The Parish Council was deeply saddened to learn of the death of former
Chairman of the Parish Council Michael Toms. Michael served the Parish Council for many years as its Chairman with
dedication, energy and good humour. He was also instrumental in creating
the West Dart Bus community bus service.
These are some tributes from other members of the community.
Some of you will have already heard the sad news of the death of Mike Toms on the 28th March.
Mike and his family lived and farmed at Lower Millcombe for many years prior to his retirement, following which he and his wife Fay moved to Strete.
Throughout his long association with Blackawton Mike was a well respected member of the local farming community. He was also a staunch supporter of the Parish and all of its community organisations, serving on many committees and groups. I personally had the pleasure of sitting on the Parish Council with Mike for many years. During this period his breadth of local knowledge and grounded wisdom was of great support to me as a rookie Chairman.
He will be greatly missed and our thoughts are with his wife Fay, daughters Trudy and Tinah and his grandchildren at this difficult time.
A memorial service will be held when circumstances allow.
Michael was a founder, active member, and finally Honorary Member of BaSH (Blackawton and Strete History).
His experience and knowledge of farming in the area was invaluable when most members had no farming background. His wisdom arose out of his having made a positive decision to enter farming after WW2, when his father was not a farmer but Chief Engineer at Torbay Water Company. He always thought deeply about farming practice so was one of the first in the area to innovate with, for example, silage making and pig-arks.
A recent report by Exeter University for The Prince’s Trust explains how the small family farm brings unique benefits to the economic, environmental and social needs of the local community. Michael’s contribution to the BaSH book “Our Farming Heritage” shows that he was an outstanding example of the invaluable contribution made by a local farmer with his community at the heart of his life. Michael Toms was, in our modern homogenised world, one of the few of these ‘rare breeds’, and sadly one of the last.
The West Dart Bus has been running now for over thirty years, and it was in the late 1980s that Michael Toms conceived the idea of a bus for the communities of Blackawton and Dittisham, both villages being slightly off the beaten track and as a result suffering from lack of public transport for those without a car. In order to finance the operation Michael negotiated a contract with Devon County Council for the bus to be used to drive children to and from Blackawton school. Whilst the Covid19 restrictions have temporarily suspended the bus, it continues to this day, and thanks to Michael’s enthusiasm and foresight villagers can still be taken regularly to Dartmouth and Newton Abbot for shopping and socialising.