West Yorkshire market town of Pontefract
Pontefract Memories and Recollections



Pontefract boxer Jim Tomlin

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 her family."

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 Parish Father.

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 years.

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 boxing teams.

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 1964.

12th regiment royal artillery boxing championship

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, Alison.

Jim Tomlin was speaking to Maurice Haigh.


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