Wolverton Express 8th Oct 1965

Tom’s cocoa tin keeps the (water) wheel turning

Tom Cook
When the Little Linford Estate came up for sale by auction recently the 20 page catalogue contained information about every conceivable aspect of the property in this small village. But the auctioneers left out one item of great importance to the welfare of the cottagers of this tiny community – Tom Cook’s cocoa tin.

Tom who will be 81 this year, makes his way once a week to a small spinney off the gated road to Newport Pagnell, within sight and sound of the M.1. There he unlocks a corrugated-iron shed.

Inside stands a well-oiled Lister stationary engine. Tom gives it a couple of swings. It chugs, sends a belt spinning round, and from below the floor comes a clanking noise as a pump draws water from the 30-ft well. Dug in 1912.

“Roberts special”

The pump, a “Roberts of Deanshanger” special, pushes the water through a pipe up the steep slope to the 400-gallon tank opposite the stone cottages. And it is from this tank that the nine inhabitants get their water.

Where does Tom’s cocoa tin come into the picture? This rusted, dented tin which lost its label years ago.

Before he cycles down to the shed Tom climbs a ladder to the top of the tank and peers in. If it has six inches or so of water left at the bottom he knows a full cocoa tin of petrol will keep the Lister engine chugging away just long enough to pump the tank full again – and save him all the trouble of a second journey down to the shed to switch the engine off. A lifetime of experience tells him when it needs a spot more or a spot less.

Main water is laid on at the farm, and it may well be that any new owner will want to extend this amenity to the cottages. But there was no purchaser at the sale and so Tom Cook and his cocoa tin will be doing duty for sometime yet.

Tom who has drunk well water all his life admits it tastes a little hard, but adds. “It makes a lovely cup of tea!”.

Fitter, carpenter, steam traction engineer, cycle mechanic, general odd job man, Tom (real name Walter Cook) has lived in Little Linford since the age of eight. His father was gamekeeper, but young Tom was fascinated by farm machinery. At 13 he became a house-boy at Hall Farm for Mr. G. Taylor and two years later moved out into the farmyard to begin his long association with the traction engines and tackle that the farmers used for contract work throughout the district. He learned the skills of steam ploughing and threshing, and did much of the maintenance and repair work on the engines.

He worked for Mr. Taylor for over 30 years, 18 for Mr. John Duncombe, five years for Mr. George Smith, and ten years for Mr. Keeves. A bachelor, he retired when he was almost 70, but still does odd jobs and leads a most active life.

Church warden

His cottage on the main Haversham - Gayhurst road with its large garden and railway carriage workshop is almost a "museum" with many examples of his hobbies. He has kept bees, repaired cycles, mended clocks, done blacksmith's work, turned wood and metal - the list is almost interminable. He is warden at the village church and was verger and clerk for many years.

Under the conditions of the sale of the Estate he has the lease of the cottage for life at a nominal shilling a year rent.

Chatting away in the pleasant cottage in this most rural of rural communities, our reporter had acceptable proof of yet another of Mr. Cook's accomplishments - a glass of smooth, clear home-made wine, poured from an enormous stone jar labelled "Oak Leaf, 1963".

As told to Peter North

Mr. Tommy Cook who lived all his life in Little Linford died in 1966 a bachelor, said when he was a young man he was walking out with one of the maids from, the Hall, one Sunday they both had a day off and decided to go out for the day, next day they were both called to appear before Mr. Knapp to explain why they were not in church on Sunday, they were both told if they did it again without a good reason it would be instant dismissal from, their work.

Wolverton Express 2nd September 1966

Tom’s death is loss to Linford

Fitter, carpenter, steam traction engineer, cycle mechanic, general odd job man, Tom Cook of Little Linford is dead. He died in Renny Lodge Hospital, Newport Pagnell, on Tuesday aged 82 after a long illness.

Tom (real name Walter) Cook lived at Little Linford since the age of eight and spent his working life at Hall farm. He was warden at the village church and verger and clerk for many years.

A friend writes:

Walter Cook universally known, loved and respected as Uncle Tom Cook has fought a brave battle and has gone from amongst us. His charity, kindness and his many skills have helped many a home over a wide area of North Bucks and Northamptonshire.

Although he never married he was able to transmit his qualities of industry and honesty into many a youngster. His spirit of goodness lives on in the lives of those he taught.

For the gift of his life we thank God, who was always Tom’s guiding light.