It is with great sadness that the SPC Old Boys’ Association pass on news of the death of Tom Weal. His funeral took place at Our Lady of the Scared Heart, Banff Ave, Epsom on Thursday 3 November.
Tom was also known as T.K. and Kay during his memorable years at the school, which spanned from 1954 to 1989. After considering entering the priesthood he was contacted by then principal Brother Watson to take up a teaching position at St. Peter’s, which was intended to be temporary. ‘My first year was mayhem. I remember Watty [Br. Watson] coming to my classroom door one day and saying, “Kay, a word”. I stepped outside and he said there needed to be more discipline and that the noise was affecting the other teachers, especially the Brother in the room on the other side of the folding doors. From that day on, I clamped down and was a different person altogether. I grew into it.’
As a small child during the Depression, even recently he would vividly recall that, ‘My parents had a fruit shop in Manukau Road and during the Depression food riots Mum picked up my brother and I, one under each arm, and took us into the back of the shop and locked the door. The rioters skimmed the place. They broke windows, the lot. Sometimes Mum would take us across the road, to the park on the corner of Ranfurly Road, and we would wait for her under the arch.’
Such experiences had a profound effect on Tom, who was known for his classroom economic theories, in particular his quoting of the Augustine Papal Encyclicals. ‘The corner stone of capitalism – and you’ll never change me on this – “Those who hold within the palms of their hand the power of credit creation hold, as it were, the power of life and death over those to whom they lend and none dare breathe against their will.” The whole process of private enterprise and the borrowing of money is frightening.’ (When Tom was teaching other subjects a well-used student tactic to try and distract him from setting impending tests or the like was to ask him about economics!)
Outside the classroom, Tom was a busy member of the Christian Democrats / Social Credit political party in its early days, even standing for the seats of Mt. Albert and Warkworth. Three times he went to England to help ‘wage war ‘ against Britain joining the Common Market and in the days after the results of the recent Brexit poll became known, Tom received phone calls from a number of old boys, one of whom simply said, “You were right, Mr. Weal!”
Tom spent a lot of time with the Christian Brothers in their house in the 1950s, sometimes even preparing their meals. ‘The Brothers were absolutely wonderful to me, from day one. All I needed to do was to go to the boss, whoever he was, and say that something was in the offing and see if I could go. The Brothers would cover for me if I had to be away.’
When he married Margaret, the couple lived in the house on the corner of Seccombe and Maungawhau roads that had been built by Margaret’s father. ‘If Brother Ben Ryan knew he was going to be free after school he would say to me that he’d come down to our house for a while. Which meant he’d come down for a brandy and ginger-ale.’
Tom met three popes and the photo of him meeting John Paul II was proudly displayed in his Manukau Road house, the one just down from Greenwood’s corner with the flagpole. Proudly flying from the pole for many years was the flag of El Salvador, due to Tom being the Honorary-Consul for the South American country.
After the death of wife Margaret, Tom’s great companion was his cat; ‘She might be one of God’s creatures, but she has me wrapped around her little paw!’
When the writer of this obituary spoke to an ailing Tom on the phone a few weeks ago he said, ‘I’m waiting for God to call me home.’
Old Boys across the decades will have many memories of Tom, such as running the tuck-shop and fundraising raffles, taking a group of boys to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, organising the annual mass-day buses and, of course, the disciplinarian. ‘Where are you supposed to be?’ was a commonly heard question to roaming boys not in class.
Tom was utterly dedicated to St. Peter’s, the only school he taught at (apart from a short stint at a Waikato primary school before moving to Auckland). For many years the pay was so low – ‘I didn’t have two brass farthings to rub together after I’d paid board’ – he was virtually teaching for the love of the school and his dedication to supporting the work of the Christian Brothers.
Our sympathies are with Tom’s daughter, Ri, and his great friend John O’Gorman.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Weal.