Friends of Hastings Cemetery

Thomas Boucher, continued

Hastings and St Leonards Observer - Saturday 30 January 1915




The death of Mr. Thomas Boucher, which occurred at his residence, 29, George Street, on Saturday morning, removes from our midst one who was regarded as a local celebrity.  He had been in ill-health for several weeks.  The greater sympathy will be extended to his two sisters in their bereavement.

Since he came to Hastings as a lad from Warwickshire, nearly half a century ago, Mr. Boucher has always been an exceedingly busy man.  Stage acting, as a member of the old Royal Garrick Dramatic Club, brought Tom Boucher into local prominence.  In his early days in the town he was employed by the late Mr. Henry Phillips,  ex-Town Councillor, Guardian, and Overseer,  who,  whilst carrying on a farm and licensed house at Kite’s  Nest, also had a shop in George-street.   By trade Mr. Phillips was a military tailor, but he gradually developed a greengrocer’s business, and for some years his establishment was half tailoring and half greengrocery!   It was in this latter department that young Tom Boucher commenced work in George-street, the thoroughfare in which he remained till the end of his days.   Mr. Phillips was a leading amateur actor, and as his man Boucher showed gifts in that direction, his name soon  appeared in the cast of a drama which was staged at the Market Hall.  Gradually Mr. Boucher won his theatrical spurs and for upwards of 30 he years constantly appeared on the local stage, in later days in professional engagements with Mr. J. D. Hunter at Hastings Pier.

In his time Mr. Boucher played all sorts of parts; it would difficult to say which was his most successful character, but he always  particularly enjoyed playing " Harvey Duff" in the Shaughraun." [The Shaughraun is a melodramatic play written by Irish playwright Dion Boucicault.]In numerous other farces and dramas  our departed friend has trodden local boards.  Mr. Boucher was always proud of having had the honour of performing before Royalty; … many years ago at St. Leonards Assemble Rooms (now the Masonic Hall).  Several Royal princes and princesses were present, amongst the latter the mother of the present Kaiser of Germany.  Boucher's laugh was as irresistible as it was contagious.  Some years ago Mr. Boucher started in a small way a  theatrical costumier;  the business developed  till  he had premises in West-street—he called it the Hall of Thespis—full of all sorts of costumes and "props."  His last professional act was a week before his death, when he came down from his bed and "made up" little Master Rathbone as a clown for the Mayoress’s Fancy Dress Ball.  

Swimming was a favourite pastime with Mr. Boucher.  Many years ago he gave lessons to the boys of Holy Trinity Choir ........  at the Baths, and in recognition of these  services  he received a presentation clock.   Tom was a wonderfully strong swimmer, and his great backward dive from the summit of the diving platform was a feature many entertainments at the Baths.  On one or two occasions he also accomplished his backward dive from the head of the Pier.  ..........It was in connection with swimming that Mr. Boucher gained a certificate which entitles him to be known as Professor.  He was one the original promoters of the Hastings Swimming Club.

He also loved dancing, and was for many years, in conjunction with the late Mr. George Reeves, a recognised “M.C.” especially at Park Fetes, Primrose League demonstrations and other al fresco gatherings.  As a reward for his services the old Amusements Association presented him with a special "M.C.'s” cap, of which he was very proud, and which he is wearing in the portrait of him which appeared in this week's" Pictorial Advertiser."

Mr. Boucher's introduction to the Fire Brigade was accidental.  In the Seventies there a great fire in Cambridge-road (on the site Mr. Campbell's carriage and motor factory.  The premises involved included the home of the Hatton family, members of which belonged the Dramatic Club.  Boucher rushed to the spot and on his arrival he heard there were several horses stabled at the rear, and he displayed conspicuous pluck in their rescue, bringing one after another through flame-licked archway.  This exhibition of pluck so impressed the late Mr. W. M. Glenister, then Captain and Chief Police, that he forthwith made Mr. Boucher a member of the Fire Brigade.  At many fires he was much in evidence; he rose to Foreman of the Old Town Section, and on his retirement, owing to age, a few years since, he received a testimonial and was permitted to retain his uniform and enjoy the rank Hon. Foreman.  At all church parades and other public occasions when the Fire Brigade has paraded, the Hon. Foreman, wearing his long service medal, was always on duty.

His last appearance was at the recent Intercessional service at Holy Trinity; he then looked very ill and was told by medical gentleman that he should have kept indoors.

For his pluck in stopping two runaway horses at the west end of George-street Mr. Boucher was awarded a certificate of merit by the R.S.P.C.A.  

Mr. Boucher sang in Holy Trinity Choir for 22 years.  He was also an old member of the Derwent Lodge of Freemasons.

It will be gathered from the above that the late Mr. Boucher was  altogether a many-sided man  and his life was full of interesting and exciting experiences.   Since the outbreak of war he showed his kindness by sending grapes and other gifts to wounded Belgian and English soldiers.

In October he visited the home of his birth, and attended Mop Fair at Stratford-on-Avon.  He returned suffering from a severe chill, and from that time his health never improved.  During his illness Mr. Boucher was affectionately nursed by his sister Elisa who is a professional nurse.  Mr. Boucher, who was the second son of the late Mr. John Boucher, of Leamington Spa, was 65 years of age.  Mr. Boucher's mother died in Hastings some few years since.  The actual cause of Thomas Boucher's death was compressed bronchitis and heart failure.

The funeral took place yesterday afternoon, the first part of the service being at St. Clement's Church.  The deceased was honoured by a Fireman's funeral, a large number of old comrades attending under the command of Captain Alderman H. N. Cruttenden.   The coffin, on which was placed the deceased's fireman's cap and belt, was carried to its last resting place on the engine of No. 1 Section, of which he was formerly Foreman.  The chief mourners were:—The Misses Boucher (sisters). Mrs Claridge (niece),and Mr. Claridge, from Birmingham.  Others present were .....

Members the Fire Brigade officiated as bearers.   A good many people journeyed to the Borough Cemetery, where the Vicar of St. Clement's concluded the service.  Two nephews of the deceased (Mr. Frederick A. Boucher and Sydney Charles Boucher) were prevented front attending owing to duties consequent on the War.   There was a large number floral offerings taken to the Cemetery in a carriage.....

For more on Thomas Boucher see The West Street Chronicle, Summer 2018, p.8 (Available from Hastings History House, 21 Courthouse Street, or email: lornacrabbe[at]