Wednesday, 4 September 2013

OBITUARY : RIP Colonel Tommy Pritchard

Tommy as he would often appear at The Satire offices. In later years naked from the waist down

The Satire today bids farewell to its Sports Editor Colonel Tommy Pritchard, who passed away peacefully in his sleep behind the wheel of his 1984 Citroen Clio on the M8.

Born Colonel Thomas Randolph Ambidexter Pritchard of a Scots Presbyterian father and American Quaker mother in Thika Kenya in 1941, "Tommy" spent his formative years among the colonial prosperity of the happy valley set. The title for Elspeth Huxley's novel The Flame Trees...came from the time that young Tommy set fire to a local plantation, ruining the owner. Luckily he managed to blame it on the houseboy who later died in police custody. No formal charges were ever pressed.

Tommy enlisted in the KAR in 1959 where due to a mix up arising from his name he was able to become the youngest ever commanding officer of the 3rd Battalion. In a disaster in the last years of the Mau Mau owing to his complete lack of experience he managed to surround and attack a column of his own askaris and sustain the onslaught for 31 days. On discovering his mistake he slipped out of camp during the night and joined the surrounded troops on the other side. In the confusion he was able to mount a counter attack against those under his former command and overwhelm them. This was recorded as one of the greatest breakouts ever and he was mentioned in dispatches leading to him being decorated for gallantry.

Tommy joined The Satire from the Army in 1971 after a very brief and unsuccessful stint at a regional boys boarding school, although no formal charges were ever pressed.
He quickly gained a reputation at The Satire as a somewhat boisterous devil-may-care character would often be found wrestling naked on the floor of the photo-editors suite with Sambo his man-servant from his time out in East Africa helping to build a football pitch in a private boys school, although no formal charges were ever pressed.

Tommy was known by all who knew him as very much a man's man. In his black leather chaps, white stetson, sequined waistcoat and enormous handlebar moustache he was a colourful presence around the Satire offices for over 40 years. And his posts on the ups and downs of under-14 schoolboy rugby, hockey, gymnastics and greco-roman wrestling (a sport he campaigned tirelessly to bring back into the curriculum - although no charges were ever pressed) were always a riveting read.

Tommy's later years were of course dogged with controversy. While involved in a protest against the Springbok tour of New Zealand in 1981, Tommy once again realised he was on the wrong side and attacked the anti apartheid protesters with a placard. In recent memory his playful attempts at "wrestling" the speedo's from an embarrassed Tom Daly at the London Olympics were much frowned upon. His colourful and some would say racist and sexist remarks were very much those of a man of his time and a constant affront to those who worked with him. Though again no formal charges were ever pressed.

He leaves behind an ex-wife in Mombasa, a young Romanian friend Nicu in the local Salvation Army hostel and a motorway strewn with wreckage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marvellous. Who wrote the funny bits? It certain wasn't me.

Yes, tommy really was a character indeed. There's a new chef in the satire canteen and I believe his health and safety standards are notoriously slovenly, particularly when preparing poultry. So watch out for a few more casualties amongst the staff.

Still, he came cheap and that's the important thing.

Charles Mingles esq