Birthday wishes to 'true legend' Tommy
PUBLISHED: 12:13 12 September 2008 | UPDATED: 21:15 05 July 2010
A LOWESTOFT "legend" celebrates his 90th birthday tomorrow> and to mark the occasion the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club has taken a look back at his colourful life.
A LOWESTOFT “legend” celebrates his 90th birthday tomorrow> and to mark the occasion the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club has taken a look back at his colourful life.
Tommy Knott has taken on many roles in his years, playing seaman, collier, plumber, ordnance mechanic, master builder, lifeboat coxswain, caterer, and, most recently, live-in night watchman for the yacht club.
With each job he has brought an imperturbable good humour that has seen him described by members of the club as a “true legend in his lifetime”, who is “loved and respected by all who have had the pleasure of his company.”
Thomas Victor Knott, was born at St Margaret's Bay, Kent, as the youngest of three children. His childhood passion was gardening, but at the age of 13 a new love-affair would take hold as he took to the waves for his first voyage. Even though the over-manned Sea Scout whaler had to be saved by the Margate lifeboat, the trip would mark a seminal moment for the keen youngster.
He would soon be back on the water again, joining the Gravesend Sea School and travelling the world on the Otira by the age of 15.
Later voyages would include a journey chartered by the Archbishop of Canterbury to take relief bundles to the rebels in Valencia during the Spanish Civil War, which saw him shovelling coal in order to escape Franco's air force.
He arrived in Lowestoft during the second world war when the Royal Navy sent him to the town to help arm local vessels. Here he met his wife Joan, and although the end of the war saw a move away, he would return after spells in South Yorkshire and St Margaret's Bay.
Back in the Britain's most easterly town, Tommy was asked by the owner of a Wroxham-built boat to take it to the Mediterranean. He agreed, but only on the condition that his wage was paid directly to Joan, to support her and their son during his absence.
Tommy viewed his new crew with “the greatest suspicion”, on account of two wearing glasses and the third having never been on a ship before, and his fears were soon realised with several unsuccessful attempts to cross the Bay of Biscay. An alternative route via the French canals then had to be abandoned, leading to a stay in Paris.
On his return to Lowestoft, Joan prompted him to apply for the vacant post of mechanic on the lifeboat. Tommy had reservations, but Joan posted his application and after one thing had led to another, it was soon 1978 and he was retiring as coxswain of the lifeboat with two bronze medallions.
In 1986 he became the night watchman for the Royal Norfolk and Suffolk Yacht Club, moving into a self contained flat on the second floor. He has remained here for the last 22 years and continues to welcome visitors with a large glass of rum and a warm smile.