Humans of Solihull

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Our “Mr Tom” – A marvellous (and not just any) school crossing patrol man.

Thomas Fernie might give the impression that his life is uncomplicated but I call him “Iceberg Man”. Not because be has a cold personality – the total opposite – because you only see the tip of his life story when you see him teaching childeren how to cross the road.

Tom’s present life has been for more than eight years, entwined with Monkspath Junior & Infant School where he’s known affectionately as ‘Mr Tom.’ His twice daily walk takes exactly 7 minutes and he’s a stickler for punctuality. Does that give you a clue to what he once did?

Tom was in the Royal Navy for 10 years as a leading Radio Operator (Electronic Warfare) on destroyers and aircraft carriers. He went around the wolrd twice including postings to the Far East and Australia. Tom’s father and brother both served in the army and with his father-in-law serving in the RAF the men in the family covered all the armed forces. Tom says of his time in the navy… “you entered a boy and came out a man.”

He was only at sea once. He tells the story… “we were on our way to the Mediterranean and called into Gibraltar. That night we partied on the island. Seriously worse for wear early next morning we sailed to Malta and of course hit a storm. I was sick as a dog. Awful. But I learned my lesson. Never go ashore and party the day before a sailing”

Tom celebrated his 50th Golden Wedding last year with the lady he met on naval leave whilst on a train journey down to the south west coast, a chance encounter. Coincidentally she lived in Chatham where Tom was posted but unfortunately before thier relationship could develop, he then dissappeared for a year on an aircraft carrier to the Far East. On his return he reconnected with the girl who he’d eventually propose to.

After Tom left the Navy he worked for Sir Lou Grade at the newly formed ATV as sales manager for the Midlands – in charge of a team of one hundred ladies who recruited advertisers for the TV channel. Pot Noodle and Clover Butter were the first two products on board. As one of their thank you’s for Sir Lou, the team were taken to London for a live recording of the show, Sunday Night At The London Palladium hosted by comedian Jimmy Tarbuck. Tom and his wife Ann were invited up on stage to dance with Jack Parnell & his Orchestra, Tiller Girls and all.

Back now to the present day and tom is Solihull’s version of The Green Cross Man of the 1970’s. Sop, Look & Listen being mantra, then. Tom recalls the song sung to the tune of Ten Green Bottles: “…Stop, Look & Listen before you cross the street, use your eyes, use your ears, before you use your feet…”

Another of Tom’s roled is with the Boy Brigade and the Brownies in Shirley, teaching among other life skills, road safety.

These are a few things that make this a special man to the community. He has memorised the bus timetable in order to assist transport for parents to and from school. Nothing is too much trouble.

Written by Editor, Julia Parsons