6 September 2013

Highgate Cemetery #10: Tom Wakefield

'TOM
WAKEFIELD
WRITER EDUCATOR
MOTHER
1935 – 1996'
 
Oddly, I can find very little online about Tom Wakefield, who is perhaps best known for his openly gay novel Mates (1983). Nevertheless, I give two links below, one from the West Midlands Literary Heritage web site, another from a blogger who personally knew him.
 
On the headstone is a cartoon portrait of Wakefield by David Shelton, who I can only imagine must be the same person who published and illustrated the (very well received) children's novel A Boy and a Bear in a Boat last year.
 
CORRIGENDUM: A comment below from Dave Shelton clarifies that he didn't do the portrait, and he suggests that it was Dave Shenton: that seems to fit. I must have mis-read the signature.
 
ADDENDUM 1: In a comment below, Sheila asks why is Tom Wakefield called a mother on his gravestone. That's a question I too would like the answer to. Any takers?
 
ADDENDUM 2: Be sure to read the very interesting comment by Hugh Barney Miller, JP: he actually knew Tom Wakefield, and makes a comment on the 'Mother' note on his headstone.
 
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West Midlands Literary Heritage: Tom Wakefield
Get Mummy's Purse: Tom Wakefield

6 comments:

Dave Shelton said...

I'm pretty sure that's actually a David Shenton drawing. Not one of mine, anyway.

See here for more of Mr Shenton's work: http://www.davidshenton.com

Sheila said...

Tony, why is Tom listed as a mother? I came here hoping for enlightenment on that point. Have you come across any explanations?

Sheila said...

Do you know why he is epitaphed as a mother?

Dr Tony Shaw said...

That's a very good question, Sheila, and if I knew the answer I'd have written it up there on the post! In fact I'll put an addendum there to make your question more visible, in the hope that someone will provide the elusive reply. Perhaps as interesting (even though it may in effect be the same question rephrased) is 'Did Tom Wakefield write his own epitaph?'

barney miller said...

I knew Tom in the eighties and early nineties. He used to visit Brighton to see Peter Burton, a long time writer for the gay press (who also worked for Denis Lemon during the 'blasphemy case' against Gay News and was features editor for Gay Times) and myself. I lost contact with him around 1993.

He was a kind, gentle and lovely man. I do recall him talking about how 'family' was more than the stereotypical married-with-kids. He was supportive of younger gay men in pursuing their careers. He told me he based one of his characters on me (a young politically active granddaughter but I can't recall which novel so I will re-read his books).

William Godwin writing of Tom said "He proves once and for all that there are families not necessarily based around a mother." This would tie in with the epithet "mother" and I would be unsurprised with Tom stating this should be on his headstone.

I hope this is of interest to you and your readers.
Best wishes,

Hugh Barney Miller JP
Brighton

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thank you so much for this extra information, Hugh, which certainly gives us fresh insight into Tom. If anything else comes to mind - no matter how small it may seem - please don't hesitate to make a further comment.

All the best

Tony