OBITUARY OF FR TOM WALSH; HEAD BOY 1950/1951
Extracted from the sermon preached by Fr Geoff Cunliffe at Fr Tom’s Requiem Mass
We are gathered here this morning to celebrate the gift of Fr. Thomas Walsh. Tom was born in Blackburn on 21st February, 1932. When he was about 12 his parents and brother moved to Blackpool, Tom remained in Blackburn with his grandmother. At 14 he moved to Blackpool where Father (later Bishop) T. B Pearson had formed the Catholic Boys Association, later the Achille Ratti Climbing club. Through this Tom developed his love of walking and the Lakes. In 1954 He went to Upholland for two years and then went on to Christ’s College, Cambridge, to read History. After Cambridge he went to the English College, Rome. He was ordained on the 25th October, 1959 in Rome. After Ordination he was spent ten years teaching at Underley Hall, then a Junior Seminary. He was a great inspiration as a teacher, passionate about the basics of English and History. Later he served as curate at Blessed Sacrament, Preston, and at Sacred Heart, Barrow before duty as secretary to Bishop Pearson. His first appointment as Parish priest was to Appleby and Kirkby Stephen, where he also taught at Appleby Grammar School. He then spent 20 years as Parish Priest at Penrith before returning to Appleby. After a short illness he died in St. John's Hospice, Lancaster on 23rd August, 2004.
Tom was a very complete person, never conceited or condescending. He loved sport, claiming that he “played football and rugby for God” and later on he enjoyed golf. He was a very pastoral priest, he loved people, and was as comfortable with professionals as men of the road. He nourished his students and parishioners in their faith, as much by his daily life or in his homilies. At Mass he often prayed with closed eyes, such was his familiarity with the Eucharistic prayers.
We mourn Fr. Tom, and we thank God for the privilege of having had him amongst us, and we commend him to the compassionate mercy of the God who he faithfully and generously served. Every Sacrament has been described as a “meeting with Christ”, and Tom reflected that in his life. In his Priesthood, he was absolutely genuine.
Addition by Gerry Slavin (1944/1951)
Tom had one great disappointment in life--- he never played on the left wing for Blackburn Rovers! At a time when small boys in Blackpool were obsessed with Mathews and Mortensen this ambition brought him no little leg pulling at school and the CBA. When in later life I called to see him at his Parish in Penrith, I found him, on occasion, in the local Catholic school Yard teaching the kids how to take corner kicks. In the CBA Tom learnt rock climbing with Bishop Pearson and wasn't bad until a fall injured his back and that coupled with the rigours of seminary life, turned his enthusiasm to fell walking though this too fell by the wayside as he grew older. But he never lost his love for northern hills and he is buried with a splendid view of Cross Fell---- “Ad Altiora ,Tom”
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