Thomas Smith was one of the younger brothers of my grandfather William Smith. Thomas, known as Tom, was born in 1870 in County Tipperary and moved with his family when he was only an infant to live on a farm at Corballis in County Dublin. I don’t know where he attended school but I assume it was somewhere in Dublin. From personal acquaintance with my great-uncle Tom when he was in his late 80s, I knew that he had graduated from Trinity College, University of Dublin, and had worked as an engineer for various railway companies in Ireland, his main job being the design of new railway lines. Sad to say, Tom lived long enough to witness the gradual reduction in railway travel and the dismantlement of many of the lines he had helped to design and build. Tom Smith died in 1962 in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh. You can find more about Tom and the Smith family he was born into by going to the page on Lancelot Smith’s Children Corballis.
Knowing from family stories that Tom Smith was a railway engineer and having evidence of that are two different things. Recently I came across some on-line records of the U.K. Civil Engineer Membership Forms from 1820 to 1930 that enabled me to get more information about Thomas Smith as a Civil Engineer.
According to the information that Thomas Smith provided in the application form for election as an Associate Member to The Institution of Civil Engineers (I.C.E.) that was completed on November 1896:
“he obtained the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Engineering in Trinity College Dublin in 1890 at which latter exam he was awarded a special certificate for superior merit in Mining, Chemistry, Geology and Mineralogy. He was afterwards engaged by Mr S.G. Fraser, M. Inst. C.E., for a few months on the setting out of the Collooney & Claremorris Railway and on the plans in connection with this and other lines. And from July 91 – July 92 as a pupil of Mr G. Chatterton, M. Inst. C.E., he was engaged on the construction of the Rhondda Valley Sewer in South Wales, which consisted of a large Main Outfall Sewer of brick, concrete and cast iron nearly 18 miles long, including many tunnels, river and railway crossings, and tidal outfall. And for the last two and half years he has been engaged in the office of Mr W.H. Mills, M Inst. C.E., Engineer in Chief of the Great Northern Railway Co Ireland, as a draughtsman in connection with the general maintenance of the line and construction of new works and still holds that position.”
Thomas Smith became an Associate Member of I.C.E. on the 30th of January 1897.
Being employed as a civil engineer on various railway design and building projects could explain why in the March 1901 Census of Ireland Thomas Smith was living as a lodger in Portadown, County Armagh, while his wife Elizabeth (Lulie) was living with her aunt and uncle-by-marriage Nell and Lancelot Smith of Beaverstown, County Dublin. (Somewhat confusingly, Lulie was also their sister-in-law since she was married to Lancelot Smith’s brother.) Portadown is a major railway junction in what was then the Great Northern Railway system so it would be a likely place for Thomas Smith to be working.
In the 1911 Census of Ireland, Thomas and Elizabeth Smith are both listed as living in Belfast, with their nephew Lancelot Westgarth Smith, aged 14. Lancelot Westgarth Smith, the son of Lancelot Smith of Beaverstown, was usually known as Garth. From this census record of his residence in Belfast, I am guessing that Garth was attending school there at the time. Thomas Smith listed his occupation in 1911 as civil engineer.
When we were small Dad (Garth) said he was educated in Britain. I never asked exactly where, which is a pity, but of course Belfast was part of Britain and most likely why he joined the British Army when he was only 16 – he lied about his age. After the War he fell out with the IRA, because he fought for the British, which was the reason why he dropped his inheritance of Corballis and escaped to Trinidad to be near his sister Mary, before eventually moving to Rhodesia.
That’s very interesting about your father, Eleanor. It explains why he did not stay in Ireland after the end of the First World War. Do you know how long he lived in Trinidad and why he decided to go to Rhodesia? I am guessing he went to Rhodesia before the start of the Second World War but I don’t have any information on which to base that guess – other than the fact the married your mother in Bulawayo in 1942. Also, I have been told that your father was a dispatch rider during the First World War. Do you know what else he did during those years? If he was a dispatch rider throughout the War, it is astonishing that he survived. About his schooldays and his presence in his Uncle Tom’s household in 1911, I wonder now if he completed his secondary schooling in Belfast and maybe one or more of the boys’ schools in Belfast have put information about their past pupils on-line. I will have a look some time.
As you know, I have a small photo album given to my husband, John, by your mother –probably because of his interest in railways. It shows the construction of a railway line through bog. We were told it was probably a minor line out of Newry. Great Uncle Tom saw it constructed and dismantled. The album includes some shots of his wife and a companion outside a house.
Thanks for your comment, Paddy. You did tell me you had the photo album and I would be interested to see it some time.