Thomas Frank McLeod (1869-1960)
Clark, Robert S.
Green, Charles J.
Hudson, Hubert T.
Hurley, James F. (Frank)
Hussey, Leonard D. A.
James, Reginald W.
Kerr, A. J.
Macklin, Dr. Alexander H.
Marston, George E.
McIlroy, Dr. James A.
Motor Expert and Storekeeper
Shackleton, Ernest H.
Second in Command
Wordie, James M.
The Endurance Expedition
Thomas McLeod was one of the older and
most experienced members of the Endurance crew, having been a sailor for
27 years when enlisted. He had been at sea since he was 14 years old and
had already been to the Antarctic with Scott aboard the Terra Nova, and
would go on to join Shackleton's Quest expedition also. He was one of
the few able seamen to hold two Polar Medals - one from the Terra Nova expedition
and one from the Endurance expedition.
"I weighed around
200 lbs when the Endurance sank, and went down to around
100 lbs before being rescued from Elephant Island."
you aware that Thomas being a good Presbyterian retrieved
the bible, presented to the expedition by Queen Alexandra,
when Shackleton threw it away, because he believed to throw
away a Bible was a bad omen."
- Stornoway Historical Society
"Some of my
shipmates were down to see me off. What I always thought
impossible happened. Old McLeod, one of the most hard-boiled
sailors I ever ran across, started to blubber like a baby
when I bade him goodbye."
"a typical old deep-sea
salt and growler"
Bakewell and McLeod lived out the later
years of their lives quite near to each other, though neither
was ever aware of it.
The usual description of the arrival in
the world of Thomas McLeod (or MacLeod) is that he was born at Stornoway
on the Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides, Scotland, the son of a draper, John
and Mary, the second eldest of four sons.
However the real story seems to be rather
different to this - this communication and information arrived courtesy
of Robin Mackenzie
of the Stornoway Historical Society to
whom I am indebted for his contribution to this page:
did the original research some interesting new facts about his parentage
have turned up. A member of the Society a Mrs M. Macinnes discovered
that although Tom was brought up in Stornoway, he was actually born in Glasgow
in 1873 illegitimately. and brought home my his mother. In other words the
record shows Barbara Macleod of Point Street as his only parent. See below.
The truth of him retrieving the Bible is well known but the
Society has traced its whereabouts since the rescue from Elephant Island.
MORE INFO ON THOS. F. MACLEOD.
23 Jan 2007
Tom was born, he said, in Stornoway on 3rd April 1873. But
his birth record is to be found in Glasgow, not in Lewis.
Like many young island girls, Barbara McLeod from Point Street
had gone south to find employment in domestic service in the city. The 1871
census records her working in Garscube House in Maryhill. In 1873 she gave
birth to a son at 11 Oxford Street, Tradeston. No father’s name is recorded
in the birth register, but 87 years later, on Tom’s death certificate in
Ontario, his parents are recorded as David and Barbara. The identity of
his father is a mystery.
Little Tommy McLeod was taken home to Stornoway to be brought
up by his widowed grandmother in rooms above Murdo Macrae, cooper, at the
corner of Point Street and Quay Lane. Having no siblings of his own, he
regarded his Uncle Angus, just eleven years his senior, as his big brother.
Angus got a job as a stable boy and later worked for many years as coachman
to Doctor Murdoch Mackenzie. Dr. Mackenzie was the doctor who started the
Lewis Hospital, Stornoway in 1896.
The harbour was Tommy’s playground and at the age of 13 he
went to sea. He celebrated his 14th birthday across he world in Australia.
By 1910 he was an experienced seaman. He had travelled the world, seen service
in the Boer War, and had now decided to settle for a while in the Southern
Hemisphere. Tom, and John Graham from Ness, Isle of Lewis, boarded the Terra
Nova in Lyttleton Harbour, looking for work. There was only one position
available and Tom got it. This was to be the first of three Antarctic adventures
for the Stornoway seaman.
On the return of the ill fated Scott Expedition in July 1913
Tom, along with his fellow seamen, was presented with the silver Polar medal
by King George V in recognition of his service to Polar exploration.
In Punta Arenas Tom was billeted with the McLean family. He showed his
appreciation of their kindness by presenting them with the expedition’s
Bible on his departure. He wrote in the front, “To Mrs McLean from T. F.
McLeod Trans. Ant. Expedition 13.9.16”. In 1971 the McLeans’ daughter passed
the Bible to Commander Burley of the 1970-71 Joint Services expedition to
Elephant Island who was giving a lecture in Buenos Aires. Burley forwarded
it to the Royal Geographical Society where it is now held. The missing leaves
are in the possession of the Shackleton family.
Robin Mackenzie -
Stornoway Historical Society
Little is known about the details
of McLeod's life. He was a lifelong bachelor, in 1923 he emigrated
to Canada where initially he was a fisherman off Bell's Island for
two years. He was a school caretaker for ten years and then later a
night watchman. He lived in Kingston, Ontario. In 1947 he moved again
to Rideaucrest eventually passing away in the House of Providence, Montreal
Street, Kingston, a retirement home, on the 16th of December 1960.
Though the records are not all
in agreement, it seems that McLeod was 91 years old when he died, making
him the oldest of the Endurance expeditioners, though not the last to
pass away. He is buried Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston, Canada.
Some of the crew of the Endurance photographed
in Buenos Aries 1917
picture courtesy Robin
Mackenzie - Stornoway Historical
"It is amazing that Old Tom is wearing
his Polar Medal because it means that he carried it with him
all through the trauma of the sinking of the Endurance
and the hell of Elephant Island."
- Stornoway Historical Society
McLeod's Grave site at Cataraqui Cemetery in Kingston,
44° 16' 9"N, 76° 32' 29"W
Picture provided by Chris Howitt