Thomas Hume Edmondson
24th February 1934 - 23rd November 2001

Tommy Edmondson, the well-known Northumbrian accordionist died very suddenly on Friday, 23rd November, 2001.   His funeral was held on Thursday, 29th November at All Saints Parish Church, Rothbury where his family and close friends were joined by a host of musicians and dancers from all over Northumberland who wished to say farewell to Tommy.

Local GP, Dr Angus Armstrong, gave a wonderful eulogy and, with his permission, it is repeated below.

"I feel sure that you will all agree that we meet here today to pay our respects to one of the greatest accordion players that the Coquet Valley has produced.

Tommy was born at Well House Farm, Harbottle in 1934, the middle child of 5.  Nearly his whole life has been spent in this valley.  He never liked to go far from home - unless it was to Scotland or Ireland to play his accordion, but anywhere beyond Morpeth required a good deal of thought.   As a small child he went to stay on the sea front at Blyth with some cousins for a holiday.  Full of excitement he packed his bag to go...but the next day he had to be taken home again - as he put it, in his schoolboy "Northumblish" accent: " I wasna bidin' theor, cos there was ower much sand and that was nowt of any use ter me!"
The proudest moment  in his life came when, at the age of 12, he was allowed to bicycle up to Windyhaugh to hear Jimmy Shandıs band.   All evening he sat at the feet of the band unable to take his eyes off the Great Man.  

At the end, Jimmy Shand leant down and asked Tommy if he played the "box".   Now his elder brother Bobby had recently bought an accordion for 5/- and they all played on it, so Tommy said yes, he did play a bit.   "Just  come up here, son, and you play mine".   Jimmy fastened the box on Tomıs shoulders and Tom played his heart out.  

This was the beginning of a great friendship between the Edmondson and Shand families.   Tommyıs older brother Joe became a pupil of Jimmy Shand and was encouraged by him to start his own band, which he did some time later.  Tommy played the drums in that band and, when his brother Joe was killed tragically in a flying accident, he took over playing the accordion.

At about this time in the early Fifties, a man called Peter Kennedy was travelling round the country  collecting recordings of traditional music for the BBC .  When he arrived at Well House Tommy was out cutting wood but agreed to come into the kitchen to play his accordion.

There was no electricity at Well House at that time so the recording machine had to keep getting charged up, by revving up the engine of Mr. Kennedyıs van in the farmyard!

The recording that was made in these memorable circumstances was the traditional hornpipe commonly known now as "Captain Pugwash" - I think Iım right in saying that Tommy was paid 30 shillings for this recording. Apparently Mrs Kennedy  just danced around the kitchen, so Tommy kept playing.

I remember the early days of the band  when they used to come and play at the Coquetdale Coney Catchers Hunt Ball at Thropton Memorial Hall.  As I recall the band then consisted of Tommy on the box, Billy Murray on the drums and Eddie Wright on the piano.   The fiddler was Bobby Cummings who tried hard to encourage me to continue playing the fiddle.

The Coquetdale Coney Catchers were an informal group of local teenagers and others who each brought their own dogs to catch rabbits on local farms.  There was a point-to - point for ponies  run between Low Trewhitt and Burradon and a Hunt Ball, which was the highlight of the year for all ages.  We danced reels energetically all evening and the band played without a note of music and without "repetition, deviation or hesitation" throughout.

Tommy with Captain Pugwash creator, John Ryan
May 18th 1992

Tommy left Well House and worked for a time with Charlie Waddell, with the CWS near Wooler and then with my brother at Longframlington before, with great reluctance at leaving farming,  but keen on the house that went with the job, he accepted the post of Superintendent  of Rothbury Cemetery.   Here under his careful hand the Cemetery literally blossomed.  The care, attention and skill which he brought to the job helped many a mourner through difficult times and I know Iım not alone in feeling the comfort of leaving one's friends and relations so personally cared for - not to mention so well entertained by Tommy playing his accordion in their midst!  It was a lovely sight and sound up there in the Cemetery on a summer's evening.
Tommy met his second wife, Angela, at the Accordion Club which he had set up.  They married and Angela became the pianist in the band with David Ashbridge playing the drums.   By now Tommy had progressed through various instruments to a 5 - row continental accordion, almost a band in itself.

Tommy Edmondson's band, 1985

Tommy and Ian Murray at Cragside, Rothbury

Interestingly it is only in the last 2 years that he has started to write down his compositions - until then it was always learned in the classical aural tradition  He was a keen composer and I am one of the lucky people privileged to have had a tune named after me.  "Dr Angus", a catchy military two-step, was written over 30 years ago, and had a period of being jazzed up by my children and played on every instrument available. It still remains a firm family favourite.   Those of you who were present, will have heard it played by the composer at the our celebration in the Jubilee Hall last month.  I realised once more his genius, as he played it with such dexterity,  and the huge applause that greeted it was for the man we are remembering today.

He gave up the band about two years ago, but has still been actively playing at Catherine Beal's barn dances, and at occasional parties, as well as continuing to compose.

Tommy was a keen gardener and would allow himself to bend his travel rules to go as far as Heighley Gate.  He was a great raconteur and his stories lost nothing in the telling - "an Edmondson classic" was something to be heard and occasionally wondered at!

Tommy had just got his garden at The Croft the way he wanted it and purchased a new car when quite suddenly he died last week.   We are all left with an emptiness.  We extend to you Angela, to Denise and Sandra and his grandsons our deepest sympathy.

Tommy is to be buried in the Cemetery which he enhanced so greatly, overlooking the Coquet Valley,  which was his home,  and which is immortalised for ever for us in the music he played and recorded.

May he rest in peace."

Dr Angus Armstrong