Firm friends at St. Mary’s, Russell Road primary school, Tom McGuinness and I went up to Wimbledon College together and gradually drifted apart because our adolescent interests were so different.
We spent many happy hours in each other’s homes, often swapping gruesome American horror comics. We made forbidden trips such as once when, still in primary school we got lost on Wimbledon Common. We couldn’t find our way home, and I did not return until 9 p.m., by which time my parents had involved the police in a search. Had we had a dog then my dinner would have been in it. I was sent straight to bed without a meal, but fortunately Mum relented and brought me a delicious tray of home-cooked food. Somehow that beats breakfast in bed.
We swam in the public swimming baths in Latimer Road. In many ways we were inseparable.
On my 69th birthday 1n 2011 a small party gathered for a meal at the home of Andy and Keith at Saint Aubin de Cadaleche, not far from Sigoules. We had a spontaneous U tube game. Each, in turn would choose a song or piece of music. Keith would then bring it up on U tube and we would all listen or sing along. One of my selections was a Manfred Mann number. Up it came, and there he was, Tom in all his ’60s black and white glory, complete with Hank Marvin specs. This reminded me of my discovery that my old friend, so soon after leaving school, had become a pop star. Turning on the television one day in 1964, that very same number was playing. Tom was a member of the group. His own website and that of The Blues Band or The Manfreds can tell you far more about him than I can. I will confine myself to my own memories.
It was thirty years before we were, thanks to Jessica, to meet again. He was then playing in The Blues Band. This was a group got together by Paul Jones for a one-off blues gig. Several decades on, they are still going strong. On stage Paul and Tom continue to defy their years. This group made an annual trip to the Newark Palace Theatre. Jessica got in touch with their agent, told him I lived in Newark, and Tom came up early and spent the day with us, providing tickets for the show. As Paul thought Tom rather skittish during the performance, he told the audience that they would have to excuse him because he had just met up with an old friend after many years. On another occasion, reminiscing on stage about his time at Wimbledon College, looking straight up at me in Malcolm Anderton’s box, Tom said: ‘Where else can you get an A level in guilt?’.
A talented guitarist, lyricist, and composer, Tom is also the author of a book, still regarded as essential reading for would-be popular musicians, entitled: ‘So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star’, a copy of which he gave me.
Elizabeth gave me another for Christmas 2021.
On 26th March 2022 Tom and I were to meet again when he performed with The Manfreds at Christchurch’s Regent Theatre.