Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Lister, Thomas (1810-1888)

LISTER, THOMAS (1810–1888), poet and naturalist, born at Old Mill, Barnsley, on 11 Feb. 1810, was the youngest child of Joseph Lister, a quaker gardener and small farmer. From 1821 until 1824 he attended Ackworth school, where he made the acquaintance of John Bright. He afterwards became an assistant to his father. During the parliamentary election of 1832 he worked actively for the return of Lord Morpeth (afterwards Earl of Carlisle) for the West Riding of Yorkshire, and wrote several effective squibs in verse. Lord Morpeth offered to obtain for him the postmastership of Barnsley, but Lister was unwilling to take the requisite oath. In 1834 he published, under the title of the 'Rustic Wreath,' a collection of his fugitive verses, of which an edition of three thousand copies was quickly sold. After visiting Spencer T. Hall [q. v.] at Nottingham, and forming an acquaintance with Ebenezer Elliott [q. v.] in 1837, he made a tour, chiefly on foot, of the Lake district, and thence journeyed into Scotland, where he met Professor John Wilson (Christopher North), William and Robert Chambers,and William Miller the artist. In 1838 he visited France, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. Many of the poems, sonnets, and translations which he wrote during this tour he forwarded to Elliott, and they were published in 'Tait's Magazine.' In 1839, on the office of postmaster at Barnsley again becoming vacant, Lister was appointed to it, a simple affirmation having been substituted for the oath, and he held it until 31 March 1870.

An enthusiastic naturalist, Lister communicated regularly meteorological observations and notes on birds to the 'Barnsley Chronicle.' For many years he was president of the Barnsley Naturalists' Society, and contributed to its collections. In 1857 he read a paper at the Barnsley meeting of the Geological and Polytechnic Society of the West Riding, on the 'Natural History of Fossil Remains of Barnsley.' He was a constant attendant and contributor of papers at the annual meetings of the British Association. At the Southampton meeting in 1882 he read a paper on 'The Distribution of Yorkshire Spring Migrants,' and when accompanying the association to Montreal in 1884, he visited the principal towns in Canada and the United States. Lister died at Barnsley on 25 March 1888, and was buried on the 29th in the Friends' meeting-house ground in the Cockerham Road. He married in 1841 Miss Hannah Schofield (1812-1882), but had no issue.

Lister published, besides the 'Rustic Wreath' (1834), 'Temperance Rhymes' (1837), and 'Rhymes of Progress' (1862). Mrs. George Linnæus Banks refers to Lister by name in her Yorkshire story entitled 'Wooers and Winners' (1880).

[Barnsley Chronicle, 31 March 1888, p. 5; Barnsley Independent, 31 March 1888, p. 6; Athenæum, 7 April 1888, p. 439; Andrews's Modern Yorkshire Poets; Newsam's Poets of Yorkshire; Grainge's Poets of Yorkshire; Searle's Life of Ebenezer Elliott; Spencer T. Hall's Sketches of Remarkable People; article by J. H. Burland in Country Words of the West Riding; Index to Reports of British Assoc.]

G. G.