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Tribute to Terry O’Shea – our friend and founder member

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On 30th April 2021, we said goodbye to our friend and founder member of our campaign, Terry O’Shea. The funeral service was beautiful and a fitting farewell. Due to Covid restrictions, 30 people attended and the service was live-streamed and nearly 200 people viewed it. We already knew Terry could ‘pull a crowd’ because his funeral was held on the anniversary of one of our campaign marches. Terry was instrumental in organising these and hundreds attended. Our hearts go out to his wife and three children at this sad time. So many people have sent messages on social media and, because these are ephemeral, we wanted to gather the tributes and messages for Terry’s family and friends together. Brace yourselves because Terry was well loved and respected so this is a long tribute piece.

Terry fearlessly spearheaded our campaign. Behind the scenes, he provided comfort and support to bereaved families and service users and carers who couldn’t access services. Terry’s courage enabled people who felt oppressed or silenced to be heard. He took people damaged by NSFT under his protective wing. Terry is irreplaceable but we will continue to fight for improved mental health services. Terry made a big impact on many lives. He was a good man who really cared about others. he will be sorely missed. Rest in peace Terry.

Terry’s friend, journalist Gerri Scott, wrote Terry’s beautiful obituary which includes tributes from friends, campaigners and his wife. https://www.edp24.co.uk/news/obituaries/tributes-paid-norfolk-mental-health-campaigner-terry-oshea-7923678

Terry’s friend, Mark Harrison, wrote a cracking eulogy which captures the different aspects of Terry’s character beautifully. We have included it (after the social media posts) in it’s entirety because it’s worth a read.

We have had lots of messages from people wishing to express their gratitude for Terry’s campaigning or kindness who are too afraid to do this openly. This says a lot about the culture at NSFT. Here is one example:

Here are just some of the social media posts:

Rosie Stafford: So, so shocked and devastated by this. Terry was just incredible. When my sister died and we discovered this campaign Terry made my family feel heard, and his warmth, passion and solidarity will always stay with me. He has left a lasting mark for many. Huge love to his family.

Heidi McKay: I am very saddened by this news. My thoughts are with his family, please pass on my condolences.

Julie Meikle: Sorry to hear this. Sad for his family and friends.

Equal Lives: We are sad to hear the news about Terry O’Shea, an important Norfolk campaigner.

Marilyn Heath: So very sorry to hear this. Condolences to his family and friends.

Vivek Agarwal: Sorry to hear the sad news. Wish the family strength at this difficult time.

Another Nobody: Condolence to his family, friends and colleagues. Grateful for his long term campaigning and dedication.

Rachel Moore: Very sad to read this. I was at Sheffield uni back in the 1980s where he was a formidable campaigner. He was also very kind. Caught up with him when he moved to Norfolk and returned to education.

Suffolk Parent Carer Network: Today we stand in solidarity with our friends at NSFT Crisis to honour Terry. He was a tireless campaigner to try and improve mental health services across Norfolk and Suffolk. He put service users and carers at the heart of all he did. We are privileged to have known him.

She Wolfie: OMG. A great friend and campaigner and beer drinker. I am sad. From the first time I met him at the first campaign meeting, he was the most supportive and passionate guy regarding everything that mattered to him. I’ll truly miss him. Love to his wife and three children xxx

Sue Willgoss: I won’t ever forget the support Terry gave me after the loss of my son to suicide from just a few days after our loss and he kept in touch until a few weeks ago. RIP Terry.

Peter Beresford: RIP one of the good ones!!!

Emily Townsend: Terry’s quest for better services was unflinching even when repeatedly challenged, he fought for families because he cared so much. Thoughts are with his family and friends.

Jane Basham: The world feels smaller without Terry. a clever and compassionate person -an inspiration. When people tell you you’re hostile and uncompromising then you are on the right path. Keep going. Be like Terry. Truth to power. Rest in eternal power my friend.

David Powles: [Terry was] someone who always fought hard for what he felt was only fair and right and he always tried to give a voice to the voiceless. RIP Terry.

He Died Waiting: Terry was a good friend. He was one of the people who encouraged me to get published.

Hed 4: Terry you were a wonderful dedicated person and a wonderful champion for mental health in NSFT.Condolences to your family. I will remember you in the short time I knew you as a kind gentleman.

Nick Fulcher: Terry I will miss you. You were a true gent and helped me so much with my mother in law who sadly passed away at the hands of people who should gave been looking after her. We were going to meet for a pint until I heard he was so ill. I am shocked and devastated.

Mark Pope: So sad to hear this news, Terry offered me so much support, over a number of yeas, I have many memories from his time at EEYC as a governor.

TC Emma: Terry was a warrior in his support for people when they most needed unconditional listening and support.

Co Production Norfolk: This is so sad and our thoughts and prayers are with Terry’s family.

Anna Park: Terry’s death has left me shocked and sad. He helped me through a difficult time and like so many others I will miss him. Sending love and strength to his family. You were his all. RIP Terry.

Gerri Scott: I cannot overstate how much of a personal impact Terry had on my life and how at dark times a cup of coffee in the John Lewis cafe made things seem brighter. We met because of work but he became a massive part of my life.

Eulogy for Terry by Mark Harrison:

Terry was so many things to so many people.  He was complex, passionate, committed, intelligent, caring, driven and so much more.  I met him through the campaign and we became close friends over the last 6 years.  We were very different people but shared a strong desire for meritocracy, equity and justice for people who couldn’t ‘buy’ their way in life.  We had mutual passion for football (although rival teams), food, good beer and wine and music.  We enjoyed eating in local cafes, curry houses and take away fish and chips and had a love/hate relationship with the Golden Triangle.   Terry was a communicator and would speak to anyone, particularly when he had a captive audience in the steam room/sauna at the gym.  There isn’t anyone from Bannatyne’s that doesn’t know how much he loves his wife and kids and how proud he is of how his children are developing into wonderful young adults.

Terry had an extremely strong moral compass which I believe was shaped by his difficult early life experiences.  He was passionately against gambling, child abuse, speeding cars/buses/taxis and cyclists riding without lights.  He hated hypocrisy, particularly from politicians and public servants.

He would rail against the promoters and perpetrators of injustice to anyone who would listen.  These strong beliefs led him to be a founding member of the campaign to save mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk.  He fought for the campaign to be broad based and inclusive of staff, patients, service users, parents and carers.  He was completely and rightly critical of bad and unprofessional practices and practitioners.  Terry was a skilled campaigner with huge compassion for the victims of an unfair and unjust system.  He was a big defender of dedicated practitioners but was completely intolerant of people who exploited their position for personal gain at the expense of people who needed services and support at critical times in their lives.  He reserved his particular wrath for lazy and unaccountable professionals, bureaucrats and politicians who have been responsible for dismantling and destroying good mental health services in Norfolk and Suffolk, resulting in deaths and distress for many.  Terry spent many hours supporting patients, service users, carers and family members.  He was particularly supportive of bereaved relatives of people who had died in or waiting for mental health services.  Terry was extremely successful in creating awareness of the campaign through his work with the media.  The relationships he built with journalists resulted in wide coverage in the regional and national media of the failing mental health services, including an expose on Panorama of the ‘deaths crisis’ in mental health.  He was particularly proud of the broad base of support the campaign achieved with hundreds marching through Norwich city centre on 2 occasions to defend mental health services.  

He was an extremely loyal friend to many, who was generous with his time, particularly for tech illiterate mates who he would help/force to come into the 21st century.  He loved a bargain and negotiating a deal for himself and mates was a badge of honour.  Terry loved family holidays and booking bargain villas in Puglia or Southern Spain.  He made people laugh a lot with his wicked sense of humour, but could be cutting with it with both friends and acquaintances alike.  This led him to be ‘Marmite’ with some, especially those embedded in the establishment or putting their own interests/egos first.  He also had high ‘Terry’ standards and expected others to live up to these.  Incurring the ‘wrath of Terry’ you did at your peril, if you were one of the ‘bad guys’.  In this increasingly grey and cynical world Terry brought colour, humour, friendship and passion.  He was a one off and has left an indelible mark on so many people and lives in a positive and extraordinary way. 

Terry was besotted with his wife Joan and his kids, Eleanor, Emma and Harry.  In our conversations over the last few months he said many times that his biggest regret is that he won’t be around to see his kids flower, grow into young adults and flourish through university and beyond.  He loved taking Eleanor to art classes. Emma to drama and Harry to football training.  I lie about the football training.  He loved being with Harry but hated the 5-a-side pitches at Bowthorpe.  Terry’s commitment to the campaign brought him into conflict with his children who began their own campaign against the campaign.  The signs around the house read ‘we want our daddy back’.

Terry also had lots of ‘girlfriends’.  These were platonic relationships with mainly women who he valued highly and loyally.  He would invest in them full on – they were all special to him and you knew that because he told you/them regularly.  They all had nicknames or were known by initials – PG & GG

Terry’s political world was complex and sometimes baffling.

I would like to share some examples of what this played out like in the world of Terry:

Charles Clarke got the Terry treatment when the Blair Government was preparing to go to war in Iraq against the wishes of millions and without a mandate.  Charles Clarke was the Labour Home Secretary and MP for Norwich South.  Terry spotted him one lunchtime having lunch in the window seat of the Loch Fyne restaurant on St Giles. He took it upon himself to go into a shop and get large card and marker pen on which he wrote “No War Without UN Resolution”.  He then stood outside the restaurant holding up his sign right in front of Clarke’s table.  Terry refused to move even when the Home Secretary’s special branch minders politely then more persuasively requested him to do so.

His contempt for politicians who sell out was also reserved for Patricia Hewitt the former Labour secretary for health in the Blair Government who left her post to join BUPA.  She incurred the wrath of Terry rightly so because in a previous role as leader of a London Council had supported the paedophile exchange network.  She is now installed and the chair of the joined-up health and social care body in Norfolk.  At a launch event Terry continually heckled her from the floor and when she was glad-handing after the meeting went up to her and said to her face that she wasn’t welcome in Norfolk and she had not mandate to lead our health bodies as nobody had been consulted about her appointment.

Terry’s humour came through in his campaigning where his biting wit and repartee led to some classic use of Captain Pugwash and Muppets videos and memes to parody the ‘lazy managers and Chairs’ at NSFT.  The radical redesign of mental health services and austerity cuts resulted in hundreds of unnecessary deaths so his targeted campaigning and sharp attacks were fair game as successive CEOs and senior management teams ignored the campaigns demands for more beds and the restoration of the Assertive Outreach Team and proper funding of crisis intervention.

Frustrated at the lack of any sort of change locally it was Terry’s idea to take our campaign to Westminster where Terry led a group of bereaved mums and campaign members to protest outside the Department of Health offices in Whitehall and Elephant and Castle and NHS England offices in Lambeth.  In between we lobbied the East Anglian MPs in Parliament.  After a long day campaigning we ended up in the ‘Spoons’ in Elephant and Castle and having a curry in the Lahore, his favourite curry house in the East End.  Due to his media contacts the protest was covered by all the local and regional media outlets.

Whilst Terry had contempt for what he termed ‘lazy doctors’ and he had the data to prove it, he had the utmost respect for staff who did their jobs effectively and professionally and was always saying this in public to anyone who would listen. Terry’s respect had to be earned but once achieved it was deep and meaningful.  He built relationships across the media and senior professionals who shared his high standards based on mutual respect – these were and are lasting and Nikki, Geri, Sophie and Alan are four of those outside the campaign who stand out.  Within the campaign there are too many to name.  He also loved the caring teachers of his children from Claire at primary to the staff at Notre Dame who were fantastic when Emma had a health problem and throughout his illness and he told them.

Terry was very clear that the campaign should be politically neutral in the sense that it should not be identified with any one party or political organisation.  Terry’s personal politics were complex and his friendly term for anyone who was left of Blair was Trot.  This was used liberally but not just for current and ex-Trots but anyone left of centre.  He never declared his political allegiance openly beyond his fierce defence of the working class something he and Joan shared.  This was also to stop anybody in power dismissing the campaign as ‘just a group of lefties’. 

His one exception to this was to attend the Labour post- election all-night lock-in at The Murderers in 2016.  We were both sceptical about the outcome but when the exit poll was announced at 10pm it looked like it could be a close thing/hung parliament.  He was keen to participate so we spent a long night drinking and enjoying the Tories being run so close.  At around 6.30 we made our way home via a McDonalds breakfast disappointed that we knew austerity and public expenditure cuts to mental health services would continue.

Terry was always available to campaign members, particularly bereaved family members and service users in distress.  All the bereaved will tell you about the endless hours listening Terry did.  I know this from my own experience where has always wanted to know how our son was.  He never asked in a polite/English middle-class way – he really wanted to know and wouldn’t move on in the conversation until you had told him.  We became gym buddies – two middle age men trying to undo the damage of too many years of English cooked breakfasts, beer and curries.  Often, we would drop into the Fat Cat on the way home and Terry would order pork scratching’s to go with our pints – so much for losing weight… Often we would get to the gym and a campaign member, bereaved parent or media contact would call when he was staring his workout.  I don’t know if you remember that Peter Kay advert where he would go to the gym but after going past all the equipment and others working out all he would do id jump in the jacuzzi.  This was Terry on more than one occasion because by the time he finished on the phone he would only have time for the sauna or steam room before we had to leave.

His diagnosis at New Year was a shock and was cruel as he had spent much of the last year in isolation due to his long term health condition.  He stayed in touch with friends like Lucy and many others through phone calls.  I think the best way to describe the last 3 months is through anecdotes from his time in Priscilla Bacon Lodge.  The notice outside his door which had the patients name on had two names.  It had Terry and in brackets (if good) and Terence (if bad).  We discussed a number times his plan to write a PBL song/story/rap.  He was having trouble eating main meals but loved the puddings which were easier to digest so he would try to get double helpings.  We decided he would be an East End gangster named Terry Two Trifles and try to get that name put on the notice alongside Terry and Terence.

He loved the dedication of the staff and built a close relationship with the staff at PBL and spoke particularly fondly about the cleaners who he loved to have the craic with.  He thought it was the funniest thing in the world that they came in his room and cleaned his clock every day.

Because of Covid only Joan was allowed to visit Terry in PBL but 2 renegade ‘girlfriends’ who shall remain nameless (Emma and Karen) illicitly visited through an open window – this touched him deeply.  His diagnosis prompted him to get back in touch with friends who he had lost touch with – Graham, Kevin, students from his Cambridge MBA and an internet network of musicians from all over the world.

Terry endured unimaginable pain during his illness but was very hopeful of returning home so he could see his family and friends over whatever time he had left.  These plans were destroyed by an infection which took his life, tragically and way way too soon!

We all have our own memories which will stay with us.  Obviously, I have had Terry on my shoulder whilst I was writing this tribute, correcting me as I wrote and calling me all the names under the sun along the way as Clive Lewis did when buying a card for Joan and family in the co-op – cheapskate!  It would also have been followed by an expletive…

Terry died the day after Ian Gibson, former Labour MP, big campaign supporter and friend.  Ian and Terry met for coffee and drinks locally and the 3 of us would chew the fat and put the world to rights.   My hope is that Ian and Terry were having a laugh and a tiple together in the waiting room… Terry’s other big wish was that all his friends would gather for a big party after the pandemic restrictions are over.  That will be one hell of a party!  Rest in peace my friend we all loved you. 

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