Thomas William Wrightson of Thornaby

Thanks to  Thomas Leonard Wrightson 

[Photo Gallery]

Born in Thornaby, Thomas William was the second child of John and Sarah. He had
a droll sense of humour, and once, for a bet, walked the length of Blackpool
promenade and back, wearing his landlady's bonnet. Most of his working life he was
employed as a journeyman painter for a Darlington firm. Large contracts were
undertaken, the Company moving the staff to the job. When Mary Anne found that
she was pregnant, her Mistress wrote to the firm, and Thomas William was returned
home to 'do the right thing'. Such was the power of the gentry in those days. TW
invented a device to help in painting greenhouses, and was fond of saying "It's the
preparation that takes the time. " He was also proud of having painted Blackpool

Thomas William started work as a clerk on the railway. On the 1881 census he is
shown as 'clerk out of employ'. In late Victorian times clerical work had a higher
status than it does now. I can remember working for a firm where the office junior
was on the 'staff while, in the works, only the foremen were 'staff members. This
difference led to parents encouraging their sons to seek clerical employment.
Eventually Thomas William obtained work at a Darlington firm of decorators,
lodging in the town with a Jessie Richie. The firm tendered for contracts allover the
British Isles, so that TW travelled a great deal. For someone who came late to the
trade, he was obviously proficient as he remained with the Company for over thirty
As a young man he was a keen cricketer, as were several of his descendants. This
must have gone by the board when he was working away. He had a reputation for
being very smart off duty , wearing a suit, stiff collars and a bowler hat. He was also
credited with being a 'saloon bar philosopher' -the chap in the corner who settles
factual arguments. The social life did not quite fit in with his status as a husband and
father. There has been the suggestion that Mary Anne was struggling to bring up the
children on her own, while Thomas William was elsewhere supping pints. My father,
Thomas Beason, was quite scathing about this aspect.
On a more positive note, even though the rail network was impressive in late
Victorian/Edwardian times, it still involved a walk of four miles to get to Middleton
Tyas from Darlington. Hence daily commuting was out of the question. Perhaps a
bicycle may have been the answer. He certainly owned one at some stage as he won
the Middleton Show Fancy Dress Bicycle Race in the 1890's.
In one of the garden sheds at Middleton Tyas were some wooden moulds for casting
plaster to make cornices and ceiling roses. Thomas William had obviously used
them, but whether he, or his father, had made them we cannot tell. After my parents
died, I went to the shed and the moulds crumbled away as I tried to lift them. So a
piece of history vanished.
Thomas William made little effort, probably because he was so rarely at home, to
improve the education of his children, or to discuss employment opportunities with
them. John Charles and Thomas Beason both started work as garden boys on a
pittance -and even that was handed over to Mary Anne to help with the
housekeeping. Fortunately all five children were reasonably bright, if anything the
three older ones lacked confidence, a spin off from the single parent in poverty
upbringing. TW slowed down and changed in his latter years, spending more time at
home. When he was told he was dying, he made the decision to die at home, and so
he did, spending the last four months of his life without his beloved pipe. There was
undoubtedly a genuine love between him and Mary Anne, and perhaps that is the
most important thing.

TL W August 1996