'520' (Anthony Joyce)
I had an email yesterday morning from a friend of a friend. He is the brother in law of this friend, he told me my great friend, Tony Joyce, was very seriously ill and had been taken into a Hospice on the Sunday. He said, because it was so near Christmas, he didn't want to put a downer on the Christmas for all my family. I appreciate his decision and concern but If Id known I'd have been there like the crack of a whip. I should have been there. I immediately 'phoned the hospice and they were asking me lots of questions, was I family, how long had I known Tony? I managed to say, has he gone? the nurse was brilliant, she said I'm very sorry Mr Thirkill but yes he has. I don't have to say what state I was in, I was a mess.
I first met Tony when I left school, at 15 years of age, in 1956. We were in the printing trade he was a twenty eight years old journeyman, (Linotype Operator), and I was a 15 years old apprentice compositor.
I remember the very fist time I spoke to Tony, I was starting a six year Apprenticeship and the first two or three years you were the errand boy. Twice a day I had to go round the entire staff to see what they wanted for morning tea, then dinner break, then maybe again if men were doing overtime. This was the first time I spoke to him asking "do ya want owt from t'shop". He looked at me and said "Naathen me owd taty". That was the start of a fifty-seven year old friendship. Ever since that day we have been like brothers. I'm not saying we saw each other every day. I moved down to Canvey Island and Southend on Sea for two spells spanning fifteen years, eventually moving to Whitby in 1981 but my pal Tony would come and have holidays with us and we always kept in touch with each other.
Whenever we came back to Leeds for week-ends, holidays etc etc, we always saw each other. He was the best man as best friends usually are at weddings, at my wedding to Jean, he was a great best man and I was proud when he accepted to do it for us. You can imagine this scenario all the guests in a cluster, it was November and cold, Tony approached the guests waiting to go in the Register Office and said, "Naathen, have yer all gotcha presents". He was brilliant, like a lot of other days I will never forget that day with him. Jean loved him as much as I did, "mi-little sweetheart", he used to call her, he was the life and soul of any party and much loved by everyone who knew him.
I took him along one year to a Prison Officer's reunion do at Armley Jail, Leeds. Some senior ranking, officer, Governor had just retired and we were all singing
"For he's a jolly good fellow". Sounds simple enough doesn't it, but not quite as planned, Tony was going to make his debut. Every time we sang the part that goes, "and so say all of us". Tony chimed in with
Entire audience, and so say all of us,
Tony alone, Boom Boom,
Entire audience, and so say all of us
Tony alone, Boom Boom,
Every one looked round to see who was breaking protocol. Who is this strange man who has never
been seen on these premises before, who's he with? I stepped three steps to the right and looked
away, was I embarrassed?, wouldn't you have been? So Tony made his debut and final appearance
all in one night at the Prison Officer's Club, Leeds.
I will miss him terribly, the only consolation is, the tumour took him swiftly, so he hasn't suffered for years and years, like some poor souls do. His stepson, David Ward, phoned me yesterday and told me, "the day before he passed away, Tony was talking through his life with David", he knew he was dying and he mentioned me, even my nickname. I will never forget him and the fun, happiness and joy he brought into my life, as long as I live.
He was at my side when my stepfather died in hospital, he was an absolute brick and he loved me as much as I loved him. I did used to tell him that I loved him, he used to say and I love you too old son.
Jean and myself were in business and I'm sure Tony was as proud as anyone with what we've managed to achieve. He was always there to praise and encourage us. I could go on and on forever.
To end I will tell you a bad bit and a couple of good bits. The night I mentioned, when my stepfather died, Tony was with me in my local club playing snooker. The steward shouted me over to the telephone and told me my stepfather was critical. Tony without a thought said
"we'll go in my car old son".
Two funny bits then I'm through, I don't want everyone to nod off before the end. We used
to work Saturday mornings overtime. Tony and I used to go and have a couple of pints in the Waterloo, almost opposite the printers. Up to this point Tony hadn't said anything to me about anything. He then said come on we'll see if the coast is clear. Totally surprised I said what you on about, he
said come on 098, (that's what he nicknamed, me with my last three army numbers.)
Next bit ..... when I was a young apprentice 15-16 years old, I was a normal mischievous
lad and used to give the journeymen some cheek, nothing serious the foreman was a miserable sod. He used to live just past Wakefield,
Jack Grant was his name, June may remember where he lived. Anyway, one day I must
have upset the foreman and at finishing time three of them kidnapped me. They got me and stuffed me into this old banger. Tony was one of them; they took me about three miles in the opposite direction to where I lived
and pushed me out of the car. Oh! happy days. Years ago in the printing industry when you were 21 and served your apprenticeship, you had to go through the initiation ceremony...
The six years seeing him six days a week, plus pub times, football and bowling, there is always a story where Tony's name crops up. We always went in the pub after work on a Saturday, usually the Waterloo on East Street. We used to have a natter then someone would suggest a game of dominoes. He was a very good domino player was our Tony. They were usually only two of us, I suppose it differed. This particular day Tony played out of his skin winning almost every game until one of us caught him dropping a domino under the table, the bugger. I hated playing pairs with him he took it so seriously, I bet brother John will back me up this and I couldn't remember who'd played what but he could, then there was an inquest after every game. I used to say to him I've come out to enjoy myself not get a bollacking every two minutes. We were pretty equal at snooker and enjoyed that with him, one of the times when he did concentrate. He walloped me at bowls, it was Tony who introduced me to the game. We used to go up on Wortley Recreation ground spend hours up there. At first I used to tell him it was an old man's game but I soon found out it wasn't. He had loads of patience teaching me about back hand and forehand and the camber of the green. It's so long ago I can't remember all the tricky bits. In our market trading days on the odd occasion Tony would come along. As you will have noticed, lots of market traders use those red Sunblest bread trays. I must admit we used to pick them up from the back of supermarkets. Also, where there was a load of these trays, there was also the trolleys for pushing them about, when you had a load of them stacked up. I remember him coming to see us one day and he opened his car boot to get his case/bag out and there was one these Sunblest trolley's. I asked him why he was in possession of one of those, he said well I saw it there and thought, if there good enough for 098 there good enough for me. I have no idea whatever he used it for, if at all. When I was a teen-ager, like most other teen-agers, I had the Dansette record player. I used to take it in to work and play records during our lunch hour. I have to tell you the lead up first, when I was really young, up to the age of about twelve or thirteen, I used to go to dancing class. Ballet and tap dancing would you believe. Anyway, I told Tony and he was tickled pink with this.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this story I told you Tony was a Linotype operator. The linotype machines were all on steel sheeting because they used molten metal, (lead), for casting the lines of type. If you had Blaykeys boot protectors in your shoes or boots with the floor surface being metal it used to sound great. You can guess what's happening next, yes youv'e guessed it, it's me teaching Tony the bit of tap-dancing I knew, while listening to the Dansette record player and eating fish and chips or pork pies, whatever we were having. Can you imagine Tony tap-dancing. I bet a thousand quid no-one will say no. Tony was a double sided character. I don't say that with any criticism whatsoever and maybe my choice of words are incorrect but I will try to explain the best I can. As Tony used to say, "I'm only a simple feller". What I mean by double sided is, he could be as daft as a brush, fooling around taking the mickey, having the mickey taken out of him, but, if you wanted to be serious and talk to him, if you had a problem, or just wanted to tell him something, as I often did, he was a wonderful listener.
On my life, I can picture him now sat with his back to a wall round a pub table for instance his arms folded listening intently to what you are saying slowly nodding his head in agreement or to show he fully understood what you wanted him to know, he would have a look at your face now and again and left you in no doubt whatsoever he had taken it all very seriously. He wouldn't tell you what to do, he would maybe tell you what he would do if the tables were turned. As we have mentioned the pub now and again, it was no secret a fair amount of time was spent "socialising". At Christmas breaking up time, our miserable boss would keep you there as long as he thought he could without someone saying something. If all the work was done and all the stones and machines had been oiled up and we were just stood about, the miserable managing director wanted you there until proper finishing time, I went off track there, this particular Christmas I honestly can't remember if I was eighteen or not. Most of the fellers decided to miss the Waterloo and we went to the Lloyds Arms, opposite the Leeds Parish Church. We all go in there, stand at the bar waiting to be served and the landlord looked at me and pointed and said "he isn't coming in here". Tony steps forward face up to the landlord and says "If he doesn't come in old son, none us come in". A few were regulars so the landlord knew he was about to lose future trade, so my hero triumphed again. Guess who I sat next to, in the boozer. Transport was a laugh with Tony, you must remember, I saw him every day for over six years except Sunday, well not every Sunday. He used to roll up to work on all sorts of trucks, vans, old bangers even a push bike. I think the most common mode of transport for Tony was, as he called them, "Lakes of Killarney". It was a large building firm called Leake & Carney. I don't know if he actually knew the drivers but they will certainly have got to know him over the years. I used to go to work on my push-bike and some days we would go home to my mum's house for lunch.
have got to remember, I find it amazing, all the blokes there and the difference in our ages, I still find it amazing to
have had a friend like Tony. I didn't know this until I started writing this, every time he used to visit us, my Jeannie
says he always said to her, "Are you still in love". Thinking about it, it would be a natural thing for Tony to say. Maybe I shouldn't tell you this maybe my editors will delete this. This shows to what extreme Tony would go to be
so extrovert. Tony and another friend at the printers made a bet. The stake was a bag of poo, Tony unfortunately
lost, (maybe on purpose), but I honestly remember Tony paying his debt. One of Tony's visits to our Whitby home
was remembered for the wrong reason one year. It's funny now and it was very funny then to me, but not to my
(Joycey), who's still going strong at eighty seven years young.
When we did the markets we were friendly with a lad who sold L-P's, we had quite a good collection. Tony was going through them one day and asked if we had anything of the Dubliners. He came to Scarborough one year and took Jean and Joycey out to a theatre in Scarborough to see Canon and Ball.
He wasn't too keen on our place on Canvey Island - the pubs were too far away - but one night Tony and me had been out, we managed to get back home together, how, I couldn't ever find out and Tony couldn't remember. Jean had gone to bed and I managed to get to bed myself. The next morning Jean gets up, goes to the loo and Tony was fast asleep in the bath with a bottle of rum still in his hand.
I must close this off with a very typical remark you'd expect from my mate Tony. When I'd got from youth to manhood, I used to take my future wife to June and Tony's. I remember the first time she ever went with me, Tony took us upstairs to show us where we would be sleeping. He said "you'll be in there 098 and you young lady will be that room there". He leant over winked and said, "but we don't mind a bit of creeping about in the middle of the night". I keep thinking of little quips he used to come out with, he used to say to me "the only thing I ever refuse is blows".
At the funeral, I was talking to David, Tony's stepson, and David said a very wise thing, he said, "as a young man you come to a point in your life, like a crossroads, you are advancing from a youth to a man and it's these crossroads that are at a crucial time and age, where you first decide the road you wish to take. From then on, there are many more crossroads after that, but the first one is the most important and if you have help, encouragement and advice to choose the straight and narrow you are setting yourself up for the rest of your life to become a decent honest person". You should progress far better than having no-one to help you and become a much better person than having to struggle on by yourself. Both David and myself had the same good man to advise us, it was Tony Joyce. Thanks Tony, for being you and mostly, thanks for being my friend for fifty seven years, I will miss you terribly, of that there is no doubt whatsoever.
these memories of a wonderful
friendship and no matter what
no-one can ever
take these memories away from
me. I will never forget you.
RIP 520 (Tony Joyce) 098 (Graham Thirkill)
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