Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Thom, Alexander

THOM, ALEXANDER (1801–1879), founder of ‘Thom's Almanac,’ was born in 1801 at Findhorn in Moray.

His father, Walter Thom (1770–1824), miscellaneous writer, was born in 1770 at Bervie, Kincardineshire, and afterwards removed to Aberdeen, where he established himself as a bookseller. In 1813 he proceeded to Dublin as editor of the ‘Dublin Journal.’ He died in that city on 16 June 1824. He was the author of a ‘History of Aberdeen’ (Aberdeen, 1811, 12mo) and of a treatise on ‘Pedestrianism’ (Aberdeen, 1813, 8vo). He also contributed to Brewster's ‘Encyclopædia,’ to Sinclair's ‘Statistical Account of Scotland,’ and to Mason's ‘Statistical Account of Ireland.’

His son Alexander was educated at the High School, Edinburgh, and came to Dublin as a lad of twenty to assist his father in the management of the ‘Dublin Journal.’ In this capacity he learned the business of printing, and on his father's death he obtained, through the influence of Sir Robert Peel, the contract for printing for the post office in Ireland. In 1838 he obtained the contract for the printing for all royal commissions in Ireland, and in 1876 was appointed to the post of queen's printer for Ireland. In 1844 Thom founded the work by which he has since been known, the ‘Irish Almanac and Official Directory,’ which in a short time superseded all other publications of the kind in the Irish capital. Its superiority to its predecessors was due to the incorporation for the first time in a directory of a mass of valuable and skilfully arranged statistics relating to Ireland, and the ‘Almanac’ has ever since maintained its position as by far the best periodical of its kind in Ireland. Thom continued personally to supervise its publication for thirty-seven years, and until within a few months of his death. In 1860 he published at his own expense for gratuitous distribution ‘A Collection of Tracts and Treatises illustrative of the Natural History, Antiquities, and the Political and Social State of Ireland,’ two volumes which contain reprints of the works of Ware, Spenser, Davis, Petty, Berkeley, and other writers on Irish affairs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Thom, who was twice married, died at his residence, Donnycarney House, near Dublin, on 22 Dec. 1879.

[Obituary notice of the late Alexander Thom, Queen's Printer in Ireland, by W. Neilson Hancock, LL.D., in Journal of the Statistical Society of Ireland, April 1880; Historical and Bibliographical Account of Almanacks and Directories published in Ireland, by Edward Evans, 1897.]

C. L. F.