Jim Tomlin was born in the Monkhill area of Pontefract in 1941 to parents
Mr. and Mrs Alec Tomlin. He was the latest addition to a family that
already comprised brothers Alec, Mick and Bernard, and sisters, Dot,
Peggy, and Joan.
Jimís father, Alec, was a lad from Tanshelf and for a short time he worked at
the local pit, however, he soon left the mining industry and worked in
many occupations over the next few years, including a spell as a
postman. Alec ended his working life when he finally retired from his
job with the Remploy Company of Pontefract.
Jim remembers his mother as a very hard worker earning such income as she
could to supplement the family purse. He remembers well the long hours
she spent working on the land, toiling away in the pea-fields and potato
picking and many other tasks. Despite her long hours working on the
farms she always made time on her arrival home to prepare and cook a
family dinner and also managed, somehow, to do a full dayís wash for
her growing family. She was, in Jimís words, "a mother to be
admired and respected for her commitment to do the best she could for
Luxuries in the Tomlin household were very much in short supply. Money was not
wasted on the pursuit of luxury items and essentials were the order of
the day as their hard-earned money was wisely spent. Jim says that the
family obtained most of their entertainment at home listening to a
battery operated wireless set and he recalls some of the programmes the
family tuned in for. The Archers and Dick Barton adventures were some of
the family favourites and he goes on to say that on the whole his family
were content with life.
"When we could afford to purchase new clothing it was used only for Sunday
Mass and any other special occasions that came along", says Jim.
"I can hear my mother now telling us to take off our best clothes
as we were not allowed to play out in them. Times were difficult for us
but it was like that for many other families who experienced similar
hardships. Itís amazing how you manage to look on the bright side of
things and just get on with life."
Jim began his early education at the Old Church School, Pontefract, where he
stayed until his move to St. Josephís School, Pontefract. He had taken
up the sport of boxing when he was at school and continued to show an
interest in this after completing his education. Under the watchful eye
of trainer, Bob McArdle who held boxing classes at the Turks Head pub in
Pontefract, Jim refined his boxing skills. Jimís elder brother Alec
also shared his love of boxing and they would often train together. One
of Jimís regular sparring partners was a lad called Bud Flanagen who
was also a boxing enthusiast.
Jim had also by this time commenced working on the pit top at the Prince of
Wales Colliery, and was later transferred to work underground. His close
pals at this time, Harry Simpson, Colin Smith and Derek Mallows, were,
like most other young men in Pontefract, devotees of the well-documented
Embassy in Ropergate. It was a great meeting place if you were "out
on the pull" and Jim and his fellow companions had some moderate
success in pursuit of this occupation. It was not unknown to finish the
afternoon shift at the Prince of Wales pit, a quick dash into the
pit-head showers for a bath, followed by a mad rush to the Embassy for
the last hour, still hopeful of pulling a girl. "Sometimes some of
the lasses would point out that we still had coal dust around our eyes -
well it was much better than eye liner!"
Jimís other love in the sporting calendar was football and he was able to
further develop his interest in the sport, when he managed to obtain a
place in the Pontefract Rovers team, and represented them in many games
playing in wing position,
As a Catholic, one of Jimís duties was to attend the annual, (though
sadly now defunct), Mayday Procession. For those readers who have no
knowledge of this wonderful event, it was a great occasion for all
practising Catholics. The event itself took the form of a long
procession through the town centre, with all the girls clothed in the
best finery their families could afford. This usually consisted of a
white dress made of the purest white cotton and topped with a headdress
of similar material. The boys were usually simply attired in their new
suits. This was a very special event that was enjoyed by all the
participants and their teachers. The procession marched through the
whole of the town centre before finally ending when the marchers arrived
back at the school playground to attend a closing service held by the
After working for two or three years at the Prince of Wales Colliery, Jim
decided to volunteer for the Regular Army and after successfully passing
the Medical Board Examination he enlisted in the Royal Artillery in
January 1960. On completion of his initial military training he was sent
home on embarkation leave before being posted overseas to Germany where
he served with his regiment until 1962. A further Far Eastern posting
followed, which saw him move from Germany to commence military duties at
Tamplin Camp, Malaya, Far East Forces. Jim and his fellow soldiers soon
settled into their new environment, and overall were impressed with
their surroundings and of course the warmer climate was a welcome relief
from the cold German winters they had endured during the previous two
Shortly after his arrival at the camp, Jim joined the Regimental Boxing Team,
which allowed him to continue his boxing career and he also represented
his battery football team. His sporting activities made him many friends
and he was a popular companion to be with.
Life in the camp passed pleasantly for Jim and his fellow boxing partners.
Their sporting prowess in the ring earned them many useful privileges,
and one of them was being excused guard duties and some of the
Regimental parades. On other occasions he was served special food which
was not generally available to non-sporting servicemen. All extra
privileges earned came at a price.
Jimís evenings off duty were spent at the gymnasium training and sparring with
boxers of different boxing weights to prepare and toughen up for any
forthcoming tournaments. The gymnasium was very well equipped with
everything a boxer could possibly need to help and support his
endeavours for competing against other contenders of Regimental Unit
Jim has boxed against the Ghurka Regiment, Royal Engineers and the Welsh
Guards. Some of the trophyís won by Jim and his fellow boxers were the
Ghurka Cup, the Far Eastern Cup and the Malayan Cup.
The following article appeared in the ĎMalay Mailí, Wednesday 18th March
BOXING SUCCESS AT FIRST ATTEMPT
Gunners from Tamplin win Far East Land Forces Honours
The 12th Regiment Royal Artillery stationed at Tamplin, Negri Sembilan, won
the Far East Land Forces inter-team boxing championship in their first
attempt, when they beat the 1st Battalion, South Wales Borderers from
Hong Kong by 18 points to 15.
The Gunners, who arrived in Malaya last year, won the Malaya Area
championship with an easy win over the 1st Battalion Green Jackets from
Penang and then went on to beat Royal Army Ordinance Corps, Singapore
Zone winners- to qualify for the Far Eastern Land Forces final.
The Gunners defeated the South Wales Borderers in the final by winning seven
of their 11 bouts. Of the seven wins, one was won by a knock-out while
the referee stopped three other bouts in their favour and the other
three were won on points.
Jimís leisure time was usually spent either in the NAAFI, or if a good film
was showing, in the camp cinema. Sometimes he and his pals would visit
Tamplin to socialise in the local bars. One thrill he remembers was on a
visit to Singapore, when they went into the world famous Raffles Hotel
which in his words was "fantastic." He admits never before in
his life had he seen such a wonderful building, and the service bestowed
upon them from the immaculately dressed waiters could not have been
excelled anywhere. Their polite and pleasant, well-mannered service was
an absolute joy.
Jim was demobbed in 1966 and returned to Pontefract after serving six years
with the Gunners. He obtained work with Babcocks working as a crane
driver on such projects as the Drax and Ferrybridge Power Stations. He
later lived in digs in London, still employed with the Babcock Company,
where he worked on several London building projects. He also worked for
a short period in Wales.
During Jimís service in Malay, his future wife, Marion, who worked alongside
his sister, Joan, began writing to him. Eventually, on Jimís return to
Pontefract, they began a courtship, which continued until they married.
They bought their first terrace home in the Ladybalk area of Pontefract
and lived there until it was purchased by the Corporation when they
moved to their present home in Sandhill Close. They have one daughter,
Jim Tomlin was speaking to Maurice Haigh.