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Crowds say goodbye to Pillar

PUBLISHED: 16:25 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 12:44 03 July 2010

PILLAR OF PARISH: Yarmouth-born Tom Manall

PILLAR OF PARISH: Yarmouth-born Tom Manall

Alan Thompson

PRIESTS, parishioners, family and friends packed the pews of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, on Tuesday morning to say goodbye to a man described as a “Pillar of the Parish”.

PRIESTS, parishioners, family and friends packed the pews of St Mary's Roman Catholic Church in Regent Road, Great Yarmouth, on Tuesday morning to say goodbye to a man described as a “Pillar of the Parish”.

Yarmouth-born Tom Mannall died on December 30, aged 84.

After joining the army at 17, he married his wife Doreen in Manchester, and they returned to set up a family home in the borough in the early 1950s.

The Mannalls had three sons, four grandchildren and five great children. Tom worked at several jobs, his longest being as the one and only caretaker of St Edmund's RC Secondary Modern School, Gorleston, which closed at the end of the 1970s.

It was then that his real work started, in the house, as he called it. Tom took over the administration of the parish office at the priests' house in Regent Road. It was a seven-days-a- week voluntary role and Tom soon got called names including Office Tom, the parish secretary, the curate and even Father Tom, although he was never ordained.

Tuesday's Requiem Mass and funeral service was celebrated by Father John Reid, an Augustinian Friar from Edinburgh who had been parish priest at St Mary's for six years.

Fr John joked: “I called him the parish priest because, on a day-to-day basis, he really ran the place.”

Tom had no illusions of his role. He taught himself to type, keep the books and even grapple with the computer. In the early days, that could mean the Parish Newsletter was not ready for print until 2.30 in the morning.

He pulled together a team from the Knights of St Columba, a Catholic men's organisation, to repaint the 150- year-old church twice in 15 years.

His friend, the Rev Peter Glanville, said: “Yarmouth visitors still comment on the beauty of the painted ceiling and the gilded murals. Tom and his team had to overcome vertigo, make stencils from scratch and teach themselves the skills of painting and restoration before they attacked the task as if it were the Sistine Chapel. In Tom's words, 'It saved the parish a fortune.' True words from a man who never took a penny for his lifetime mission.”

The present Knights of St Columba formed a guard of honour as his body was taken from the church for burial at Caister.

Tom received the highest of accolades from the Pope, the Bene Merenti Medal, for services to the parish and church. He cherished it for the remainder of his life, and it was placed with him at his funeral.

Tom was also on the executive of the Amateur Boxing Association and qualified to judge at the 1980 Moscow Olympics. He was also secretary of Great Yarmouth Conservative Club for several years.

Fr John summed him up with the help of quotes from parishioners and friends. “Sometimes wrong, but never in doubt, a man of integrity, always told you to your face, humble in his authority, willing to attempt anything, totally devoted to the service of others, a man of God. He will be missed by many, but forgotten by none,” he said.


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