BRIAN FRANK TOMLIN
20 August 1934 – 22 January 2009
He was a lovely, lovely man and we will not forget him for many a long year.
Brian was a man with great character, high standards and a rather special sense of humour. Having known many good men over the years, I can say with great sincerity that Brian was one of the best, always willing to offer advice based on his experience of life and backed as always by his sound judgment. He was universally respected and we have lost a very good friend and a superb ambassador.
These are two of the very many tributes that were paid to Brian in letters written to his wife Josie in the days following his death. I had the great privilege of spending an evening with Josie in February sharing with her the life that was Brian and reading with her these letters of testimony and affection.
Brian was a man of many skills, many occupations, many passions and many places. His first great passion was the RAF where he rose through the ranks from Aircraftman 2nd Class to Wing Commander. His twenty years here were hallmarked by his love of flying and the satisfaction he gained from order and all things ceremonial. These attributes were to serve his later passions of Freemasonry, York Minster, Music, and Marriage.
The tributes received from his Masonic life testify to a man who was greatly respected and professional in all that he undertook. He was seen as a great communicator and one who enhanced the Council beyond measure. Once more he was renowned for getting everything ‘nicely in order’ and for his cheery disposition.
This cheery disposition was something that his friends at York Minster were very aware of, as were the people he guided. An anecdote from his guiding years tells of Brian saying to a group of visitors from across the Atlantic ‘Anything you need to know, just ask?’ He was unprepared for the first question: ‘Who’s your tailor?’ but those of us who knew Brian will understand what prompted such a question. He was impeccably turned out, with exceptionally good dress sense.
Brian took his singing very seriously and was an experienced and reliable colleague to the members of the many choirs he sang in. Each of his weekly services at Selby Abbey was treated with gravitas and attention to detail. There was no commonplace service for Brian. Each time he sang he gave it his all and as in all other matters it was marked by his professionalism and complete commitment to the choir and the music he was singing. I watched him frequently from the opposite side of the St Hugh and London Cantata choir stalls and marvelled at his enthusiasm and complete absorption in the music. He was not a musician by training but made up for this by the scholarly attention he paid to each musical note and phrase. He practised many an anthem on the motorways as he drove to the cathedrals he sang in. Throughout his life, he combined ambition and a desire for perfection with compassion and kindness — a rare but impressive combination.
From my various trips to different cathedrals around the country and the countless meals I have shared with Brian and Josie I know that Brian’s greatest passion in life was his wife Josie. He recounted many times how they met and how fortunate he was to have married this ‘marvellous woman’. They shared so much together and took great care of each other. There are wonderful memories of holidays, walks, French cathedrals, cars (especially Rovers!) and those sublime moments of music making where it was perfect which they experienced together and I hope that these comfort Josie and she mourns Brian’s loss.
One of Brian’s favourite pieces of music was Faure’s Requiem. I bring this tribute to Brian, a mark of respect and affection to a great man, to a close with two lines from it.
May the angels lead you into paradise;
May a choir of angels receive you.