Tributes paid to talented man 'full of character' known for his boat building

Tributes have been paid to a talented man who was ‘full of character’ and built boats.

Thomas James Armstrong passed away from subdural haematomas on June 21 at Haslingden Hall in Helmshore, aged 87. When Thomas first arrived in the valley, he became a fire beater for Porritt’s Cotton Mill in Helmshore.

He had a beautiful tenor voice in his younger days and he would sing in pubs and clubs across the valley. His son, David, said: “He was always full of character and loved boats.

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“He made me a small raft when I was a boy for a competition. He built a 28 foot canal boat and an 18 foot fishing boat refurbished from the shell of Hassy Sea Cadets.

“He always messed with motor bikes and owned a dozen in his life. His passion started from seeing Spitfire engines during the war.

“He was a quick learner and was hands on with everything and very clever with anything mechanical.”

Thomas was born in Manchester to parents, Isabelle and Thomas. During the Second World War, Thomas’ first wife, Patricia’s brothers Gerald and Chris Hackett were evacuated to Highfield House in Haslingden.

Gerald would always talk about the beauty of the valley with Thomas and the pair took a trip to see Gerald’s safe haven during the war. Thomas fell in love once he saw the landscape and upon his return he told his parents about Rossendale’s natural beauty.

His parents were semi-familiar with the valley as their eldest daughter, Margaret was an evacuee in Darwen. They decided to re-locate from Manchester to Helmshore in 1957 living at Park Hill Farm House, Musbury.

Later that year, Thomas and Patricia moved to the same address and eventually moved into a property on Devon Crescent, Helmshore. The grandfather-of-31 had a natural talent for creating and fixing items.

He had various jobs including painting and decorating and working at a brewery in Manchester. Thomas also worked at Gaskells in Bury as a plumber and fitter.

The greatgrandfather-of-47 travelled to Saudi Arabia for his work with Colebatch which involved injecting polyurethane foam into cavities to make coal rooms and help people living in the country to store meat at cool temperatures. His last place of work was at Keighley and Taylors where he was employed as a wagon driver.

Thomas had a great love of boats and spent countless hours transforming old boats into glistening masterpieces that looked brand new. He would showcase his boats at events in Ellesmere Port and Manchester and people would gaze in awe at the fine details he added.

Jack Tattersall let Thomas build a canal boat at the back of his farm on Grane Road, Haslingden. He named the canal boat ‘Boy David’ after his son.

Thomas and his family enjoyed many boating holidays and Thomas took children of families he knew on trips travelling by boat. He would always come back from his family fishing expeditions in Heysham with suitcases full of fish to give his good friend Bill King who owned Beaconsfield Street Chip Shop in Haslingden.

Thomas met his second wife of 36 years, Mary and in 1977 they got married at Haslingden Register Office.

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