Thomas Blanshard

 (1857 – 1898)

The death or absence of a parent can affect children’s life chances. However, despite this, some children have the determination and ability to thrive.

Thomas’ gravestone tells us that he died aged 41, and that he was the Superintendent of Police in Settle.  It also tells us that his gravestone was erected by his fellow superintendents. Was there a reason for this?

Thomas was born near York and was brought up by his grandparents because his father William had sailed to America just a few months after Thomas was born. His mother, Elizabeth, worked as a domestic servant.

Despite this unpromising start, as soon as he turned 21, Thomas joined the West Riding police force and was quickly promoted.  Within eight years he was an inspector. He worked in Knaresborough, Rotherham and Bingley before taking up his post as Superintendent in Settle in 1895.  He married and had two children.

In May 1898, he was involved in a case of the suspected murder in Wigglesworth of an illegitimate infant, Ralph Tarn.  The suspects were Ralph’s mother, Annie, and his alleged father Robert Taylor, the married innkeeper of the Plough Inn at Wigglesworth.  As the body could not be found, the case was dismissed. (Ironically, Annie’s brother also made a living as a policeman.)

Thomas’s career was cut short by a tragic accident whilst out shooting with a fellow officer, Supt. Haynes.  As he lay dying, Thomas wrote in his diary that it was accidental and that no-one was to blame.  No wonder his fellow superintendents paid for Thomas’ gravestone.

Find out about more by looking at the Lottery of life exhibition