Tony Edwards – a man with a cheery smile and time for people

On Saturday, 10th August, Tony (William Anthony) Edwards passed away peacefully at Stratton Hospital at the end of an ongoing illness. A well-known face around Bude, Cornishman Tony was 85 years old, a little short of 86 as he had an August birthday which he sadly never saw this year. I attended a fitting and beautifully conducted celebration of his life which was held at St Marwenne’s Church, Marhamchurch, on Tuesday 3rd September. The church was packed, testimony to his personality, his smile and his popularity.  Tony had once been a choirboy there, so the church has deep-rooted family connections. It was wonderful to hear so many tributes to Tony from family and friends, where I learned a little more about this remarkable man I’d met quite by chance.
There is so much I do not know about the late Tony Edwards but I do know he was very special in helping me with my research on my forthcoming book about the tarot artist, Pamela Colman Smith. He provided information about her enigmatic later life in Bude which no one else in the world could have provided. It seems ‘helpfulness’ was his second name. He was knowledgeable and good-humoured, keen to assist where he could. Miss Smith lived on the Lizard prior to Bude, in a place called Parc Garland. Tony had his own hypotheses about her, but told me I really needed to visit the Lizard to truly understand its attraction and remoteness. This I did in December 2016 after our first interview. I am so glad Tony was insistent that I went there.
I interviewed Tony a couple of times, so ours was a ‘professional’ relationship. I’m very sure he made a fine friend. He was the only living person in Bude to have known ‘Miss Smith’ and to have seen in situ her ‘Germanic-looking’ pictures, which were not to his taste (or plain ‘weird’ as he called them, not mincing his words.)
He had been her errand boy, aged around 10 when working for the Millers on Belle Vue, telling me she was quite a humorous customer. He was also able to tell me about her work in theatrical (wardrobe) design at Stratford through discussions with his auntie who lived there. This was borne out by my other research and reading.  I showed Tony a reprinted book of Pamela’s, The Annancy Stories, to jog his memory, not that he needed it. He loved telling the tale of how Miss Smith at Christmas or birthday would offer half a crown or one of her little paintings. Tony always plumped for the money, though said he wished he had a painting, and often wondered if it upset her for money to be chosen ahead of her work.  He enjoyed looking at Miss Smith’s pictures so I gave him a copy of the Annancy Stories as a small token of my thanks for his time and memories.
Our conversations were fascinating, very enjoyable but also practically useful. It must be said, we went off on a few fascinating tangential Bude journeys to discuss wartime, the people who had lived in Bude, his exploits on the beach, and his childhood as a boy raised around Efford Farm and later Marhamchurch. I was recently told by his daughter, Judy, that the beaches in Bude were once barb-wired to stop any German invasion, but the intrepid childhood Tony crawled through, managing to cut his toe which turned septic. The doctor tried a new drug which worked a treat making Tony one of the first in Bude to benefit from antibiotics. Without them, Tony would not have been able to join the army for his military service, and later a distinguished career in the military police. He attended church at Marhamchurch and at St Michael’s. He was a ‘boat – altar- boy’ at St Michael’s as a youth, so we discussed non-conformism and other aspects of Christianity in Bude, too. He also became a committed Liberal Democrat (and was rather scathing of Miss Smith being a ‘Tory’) a cause which I believe he supported to the last. Heaven knows what he’d make of current parliamentary shenanigans, but some of them would undoubtedly raise a smile.
Tony was a man who, even from my brief acquaintance, had a lively sense of humour and lived a full life, still travelling in his later years, retaining a vivacity of spirit.
He would often ride around Bude on his mobility scooter, alongside the canal across from his home at Hanover House, stop-start chatting away to people as he went. He was a popular sight in the town (and always talking to someone). I once bumped into him near Nanny Moore’s Bridge. “See that lady there”, he said with a twinkle in his eye, “she had the same looks as Miss Smith”. He then showed me some interesting defences I’d never noticed near the beach. That ‘bridge’ meeting provided a really useful observation, as were his descriptions of the Bencoolen back in Pamela’s day. It had been a gentleman’s residence with servants, coach and horses, later converted to flats, and then a pub. He also gave me a lovely description of The Strand in the 1940s.
A fascinating man, Tony was a little suspicious of me at first as befitted his policeman’s eye. Introduced by a friend of his, the lovely late Barbara Alexander, another resident of Hanover House, he quite rightly asked me numerous questions before he decided to even talk to me! But once he opened up about Miss Smith, he was a wonderful storyteller and conversationalist. He would also tell of his intriguing finds on the beach as a child, which I won’t mention here, but they made him chuckle.
Bude in the 1940s was a different world, so I have Tony Edwards to thank for giving me an honest and frank glimpse of that world which would otherwise be lost to us. His information on Pamela Colman Smith was invaluable, and had never before been told.
Tony gave his time and his memories freely and I, for one, will miss his cheery smile around Bude.
Photo credits: Danny Chambers

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