Written by Garry McCallum – Historic Hamilton.
Tommy Ward, who in his day, was a man ahead of the times. He was a nice man but one not to be crossed, if you did cross Tommy, then you would see Tommy’s aggressive side and by sure, you would know all about it. Tommy Ward, might have been the toughest man of all, he was often seen walking around in drag and being harassed by the teenagers in Hamilton, however he gave as good as he got, and would not be afraid of chasing his verbal aggressors up Quarry Street, swinging his handbag and chasing them to the Top Cross.
Tommy had a wee dog which he named Judy, and there were many a day where he would have been seen walking through the streets of Hamilton, and shouting ‘come on Judy ya wee bitch, move yer arse up the road, or move it ya wee hooer’. Tommy was often seen out and about down the bottom Cross, and he sometimes liked to wear, what looked to some, as a net curtain around his neck, the man loved his lipstick and mascara and back when this was time where it was unacceptable for a man to do this, he did it anyway and got glammed up and went out on the town.
In today’s world, a lot of young guys don’t go on out without a touch of their “Man-scarra”! Young lads don’t leave the house without their hair all styled and maybe if Tommy, was still alive today, he wouldn’t have looked so out of place.
Tommy Ward, wouldn’t change his appearance for anyone and as a result he did get funny looks from the public and as mentioned he got even more verbal abuse from the homophobes in the town, or from people just wanting to wind him up and even the secret closet men, who actually envied Tommy, but could never be brave enough to do what he did, but none the less, most people in Hamilton, accepted him, and he was one of Hamilton’s, characters who was very well known in the town.
He was tall with long dark hair and was flamboyantly dressed and lived in the Auld toon. He frequented the pubs without shame and went to the off-sales for a carry out, just like the rest of us. Maybe he loved the attention that he got when he walked in a room and all eyes were on him.
A few years ago, I came across a story about Tommy Ward:
“Tommy Ward- the World’s First Homosexual?
People who frequented Hamilton Town Centre, in the 1960’s may have heard of the name, Tommy Ward.
Remember, this was a time when Gay was a descriptive word for Paris or described your mood on a night out after a few pints.
In fact, The Sexual Offences Act 1967, became an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom (citation 1967 c. 60). It decriminalised homosexual acts in private between two men, both of whom had to have attained the age of 21. The Act applied only to England and Wales, and did not cover the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Scotland by the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980 and in Northern Ireland by the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982.
To me in my macho world, Tommy Ward was all of the above and a ‘poof’ or any of the other words around at the time, and there were plenty, and worse.
I had heard of the guy, and the fact that he dressed up as a woman, but I had never actually seen him, and as time passed I wrote it off as a myth.
Until one night, coming up from the Splendid Hotel passing by the Chez Suzette’s Coffee Bar and approaching the Cross I was aware of someone standing in a doorway. I turned around, and I’ll be honest, got the fright of my life, it was him – Tommy Ward, not in woman’s clothing, but a tall man, dark hair with makeup, very effeminate looking, a sort of Lanarkshire Liberace.
As I quickened my pace the insults from across the street from a group of lads grew louder, I think you can guess the tone and words used, but he got the works.
I saw him around Hamilton a couple of times after that, and it was always the same, abuse was hurled at him and to be fair he gave it back.
Thinking back, he was a pioneer for gay rights in our area, he took the insults, and life must have been hard for him, but he obviously had guts. He was just born in the wrong era.
Did you know of him?
To me, he was Tommy Ward, the World’s First Homosexual.”
The author of this story is unknown.
So, over the decades Hamilton, has had its fair share of characters, a once in a generation person, who everyone had known in one way or another and still to this day everyone talks about.
In recent years, there have been people like Silvertonhill man?? John Reynolds, AKA “Juke Box Johnny”, “American Joe” from the Glebe, Bert McAdam from Burnbank and auld Mr Peacock from Hillhouse & The Hamilton Accies super fan Ian Fergi Russell, who were all well known in the town and in 30 years from now, people will still be talking about them.
In Tommy Ward’s day, there was another couple of colourful characters that were known to most, they were called ‘Jimmy Hamilton’ who was well-known in the town centre, and Jimmy Young, who was the Burnbank man with the Parrot on his head and before all of these people there was also a well-known man called John Williamson, who was better known as ‘Jock o The Lum’. Jock o the Lum, or Jock o the Law were his given nicknames by people. This man was from Hamilton, but was later admitted to Hartwood Hospital where he died in 1910. And even as the late 60s and early 70s, there was still an old saying in Hamilton, where someone would say “Do you think I’m Jock o the Lum” This meant Do you think I’m Daft. This just goes to show how a character from Hamilton, lives on in people’s memories, for years after they had passed away.
People like Tommy Ward are a once in a generation person and sadly, I don’t have a picture of him to show you all what he looked like, to put a face to a name.
If you have a picture of Tommy Ward, that you would like to share, then we would like to add it to our ‘Hamilton Folk’ album. Tell us your memories of the Hamilton’s first Cross Dresser, Tommy Ward.