by Tom Dorsey
It was some time later that I learned from Allen that Tom Moran had expressed an interest in working with me at Thomas & Thomas, and I responded without hesitation. In 1992 Tom moved with his family to the U.S. and settled in a town near our shop. We worked together until his return to the U.K. in 1995, and during those years shared a love and passion for many things beyond fly rods; music, philosophy and physics to name a few. Tom's interests were broad and diverse; he loved hard core blues as well as opera. We could talk endlessly, tempered only by the risk of not getting our work done. As he once said, when we had those long discussions "even the pauses were significant!" ... the way twin brothers interact. Upon his return to the UK, Tom continued to build exquisitely crafted rods, and during a stay at the Hardy rod company made great contributions to their bamboo heritage. We stayed in contact during that time and I was blessed with his occasional visits to the U.S.
Tom was a total bottom-to-top rod maker. Unapprenticed, he had pulled himself up by his own bootstraps. When he arrived at Thomas & Thomas he walked through the door totally polished. Through the many years at T&T I have worked with a number of talented rod makers, but Tom Moran stood above and beyond any I have met.
His friendship is irreplaceable. I will miss him deeply.
-- Tom Moran
Tom Dorsey (L) and Tom Moran (R) c. 1993
by Toby Moran
Thomas Moran was born in 1948 in Penang, British Malaya. He was the son and namesake of a British servicemen, while his mother, Clara Montano, was Filipino. At the age of two, he was sent to England to live with his grandmother in Southport, Merseyside. As a boy, he had a deep fascination with the natural world and had a particular interest in all things aquatic. His innocent curiosity endured throughout his life and informed his character greatly; while being keenly insightful and knowledgeable on a host of subjects, he wasn't afraid of looking foolish by asking the simplest questions - he kept it real! Dad made fast friends, trusted people instantly, and would gladly engage anyone with a willing ear.
If you have one of my dad's rods made between 1981 and '92, the cane was stored, split, milled and glued at what was known as "the rat pit" - a miserably gloomy rented space in Redditch town center. It was barely lit, damp and only a Health and Safety visit away from being shut down. From these inauspicious beginnings, the blanks would then come back to our house, a three-bedroom terrace on one of Redditch's new council estates. Upstairs, Dad converted what would have been my sister Emma's room (she got stuck with a sectioned off part of Mom and Dads room) into a workshop, complete with a lathe. Oh yeah, and my mum made those rod bags herself!
Equal parts infuriating and endearing, my dad LIVED rod making. When he wasn't grafting, he was innovating - it was 7 days a week, including Christmas, honing his craft and paying his dues. The real crucible was the finishing; he lived anywhere between the sheer elation of getting it right, and the absolute dejection of a varnishing process gone wrong. There was a nook in my bedroom that Dad sectioned that off with a partition wall which served as his varnishing room- barely the size of a closet. He cut holes in the floor to accommodate the dip tanks, which protruded down through the kitchen ceiling below. Many a time, you'd have to tip-toe around so as not to create dust, or you couldn't take a bath because the steam might affect the varnish. The zen art of "Bamboodo" exacted total commitment.
It must have been around the mid 1980's when things started getting a bit surreal - people from all over the world began showing up at our house to talk rods. We'd have Japanese, Dutch, Americans - people who would usually have no business on a Redditch council estate, all coming to talk to MY dad! My mum recounts (now with humor) the time German aristocracy paid us a visit. Dad announced out of the blue that "Baron Deitrich von Sindt and Count (name long forgotten) are coming over in half an hour!" Mum was horrified - she had to serve them cheap instant coffee in our best (un-chipped) mugs. Dad used to give away hard fought rod-making advice freely and without a second thought, such was his generosity and enthusiasm for the craft.
We moved to America in '92, where Dad worked with long-time influence and brother from another mother, Tom Dorsey. Emigrating to the States fulfilled a life's dream for Dad, and he would happily recount times spent on the nearby Millers river where we'd catch the odd trout, more bass and yet more pumpkin seeds. My family moved back to the UK in '95. Tough times lay ahead and Dad had to lean on a lot of good friends in those days. It was not easy, but somehow they ALWAYS came through for him. In a funny way my dad's career book-ended perfectly when he joined Hardys of Alnwick, the home of the rods that first sparked his interest in fly fishing, all those years ago. My dad has now passed the baton of 'Tom Moran Rod Co' on to Callum Gladstone; a fine rod maker in his own right, Dad held him in the highest esteem.
Everyone will remember my dad slightly differently. I remember a guy with a beer in one hand, a cup of tea on the go and a roll-up permanently attached to his mouth, effusing about Mozart, Keith Richards or psychedelics... astronomy, Buddhism, Van Gogh or Fitzcarraldo... so many great conversations, so much love and laughter... driving down the road with opera music playing full blast! Emptying his pockets and swigging cider with a homeless bloke. He was awestruck by beauty and not afraid to cry.
Commercial success didn't really come to my Dad, but he was never in it for the money. A self-confessed terrible businessman, what moved Dad was the MUSE. Sure, he may have had it easier if he wasn't scrambling to pay down debts all his life, but Dad knew where the REAL gold was, and his loving pursuit of the bamboo aesthetic was HIS way, HIS alchemy.
-- Toby Moran