One of Fishguard’s great characters between the wars was Tom Furlong, who lived alone in a wooded hut perched precariously on the cliff side behind Main Street.
In his younger days, Tom helped in his father’s coaching business but in the 30’s, by now getting on a bit in years, he had no visible means of subsistence. This had no apparent effect on his ebullient personality; he was always courteous, clean and presentable and, above all, tremendously cheerful. His sense of fun made him extremely popular, especially with the young men of the town, who used to play all manner of tricks on him, knowing that he would himself join in the laughter, and sometimes he would get his own back with some stunt or other.
It was said that when his father was running the early Mail Coach service locally, Tom would put a notice outside the premises in Goodwick which read, “Mail Service to St Davids Every Week Day, D.V. Mail Service on Saturdays D.V. or not.”
Tom was a great storyteller and his friends visited his wind-swept shack regularly just to listen to his yarns. We all knew he was a deft hand at ‘drawing the long-bow,’ but he told his stories with such verve and with so many gesticulations, including the constant wiping of a watery left eye, that the whole thing was very entertaining and highly amusing. It was cheaper than going to the pictures.
Tom was a bachelor but he assured us he had had his moments. Once, he said, a woman newspaper sales representative came to his door and he “gave her a nice cup of tea in a nice clean cup,” after which he offered her a bed for the night which, to his surprise, she accepted. But the whole enterprise was ruined because some of Tom’s young friends, having heard of the tryst, threw a big boulder down onto the zinc roof of the shack as the couple were going to bed.
“I was so frightened I was flummoxed for the rest of the night,” said Tom. In a respectable journal read by ladies of some breeding Tom’s exact words in describing this incident cannot be used. Suffice to say, they were graphic, detailed and down to earth. Laugh! We nearly died.
About this time, the boulder thrower gave Tom a a jelly for his tea and told him to be sure to warm it well in the oven before the meal. He did - with liquid results!
Despite his peculiar lifestyle and devil-may-care attitude, Tom Furlong was keenly interested in the welfare of his native district. He was full of ideas about possible developments to bring prosperity to Fishguard and Goodwick, and, as a prolific letter writer, was forever writing to Government ministers, industrialists, etc., putting forward all sorts of suggestions.
Nothing ever came of his efforts but much interest was created and Tom was never dismayed by a rebuff. He would laugh and say, “Well, it only cost a three h’penny stamp anyway.”
In his youth, Tom was an all-round sportsman. His favourite sport was boxing and he became a noted trainer, being closely involved in promoting local champion Ben Jones, later ‘mine host’ of The Sailors Return in West Street - now the Rugby Club.
One of Tom’s little jokes was to send a birthday card each year to the German Kaiser, then living in exile in Doorn in Holland. The Kaiser, of course, was Britain’s arch-enemy during the First World War, and no-one could understand Tom’s friendly gesture. When the writer asked him why he did it, he made a typical reply, “Well, I don’t know, I was sorry for him I suppose,” and then added quietly, “Of course, its hung the old b----r ought to be.”