Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary

Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of, who do the things that no one can imagine”.

Although from the mind of scriptwriter Graham Moore and not Alan Turing as some would believe, I cannot think of a better way to sum up the achievements of a man whom many of us simply did not know existed a little over a year ago. Captain Sir Tom Moore’s passing this week certainly has had a more profound effect on me than I ever realised. At the turn of 2019, he was in the final stages of recovery from a broken hip and cancer of the skin when his unassuming challenge of 100 laps of his garden and modest target of £1000 hit the press as a good news story to warm you up on a cold April morning. But the ordinary was about to become extraordinary. Within a matter of days, his target exploded into an overwhelming £33 million in charitable donations to a range of NHS charities, which Captain Sir Tom described several times himself as extraordinary.

A man born and raised in Yorkshire, Captain Sir Tom was praised by his daughters as living a life that was “nothing short of remarkable" but it is perhaps his final year that will live long in the memory. After his remarkable fundraising achievements, he required children from a local primary school to help in opening the 150,000 birthday cards sent to him on his 100th birthday. A Spitfire and Hurricane fly past and a special card from the Queen, who he held in such high regard as genuinely good, topped off birthday celebrations to cherish forever. Accolades followed soon after with him being made an honorary Colonel of the Army Foundation College in Harrogate, having himself served in the Duke of Wellington's regiment and the Royal Armoured Corps in World War Two. In July, in an understated ceremony at Windsor, he was knighted by the lady he held in such high regard. By Christmas, he had a number one single with Michael Ball and on 11th December he fulfilled another lifelong dream, flown out with his family by British Airways to Barbados. Twelve months that perhaps any single person might have wished to have achieved in a lifetime. And since his passing tributes have come in from national locations and from across the globe.

So what does Captain Sir Tom’s example show us? Surely his life should be a beacon to all at any stage of our lives; that we can achieve anything if we put our minds to it? That the service of something else is a reward in itself? That a positive mindset can overcome any obstacle? That being ‘ordinary’ and doing the right thing is anything but ordinary? Sometimes the word ‘hero’ is bounded around too loosely and without true meaning. In this case, I would find it hard for anyone to disagree with this sentiment. It is perhaps fitting that one of Sir Tom’s enigmatic comments during the Coronavirus crisis is arguably the best way to remember him. It could not be a truer sentiment:

For all those people who are finding it difficult at the moment - the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away”.

Rest in peace Captain Sir Tom Moore, rest in peace.

Neil Davis
Head of History and RS