, where he played rugby for the East Africa team. He returned with many tales about his big adventure – including close calls with some of the local wildlife – and enough money to buy Low Farm, Gransmoor, in 1956. Ever the practical farmer he chose the farm because he felt the land would be neither as light as that up on the Wolds, nor as heavy as Holderness clay. With the help of his father, he spent the next few years improving and modernising the farm, doing everything from laying concrete in all the yards to building his own milking parlour using scaffolding poles, bike parts and loo chains. All the while milking his new herd of cows every day. One thing Dad was never afraid of was hard work.
Having made the farm as he wanted it, he set about finding the farmer’s wife, and settled on a very beautiful – and very YOUNG – redhead he spotted at a Young Farmers’ dance in Hull. When she disappeared Cinderella style at the end of the night he only knew that her name was Susan Fewson and she came from Aldbrough in Holderness. His friend Sheilagh Burdass, Pete’s mum, acting as matchmaker, worked out who she was and got her phone number (Mum found the scrap of paper Sheilagh gave him with her phone number on it still tucked in one of Dad’s pockets only the other day…)
This was the beginning of a sixty-year love story, and the couple married at Aldburgh in 1968. My sister Mary came along the following year and me in 1972. Dad settled down to family life, and played his part in the local community, as a member of everything from the local agricultural discussion society to the 41 Club.
The concept of duty was very real to him and he took his turn as a school governor and later as a long-time and diligent warden here at Harpham Church. He continued to be a much loved member of the congregation here until his death. His faith was very important to him. He saw the hand of God all around him in the natural world he loved so much. And he loved Church architecture – this building in particular – and Church music.
Dad worked hard, almost to a fault. He seldom took a break but we went on a week’s holiday to Scarborough once a year. Photos of us setting off on the first of these trips show Dad looking like a film star in a white jacket as we headed for the Royal Hotel. By the time I remember much about them, he would be wearing a cagoule and we’d be staying in a B&B. Dad enjoyed these well earned breaks, reading James Herriot books on the beach and laughing so hard that he once actually fell out of his deckchair. The longest holiday he ever took was to mark his 70th birthday with a trip to New Zealand to visit sister Betty and family.
But that was uncharacteristic. Dad didn’t venture off the farm much. He didn’t need to because it was his world. He knew intimately and loved every single square foot of it. And he worked. Hard. All the time. We have worked out he grew enough wheat over the years to make about 12 million loaves of bread.
He wasn’t really one for hobbies once he stopped playing rugby for Driffield (because away matches clashed with milking) – preferring simply to do more work. But he was a keen amateur inventor, devising all kinds of gadgets for the farm, from a switch for the dryer that used a human hair to detect moisture in the atmosphere, to a foam ‘blobber’ made from an old vacuum, which showed the tractor driver where he had sprayed. In another life he could have been a talented engineer.
In his eighties Dad got his five grandchildren, Woody (Thomas Edward Richardson IV), Joe, Vinnie, Teddy and Lolly, who he loved greatly. He continued to take an active interest in the farm – and in the wider world – in retirement. He had strong views on many things: from flat roofs (‘asking for trouble’) to wind turbines (‘eyesores’ and a ‘waste of taxpayers’ money’, the latter a category into which quite a lot of other things fell too). Latterly he was usually to be found behind the open pages of his Yorkshire Post, that was if he wasn’t out walking on his beloved land, sizing up the next year’s crop. He was a kindly surrogate father or grandfather to many too, ready to offer advice and paternal encouragement to his many visitors.
At the time of his 90th birthday, we nominated him to appear on the TV show Car SOS. This was a great success. His beloved old truck – a World War Two Utility vehicle – that he had used on the farm, was restored as a surprise and he was interviewed about his life. Dad was a hit with the programme makers and viewers and we had a brilliant day among the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight planes at RAF Conningsby filming him being reunited with his newly restored truck. If you haven’t seen the programme, see if you can catch it being repeated some time.
Tilly herself is now on display at Eden Camp museum near Pickering. Since Dad first became ill a year ago the relationships he and mum have spent their lives building have pay dividends a hundred times over. The support and kindness shown to them as Dad’s health declined has humbled us all. The way all of you here have supported them over these past difficult six months has been incredible. And we are forever in your debt. Thank you.
As a family we would also like to pay tribute, and say heartfelt thanks, to the Macmillan and Marie Curie nurses, and other nurses and carers, who did to much to kindly and tenderly ease the passage of Dad’s last days. To him and us they truly were angels. I am sad that my Dad has died – most of all for my mum, who was the love of his life. And to whom, as long as he was still able to speak, he was still singing ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ – ‘their’ song, from South Pacific, which they watched on their first date. But I am happy he lived the life he wanted to, in the place he wanted, and that he died there surrounded by his family. I am proud of the man my dad was and the life he led. The phrase that has come up time and again in the condolence cards sent to Mum is ‘gentle gentleman’. He was both these things. He was also a good man who took good care of his family to the end, and was a good friend to so many here. Thank you for coming today to help us celebrate his life.