To you, family was everything!
Five words that really meant everything to Tommy, and to all of you sat today, to celebrate his 74 memorable and meaningful years spent here. And it was right here in Sunderland, where Thomas Harnett began life, a life’s memory, we have all come to love and cherish. Let us listen, and celebrate!
It was April 10th 1946, born to parents, Olive Carlson and Thomas Harnett Snr, where a baby boy entered the world who was to share the very same name as his father.
‘A Barbary Coaster’ - known as by the locals, and 14 Barclay Street, Monkwearmouth
would be where early life began, and a little along the road - St. Peter’s Church, overlooking the river, where now the glass centre stands, saw Thomas’s baptism.
Son to a shipyard worker and a baker, the family had a comfortable beginning, with Sisters Olive and Doreen, making up the close knit unit, that become the Harnett’s! Life was good with Tommy being the younger brother by 10 years, until early tragedy struck with the passing of Thomas Snr, the head of the house in 1948.
Mother Olive, a strong woman, raised her family into the 50’s, working hard to provide and often relying on the help of Tommy’s sister Doreen, to help look after and even entertain her younger brother with memorable trips to the cinema, into Sunderland centre, to Mowbray Park, and the seaside, at Roker and Whitburn.
This family bond extended to fond Grandparents. Whom would nurture and support this young family. Family life and all the trappings it brought was fully admired, and gave that sense of security to Tommy from a young age.Thomas looked to his Grandad Carlson as a father figure. Many enjoyable years and moments were spent with one another. “Accept anything but blows Son” was advice he held onto as he found himself mixing amongst the wearmouth streets. This unbreakable Grandparent/ bond would shape the future for Tommy, which we discover later in this beautiful story of Thomas’s life. He would also remind us of times spent with his beloved grandmother too, from tales told, she seemed to be the tougher of the two as Thomas would often say “she’d rather give you a crack than a cuddle!” We guess this is what they call tough love in 1950’s Wearmouth.
Tommy would often share memories of getting up at the crack of dawn to go to work with his mam, who worked in a bakery. These early morning rises would be rewarded with a pie or two, to set off on his trip to school - ‘in cold, blow and snow’, for miles and miles as he would often remind us all.
A Journey across the water to Pennywell, was where the family next found themselves, at Pennycross Road. A relatively new house, set within a strong, close knit community,
where Tommy would embark on his pre teens, making friends and setting upon new adventures, which young men did. He would journey about on his trusty bike his grandad gifted him.
A new marriage extended the family, with Jimmy Fowler, the new head, who would offer security and a loving home for Thomas and his sisters, together with new step siblings.
Finishing school at 14, a job at Newcastle Road Baths as a locker attendant would give Tommy his first taste of earning and working, this was followed by an apprentice role at Vaux Breweries.
The 60’s was a great musical influence to Tommy. He loved his music. The first part of this decade found Thomas moving away to Maidstone kent, following his Mother and her husband Jimmy. It was here that his musical interests presented themselves in the flesh when he found himself working for cheesemans home movers, moving the likes of Dusty Springfield and Manfred Man. But home beckoned, and he was soon back to the North East and to live with his Sister Doreen at the Avenue, Hetton-le-Hole - it was this same village that is life long love was soon to be discovered.
Back in the North East, Thomas fell into work at Pyrex on the banks of the wear, a stones throw from where his late Father Thomas Snr worked for many years. Now a young man, socialising, night life and love interests pursued. One evening he was set to meet friends but had slept in, even from a young age, Tommy liked an after work nap, “an hour” he would call it. Arriving in Houghton to catch the bus, as the story goes ‘a toss of the coin’ - Sunderland or Durham? ended up with a night in the Grange Pub, Belmont Durham, where he set eyes for the first time on Doreen Walker, a pretty Hetton lass, a Librarian, a Grammer School girl, his Brown Eyed Girl.
Love blossomed, and his knowing, that Doreen was the one, he had her name tattooed on his wrist. Head over heels, the pair married in the Summer of 69 at St Nicholas Church in Hetton. A New home at West View Grasswell followed for the princely sum of £1800, this became a family home with the arrival of Lynne in 1973.
Years past and Tommy began work at the North Eastern Electricity Board. A second house move brought the family back to Hetton and in 1979 - a boy, Lee arrived on the scene. The Family was complete. It was also around this time Tommy joined the Territorial Army where he would spend over 20 years, making life long friends.
Doxford Terrace saw many happy years with the two children, Lynne and Lee, enjoying home life, holidays and fun things that family do. Lynne would often be found playing in the street or along the line with her Dog Rex. “if you want to know where our Lynne is, look for our Rex” he never left her side, and when asked he could find her in a heart beat.
The 80’s were fondly remembered. It was an era the whole family enjoyed. Spanish holidays and camping trips with Marjorie, Dave, Julie and Victoria, Christmas and new year parties at Aunty Doreen’s and Uncle Harry’s, with cousins Angela and Allison. Sunday afternoons at Sunday school followed by tea at Uncle Roberts and Aunty Jeans with Cousins David, Geoffrey and Steven. It was a bumper time, with fun had by all. And Who could forget 80s fashion!! - Tommy was up there with the best, with his denims, cubans, cowboy boots, tash and tan! Always very well presented.
1984 saw the final house move to Mark Rise. A beautiful family home with sprawling garden, which he would forever try best to take credit for, but we all knew who had the green fingers - Mam. Tommy continued to work at the Electricity Board then weekends were spent with the TA. “48 hours a Day, Ten Days a Week I work” but he loved it. He worked hard for his family and together with wife Doreen, displayed the importance of money, and saving and being careful, keeping the family together, love and support and at times, patience - as both children, Lynne and Lee, who had grown to being teenagers, certainly kept their parents on there toes.
“wait til your dad gets back home off camp” was often the words used when Tommy would be away on his Annual trips with the TA. Doreen would remind them of their behaviour, but because all that everyone wanted to do, was to see Thomas pulling up in the cul de sac in his army wear, doning his beret, wrapping arms around him would pursue, any cheek or pushing of luck was soon forgotten, as the family was back together again, and again.
1991 invited Elliot into the world. Tommy and Doreen’s first grandchild. Lynne the doting mother spent her first months at home, being supported by her proud parents and the newest edition of the widening family, that would soon add Ryan, another bouncing baby boy, and partner in crime to his brother.
Weekends away and day trips out returned, as Tommy and Doreen enjoyed every moment of being new grandparents. Looking back to his relationship with his grandad, Tommy wanted to be the best he could, to be that grandad, his grandad was to him. Always there to offer love and support at the drop of a hat.
Before the 90’s was out, Karis and Keria followed, with the fold now at 4. It was also at this moment where Kevin was to meet his future father in law, a bond which would be seen right to the very end, a one that drew comfort, similarities and sense of humours. Hard working, family men. And Like one another, when it came to telling a story, both could hold court well.
No sooner grandchild 1, 2, 3 and 4 was on the scene, another 5 followed in close succession.
Freja, Anya, Saskia, Carter and Seb saw in the naughties ( 00’s). Tommy’s two children had created almost a football team between them. The two loving families with in Laws, Fiona and Kevin, all looked up to Thomas and their mother / grand mother Doreen. They had truly become the king and queen of each and everyone’s world. The Very heads of the family - and to Tommy, family was indeed, everything!
The years followed in similar suit to the previous decade, with each and every grandchild getting there fair share of holidays, weekends away, day trips, visits to the garden centre. Always fondly remembered. By the time of Tommy’s sad passing, almost 30 years was spent being very much involved in each of his grandchildren’s lives. He was immensely proud of them in each and every way. When eldest Grandchild Elliot brought Thomas’s first and only Great Grandchild into the fold, the same amounts of love, pride and family commitment continued, as Charley sent the long line of children into double figures.
We look back on these glorious 74 years, and I think we can all agree, they were pretty well accomplished. He had an enjoyable lengthly retirement, tinkering, sewing, enjoying his music and family escapes to the caravan. Weekends away with old army pals and catching up with old work mates. Even rolling up his sleeves to get stuck into any DIY projects and help that his older grandchildren would call upon. It was only this year he was ripping up carpets, decorating and hammering away outside. Tommy also loved helping out at Events for Fiona and loved meeting new people. He was very much the social butterfly, everyone very much enjoyed his company.
We look at the photos on display and within our order of service, we see what a cheerful, entertaining, loving, handsome, real family man Thomas was. All of our moments with him were special and memorable.
He could make us cry with laughter - even in his final days, he could make us feel happy, he could make us feel secure, he could make us feel loved, admired, adored and always welcome.
His passing has made us feel sad, brought us tears and left us missing him like no other - but this life’s long celebration, should forever make us feel extremely honoured and proud, to have been part of what mattered to him most. FAMILY
It would be very true to say he loved and lived life. Right to the very end.
Time had frustratingly cut us all short, but Tommy, and us all, will cherish every second.
By Lee Harnett