Tim was born on a warm, second Thursday in July just over a week after England beat Germany 4 – 2 in extra time to win the 1966 World Cup at Wembley. He was a beautiful and very affectionate baby right from the beginning. Like all the members of his family, he tucked heartily into his food from an early age, but fortunately for him, he never became as well-upholstered as the rest of us. However, as we shall learn shortly, sometimes it was not for want of trying! At the time, we were living over mum and dad’s business on the A48, between Newport and Chepstow. Our home looked out north to the great forest of the Wentwood and to the brooding heights of Grey Hill. There were plenty of lush green country lanes close by in which to take Tim for long walks which probably helped to keep him reasonably trim and fit.
Tim’s Down’s syndrome and complete deafness came as quite a shock to mum and dad and to all of us really, but they resolved to do everything possible to enable him to live as normal a family life as possible with us at home. Mum decided that she needed to find out as much as she could about how to help children with severe learning difficulties most effectively. When Tim was three, she enrolled on a two year, one weekend a month course at the Hill Residential Centre in Abergavenny to learn how best to stimulate and work with Tim to enable him to maximise the potential he had.
One of mum’s lecturers was a coordinator of special needs social services for Gwent. She provided excellent support for mum and dad and organised a place for Tim at the Hafod-yr-ynys day training centre when he was three. Although twenty miles away, Tim really enjoyed watching the world roll by during the daily minibus journey there and back. His love of riding in a car, or on a bus or train was something that remained with him for his whole life. Tim really liked to be on the move with all the wheels going around!
When he was two, our dear Grandma George who was almost universally called Mummums came to live with us. They adored each other and she was a very loving and calming influence on Tim as he tried to cope with his mental and physical challenges. As the years passed, Tim grew taller and stronger and dare I say it, quite stubborn and extremely determined at times. Without naming names, I wonder where he got that from mum? Being profoundly deaf and with absolutely no sense of danger at all, our parents were struggling to keep Tim safe and content at home even with considerable family support.
An expedition somewhere required at least three people and even then, sometimes disaster lurked not so far away. On one memorable occasion, he was returning from a lovely walk in the castle dell in Chepstow when he decided that it would be a fabulous thing to undertake a one-man sit down protest in the middle of Welsh Street and block the traffic. He could not be shifted and there were a number of unfortunate motorists that afternoon who returned home a bit later than anticipated from their errands in town.
In 1977 he went to live at Manor House in Frenchay, Bristol which was a residential home for children with a variety of disabilities. He came home most weekends and went on to spend sixteen very happy years there in the care of two fantastic women, Miss Tidder and Mrs Clark. They became extremely fond of him and looked after him brilliantly. Despite Tim’s profound disabilities, throughout his life he was able to attract and connect with the most wonderful people who loved him dearly and cared for him as they would their own. By 1992 though, he had become too old for Manor House and mum and dad were asked to find him a new home.
They looked at several, none of which they felt were suitable for our boy and were beginning to become despondent and worried that they might never find a good, kind, safe, caring home for Tim. And then one day they found Littlecroft and all of those concerns disappeared overnight. They knew immediately that they had found the right place and that they could put all their fears to rest. Tim and our whole family were so fortunate when he moved to the farm in early 1993. It gave him absolutely outstanding care, tranquillity, a real quality of life and genuine love for almost a quarter of a century. In recent years though, his health had deteriorated significantly. Early on Monday morning last week, after a short illness, he slipped away painlessly and peacefully, cared for by his dear old pals who looked after him so wonderfully right up until the very end at Littlecroft.
Thank you so very much to everyone who works there: to Lynn for having the idea in the first place and then putting it into practice wonderfully, for finding great people to work with and for always putting Tim’s needs before any commercial considerations; to Pauline for managing Littlecroft with great competence, care and compassion, for stoically navigating the sometimes Kafkaesque care bureaucracy and never giving up, and for being Tim’s great friend; to Rob and Ben for being like true brothers to Tim and always looking out for him; and to all the staff for always being kind, caring and generally just brilliant. You are simply the BEST! Words alone cannot adequately express our immense gratitude and huge debt to you all. The Care Quality Commission once asked us in one of its surveys how we thought Tim’s care could be improved. We thought long and hard about the question for a couple of days but we couldn’t think of a single thing that we would change or alter.
We would also like to offer our sincere thanks to Dr Lane his GP, Dr Winterbottom and all the Community Learning & Disabilities team at the local NHS Trust for all the excellent care they provided Tim with during the last 23 years. And last but not least, over the last 50 years, various members of the family have given considerable help and support with looking after and caring for Tim. You know who you are and we are very grateful to you all.
Some of our Favourite Tales about Tim
Needless to say I have been thinking lots about Tim and all our adventures over the last 23 years. He had a marvellous sense of humour and often you would find him smirking behind his hand and you knew he had either done something or was planning it! My first memory of Tim and his “crafty antics” was on my second day at Littlecroft. We were all sitting at the table for a light, poached eggs on toast lunch. We all had 2 pieces of toast and an egg on each of them. We hadn’t started eating and Alan, a member of staff turned to Lisa on his right to assist her. Quick as a flash, Tim’s hand shot out, he grabbed an egg off Alan’s plate, stuffed it straight into his mouth and then put his hands down, flat on the table – the very epitome of youthful innocence. Alan turned back, totally unaware of what had happened to find only one egg left on his plate and Tim with a very crafty smile on his face indeed!
He learnt to do so many things for himself such as pushing the wheelbarrow up to the farm with the black rubbish bag. On arrival at the farm’s refuse bin, he would lift it out and put it straight in. One thing he would never do though was to turn the wheelbarrow around as you or I would do…no, it had to be done Tim’s way. He would go around to the front of the barrow and lift it straight up off the floor and walk around with it until it was facing the correct way to go back to the cottage. When we arrived back at the cottage, it had to be left in only one place in the garden – tipped up against the fence. If he was in the garden and you left anything about it would vanish, courtesy of Tim of course, but you always knew where to find it…over the garden fence!! This included on numerous occasions, the wheelbarrow itself. Tim was an extremely strong man.
Brixham became one of our favourite holiday retreats, it had everything for Tim to stimulate his senses. We would use the Western Lady ferry to and fro to Torquay on an almost daily basis. Tim would “ooo” and pat his chest, a sign he was enjoying the movement, wind, and sea air. We also regularly did the three-legged Round Robin or the Full Monty as it is known by some staff members. This consists of the steam train from Paignton to Kingswear, then a ferry to Dartmouth, a river cruise up to Totnes and finally an open top bus back to Paignton. On a warm and sunny summer’s day, it is a trip that is truly heaven in Devon! It was six or seven hours on the move with plenty of wheels turning. Tim was in paradise. We would arrange to meet up with Val and the family, usually at Squires, the award winning restaurant in Churston. Val would always treat us to a delicious meal of fish and chips which Tim would thoroughly enjoy. When we visit Devon again and encounter once more the “fishy smell” that could only be Brixham, we will always remember Tim and the lovely times we had there with him.
One of my favourite stories is about an excursion that Tim took when he was about twenty years old to Thornbury with our parents. Mum and dad were taking him out for the afternoon from Manor House and they needed to obtain some essential provisions in preparation for their trip. Mum went into a local supermarket to make the necessary purchases leaving dad in the front of the car happily engrossed in his Financial Times and our hero apparently dozing quietly in the back. Well, Tim decided that taking forty winks in a parked car was definitely not living up to his expectations for the afternoon’s jaunt with mum and dad and he therefore needed to liven the proceedings up a bit. So he gleefully stripped off every single piece of clothing he had on and threw them all out of the rear window of the car. This was quite an unusual thing to do in the middle of a crowded supermarket carpark, even by the fairly relaxed standards of the mid 1980’s. Saying that my dear old dad would have been rather discombobulated when he glanced into his rear view mirror and realised what was happening in the back of the car, would have been to understate his reaction quite a bit. Knowing him as I did, I am very sure that he would have been shocked and appalled! I can certainly imagine and indeed I can almost hear the “duw duws” there must have been, even now at a remove of almost 30 years!
Remember, these were the days before mobile phones and dad had no way of sending an SOS to mum, fully focused as she undoubtedly would have been on her vital mission to procure the cool beverages and tasty comestibles needed to sustain the afternoon’s activities. Thankfully, she soon returned, her task successfully accomplished. The scattered clothes were then quickly retrieved from underneath the surrounding vehicles, Tim was dressed appropriately once more and seemliness & serenity were restored to the supermarket carpark. Happily, for the world, Tim seems to have been the only member of our family who has ever had the slightest inclination or propensity to disport themselves publicly in their birthday suit.
Tim really did enjoy his trips to the local hostelry. One day, Lynn, Rob and myself were out at a darts match and we had taken Tim along to have a drink with us. Tim was stood at the bar with his back to a chap who was waiting patiently for his drink. The man did as we all do in a pub, and he looked up and down the bar whilst waiting to be served. Quick as greased lightning, Tim spotted his opportunity and his hand shot out, picked up the poor chap’s pint off the bar and down it went, whoosh!! in one go. He then quickly replaced the glass on the bar where he had got it from. It all happened so rapidly, we stood as if transfixed, unable to react fast enough. A few seconds later the man turned to pick up his drink, totally oblivious to what had happened. He looked down at his empty glass and did a double take with a look of complete shock on his face. Mr Innocent aka Tim stood there, grinning to himself as if it was absolutely nothing to do with him! We quickly had to step in, apologise and explain what had happened. The purchase of a replacement pint fortunately brought this potentially unhappy episode to a satisfactory conclusion!
I could go on and on as Tim was a real character and a very special person to us who will be sadly missed. I wouldn’t say Tim was part of Littlecroft, I would say Tim was Littlecroft and that will never change. Tim is still here with us, tidying up, blowing raspberries in the mini bus and grinning his cheeky smile of mischief behind his hand. R.I.P Tim xxx
Unfortunately, my very talented sister who is facing her own health challenges, is unable to be here with us today to bid farewell to our boy. Soon after hearing the very sad but not unexpected news last week that Tim had left us, she wrote a beautiful poem which perfectly captures the very essence of him. I would like to take a moment to share it with you.
To a silent world our cariad brother came
He never heard or even spoke his name
Yet with a gift that many others yearn
Of being loved and loving in return
SO MANY thanks to those who loved our boy
As their own through sadness, light and shade
Who helped him be himself and give us joy
Memories of true devotion never fade
And when we’re asked how we’ll remember him?
As brave, endearing, funny, dearest Tim
Yn Awr Mewn Hedd
(Now at Peace)