Edward A Tomlinson (Eddie) (OH 1981-2006)
We regret to announce that Edward Tomlinson died on April 5th 2006 in the Lebanon. He suffered a seizure in his sleep ( ** ) at a hostel in Jounieh, Beirut where he was learning Arabic.

His background

Edward was born in Reading on October 26, 1981. The youngest of four children, he had already begun to hone his soon to be discovered debating skills in early contests against his older brother Michael, and sisters Sarah and Clare. "The smallest one learns how to survive fast," he said, "if necessary by trying to prove to Mum that it was my brother Michael who had broken our sisters' toys, rather than me." Edward won a scholarship to Abberly Hall school in Worcester and then to Hereford Cathedral School, where his father, Howard, was headmaster. He played First XV rugby and First XI cricket, touring the Caribbean with the latter in 2000. Locals in Barbados are still searching for one ball Edward launched for a trademark six !! Indeed his bat, called 'Excalibur' was the only possession ever prized by a man who viewed materialism with indignation.

Aside from sport, Edward was a colour sergeant in the cadet force, a school monitor, and became one of only ten sixthformers nationwide to be selected for work experience at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Whitehall. He and his friend Alex Outhwaite formed one of the country's most successful debating pairs, competing across the UK and coming fifth in a national tournament in Oxford. In an interview for a school magazine he remembered making long journeys to attend competitions in the "barely road worthy" Vauxhall Astra of teacher Mark Jackson. "Alex would be desperately mugging-up on current affairs by reading through some recent newspapers," he said, "while I sat in the passenger seat trying to get the cassette player to play at full volume the greatest hits of The Real McCoy (a near-forgotten, and possibly Swedish, Techno group of the early-mid 90s)."

Indeed, E A T's tastes in music and the arts were eclectic. He was a founder member of the school's male voice choir, and also performed in sketch shows, cabarets and plays, including classical productions. He was translating Aristophanes, ‘The Clouds’ for Kaloi K’agathoi, the Cathedral School’s classical theatre company, at the time of his death. More than 700 mourners attended his funeral in Hereford Cathedral - a tribute to his overwhelming popularity across all ages and walks of life. Friends told how a call, a postcard or an email from "Eddie" could lighten the darkest days. One of the most touching tributes came from his landlady in Beirut, who had known him for less than a week. She wrote: "Sometimes one is fortunate enough to meet people like Edward, who make a lasting impression on you. I think they have a spiritual quality that raises them above the level of ordinary people. I guess they are just that bit closer to God than the rest of us."

His university and political ambitions

Edward was a gifted academic and linguist, and an award-winning debater. On leaving HCS in 2000 with straight A's in Ancient Greek, Medieval History, French and Latin, he went up to Oxford where he read Classics at St Johns College and graduated with a 2.1 in Classics. He was an aspiring politician and dreamed of leading his country one day.

The Oxford Union

Edward joined the OU and came into his own by winning a string of elections to become President of what has been described as the world's most famous and prestigious debating society. The process was not always "honourable", he admitted, but he negotiated his way through political and personal minefields while maintaining integrity and winning the respect of new friends. His passion for open debate could rattle the highest authorities. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury himself stepped in to torpedo one discussion E A T organised, " ...in order to ensure Anglican unity worldwide !! ".

He went on two tours to the United States as part of the Oxford debating team and was the first incumbent president of the Union to win an inter-university debating title. One debate he organised on homosexuality and the Church which was sunk at the last moment after a key speaker dropped out. Edward said: "I later learned the Archbishop of Canterbury himself had decided to torpedo the debate, in order to ensure Anglican unity worldwide. I was absolutely furious and totally shattered at the time but, looking back, I suppose it's quite a compliment."

A would be Conservative Leader ?

Prior to taking up office at the Union, Edward had also been elected president of the Oxford University Conservative Association, becoming one of the first people since Tory Leader William Hague to have held both positions. It was around this time that he set himself grand future ambitions, over pints of Stowford's cider, to one day marry a baronet's daughter and become Prime Minister !!.

His other interests

Whilst at Oxford, he could also be found on the cricket and rugby pitch, in a quaint pub, working as chapel warden at college or writing gossip columns for the student newspapers. In moments of late night over-exuberance, he scaled the towers of various colleges, with St John's and Magdalen apparent favourites. A 50-stitch scar on his leg was proof, however, that not even Edward could walk on a glass roof. In his final year at Oxford, he won the Astbury Scholarship and Harmsworth Exhibition and would have taken up a place at the Middle Temple in August, with the hope of becoming a barrister.

His more serious side

On coming down from Oxford, Edward soon won a prestigious scholarship to the Middle Temple in London. He had ambitions to become a barrister, hoping eventually to enter the world of politics. His academic ability, however, was transcended by the number of people's lives he touched with his enthusiasm, humour and warmth. He was loving, tolerant and forgiving – as befitted his Christian faith. Up at Oxford he had spent countless afternoons punting on the River Oxon and could occasionally be a hopeless romantic. He once tried to woo a girl by sending her a postcard with the lyrics of Take That's 'Back for Good' lovingly translated into Latin.

His earlier life

Edward was a ' giant ' of a friend, a brother and a son. Friends and family remember an almost shambolic side to his which could at once infuriate and amuse. Keys, wallets, phones, luggage, cricket bags and clothes were lost on a regular basis. A solicitors' firm at which he did work experience paid tribute to his natural charm and kindness - but also fondly remembered his habit of opening files upside down, thus scattering their contents over desks and floors. On one occasion, he boarded a train from Hereford to London, only to find he had left his wallet on the kitchen table. He stepped off the train and as it pulled away from the station, he realised he had left his luggage on board. Edward rushed home and quietly "borrowed" his parents car - calling them later to explain. It was his mother, Heather Tomlinson, who answered the phone. "Good news and bad news mum," he boomed. He had arrived in London, with luggage and wallet, having caught up with the train. Unfortunately the family car was now abandoned somewhere near Worcester Foregate Street station. On a double yellow line. Amazingly, Edward had a habit of getting away with it. "That's probably because he never tried to be anyone other than himself", said Heather.

By his late teens, Edward had become a quintessential Englishman. He read the Times, bowled occasional legspin and watched cricket at Lords. On a "fancy dress" trip to Chepstow races he sported a tweed jacket, corduroy trousers, a pipe and a flat cap – almost too good a parody.

His Private Diary

As a post-university break, Edward started a cultural trip in the Middle East in January 2005 where he was learning Arabic at the University of Saint Joseph in Lebanon. He kept a diary - sadly the first and last of his life. In typically whimsical and witty style, the entries moved from a discussion of militant violence to the unreliable nature of bus drivers and the virtues of "stunning" Lebanese girls, who he watched while enjoying a crab sandwich at a Beirut cafe. At one stage he became engrossed in a debate with himself over whether it was blasphemous to address a statue of the Virgin Mary with the song "You’re Beautiful", by popstar James Blunt. In another entry, he decided that at his wedding (he was not even engaged) he would have his friends sing the operatic duet "Time to Say Goodbye" as he whisked his wife away on honeymoon.

Paradoxically, it was instead sung at his funeral. No one there could quite believe they were saying farewell to Edward so early in his sparkling life.

His Photo Album

Along with the diary, Edward left behind a marvellous photo album. It was put together more for the pleasure of future generations than for himself. The pictures show him as he will be remembered: surrounded by friends, playing sport, enjoying a drink, and in one photo, grinning widely as he put a bear-like arm around singer Charlotte Church, on her visit to the Oxford Union. He wrote in the preface: "This is a collection of assorted photographs which had been loosely held and left unorganized in my bedroom. Together, they do not by any means constitute a thorough record of my life. But, by chance, the photos reveal a number of the scenes of my last eighteen years which, I am sure, will prove to be the most important and happiest of my entire life."

Adapted from a eulogy prepared by Richard Edwards (OH 1990-1997)
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