The surprising tale of the man who sat at the corner

Tony Brown, who died on March 27, aged 53.
Tony Brown, who died on March 27, aged 53.

If you have driven north into Galashiels on the A7 you have probably seen Tony Brown in his wheelchair, waving at you.

You may have known him, you may not. But he would have waved anyway.

Tony was born on November 22, 1965, with spina bifida – a condition which meant he was never able to walk.

Doctors told his parents Ann and Bob that he would not live beyond his 12th birthday. He was far too stubborn for that.

He eventually succumbed to ill health on March 27, 2019, aged 53.

But in the intervening time, he had lived a full life ... in some ways he lived many.

His town was vitally important to him. As Canon Tim Morris stated at his funeral service on Thursday, Galashiels made Tony the man he was, and he gave back so much more.

When health permitted, he played a very active part in just about every group he could.

A proud member of St Peter’s Church, just up the road from his home in Croft Street, he would often be found in the vestry, polishing the brasses, or doing whatever needed done.

He was a steadfast member and respected officer of the 3rd Company Boys’ Brigade at St Peter’s, and was buried with his officer’s Glengarry cap.

He played in the town’s brass band and sang his heart out in the Langlee Community Choir ... a group that visited him at his home during a lengthy spell of illness, to serenade him by his bedside.

Both groups also performed a much more sad task, playing and singing at his funeral.

He loved the town’s annual festival, the Braw Lads’ Gathering, and got himself to the front row of any ceremony he could.

He had an almost photographic memory, which came in handy when took the lead role in organising his Galashiels Academy class reuniona few years ago.

He remained friends with so many of his former pupils, and delighted in the invention of the internet, and the subsequent discoveries of sites such as Friends Reunited and, later, Facebook, so he could rekindle friendships lost through mere distance.

His keen skills in hunting people down led to people attending the reunion from all over the world.

He was also an avid member of Galashiels Community Council, and became great friends with its chair, Judith Cleghorn, who said her first encounter with him was when she was driving past “Tony’s corner” next to the fire station in Abbotsford Road.

Tony was a man who accepted all life had to throw at him, never complaining about the cards he had been dealt, indeed, reacting to all with a massive catching smile.

As Cannon Morris said, the world would have been a better place if more of its people were like Tony ... it will certainly be a poorer place today.

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KJ