Thomas Merritt

The Life of Thomas Merritt


Thomas Merritt was born on 26th October 1863, the son of Thomas and Mary Jane Merritt. Thomas Senior was a Copper and Tin Miner.

Thomas Merritt Junior was christened on 31st July 1865 at Broad Lane Primitive Methodist Chapel (opened in 1859 on the site of what later became Broad Lane Methodist Chapel). The Christening was performed by the Revd J.B.Bellingham.

A frail lad, young Thomas attended Pool School until he was 11, when his father died. Thomas then became a tinner himself, working at Carn Brea Mine and later at Tolvaddon Tin Streams.Doubtless he had already developed a great love of music and song, but it was not until the age of 18 or 19 that he appears to have studied music seriously.

At about this time Thomas turned his back on tin streaming and began to teach music, giving lessons to children in their own homes. Several of his pupils came to respect Thomas’s long pencil, with which he wrapped their knuckles if they played a wrong note!

In about 1889 Thomas was appointed Organist and Choirmaster of the United Methodist Free Church in Illogan Highway, a post he held for 12 years. He also conducted music and there used to be a glass dome upon his grave containing artificial flowers and with the inscription

A token of respect from the Voguebeloth Wesleyan Sunday School.

It seems certain that the frailty of his early years never left him. Thomas Merritt died on 17th April 1908, aged just 46 years


His music


Notes obtained from a booklet written by W.G.Donnithorne of Camborne-Redruth Urban District Council

Of Merritt’s musical ability there is no doubt. One of his great friends – the late Revd Harry Oxland, Rector of Illogan – says of him that he had really striking gifts in the way of music. He is best known for his magnificent Christmas Carols and these are sung the World over wherever Cornish men and women gather. His nephew, Merritt C. Avers of California, mentions in a letter that he has heard his uncle’s carols sung from deep underground in the fabulous Mother Lode Country known as Grass Valley, which is predominantly populated with the descendants of the Cornish.

In addition to his carols, Thomas Merritt composed many other pieces, perhaps over one hundred. There was an oratorio “The Christian Soldier”, a sacred cantata “Shepherd of Israel” (which he dedicated to the Revd Harry Oxland) and two anthems