Captain Tom Moore Image Credit: AFP

A national hero in the UK died this week. During the height of the first lockdown in England last spring, when sorrow and the fear of Covid ravaged our communities and tore us apart and we waged war against an unseen enemy, this elderly man showed us all what it was to be human.

Captain Tom Moore became a name that most people grew to know well in Britain and across the British Isles.

The 99-year-old from Yorkshire in England woke up one morning in April last year and decided that he’d try and raise £1,000 for charity, and a particular charity at that — the National Health Service (NHS) Charites, which helps purchase extra items for patients and staff who were struggling (and still are) with battling the virus.

He set about walking up and down his garden, completing 10 lengths a day for ten days for a total of 100 lengths to celebrate his upcoming 100th birthday. By the time he had finished, he had attracted the attention and hearts of the nation and managed to raise more than £32m.

The old saying that the most unassuming people can make the biggest difference is based precisely on people like Captain Tom. For his action to be as simple as walking up and down his garden, a feat for him, it became a rousing journey that unified people across the country in their support for the man.

It’s strange how the actions of one person can make such a difference to the lives of millions. And his did touch the lives of so many. Scores of hospital trusts across England have benefited greatly from the millions of pounds that the challenge raised.

From a media perspective, it was almost too good to be true. An ageing man using what little strength he had left to do what he could to help others — and those others being the people working and being helped by the NHS. Captain Tom was interviewed by hundreds of media outlets and received many national accolades for his work.

Isn’t it funny how we could live a whole life without fame or recognition, making our own way in the world, and then one day, an idea, a simple idea to walk up and down your garden, could bring you to the attention of millions and help raise life-changing money for charity.

Hearing Captain Tom speak, you saw the joy in his eyes that he was able to affect so many people. He also became a record holder by becoming the oldest person to have a number one song in the UK, when he performed a duet with singer Michael Ball with ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.

When the fleeting thoughts of some hardened members of society claim that older people should shuffle off their mortal coils to allow the rest of the population to live out their days free from the constraints of Covid, here was a 99-year-old man showing us that age does not matter in the slightest when it comes to great feats and that youth does not warrant a worthy life.

The moral of the story is that don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do something amazing in this life — at any age. We all, in our own ways, do something amazing all the time, but society tells us that life is for the young. Well, that’s simply untrue, and Captain Tom is proof of that.

There have been promises that when the time is right, there will be a proper honouring of his contribution to the NHS. For his family, he will be sorely missed as a father and grandfather but for the rest of the country he’ll be an inspiration that the weakest people can become the strongest, especially when they are lifted up by their community.

— Christina Curran is freelance writer based in Northern Ireland.