'520'  (Anthony Joyce)

Print compositor

    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 "Boom Boom".
    So It went,

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.
    Another little story about my Prison Officer days and June, Tony's wife......
I was on duty one day at Wakefield Crown Court. There were two officers in the dock with the prisoner in the middle of us.  About twelve to fifteen yards away was the jury benches.  The trial got underway and I noticed this very attractive woman on the jury, in the row and seat nearest the dock. I suddenly realised it was June, Tony's wife.  Imagine the situation if you can.  June hadn't noticed it was me, she'd never seen me in uniform before.  I wanted to attract her attention but in the middle of a serious crown court trial you can't stand up and wave and shout hi June it's me, Graham.  We did make eye contact eventually but it was, or could have been, a bit dodgy to say the least.  At the lunch recession I managed to have a quick word before they were ushered to some restaurant for lunch. June told me Tony was in a nearby pub, I obviously wanted to take advantage of this chance meeting.  I waltzed into the pub in full Prison Officer's uniform and didn't get a very good reception, I think he was embarrassed or with some shady characters, so that day, I got the bollocking.  I want to say that June, Tony's wife, was wonderful to me.  I wasn't going to mention this but what the hell, it may be very important if everything was analysed.
    I came from a broken family and was brought up with a stepfather, the atmosphere with June and Tony was far different from what I was used to.
Tony was probably the first man who had shown interest in me, my sporting activities, my Territorial Army Service, and everything else.  I was playing RL for an under seventeen team, then an under nineteen team, at Henry Barran's Youth Club, Seacroft, Leeds.  There wasn't a Friday that would pass without Tony saying to me, "where yer playin termorrer old son".  He would try to find out where the opposition played, he was just super.  I could write a book on the experiences we shared together.  I must have been fifteen or sixteen when I first went to Wakefield, ("The Merry City" as Tony used to call it), to Tony and June's house, I used to go training with Tony's rugby team, (Eastmoor I think). when we got back to the house he would run a bath for me, as if I was his son or younger brother, he would give me something to eat it was great being cared for like this.  Gale, Beverly, Belinda and David were only young and were a very loving family.  I loved the time I spent with them and later I used to take my first wife, (then girlfriend), and we'd all have a great night out.

    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".
    As I mentioned, he died within a couple of hours and Tony, as he would, stayed with me, side by side.  After things got sorted out, Tony dropped me off at home and went on his way home back to Wakefield.  He was stopped by the police and breathalysed.  Tony explained the situation that he had been on an errand of mercy.  The policeman's answer was "Its not your night is it?"  Tony lost his licence as a result of this.

    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.)
I follows him out - still confused - and got in his old van and went back to the print shop where we worked.  I said, "what's going on".  He said "just checking no one else is still here".  He then produced the keys to the print shop.
    I still didn't know what was happening.  Anyway we got in the building, he turned on the electricity and said, right 098, you go up to the hoist and open up the two trap doors on yer way up; I said what for, or words to that effect, he said, "we are going to get some sacks of coal".  I don't think FFS was invented back then but it did cross my mind.  Anyway 098 and 520, (what I called Tony), did the job without detection.  I went back to Wakefield with the leader of the gang and all was OK.  May I add, it's the only burglary I've ever done.  Although I don't know about 520. There was a rumour of him stopping the van and helping himself to a bit of veg on the way back to Wakefield now and again.

    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...
I can't put this in any other way, but what this meant was the rest of the blokes grabbed you and took off your trousers and pants and daubed printing ink on your privates.  I always remember, Tony was the one with the pallet knife and he didn't put loads on, like I had seen others receive.  I could go on and on, 57 years with a bloke as daft as yourself can't be told in a few minutes.

    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.

    You 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 mother-in-law, (Joycey), who's still going strong at eighty seven years young.
    I didn't let on to her that I thought it was at all funny at the time (coward).  Would you have?  Anyway, the story, when Tony used to come to stay with us us at Whitby, he used to get up nice and early and got into the habit of taking Joycey's dog out.  He loved Tara, (the dog).  Simple little walk with Tara.  One morning we were a bit worried because he'd been gone quite a long time but as you know Tony did enjoy a good walk and did a lot of exercise when he was younger. Eventually he came back up the stairs to the living floor, (It was a big flat over our shop) We could hear him but normally as soon as Tara got back she used to bark for Joycey. By this time Jean, Joycey and me are all looking at the door waiting for his lordships entrance. He pushed the door open and he didn't look too well, he said "I've lost Tara, your dog".  I couldn't say anything straight away, but Joycey and Jean interrogated him and in a couple of hours the four of us searching, she was back home safe and sound.  I don't think he ever took the lead off again.

    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.

    I have these memories of a wonderful friendship and no matter what happens, no-one can ever take these memories away from me.  I will never forget you.
If there is another life after this, I know for certain you will search me out and our friendship will again be as it has been and go on forever.
A comment by Doreen's brother, Melvin, take a look at Richard's reading of  'Time?'

RIP 520 (Tony Joyce)     098  (Graham Thirkill)

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