OBITUARY – Bruce Stewart Thomas, 1947-2019

‘such a good genuine person and fine musician’ (Kate).
‘always fun when he was out playing in the band, with his orange trainers and jazzy socks’ (Jane & Brian).

It was a shock to hear of Bruce’s sudden death at the end of July 2019.  At his funeral, Stick the Fiddle friends played pieces written or loved by Bruce, and everyone sang ‘Bread of heaven’, with full organ and string backing, to land Bruce ‘safely on Canaan’s side’.  The chapel was filled to capacity, with family, friends, work colleagues and dancers sharing tributes to a man known by many for his joy of life, willingness to help, kindness and compassion.

Bruce loved playing guitar.  A friend (now guitar shop owner) recalled how Bruce, as the ‘big boy’ at school in the 60s, had taught him to play ‘You’re gonna lose that girl’.  He was also a fan of rock ‘n roll, and for a time renewed his electric guitar playing in Tiverton band, ‘Rock of Ages’. He enjoyed Playford, flamenco and pop classics, and until he died, Bruce was working on Grade 8 repertoire.

Bruce ran the Halberton Folk Club for many years alongside his lifelong friend & singer/guitarist, John Lee, with whom he often frequented the Pennymoor Singaround.  He often spoke fondly of stars of the folk world who had performed in the club and whom enjoyed his hospitality.  About 30 years ago, Bruce and I, together with Greta, formed ‘Stick the Fiddle’, and one of our first appearances was as support act to ‘Show of Hands’, the significance of which I clearly did not appreciate at the time.  One of Bruce’s great strengths was to be able to relate to and encourage everyone to work together, and fulfil their musical potential with enjoyment.

As a band member, Bruce was a joy to work with.  He composed quirky and memorable music, and would work tirelessly putting handwritten ‘set dance tunes’ on the computer as requested by callers for folk dance clubs and festivals. Whatever the exhaustion incurred by such events, Bruce always supported and enthused fellow musicians and dance organisers.  Latterly he stated his most worthwhile playing was for people suffering dementia & brain injury as they responded to gentle music. 
 
We miss his irrepressible joy in family and friends and all things musical, his computing and administrative skills and his ability to calm anxiety or irritation and come up with alternative and more sensible ways of looking at life. His legacy lives on; an inspiration to us all.  God bless you, Bruce; we'll continue to love playing your music!.
 
Sue Rivett
Stick the Fiddle
 

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