Skellett, Thomas

Thomas Henry Brown Skellett led an interesting and unusual life before he settled in Beecroft. He was born in Polesworth, England, in 1855, the son of John Skellett, a railway construction overseer. When Thomas was five or six years old his father was working on the line from Cherbourg to Paris in France and the boys soon became fluent in French. The contractors for whom John Skellett worked then won the contract to build the lines from Campbelltown to Picton, and from Blacktown to Penrith. John Skellett accepted a place in the team of surveyors, engineers, draughtsmen and inspectors who came out to New South Wales in a specially chartered ship in 1860.

The family went directly to Campbelltown and lived there while the line to Picton was put in. Young Thomas helped his father on the job and by the time he was 15 and old enough to apply for work in the Department of Railways (1869) he was already familiar with much of the work, especially in administrative areas. He rose steadily through different branches to become Chief Cashier in 1901 and retired from that position after 50 years of service in the railways in 1919. He was able to claim that he had only 14 days off through illness in 50 years and those were just prior to his retirement. In 1921 he was awarded the Imperial Service Medal for long and faithful public service.[1]

In 1878 Thomas, then aged 23 years, married Gertrude Martha Sivier, aged 18 years, and they had two children, Gertrude Amy, born in 1879, and Lancelot Henry, born in 1886. As with many other railway officers Thomas Skellett chose to make his home along the new main northern line. In the early 1890s he was living in Thornleigh and in 1895 came to Beecroft for his wife’s health. Unfortunately she ruptured one of the large blood vessels of her lungs and her condition became critical, causing her death three months later in July 1896.[2]

Thomas involved himself in local civic affairs, commencing in 1897 a long association with the Progress Association, at times being its Treasurer and Vice President. He was elected to the committee of the Kennedya Tennis Club in 1896, as was his daughter Gertrude, then aged 17. Gertrude was at times organist at St John’s Church, Beecroft.[3]

[1] NSW Railway and Tramway Magazine, 12 February 1920; Picton Advocate, 8 July 1896; Campbelltown News, 22 June 1934.

[2] Cumberland Argus, 11 July 1896.

[3] Cumberland Argus, 15 January 1898, 20 January 1899, 1 August 1896, 30 December 1899.