Tom Harrison: ambassador of spirit

Tom and Ann HarrisonNews that an old friend, Tom Harrison, was in hospital and in a deep coma reached me late last week from Sue Farrow, the former editor of Psychic News. And within an hour or so of his passing, it was Sue, again, who conveyed the sad news to me. Despite her knowledge of survival, Sue found it difficult to suppress her emotion when we spoke on the phone. She has long been a close friend of Tom and his wife, Ann (pictured right), so I have invited Sue to use my blog to pay tribute to Tom and tell us about just a few of his contributions to Spiritualism, and why his passing is such a loss.

The man who spoke for an unconventional truth

By Susan Farrow

The Spiritualist movement is infinitely poorer today for the passing of Tom Harrison, one of its most tireless and dedicated ambassadors.

Tom, who passed peacefully on 23 October at the age of 92, had been admitted to hospital the previous day following a brain haemorrhage, thought to have resulted from an earlier fall. Though in a deep coma, he was in the company of his beloved wife Ann, daughter Wendy and son Alan.

What can one say of a man who spoke for an unconventional truth without fear or favour for more than seven decades?

Spiritualism was in Tom’s blood. He was born into a Middlesbrough Spiritualist family on 8 August, 1918. His mother, Minnie, would later become one of the world’s most powerful materialisation mediums, a fact that would influence the entire course of Tom’s life in ways he could never have imagined. His Aunt Agg, Minnie’s sister, was a respected trance medium, and was one of the mediums who gave the legendary Arthur Findlay some of the outstanding evidence contained in his revolutionary book, On the Edge of the Etheric.

On 2 April 1940, while home on leave from the British Expeditionary Force stationed in France, Tom married Doris Hudson. They had become friendly in their teens through a shared association with the local Spiritualist Lyceum. Together they had six children – Colin, Mavis, Joyce, Alan,  Derek and Wendy.

From 6 April 1946 Tom and Doris were part of a unique home circle known as The Saturday Night Club, a small group of family, friends and occasional fortunate guests who witnessed wonders that Spiritualists of today can only dream about. From that time until the passing of Minnie Harrison, Tom and his fellow circle members were privileged to meet and talk with literally hundreds of materialised spirit people, all completely visible in good red light in the small back room of a house in Middlesbrough.

In his own words: “[They returned] not as fleeting, passing visions in somebody’s mind, not even as wispy, transparent ghosts or spectres. They returned in fully-functioning, warm, heart-beating physical bodies. They returned and spoke with the same-sounding voices you would recognise. They returned with the same laughter, the same personality; and as you thrilled to feel their arms embracing you, and even kisses from their lips – the same love.”

In 1958 Minnie Harrison lost her battle with cancer and the remarkable sittings of the Saturday Night Club came to an end. Tom lamented the loss of his mother, to whom he was very close, and also the loss of the extraordinary physical contact with the spirit world they had enjoyed for so long. The following year, he and Doris moved south to the village of Eton Wick, near Windsor, so that Tom could take up a job as national manager of an engineering company. Four years later change was in the air again, and they embarked on the ambitious project of opening a restaurant in Cornwall. The restaurant thrived, Tom and Doris felt settled and content, and planned to put down roots. The spirit people had other ideas…

In 1966 the weekly Spiritualist newspaper Psychic News carried an advert for a founder manager to run the newly-created Arthur Findlay College at Stansted. Tom had long felt there was a need for a centre where people could come and study Spiritualism and psychic science, and immediately applied for the job. His application was successful, and the Harrison family was once again on the move.

Committed as ever to his work for spirit, Tom had expected to remain in the job for many years, but it was not to be. As he later wrote, “…a most unpleasant political intrigue caused great managerial problems” and though, urged by the spirit people, he agreed to stick out the situation a little longer, by 1968 things had reached an impasse and the family returned to Eton Wick. “I was terribly disappointed,” Tom wrote, “but feeling so much happier away from all the unpleasantness at the College at that time.”

Back on the job market, he returned to his former company, eventually becoming manager of their accounts office. Doris passed to spirit in 1976 at the age of just 59, a huge loss to Tom and his children, but he continued to travel the country, speaking about his mother’s mediumship, and working as a freelance accounts adviser.

Tom and circleMeanwhile, another physical medium was busy developing in a home circle in Yorkshire. Stewart Alexander had heard of the amazing events which had taken place through Tom’s mother’s mediumship and decided to write to him. The two men came face to face for the first time in 1991 at a meeting of the Noah’s Ark Society for Physical Mediumship. They formed a strong and enduring friendship, culminating in Tom becoming a member of Stewart’s home circle. [Tom is pictured, front row left, with Stewart Alexander and members of his circle, as well as Gladys Shipman, who along with Tom was the only surviving member of his mother’s home circle, the Saturday Night Club.]

Stewart tells me that he is extremely sad at Tom’s passing and thanks him for his “long, unwavering friendship”. He adds: “For several years we were highly honoured to have both Tom and Ann Harrison as members of our circle. Following their relocation to Spain in January 2000 they became honorary members, visiting the circle whenever they were back in the UK. To say that Tom was a deeply valued friend whose wise, gentle counsel and support we were extraordinarily blessed to have, would be an understatement.”

Tom and Ann had married in 1998 and found great happiness and contentment together. Even as Tom’s health became increasingly fragile following the onset of Parkinson’s disease, he continued  undeterred to spread word of the wonders he had witnessed through his mother’s mediumship, and in this he was enormously supported by Ann, who cared for him with extraordinary love and devotion. He once said to me that she had become so involved in his work that she now knew more about his life than he did!

In later years, Tom and Ann would share the platform during Tom’s talks and lectures, he telling his story and Ann sitting at her laptop illustrating it with many of the remarkable photos that were taken during Saturday Night Club sittings. Only seven weeks ago he delivered that talk during the annual J.V. Trust Week at Stansted Hall, at the invitation of J.V.’s chairman, Eric Hatton, who had known Tom for many decades.

“The passing of Tom to the spirit world leaves a void which will be difficult, if not impossible, to fill,” Eric told me. “He was the epitome of everything a Spiritualist should be. He radiated spirituality and gentleness to all whom he touched, those being facets of  a personality cultivated through a lifetime of close contact with the spirit world, largely through the remarkable mediumship of his mother, Minnie.

“My association with Tom goes back to the early days of Stansted Hall when, as the first manager, he showed leadership and restraint during the period when the College came into being and needed a dedicated hand on the tiller to see it through rough seas. By virtue of his nature and wisdom, Tom played a considerable part in ensuring that Arthur Findlay’s dream became a reality. I shall truly miss his friendship, but I shall reflect long upon the privilege I had in knowing him.”

It has been my own great privilege to know Tom and Ann well in recent years and to hear many of Tom’s extraordinary experiences from his own lips. His recall of events that took place so many years ago was as clear as crystal, and his integrity and honesty shone brightly, leaving not a shadow of doubt that he spoke the truth.

As the late Professor David Fontana [whose passing we also reportred just a few days ago – Roy] wrote in his introduction to Tom’s 2004 book, Life After Death: Living Proof: “Tom is a man of transparent integrity, with no ambition for personal status or reward.  His only interest in recounting the experiences he had with his home circle is to share with us the total conviction these experiences have given him of the reality of life after death. This conviction has left him with a deep humility and a spiritual presence that endears him to all those who meet him.”

There is no doubt that Tom will have made a swift and easy transition to the next world, for if ever there was one who knew where he was headed, it was Tom. It goes without saying that he will have been met by a joyous company of loved ones and friends, all eager to welcome home a true pioneer of spirit.


Watch Tom on video

My thanks to Sue for a wonderful tribute to a remarkable man. My thanks, too, to the visitor to this site who provided a link to an hour long video on Tom being interviewed about his mother’s mediumship and his knowledge of spirit communication. You can view that video here.

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