Captain Tom Moore's message of thanks to Yorkshire as national hero turns 100

As Captain Tom Moore turns 100 today after an extraordinary few weeks where he has captured the hearts of the nation and raised almost £30m for the NHS, the Yorkshireman says he is "amazed and humbled" at the support he has received from his home county. Chris Burn reports.

By Chris Burn
Thursday, 30th April 2020, 5:45 am
Updated Thursday, 30th April 2020, 9:08 am

“It started as a small idea to raise £1,000,” says Captain Tom Moore as he reflects on his charity challenge which has made almost £30m to support the NHS and turned him into a national hero over the course of an extraordinary few weeks. “When I realised that so many people all over the world had donated I found it incredible. I am so humbled and thankful for all the support.”

There are not many people who will have perhaps the most eventful month of their life immediately before their 100th birthday but it is fair to say Captain Tom is a truly unique individual.

Little more than four weeks ago on April 7, Yorkshire-born and raised Captain Tom embarked on a charity challenge that he hoped would raise £1,000 for the NHS Charities Together appeal. His aim was simple - completing 100 laps around his 25 metre-long garden at his Bedfordshire home with the aid of his walking frame in time for his 100th birthday today.

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Captain Tom Moore has thanked the people of Yorkshire for their support as he turns 100 today. Picture: PA

Captain Moore, who attended Keighley Grammar School and then trained as a civil engineer before enlisting in the army for World War Two, was inspired to help the health service during the coronavirus crisis as thanks for his own treatment in recent months for skin cancer and a broken hip, while one of his great-nephews is a doctor.

His charity challenge was quickly picked up by local media and the initial £1,000 fundraising target was beaten within 24 hours. After appearing on BBC Breakfast, donations began to pour in and he and his family raised the appeal target to an ambitious £100,000. That figure was again beaten within a day, as was an even higher bar of £250,000.

By April 14, over £1m had been raised. Two days later, as he completed his challenge a fortnight ahead of schedule flanked by a special guard of honour from the 1st battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, the figure reached £14m - now the total amount collected is well over £29m.

His daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and son-in-law Colin Ingram wrote on the JustGiving page used to collect donations: “We set this page up, without any idea that it would become as highly visited as it is, and more of a ‘heartwarming’ story for the local region. It has completely blown up, and we are so proud to be representing Tom and his 100th birthday walk for the NHS.”

Captain Tom Moore, with (left to right) grandson Benji, daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore and granddaughter Georgia, at his home in Marston Moretaine, Bedfordshire. Picture: Joe Giddens/PA

In the last few weeks, Captain Tom has received praise from the Prime Minister and royalty; had a new Royal Mail postmark created for him, was asked to open the new Nightingale Hospital in Harrogate, been sent more than 125,000 birthday cards and even had a Number One single thanks to a duet of You’ll Never Walk Alone with Michael Ball.

When he opened the temporary Harrogate hospital by video link last week, Captain Tom said: “I always believed there is no place better than Yorkshire, there never has been and all the people missing coming to Yorkshire are missing an awful lot of marvellous things and people. Yorkshire people have a sense of humour and kindness that not many people have to the extent that we have.”

The Duke of Cambridge has hailed him as a “one-man fundraising machine,” whilst Prince Harry described him as “utterly amazing” and there have been growing calls for him to receive a knighthood.

In a further sign of how much his life has changed recently, in light of the intense worldwide media interest in his story Captain Tom is now being represented for free by prestigious London-based public relations company Carver PR, whose other clients include the likes of Russell Brand, Nick Knowles and Dame Kelly Holmes.

Captain Tom Moore and his daughter Hannah Ingram-Moore speaking via videolink at the opening of NHS Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber in North Yorkshire on April 21, 2020. Picture: Getty

An RAF flypast has been arranged for his birthday today, while Captain Tom’s example has inspired numerous other charity challenges as well as a wide array of tributes - including many in Yorkshire.

To pick out just a few examples, Wetherby schoolboy Hector Dee decided to walk six miles in six days for his sixth birthday, while a mural of Captain Tom was created in Pontefract by artist Rachel List. In his home town, the Keighley Bus Company has named a bus after him with its redesign including a cartoon of him by Yorkshire Post cartoonist Graeme Bandeira on the back.Royal portrait artist Darren Baker, from Huddersfield, has presented Captain Tom with a pastel portrait of himself and a sketch of his home town of Keighley.

Mr Baker said of his recent exchange with Captain Tom: “We chatted for ages about Yorkshire. He was over the moon – his smile is as warm as his heart.”

In an email exchange with The Yorkshire Post for this article, Captain Tom - who settled down south after the war and had a successful business career in the concrete manufacturing industry - says he has been thrilled by the response in his home county which has made him even more proud of his roots.

Royal portrait artist Darren Baker (left) presenting Captain Tom Moore with a pastel portrait of himself. Mr Baker also gave the veteran a sketch of Keighley, West Yorkshire. Picture: PA

“I have been amazed and humbled by the reaction of the strong people of Yorkshire, I have so many happy memories of living in this most wonderful county. I would like to thank them all for supporting me. Yorkshire and my home town of Keighley remain in my heart,” he says.

“Hector Dee walking six miles in six days is wonderful. I am so thrilled to hear of those who are helping raise money for the NHS and other charities.

“I feel humbled and amazed by the collective effort of everyone, it is like a true wartime spirit as we work together to limit the damage of the virus and protect our NHS frontline staff.

“I never expected to be on the back of any bus, I think those who have drawn, painted and created these images are fantastic.

“I was deeply honoured to be asked to open the Nightingale hospital. What a prestigious occasion it was.”

Following the death of his wife Pamela, Captain Tom has been living in the village of Marston Moretaine in Bedfordshire since 2007 with one of his two daughters and her family.

Despite not living in the region for many years, Captain Tom says he still holds Yorkshire dear.

He says his fondest memories of growing up in Keighley are “the freedom of the moors, the gorgeous roaming countryside, my family and the wonderful people of Yorkshire”.,

He adds: “I have visited as often as I was able. I organised and hosted The Regimental Reunion Dinner for the 9th Duke of Wellington Regiment for 65 years.”

At a time of terrible uncertainty and sadness, Captain Tom has brought the country together - with his upbeat outlook on life summed up by his now -famous phrase, ‘Tomorrow will be a good day’.

As he turns 100 in extraordinary circumstances and as a new national treasure, today very much deserves to be a good day in the Moore household as well.

How donated millions will help NHS staff

Funds raised by Captain Tom Moore will contribute towards an urgent Covi-19 appeal by NHS Charities Together to support healthcare staff and volunteers caring for coronavirus patients.

Money is distributed to the NHS frontline in grants to NHS charities, to provide somewhere comfortable so staff and volunteers can take a break; access to nutritious food and drink; use of electronic-tablets so patients, staff and volunteers can stay in contact with loved ones; and counselling support to protect mental health and help staff and volunteers process what they are dealing with.

Some of the funding is also going towards helping partnerships outside hospitals, such as hospices, community healthcare and social care, making sure patients leaving hospital have access to the care they need to recover.

In the longer term it will also fund programmes to help staff and volunteers recover fully once the crisis has abated, reducing the long-term impact on them and the people they care about.

Ellie Orton, Chief Executive of NHS Charities Together, said: “Captain Moore is a true inspiration. What he has achieved in bringing people together, and highlighting the appeal, has been remarkable. He, like so many people at the moment, wanted to give back to NHS staff and volunteers for their tireless work and has managed something absolutely incredible as a result.

“We couldn’t be more grateful and impressed with everything he has done. Thank you to everyone that has supported him in his 100 laps and, of course, to him personally for the difference he will make to frontline staff, volunteers and patients during this incredibly difficult time.”

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