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TOM SAWYER

LIFE AND MARINE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER - THE RUSSELL ISLAND VERSION! Having one of the most famous literary names in history, has been somewhat of a burden for Tom Sawyer of Russell Island. Just about everyone he has encountered in his almost 80 years has made the ‘observation’. How Tom came to get the famous literary name associated with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, is a wonderful story in itself, because he wasn’t supposed to make it to his age in the first place. Born in 1942 in Brisbane he was a very early premature baby. So much so, he wasn’t supposed to ‘make it’. Very few did in those days before the invention of the modern baby incubators. “I was just 750gms and only 280mm long when I was born. “I was wrapped up in wool and oil and placed in a chicken incubator,” Tom told The Friendly Bay Islander. It was at a time when Matrons in hospitals really ‘ruled the roost’ and it was the Matron at the hospital who gave Tom his name in an act of ‘flippancy’. The Matron was reported to have told his mother after that first night, ‘the little bugger has survived’. “I wasn’t supposed to last the night, so the Matron filled out a death certificate for me. “That’s why she wrote the name ‘Tom’ in front of the family name of Sawyer; it wasn’t the name that my family would have given me.” Well, little Tom (he could have been Tom Thumb!) got through that first night in the chicken incubator, even though he could not hold not down any of his feed feeding in those first couple of days. Tom Sawyer made it; so when it came to filling out his birth certificate, the name ’Tom Sawyer’ was transferred from the death certificate that was no longer needed. When he was about two years of age, the family moved to Melbourne, where Tom spent his time growing during his early life. Living not far from the rivers and bay of Melbourne, as a boy Tom as a boy had a fascination with boats. It did not surprise that when he joined the workforce at when he was about 15 in 1957, he became an apprentice boat builder. He learnt all styles of boat building and worked on timber craft from small dinghies to ocean racers up to 60 ft in length as well as many fishing boats and ‘mother ships’. His biggest build was a 170ft and 980 tonne commercial Cat, which he described as somewhat of a ‘nightmare’. He even started his own boat building firm, but the cold of Melbourne eventually got to him and he moved back to his state of birth, Queensland, in about 1969. It was at about this time he decided to add to his qualifications and qualified as a shipwright. This required him to to have six months of ‘sea time’ which saw him work on coastal traders and the like. All of this, later led to Tom becoming a marine consultant which led to marine arbitrations and court work, which he still carries out to this day. The move to Russell Island came just over 20 years ago. He built his own home on the island and it is a true testament to his craftsmanship. There are magnificent furniture pieces throughout the home crafted by Tom; including a wonderful dining suite with brilliant inlays and a shiny finish. He still dabbles in boat building, and is currently working on a two metre model of the famous clipper Cutty Sark. He obtained the rare plans to the famous ship years ago (the originals were lost in a London fire). The model has been built to exact specifications using traditional ship building methods. Tom still enjoys sailing and boating on the surrounding Moreton Bay waters, but admits to not being much of a fisherman. “The islands are a great place to live if you enjoy sailing, fishing and boating,” Tom added. So, if you ever run into Tom Sawyer, make sure you don’t mention the obvious!

• Tom Sawyer today with the plans and the model of the famous clipper Cutty Sark.