Scott Struthers has written an affectionate obituary for Tom Jarvie, who sadly passed away this week. As well as being an Accies stalwart in the great team of the 1930s, Tom was the inspiration for the tv show "All Creaures Great and Small" and was later the vet for the BBC show, "Blue Peter". All at the club would like to pass on their condolences to the Jarvie family.
Professional Footballer and Veterinarian
Born Glasgow, 8 th June 1916; died Crawley, 1 st February 2011
Tom Jarvie, who died peacefully on Tuesday evening aged 94 in a nursing home in Crawley, West Sussex, had an incredible life, carving out two distinguished careers; firstly as a professional footballer, mainly with Hamilton Academical FC, also gaining international recognition, and secondly as a prominent veterinarian in England where he moved after his studies. He was friendly with many of the football greats, and helped inspire the BBC television programme All Creatures Great and Small, based on the books by James Herriot.
Born in Glasgow on 8 th June 1916, he grew up in south Lanarkshire and stayed in the village of Douglas. He attended Lanark Grammar School, and played football with Douglasdale as a schoolboy and went on to play Junior with Douglas Water Thistle, both teams now sadly defunct. (The Douglasdale connection will become crucial later!). In the summer of 1935 he was sought by both Manchester United and Hamilton Academical. At that time the Accies were one of the leading teams in Scotland, regularly in the upper reaches of the top division, and had, in fact, been runners-up to Rangers in the 1935 Scottish Cup Final. As Tom had already commenced veterinary studies at Glasgow University, he rebuffed the financially better English offer in favour of Hamilton, at that time bossed by the distinguished Willie McAndrew. Accies paid the princely sum of £40 to the junior combine for his services, and paid the young Tom £10 per week, and a further £1 appearance money. He was an old-fashioned ‘half-back’, and made his Accies debut on 29 th February 1936 in a league match against Dunfermline – a game which saw Johnny Park, his half back partner, and another with Douglasdale connections, score four goals, three of them from the penalty spot. He acquitted himself well thereafter and was picked by the Scottish League in 1939 to face the Irish League in Belfast. He was a member of a great Accies team of the 1930s, sadly broken up by wartime football. During WW2 Tom continued to play for Hamilton in the unofficial wartime leagues. Rangers sought him on loan in November 1941, while Hibernian had him on loan during 1942-43, and Falkirk in a similar position early in 1944. In the latter stages of the war he signed for Third Lanark after 216 appearances in all competitions for Hamilton, netting six goals.
He moved down south with his veterinary career, initially settled in The Lakes, married and had two sons. It was here that he met up with another Glasgow University veterinary graduate, one James Alfred Wight. The two men shared many tales and, based on his experiences in Thirsk James Alfred Wight, under the pen name James Herriot, went on to write the All Creatures Great and Small series of books which were subsequently made into a successful BBC tv series in the late 1970s and 1980s. The pen name James Herriot was inspired by Tom, as Jim Herriot was a goalkeeper from Douglasdale, who went on to play for Birmingham City and Scotland, the two vets having been at a match between Birmingham and Manchester United where Herriot saved a penalty.
Another friend from veterinary college was Eddie Stratton, the original tv vet, and renowned author.
Tom and his family moved further south and settled in Crawley. Tom went on to become Player / Manager of the local non-league club Crawley Town in the 1950s. A fanatical anti-smoker, Tom would regularly do the rounds of the Crawley ale-houses on a Friday night seeking and turfing out any of his players who would be performing the next day.
(Topically, Crawley, currently Managed by another ex Hamilton player in Steve Evans, are back in the news, having been drawn away to Manchester United in the next round of the FA Cup).
While based in Crawley, Tom became the first Government appointed vet to Gatwick Airport, where he oversaw quarantine cases and arriving animals. Later, in the 1960s, he became the vet to the popular BBC Children’s programme Blue Peter. He remained with the programme until the 1980s. One of the programme’s first cats was later buried in Tom’s garden in Crawley.
Having grown up in Lanarkshire and been involved in football, Tom was a colleague and good friend of some of the game’s greats – Bill Shankly, Sir Matt Busby, Jock Stein, Tommy Docherty, Billy McNeill and Kenny Dalglish. Sitting with the former Celtic captain and Manager at a dinner function down south last year, Billy McNeill said to Tom that when he gave up his football to concentrate on his studies, he was a great loss to the game.
Tom was also particularly friendly with the renowned tv and film actor Peter Vaughan, a fellow Crawley resident. Both men and their sons travelled to Milan in 1970 to watch Celtic play in the European Cup Final.
When Hamilton Accies reached the final of the B&Q Cup in December 1991, the club’s first national final since 1935, the club tried to get together many of the surviving players from that era. Tom was one of the first to respond to the club’s invitation to attend and had his pre-match meal at Douglas Park, with several of his 1930s teammates, before going to Fir Park to watch Accies win. He would attend three or four more games, both at the old ground and the new stadium, when he was back in Scotland, when he accompanied his friend, the late Jim Hannah, a distinguished Normandy veteran, from Strathaven. He was always a pleasure to meet and always had so many tales which I delighted in hearing.
Despite spending the last few years in a nursing home in Crawley, Tom was fully switched on and cracking jokes right up to the end. He was still a fitness fanatic and, until the recent snowfalls curtailed his activities, was taking a mile walk two or three times per day. The nursing home staff simply put up with it. When the snow came last month, he was exercising up and down the stairs of the home instead.
On Tuesday evening he was observed watching the football in his room at 7.30pm. On next checking at 9pm he had passed peacefully away.
Tom leaves two sons, Hunter and Rick, one based in Wales, one in Buenos Aires, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren, who will all miss him terribly.
Secretary, Hamilton Academical FC