Saturday, 14 February 2015


Tom with his winning berry
Tom McCartney, who has died, was  every bit a man of Goostrey and its famous gooseberries. He played a leading role in village life  for most of his 91 years.  Yet, this genial figure was not local born but  Cumbrian by birth. He  came to Cheshire by happy choice as best man at the wedding of his pal, Joe Sharpe, shortly after the end of World War 11. He stayed on at Joe’s suggestion to find work on the land, both in farming and as a landscape gardener, and met his wife, Hilda, 84, while working at the fruit farm in Twemlow. His passion for almost 66 years was growing gooseberries, most of the time in the garden of his home in Bank View. I am told his first show was at Goostrey in 1948, the year of the first post-war olympics, when he presented berries grown by the late Frank Carter's mother!   Although he had previously won the trophy for the premier berry at the Swettenham show, it was not until 2012 that he gained as the society's long-time president and  elder statesman the top place at Goostrey in a year with some  of the lowest berry weights on record. His Montrose berry  of 22 pennyweights 16 grains was a tiddler compared to  his golf-ball sized examples of other years. Even world champion Kelvin Archer could only pull off the top spot at Lower Withington with a berry weighing 27 pennyweights and four grains. Still, Tom was delighted with his success, taking away five trophies from the show. And as he said in that year of the Olympic games perhaps size didn’t matter after all – winning the show at the Crown after 64 years competing felt like becoming an Olympian! However, he went on to crown his success at the Swettenham Club show with a berry weighing 29 pennyweights and one grain to win  the Mid-Cheshire association's cup.No mean feat for a man of his years! Since his death, many tributes have been paid to Tom, one of them from Julie Ann Lockett, the first lady secretary
In the media spotlight
of the Goostrey show. She moved from the village in 1982 with her husband, Michael, and their family to settle, first in Texas and now in Grand Island, New York state.
Once a year after their departure, Tom kept in touch by post. "I always looked forward to receiving a little parcel every Christmas containing a Christmas card depicting a picture of Goostrey, along with a gossipy letter and the Gooseberry register," she emails. "He welcomed me into the club along with Grandad (Walter) Carter in the seventies when others were very suspicious of  'this woman secretary'.
Tom leaves his wife, Hilda, and their son, Michael, who lives in London.
His funeral is on Thursday, February 19, at Vale Royal Crematorium, Davenham, at 2.30pm and afterwards at the Red Lion, Goostrey.
+Double click on the pictures to enlarge.

1 comment: