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Thomas Frank McLeod (1869-1960) Biographical Notes
Thomas Frank McLeod
Able seaman Terra Nova 1910 - 13
Able seaman Endurance 1914-17
Able Seaman Quest 1921 - 1922
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.
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:
Since I 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. See below.
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.
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
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