The Revd Thomas Paterson (Tom) Gillies: 1928-2017
Former caterer who became a Baptist minister
Tom was born in 1928 at Broughty Ferry near Dundee, the youngest of four boys. The family moved over to the West coast of Scotland when he was about eight years old so his main memories are of growing up in Dunoon, which he always thought of as his hometown. He was happy at school and enjoyed his learning, but his schooling ended at the same time as the end of the War so as he was undecided as to what to do next he was in line for National Service.
He went into the Royal Air Force for two years, theoretically studying radar, but actually busily becoming involved in entertainment for the troops, so theatre and musical productions for the camp kept him busy - and away from much military work - over the next two years. It was a formative time in other ways too; having been brought up in the Church of Scotland and already having a strong personal faith, he stretched his wings to find a church less restrictive than the strict Calvinist ethos of his upbringing, and eventually was baptised at the Baptist Church in Calne, whilst serving at RAF Yatesbury in Wiltshire.
When he was demobbed he went back to Scotland and got a job as a clerk in the newly formed NHS at their Glasgow offices. He also did a short spell in semi-professional theatre but this wasn't for him in the long term, so he went into catering, with Railway Hotels. This took him into such prestigious places as the Central Hotel in Glasgow where he did his chef's training, and Gleneagles, where he gained considerable experience.
During these years he also managed to study part time with the Baptist theological College under the University of Glasgow, with the idea of exploring Ministry. It wasn't really the right time for him, and he took up an opportunity to combine his catering and Christian interests with the offer of a job as Port Missionary-cum-Manager of a Sailors' Home with the British Sailors' Society in Aberdeen. He married his first wife at this time, and spent seven years in Aberdeen during which time his son Tom was born.
When he eventually left the British Sailors' Society he went back into commercial catering, doing a variety of managerial jobs and eventually opened a hotel of his own in Irvine. Towards the end of the 1960s pressure of work and strains in his personal life were taking their toll, and Tom went down to the South West of England in 1970, originally for a convalescent holiday. He became so enamoured with the area that he found work there - again in the hotel trade - and settled for years.
Within a few years, with his health restored, a complete change of career, to becoming an electronics engineer in a television factory in Plymouth, suddenly freed him up at weekends (an impossible dream in catering!) and he found himself able to get back into church again. He joined Old George Street Baptist Church in Plymouth (now Catherine Street), where the then minister, the Revd Archie Duff-Stevenson, saw his potential and encouraged him to get back into preaching and lay leadership, which he enjoyed for many years in south Devon and Cornwall, culminating in a spell as Lay Pastor of Morice Baptist Church in Plymouth. In 1974 he had met Arderne and they married in 1979.
Tom responded to a new call on his life to enter full timer Baptist ministry after his marriage, and completed his earlier training with two years at Bristol Baptist College in the early 1980s. He served his second year as Student Pastor at Pill Baptist Church. On completion of his training he was ordained in Pinchbeck, Lincolnshire, and spent 11 very happy years as the Minister of a little group of three rural churches in South Lincs. called Pinchbeck, Gosberton and Sutterton Fellowship of Baptist Churches.
During those years Arderne also trained for Ministry, in a church-based course under Spurgeon's College. Tom proved a very able and encouraging mentor and the two of them worked happily as a team, with Arderne taking on full time responsibility for the group of churches upon Tom's retirement in 1993. In the following years Tom did lots of work with the East Midland Baptist Association, serving ably on various executive committees.
When they moved to Arderne’s new ministry at Chorleywood in 2002 Tom was not allowed to disappear as a retired minister! He was soon headhunted as a Moderator for Abbots Langley Baptist Church and later for Rickmansworth, and also chaired the committee for the sheltered housing at Morningside for several years. This was in addition to accepting preaching engagements at a number of local churches and giving a lot of invaluable help to his own church in Chorleywood particularly when Arderne took a Sabbatical and Study Leave.
Tom was a man of many talents which he enjoyed to the full. His background in catering ensured that he continued to love cooking (much to Arderne's joy, as he turned his hand to a lot of their cooking after his retirement). He was also a keen gardener and transformed both the big garden he had in Pinchbeck then again in Chorleywood into places of beauty and enjoyment. He was seldom seen without a piece of paper in hand which got folded into the most intricate shapes, as he was a huge enthusiast of origami and used to go to conventions quite regularly until a few years ago. After he retired he also took up watercolour painting, and uncovered a surprising talent for this too.
Sadly, having become quite seriously ill just over four years ago, Tom eventually was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, which progressed very gradually, robbing him of many of his former interests and skills, and diminishing his quality of life. However, his faith remained rock solid to the last, and in his final days at home and in hospital Arderne shared Scriptures and prayers with him day by day which continued to mean a great deal to them both. Tom passed away peacefully in Watford General Hospital on 1 January 2017 and his funeral will be taken at Chorleywood Free Church (Baptist) by the Revd. Stephen Copson on 17 January.