03/09/12....Children and the hurdles of war - Local Olympian & author remembers -
THAMENEWS.NET'S's summer intern, Suzannah Smith, describes her meeting with local Rector, and war-time evacuee, Tom Farrell, who's first book about his experiences during the second World War has recently been published:
AROUND three million people were uprooted from their homes and transported to alien environments. I remember my grandparents' stories of being evacuated, but so much of the detail has been lost. I was therefore fascinated when I heard that Tom Farrell of Long Crendon had decided to record his experiences in his new book: Tim Oliver: Evacuee.
The story is about young Tim Oliver from Liverpool who is sent to live in rural Shropshire and it’s no secret that this is really an account of the author's own adventures: “Although a lot of the book is fictionalised, said Tom, "most of the action actually happened.” He talked about how he wanted his grandchildren to know what had happened to him, and how he would like all children to know about the experiences of war-time evacuees.
“I wanted to do the War justice,” explained Tom, “but it is also for children. It’s from a boy’s perspective so children can relate to it.” And in general the story is very positive, but so many evacuees had unpleasant experiences. Was it like this for Tom I wondered?
“I have no bad memories of being evacuated," Tom confessed. "I left out some bits; for example some of the village lads never took to me and I got up to a lot more mischief!” Yet overall being sent to the country was, for Tom, like being sent to a giant playground.
Although he confesses that he doesn’t remember everything from his evacuation, Tom said: “I tried to give as true an account of people and places as I could.” Furthermore, the process of writing the book brought back memories and allowed Tom to revisit his childhood. “There were a lot of tears,” he said sincerely, “particularly about my late mother and sister, Shirley whose stories I tell in the book.”
Having worked as a rector for many years, Tom is used to writing into the night. “I think I’ve got the Liverpool sense of humour. That helped me keep going,” Tom said with a chuckle.
As well as this new career as an author, Tom has worked as a school teacher, a Rector and is a former British Olympian. He competed in the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games as a hurdler. When I asked him how he thought the Games had changed, Tom said: “The ethos is the same now as it’s always been, there’s just more hype.” He told me that the opening for the Melbourne Olympics was simply the Royal Marines performing a march around the stadium. When you compare this to the estimated £27m spent on London’s ceremony, “hype” seems an understatement!
As you would expect, sport in general has progressed since Tom competed professionally. Yet the meaning of ‘professional sportsman’ had different connotations then. Tom trained around two and a half hours a week whilst working at a full time job. “Nowadays people get paid to train more than that a day!” he said “It’s inevitable, though a pity.”
Now Tom is looking ahead and thinking of how he can use his experiences to enlighten others. “It’s surprising how often the New Testament mentions running,” Tom said, linking two of the things he is most passionate about. “I realised it’s to do with being challenged and exited.” He said that he has been thinking about writing a book entwining running and Christianity. “Think of the Church like a cross country race," he suggested. "Everyone running independently but as a team. The first person counts just the same as the last.”
Similarly, the focal point of London’s Olympic Games is to pass on the passion and enthusiasm for sport to the next generation. “Do as many sports as you can,” advised Tom, “and if you discover you have a talent, go for it.” He talks proudly of his grandchildren who he says are going to be great athletes!
Tom has a lifetime of knowledge behind him and it seems fitting that he passes it on. “If things aren’t written down they get lost,” he said. The firsthand accounts of the evacuees, the history of the Olympic Games, these are all things that should never be lost.
By Suzannah Smith
IMAGE: Courtesey of © Universal/TempSport/Corbis
Tom Farrell during the 400-meter hurdles in 1958, during a France vs England track and field competition