<Home>  <Bands>  <Musicians>  <Venues & Places>  <Reunions>  <Contacts List>  <Anthems>  <Search>

First published in October 2016, last updated August 2018

Celebrated drummer, Tom Swainson (Survivors, Spyce Of Lyfe, Redeye, Tom Thumb, Arkastra, Quincy Conserve), passed away suddenly in Australia on 14th September.  A memorial service for Tom is being held on Sunday 9th October on Dunk Island.


As young kids, during the late 1950s, Tommy and I lived a few doors away from each other in Elsdon, Porirua.  Even though he was probably the quietest chap in the district, and I was quite the opposite, we struck up a firm friendship.  I was always pulling him from his timidity into some distasteful adventure.  Eventually, we shared a daily paper run which involved collecting a bundle of newspapers from the main road below Elsdon and shoving them in people’s letter boxes.  The bundle was bound by one turn of bare wire that we immediately discarded; until the day we realised that the wire, when thrown high enough, could loop over a power wire.  One day, Tom tried his hand to loop a wire over the line feeding the whole of Elsdon, this time it bridged two lines; the sky instantly turned red and Tom turned long term white.  Both high tension power lines lay sparking on the road while we did the fastest paper run in history and returned to our darkened homes and bemused parents.  In later years, we would meet occasionally when he was playing in Wellington and I would wonder if that day gave him the spark I saw in him on stage.  Thank you for the opportunity to find and remember this remarkably decent man. - Gary Jones
As a young teenager and at my parents insistance I would visit Wellington on various govt employment courses.  One night out of boredom I went out to see Tom Thumb at The Place.  That was the best future careers course I could have and I dreamed about playing with Tom.  On moving to Wellington several years later I was playing with him at Lucifers in the band Arkastra.  He was a great kiwi drummer with a brilliant feel..  I will never forget the experience. - Peter Blake
We had a lovely day on Sunday over on Dunk Island.  About 45 people turned up to honour Tom – we had sensational sunny weather.  Bec was also a close friend of Tommy’s and helped to organise the memorial service.  All of the information you all sent over was printed and shared with Tom’s friends at the service and the photos were added into the scrapbook that was made up for the day.  Hope you are able to get together with some of Tommy’s friends over in NZ to remember him and celebrate his life. - Debbie Brittain
Tommy's Farewell went well on Sunday - I've posted a few photos on Facebook on the 'Dunk Island Past Employees' page and the 'X Dunk Staff' page (and my own). You can check the link at

Deb did an amazing job of compiling 2 x tribute boards and a 250 page scrapbook with articles, pictures and accolades about Tom's life as a muso in NZ and elsewhere..
She also read out the tributes from the NZ muso page at his farewell.
I worked on Dunk in 3 different stints, clocking up about 4 years in totality, the most fun was working behind the various bars.  Tom would sit every afternoon, as per his daily routine, and chat to the passing company of fellow staff or guests.  I enjoyed his intelligent conversation and wit.  He spent Christmas 2014 at our place with other fellow 'orphans' and he joined us for dinner at our house several times....  He was a true gentleman and he'll be missed by many 'across the ditch'.

Debbie's partner David will be constructing a seat in his honour with a plaque that we wish to have on Dunk as a lasting memorial of sorts - we just have to see where the current Management will allow us to do so...... - Bec Rowlands
Tom bought his first full drum set in 1965 as the Survivors were starting up in Porirua - Wellington

Click here to read a tribute from the surviving members of the Survivors and Spyce of Lyfe musicians - Bob McKay and Dennis Hayes
Some photos from when I finally tracked Tom down after 25 odd years.  Lucia and I spent a few days at Port Douglas in August 2010 - Frits Stigter
Tom was well liked and highly regarded as a musician.  I played with him in Redeye for the 5 years or so before he went to Aussie.  We were a tight rhythm section (myself on bass) and did lots of session work as well as resident band in the two top night clubs at that time playing 3 nights a week!  After his early playing days, Tom morphed into having the biggest meanest afro..quite scary to those who didn't know him lol.  I  am so pleased that after all those years of wondering by most of his local friends where is Tom and what is he doing etc .?.. that I tracked him down from a rumour he was on an island somewhere and took the initiative to email Dunk Island  before we planned a holiday at Port Douglas.  One of his friends mailed me back stating Tom doesn't do computers etc.  Long story short he took some time off and joined us for a few days.  What a blast after all those years .. very emotional, especially when time came to say good bye.  I always hoped to catch up again and tried to persuade him to come and stay with us and that everyone here would be overjoyed to see him again!  I was fortunate to know him from the beginning of the Wellington band scene late 1960s becoming good friends in Redeye and keeping in contact following our reunion in 2010. - Frits Stigter
I played with Tom in Tom Thumb Mk 2 or 3.  I played keyboard and Brian Mason was the Lead Guitarist, both of us from Christchurch where we replaced Mike Farrell.  Brian lived with Tom and I lived with Rick White.  Tom was a wonderful person and was always a very calm man.  He played and sung well and I am very upset with his passing.  Please forward my condolences to his family who I never met. - Kevin Frewer
R.I.P Tom, a great friend and muso. - Dave Duffell
Lovely man, great drummer. Will be missed. R.I.P Tom. - Alan Galbraith
Another one of us moves on, very sad for Tom’s family.  ‘Tom Thumb’ were a very good band.  I’m still coming to terms that Bruce ‘Phantom’ Robinson has gone as well on the 31st July, a big shock for the rest of The Pleazers.  At least Tom was living in a beautiful place like Dunk Island.  Please pass on my regards to the family - Denis Gilmore  
Man!!!! this is very very sad news…. I knew and worked with Tom in the Wellington scene during the 1970’s, being the drummer with the great Quincy Conserve which I was very happy to be part of…. to listening to him with Redeye and the Entertainers Club.  Great times and a sad loss. - Rodger Fox
I met Tom a few times over the years.  He was a good act and a mensch.  There goes another one from my facebook friends list. - Peter Caulton
I was the drummer in the Kal-Q-Lated Risk from mid 1969 turning professional that Xmas.  I remember Tom being such a good drummer whenever we played with or went to see Tom Thumb.  They were a fantastic band.  R.I.P. - Barry Rushton
This has come as a bit of a shock.  I worked with Tommy  in a couple of different bands in the early 80s.  The “Bullit Band” & “Left Right & Centre” (his name).  A nicer, more laid back man you couldn’t have met & a wonderful “On The Button” feel drummer who was always consistent.  He once told me the story of how he almost drowned once & he’d got passed the struggling point.  He said the most beautiful feeling of peace washed over him.  Then someone grabbed him & pulled him out & resuscitated him.  Hence his wonderful presence.  He’d lost his “Fear”.  God bless him wherever he is. - Cass Gascoigne
(click here to email me your tribute to Tom and I'll add it in -

<Home>  <Bands>  <Musicians>  <Venues & Places>  <Reunions>  <Contacts List>  <Anthems>  <Search>