Lanarkshire Yeomany hero Tom Hannah dies

Always remembered...Tom Hannah alongside Campbell Thomson
Always remembered...Tom Hannah alongside Campbell Thomson

IT could be said that a living link with several important events in our history was lost with the death of Kirkfieldbank-born Tom Hannah on Thursday. He was 94 years old.

In a lifetime the likes of which we will certainly never see again, he was a son of the soil who worked in the near feudal system of farm labouring before World War 2 and then found himself building that notorious Bridge over the River Kwai during that conflict.

Happily, the consciencous effort he put into any duty given him was eventually rewarded the then high civic post of Parks Superintendent under the old Lanarkshire County Council. His long and highly useful life began in Kirkfieldbank on January 22, 1920, his family soon moving to a small farm steading with neither running water or electricity near Douglas.

He tramped three miles to and from the former Douglas Water School for his education before leaving at 14 to seek work labouring on local farms via Lanark Market.

The work he found was hard and paid what would be termed slave wages these days - a grand total of one pound a month.

Perhaps it is little wonder, then, that Tom waived his right as a land worker to exempt himself from military service when World War Two broke out and, instead, joined the Lanarkshiire Yeomanry, specifically the part of it attached to the Royal Artillery.

It was this unit which fell into Japanese hands when Singapore fell in 1942 despite Tam’s personal efforts with a Bren gun in a foxhole to stop them.

What followed was three years of brutal maltreatment of himself and his comrades, working on the infamous Death Railway and that famous bridge on the Kwai.

He later recalled:“When we got back to the camp after slaving for eighteen hours, we would drop where we stopped.

“If you woke the next morning, you would check to see if the man beside you was still alive for, on that bloody railway, death was our bedmate.”

He was only six stone when liberated and returned to Lanarkshire to work in a sawmill in Sanquhar where he suffered a severe hand injury.

This did not deter him finding work labouring with the County Council Parks Department where, despite his disability, he rapidly gained a reputation as a dependable and conscientious worker.

Progressing over the years to become Parks Superintendent, he was held in the highest regard by workers and council officials alike - although he was often the scourge of any self-important local councillor who rashly tried to browbeat him!

Tom Hannah leaves behind his wife Bella, daughter Lynn, granddaughters Lynette and Claire, and great grand-daughter Carly, all of whom he was extremely proud.

He will be sorely missed by his family , old comrades and former workmates.