Thomas was the master of the schooner, Jane Slade. The ship built in 1870 was involved in the fruit trade, carrying oranges from the Azores and pineapples from the West Indies. Thomas began his career at the age of 15 on his uncle’s ship and then worked his way up as was customary, to become a Master Mariner. He passed his exams for this in Plymouth in 1866.
Thomas remained with the Jane Slade as master and is credited with making the fastest passage from St. Michaels in the Azores to Bristol. In 1892 he returned to Fowey to become the harbour master. During his tenure the harbour was dredged for the first time to provide better access for shipping. He lived on Esplanade in Fowey and then retired to Holly House in Polruan. The death of his second wife affected him badly and he became severely depressed, ending his days in the private wing of Bodmin Asylum, dying there in 1917. He was the inspiration for the character Joseph in Daphne du Maurier’s book, The Loving Spirit.
Research Helen Doe
Sources: Helen Doe, Jane Slade of Polruan, (Truran, 2002); Basil Greenhill, The Merchant Schooners, (Conway, 1988)