A tutor at Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust had a knockout moment of fame after appearing on BBC TV’s The Repair Shop.
Andy Tams, Undergraduate Medical Education Team (UMET) Manager and Advanced Nurse Practitioner at Walsall Manor Hospital, had a pair of battered old leather boxing gloves lovingly restored by ‘master saddler’ Suzie Fletcher in the hour-long show.
Once worn by Andy’s late adopted uncle Adrian Tams, the gloves had remained with Andy ever since the late 1970s. But they had poignant significance attached as Adrian tragically died at the tender age of 18.
Adrian, who had attended Edward Shelley School and boxed for Pleck Amateur Boxing Club, was hit by a car on Christmas Day 1974 on his way to see his biological mother for the first time after stopping to help a motorist change a tyre.
The son of an Irish mum and Jamaican father, Adrian, who had initially been fostered by the Tams family, never got to see his mum and died of his injuries three days later, on 28 December, the day before Andy’s fourth birthday. Adrian’s brother, who was with him, suffered serious injuries and was left in a wheelchair.
Andy, 52, had kept the gloves since the age of eight without knowing what to do with them but was keen to have the precious keepsakes restored for his father as a surprise.
“I just kept them in a plastic bag in a drawer,” said Andy. “When I was young, my brother Neil, who is 18 months younger than me, and I would each put one of the gloves on and box each other.
“When Adrian died, the family was devastated. My dad was a twin with a girl Lyn and they had two other sisters Jule and Maureen, so Adrian was the baby. Even to this day, we remember him and I have a younger brother named Adrian as a tribute to his memory.
“So I always wanted to do something with the gloves, but didn’t know what. Then one Sunday evening, my wife and I were watching The Repair Shop and I said ‘I wonder if they’d be able to do anything with those boxing gloves?’
“I Googled the show, found a contact and gave them my details. They sent me a template letter which says you’ll only get a response if it’s something that interests them as they get so many requests, but within 24 hours they’d got back to me.”
Once contacted, Andy agreed to appear on the show and Suzie got to work her magic.
“The gloves were in a really poor condition,” added Andy. “Suzie stripped them right back because they were so fragile, there were bits of leather missing, the colour had gone and they were torn, especially the right hand one. Even the padding inside was in poor condition – everything had gone.”
Suzie’s transformation took several weeks but was worth the wait.
“They’ve been really well sympathetically restored,” added Andy. “She has changed some of the leather, re-laced them and brought the colour back.”
Andy who appeared in the fifth episode of series five, surprised his dad Michael, 74, from Pleck, by presenting them to him in a frame and his reaction is shown in the clip.
Michael, a retired firefighter, was actually on duty when the call came through about a serious traffic accident, and, even though he didn’t know it was his adopted brother at the time, he had a feeling something was wrong.
“I thought it might be a tear-jerker for my dad but I think he was in shock – he had no idea he was going to be on TV and was quite taken aback by it,” said Andy.
Sharon Abelle, a former colleague of Andy’s, saw the show and her partner Daz, who frames memorabilia, got in touch and, thanks to his efforts, the gloves are now in a boxed frame, complete with photos and lighting.