Tom was born in 1942 in Kilmainham, a suburb of Dublin. Times were tough for Tom growing up, he delivered papers as his parents could not afford to give him pocket money. His family lived in a single room with one communal water tap and toilet they had to share with the other occupants. The tap was located outside their room which Tom counted as a blessing. They all slept in one big bed, the parents at one end and all the children at the other. To ensure their boots lasted longer they put cardboard in them. Eventually the family got a council house in 1950 and had to move all their belongings in a box cart.
Dublin was very different to the city is today as Tom recalls that very few married women went to work or visited the pubs. There were fewer cars and many more horses transporting people and goods. He remembers people putting the hot ashes from their fires on the roads to defrost the ice for the horses.
His father died of a heart attack when aged only thirty-six leaving Tom’s mother to raise four children. Tom was fifteen, his siblings were aged sixteen, nine and six. There was no benefit system in place and it was difficult for young men to get work in Dublin unless they were passed on a trade from their fathers. Tom’s father used to work on the railways and his mother cleaned the carriages so they had a small pension to keep themselves going.
In place of any welfare, Tom recalls there was a soup house where you could take pots for soup, rice and other meals. His family tried not to use it as there was a stigma attached to obtaining food there. Adult always sent their children when they needed a meal so they would not be seen there.
Learning Irish was compulsory and prayers were said in the language. In order to pass exams when leaving school it was a requirement to be successful in the Irish language exam. Tom even had to learn Irish when he went to technical school.
He left school in 1955 to go to technical school, but he was impatient to work so left to get a job, something he regretted. He subsequently returned to education and went to night school for two years to study metal work and mathematics. He worked for the tailor shop Burton until he was dismissed when he reached the age of sixteen. Their policy was to sack youths when they reached sixteen so they wouldn’t have to give them a pay rise, opting to replace them with younger employees. For a period he worked as a messenger boy on a bicycle. He earned £1.50 a week, which rose to £2.50 by the time he left. Like his bother also did, Tom gave all his wages to his mother.
His next job was with Charles Doyle, the screen printers based in Dublin. He was one of twenty hired at the same time by the company and the group were told that only the services of the best three candidates would be retained. The work was printing and attaching labels to oil bottles, Tom made the grade and was one of the three that the company chose to keep employing. The worker who labelled the most bottles got an extra half a crown, a bonus that Tom cherished and often received.
In 1959 Tom’s family were forced to look elsewhere to live when his mother fell behind with rent payments and they were evicted from their council house. An eviction notice was served and the bailiffs removed all their possessions and put them out on the street. It was decided that Tom, his mother and his older brother would leave for England. They took the bus to the centre of Dublin and boarded the train at Westland Row to Dun Laoghaire, once there they took the Princess Maud ship to Holyhead in Wales. Tom remembers that the crossing was fairly calm and that everyone spoke Welsh when they came to their destination. They continued their journey, taking a train to Euston, walked to St Pancreas and took another train to Luton. They arrived at an address in Crawley Road and Tom’s first impressions of Luton on a February day was that it was a dull place with a strong smell of gas and there was very little traffic. The contrast between the hustle and bustle of Dublin city was stark. He was very home sick and there was a great deal he missed: his two younger brothers, his pigeons, his dog, his chickens, the canals, the rivers, the sea side, parks, fish, ice cream and friends.
He was seventeen years old when he came to England. Not a good age to get a job, things would have been easier if he had been a year older. But by the April he had a job on a building site near Stoneygate Road. It was very hard work, there were no machines so it was all by hand. He earned between £8 and £9 a week but could not see a future in this labour.
He still felt homesick, but also wanted to see the world, so a month later he joined the army as he knew he would get three annual free passes back to see Ireland and also plenty of leave. He enlisted with the East Anglian Regiment as an Infantry Soldier, a troop trained to fight on foot. He was sent to Malaya to learn to fight in the jungle and later he travelled to Singapore and then Ipoh where he stayed for six months. Among the new skills he learned snorkelling and parachuting. He came back to England on a military ship in a journey that took twenty-two days with stops that included Ceylon, Aden, through the Suez Canal to Gibraltar before arriving at Southampton. He was posted to Shoeburyness, Essex for six months when he returned.
From 1962 to 1964 he was posted to Ireland. Afterwards he went to Devizes in Hampshire in the Civil Defence Corps, then to Canada where he drove Land Rovers and trucks.
Tom married his wife, Margaret, in 1964. She was also Irish, from a village called Killyleagh in County Down. Margaret had left school at fourteen and worked in a spinning mill like most people in her area. Later she found a job in a tannery. The family moved with Tom when he was posted to Berlin for two years, where his first daughter was born. Later she ended up working as a coach escort for children with special needs at Richmond Hill School for thirty-four years.
After Berlin Tom was posted to Tidworth, Andover in 1966 before he went abroad again to Aden for seven months. He lived in tents and his duties were to patrol the streets. Kenya was his next posting in 1967, he spent six weeks training in the bush. He travelled from his base in Nanyuki to Mombasa to collect Bedford lorries, the vehicles were made in Luton and used to transport twenty soldiers at a time. He drove the trucks to Nairobi and then to back to Nanyuki.
After Kenya Tom returned to Tidworth before he was posted abroad again, West Germany and Belgium were his next destinations where he again drove trucks.
In 1968 Tom left Tidworth and joined as a reserve in the Parachute Regiment for the next three years. He has lived in Luton ever since and as an ex-soldier was entitled to full holiday pay.
He received a medal from Saudi Arabia and the Malayan Government at Duxford IWM in 2008.
Tom worked with Vauxhall on the production line making cabs, but moved on to work as a spot welder for Chrysler in Dunstable as the role was better paid.
In 1971 he started working for Billy Docherty, an Irish firm based in Leighton Buzzard, driving trucks and machinery. Next he worked for Robin Kehoe construction and then for Eddie Sweeney for the next twenty years. After this he was employed by an agency and worked for various firms driving trucks.
He then worked for his son’s business L & T Morley with two ready mix lorries delivering concrete for the work to create an extra lane on the M1 motorway and for the works on the hard shoulder at Milton Keynes.