No photograph exists of Thomas, after all he was born in 1789 in Birmingham, England. A burgeoning City, where the worst effects of the industrial revolution showed in the poor living conditions of those who were drawn to the area for work. To the west is the Black Country. Continuous furnaces belching black smoke and cinders into the sky to feed the iron industries. To the north, the potteries of Stoke and its five towns. Life was harder than we can ever imagine.
I like to think that Thomas broke away from the worst times of his life following his certificate of freedom in the mid 1820s. There would still have been struggle, hard work and poverty. He successfully raised a family; that alone meant he did better than many convicts. He mostly stayed out of trouble and he tried to build a secure life for his children.
In Geelong we came across an artist finishing an enormous mural of a man’s face, a face of the 19th century, beyond doubt. A man looking east to the future, strong, but sun lined, careworn but determined. Instantly, I recognised him as Tom, a labourer, but proud of his endeavour. One of the many founders of Geelong.