Wilson, Thomas (1773-1858) (DNB00)

WILSON, THOMAS (1773–1858), Tyneside poet, was born at Gateshead Low Fell on 14 Nov. 1773, the eldest son of George and Mary Wilson. The father was a miner, and both parents were devout Wesleyans. He received very little education, and was early sent to work in the mines. After devoting his scanty leisure to study, and making two efforts to establish himself as a schoolmaster, he was from 1799 to 1803 employed in the office of John Head, a Newcastle merchant and underwriter. In 1803 he entered the counting-house of Losh, Lubbin, & Co. (afterwards Losh, Wilson, & Bell) of Newcastle. Within two years he became a partner, and remained in the business till near the end of his life. In 1835 he was elected one of the first town councillors of Gateshead, to which he returned after a residence of some years in Newcastle. Throughout his life Wilson devoted as much time as he could spare to intellectual pursuits, and collected an excellent library, which was especially rich in chapbooks. He contributed to the local ‘Diaries’ for sixty years, and made himself acquainted with every aspect of mining life and character. ‘The Pitman's Pay,’ his chief literary work, appeared originally in Mitchell's ‘Newcastle Magazine’ in the years 1826, 1828, and 1830. It was reprinted by G. Watson of Gateshead, but this incorrect edition was soon out of print. Other poems were contributed to the ‘Tyne Mercury,’ and some of them were reissued with notes by John Sykes, compiler of ‘Local Records.’ A collective edition of Wilson's works, entitled ‘The Pitman's Pay, and other Poems,’ was issued in 1843, and reprinted in 1872. The second edition contains some additional poems and notes by the author, with a portrait and memoir. ‘The Pitman's Pay’ is a metrical description, much of it in mining patois, of the incidents and conversations of the colliers on their fortnightly Friday pay nights. The poem enjoys a wide popularity in the north of England. Some of Wilson's compositions show him to have made a close study of Burns, and the poem entitled ‘On seeing a mouse run across the road in January’ is a highly creditable imitation. In the ‘Tippling Dominie’ Wilson is perhaps seen at his best.

Wilson died at his home, Fell-house, Gateshead, on 9 May 1858. He was buried in the family vault at St. John's, Gateshead Fell, the mayor and town council attending his funeral. He married, in 1810, Mrs. Mary Fell, who died in 1839.

A bust by Dunbar is in the large room of the Gateshead Fell public rooms.

[Gent. Mag. 1858, i. 667–9; Ann. Reg. App. to Chron. p. 410; Memoir prefixed to the Pitman's Pay, 1872.]

G. Le G. N.