Captain Sir Tom Moore

We were all saddened to hear of the passing of Captain Sir Tom Moore earlier this month.  A truly remarkable man, whose determination and show of ‘true Yorkshire grit’ during an incredibly difficult year, proved a beacon of hope to us all during lockdown. Raising over £32 million for the NHS he was an inspiration to us all.

A ‘Son of Keighley’, Sir Tom was presented with the Freedom of the Borough last summer on a visit back to his hometown, where a plaque was unveiled in his honour. Here is a look back at Captain Sir Toms’ Keighley origins.

Tom was Born on the 30th of April 1920, to Wilson ‘Wilfred’ Moore, a Mason, and Isabella Hird, a Headmistress.    

Tom’s paternal grandfather, Thomas Moore, came to Keighley in the 1870s after his marriage to Hannah Whitaker. Originating from a farming family in the Yorkshire Dales, seeing no prospect in farming, Tom set out to become a Stone Mason. Having trained in Bradford, Thomas took up building work in Keighley and an early job of his was the building of the impressive wall which surrounds the Cliffe Castle estate. Tom became quite successful and contributed to building many prominent buildings in and around the town. These include, Keighley Town Hall, shops down Cavendish Street, as well as the family home ‘Club Nook, at Riddlesden. Most notably Keighley’s War Memorial, The Cenotaph, situated in Town Hall Square was also Thomas’s firm’s work.

Keighley War Memorial unveiling 1924 (Keighley Photographic Society vol)
W. N. Hird The family shop

Tom’s grandfather on his mothers’ side, John Hird, worked as a barber in the family hairdressing and barbers on Church Street.
During his early childhood Toms’ family lived at 14 Cark Road, a small but modern terrace near to the Town Centre. However on the death of his grandfather Thomas, Wilfred inherited the family home and moved to ‘Club Nook’. Situated in Riddlesden on the edge of Rombald’s moor, it was an idyllic spot for a young Tom, who enjoyed the outdoors and spent much time up on the moors with his pet dog.

Club Nook – the family home

An active and bright lad, Tom entered ‘Keighley Grammar School’ in 1933.

Keighley Boy’s Grammar School. (Keighley Boys Grammar School Archive BK 211)

Although he did not consider himself academic, Tom did well at school and was a member of the debating club of which, Sir Asa Briggs, notable Historian, was also a member.

Tom’s love of machines was spurred by Tom’s Uncle Billy, a motorbike trials rider in his spare time. As a child Tom would watch his uncle take part in races and help him work on his bikes. Tom got his first motorbike at the age of 12, a Royal Enfield, which he proudly restored to working condition himself with no help. This love of motorsports stuck with him and Tom himself took part in motorcycle racing in adulthood. One of Tom’s old bikes from the 1950’s, a Scott Flying Squirrel, was even found at the Bradford Industrial Museum.

Photography was another family pursuit enjoyed not just by Tom’s father Wilfred, but Tom himself, both were Members of the Keighley Photographic Association.

Page from Keighley Photographic Association membership book 1935-1945 (BK83)

Wilfred once had aspirations to become a professional photographer but a complete loss of his hearing unfortunately put an end to any idea of a career.  An excellent photographer, he contributed to the Keighley Photographic Association, with many fine images of Keighley and the surrounding area, some of which appeared in the Keighley News at the time.

Having gained a good education Tom left school at 15 matriculating in, French, English, History, Maths, Chemistry and Physics. He took up an apprenticeship with the Keighley Water Engineer for three years, then at 18 he started a course at Bradford Technical College to study Engineering.  When War came in 1939, Tom a young man of 19 was still studying, but war service was mandatory for all men aged 18-49, so Tom’s War Service started just after he had turned 20, when he was conscripted and joined the 8th Battalion of the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment.  Tom was soon selected for officer training. Having achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant Tom was posted to India. As part of his service he ran a training programme for army motorcyclists. In 1945 now promoted to temporary Captain, Tom returned to England to become a Tank training instructor.         

Post war Tom returned to Keighley to work as a sales manager for a roofing materials company in Yorkshire. A successful career in business ensued and he went on to become general manager of Cawoods Concrete Products Ltd, manufacturing concrete pipes, Cambridgeshire. 

Tom married Pamela in 1968 and the couple went on to have two children, Lucy and Hannah. Sadly Tom lost his wife to Dementia in 2006. So in 2008 Tom went to live with his daughter Hannah and her family in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire, where he lived until his death.

His visit back to his hometown in August last year for the unveiling of his plaque was met with much excitement and delight. Here are some of the picture of Captain Sir Tom’s visit. 

The Autobiography, ‘ Tomorrow Will Be A Good Day: My Autobiography by  Captain Tom Moore’ is available with proceeds going to supporting  the  ‘Captain Tom Foundation’  set up in his name.

Copies are also available free to borrow at Bradford Libraries https://www.bradford.gov.uk/libraries and also via ebook on Borrow Box, the free online ebook and audiobook available through your library membership.      

Keighley Local Studies Library was asked if we could help provide details of photographs for the documentary on Sir Tom’s life, showing the Keighley of Tom’s childhood. The documentary about his life ‘The Life & Times of Captain Sir Tom’ is still available through the ITV hub. https://www.itv.com/hub/the-life-times-of-captain-sir-tom/10a0447a0001

Written by Angela Speight, Keighley Local Studies, with thanks to Eddie Kelly, Gina Birdsall, Rachel Shearer, Amy Moore for providing photographs.

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