Tommy Armstrong the Return of the Stone
Tommy Armstrong the Pitman Poet
(1848 - 1920)
At the time of Tommy's death there was no memorial headstone on his grave. A group of friends formed a committee and following fund raising, a headstone was erected (pictured below)
The Full Story of the Stones
THE JOURNEY OF HIS ORIGINAL HEADSTONE
Following Tommy's death on 30th August 1920, he was buried on 2nd September in St Margaret's Churchyard, Tanfield . Having died penniless at a friends house in Havelock Terrace Tantobie friends of Tommy rallied around to erect a headstone in his memory. There it remained until August 1986 when the now defunct Tommy Armstrong Memorial Trust commissioned a replacement headstone. This memorial was unveiled on August 9th 1986 by the then Miners Leader Arthur Scargill and still stands on Tommy's grave to this day.
The original headstone was moved to Redhills, the National Union of Mineworkers Headquarters in Durham. It was to be placed alongside other memorials and statues of mining figureheads and dignatories, where it would be protected from the elements unfortunately that did not happen.
The headstone was then moved to the churchyard of St Mary's Church Trimdon and erected beside the memorial to the 74 men and boys who died in the Trimdon Grange Explosion on the 16th February 1882. It was an appropriate location in so much as Tommy had written a poem about the disaster which was entitled 'Trimdon Grange Explosion'.
In 2006 the 'Tommy Armstrong Society' was formed. Members of the Committee and the descendants of Tommy were desirous that the original headstone should be returned to Tanfield which was the home and resting place of Tommy.
The Parochial Church Councils of both Trimdon and Tanfield were in favour of the proposal and with the support and sponsorship of The Co-operative Funeral care the headstone was finally returned to Tanfield and placed in St. Margaret's Church on 19th February 2011.
The old stone showed signs of wear so a decision was taken to commission a new headstone (pictured below) and it was unveiled by NUM National Secretary Arthur Scargill on 9th August 1986.
The Trimdon Grange Memorial (picured below)
Following renewed interest in Tommy the current committee have arranged to have the old stone returned and placed permanently in St Margarets Church at Tanfield (pictured below).
We have been asked to record the story on DVD, and we are in the process of doing that. You can learn much more about Tommy on our alternative website: www.sunnisidelocalhistorysociety.co.uk
The stone was removed from Trimdon on Friday 28th January
The stone was taken to be professionally cleaned prior to it's installation at St Margaret's Church Tanfield.
On Thursday February 10th at 1.0pm the stone was returned to Tanfield
The stone is very heavy and the contractors found it difficult to get it through the Church entrance.
The floor had been reinforced the previous day and the retention bolts seated.
The stone is now fully installed at St Margaret's and ready for the ceremonial unveiling by Tommy's grandson Ray Tilly on Saturday 19th February 2.00pm.
St. Margaret's Church on 19th February 2011. On a memorable day, the stone was unveiled by Ray Tilly (pictured above).
Following the unveiling we were treat to an afternoon of outstanding entertainment, the entertainers included, Judith Murphy, John Handle, Diana Ward and Tom Gilfellon, Benny Graham, Mike Weston, Kiddars Luck, Bert Draycott, Alan Crawford, Diane Ward and Bettie Armstrong Marshall.
Following the entertainment an excellent buffet was provided at the Peacock Inn. The brilliant group 'Kiddars Luck' continued entertaining us with an impromptu performance.
The entire story from beginning to end was filmed by Noel Adamson to enable the Society to create a DVD. It was a memorable journey and we were grateful that Joe Wilson invited us to take a constructive part in it.
Pictured, on the left, Betty Armstrong Marshall (great niece of Tommy) and Diane Ward (great great great niece of Tommy.
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