Thomas Elmslie Middlemiss


Thomas’s paternal grandparents were George Middlemiss and his wife, Ann (nee Gustard). George was born about 1834 in Morpeth, Northumberland, the son of Thomas Middlemiss, a mason. At the age of 17 he was living at Newgate St, Morpeth, with his parents and was a mason’s apprentice. George could not be found in the 1861 census but a George Middlemiss of the right age appeared in the Canadian census. He appeared again in the 1881 census, married, and had become a schoolmaster at the North Eastern Reformatory in Stannington, about 10 miles north of Newcastle-uponTyne, where he remained until at least 1901, by which time he was the superintendent, with his own house in De Merley Rd, Morpeth. The school was built in 1853 as a reformatory for delinquent boys. It was opened by Earl Grey. It closed in 2014. Ann, who was born in Newcastle about 1835, also worked at the school, becoming matron by 1891. They had 6 or 7 children, the oldest of whom was John Thomas Middlemiss, Thomas Elmslie’s father.

The maternal grandparents were Magnus Mail and his wife, Eleanora (nee Burnop). Magnus was born on 28 February 1824 on the Shetland Isles and became a master mariner. He died on 25 March 1903, leaving £7357 14s 7d. Eleanora was born on 12 June 1827 and died on 23 November 1900. The couple had 7 children, the youngest of whom, Eleanora Burnop Mail, married John Thomas Middlemiss.


John Thomas Middlemiss was born in 1857 in Morpeth. In 1861 he lived with his mother and brother at the Old Gaol Yard, Bridge St, Morpeth. In 1871 he was living with his family at the North Eastern Reformatory. He was educated at Morpeth Grammar School and St George’s Presbyterian School. In 1881, aged 23, he was a theological student at the English Presbyterian College, based at Queen Square House, Queen Sq, Bloomsbury. The Morpeth Herald of Saturday 18 October 1879 reported that 2 years earlier he had received the Anderson Scholarship of £30 for 3 years and had now received a further scholarship from the College of £20 for 3 years. Eleanora Burnop Mail was born on 1 February 1863 in Monkwearmouth. By the 1891 census the couple had married, he was a Presbyterian minister, and they lived at 7 Dundas St, Monkwearmouth Shore with a servant. In 1901 they lived at The Manse, Roker ward, Sunderland. In 1911 they lived at 21 Roker Park Rd, Sunderland. The couple had 3 children, Thomas Elmslie, Eileen and Mary Gertrude.

John Thomas Middlemiss was not only a Presbyterian minister but also a historian and author, writing on such subjects as John Ruskin and the history of the Sunderland Moor. He was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland and a curator of the Antiquities Collection, which is now exhibited at the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh where a new building was designed specially to house the collection. The family later lived at 3 The Beeches, West Didsbury. It is not clear where the Rev J T Middlemiss worked at that time but the local Presbyterian church was what is now Didsbury United Reform Church on Palatine Rd.

In 1910, in Sunderland, a local newspaper reported that the Rev J T Middlemiss had been unwell and off work from his parish in North Bridge St and welcomed him back to the pulpit after 5 months absence. On Wednesday 14 April 1920 the Evening Telegraph reported that the minister had been missing since 31 March and asked for information on his whereabouts. The Sunday Post of 18 April 1920 reported that his body had been found at Eyemouth, on the east coast north of Berwick-upon-Tweed, and that he had suffered from a nervous breakdown and loss of memory. He was 63. He left £4165 8s 11d to Eleanora. Eleanora is recorded in the 1939 Register as living at Flinton Hill Farm, Sunderland, a widow of private means. She died about 1946.

Thomas Elmslie Middlemiss

Thomas was born on 10 July 1891 in Morpeth. He attended Taunton School as a boarder. In 1911 he was a marine engineer apprentice. In February 1915 he appeared on the passenger list of the SS Peleus, owned by Alfred Holt and Company. The ship was sailing from Kobe, Japan, to London via Falmouth, due to arrive on 22 February. Thomas’s occupation was recorded as engineer. He was gazetted as second lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery on 22 March 1915 and promoted to lieutenant in July 1917. He served with the Expeditionary Force in France and Flanders from June 1916 and was killed in action near Ypres on 17 October 1917. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website he was serving with B Battery, 223rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He was 26. His commanding officer of the 63rd Royal Naval Division Artillery wrote, “By his death his country and our Divisional Artillery have lost a very excellent officer, whom we could ill afford to lose. He was the life and soul of the mess, always cheerful under all conditions, and we shall miss him terribly. We shall cherish his memory, as he leaves behind him a host of friends who will often think of him. He was exceedingly well known and liked all over the division, infantry as well as artillery.”

He was buried at Hospital Farm Cemetery, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, reference E. 6. He left £483 14s 3d to his father. He is remembered on a plaque in the WW1 and WW2 Memorial Hall at Taunton School.