Thomas Douglas was born on 18 July 1829 in Bishop Wearmouth, and served his mining engineer apprenticeship to Edward Fenwick Boyd (former President of this Institute) at Urpeth Colliery between 1844 and 1848. He was then at Barrington Colliery, Bedlington, taking over as manager for a short time. At the end of 1854 he became viewer at Peases West Colliery at Crook and spent the rest of his career with the owners, Pease & Partners, becoming the senior viewer/manager of the Peases West group of collieries in the Crook and Waterhouses area, and eventually Agent for all the Peases West enterprises.
In 1876 and 1877 he was one of the two men appointed as arbitrators by the Durham Coal Owners in each of three separate arbitration cases against the mining unions representing Mechanics, Enginemen and Cokeworkers. His obituary notes that “his tactful, kind, and genial personality …made him successful in disputes dealing with wages and other difficulties which rose from time to time.”
Douglas was elected to the North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers in 1852, became a member of the Council in 1862, Vice-President in 1881, and President for 1894-5.
He was active in school boards and the like in the Crook area and then was one of the initial members of Durham County Council in 1889, becoming an Alderman from 1892-98. He was appointed as a County Magistrate in 1887.
He retired in 1891 and at his leaving presentation Sir Joseph Pease said that Douglas had been behind every business development which had occurred since his arrival at Peases West. His obituary records that he was “an indefatigable worker, and by example and precept sought to inculcate the same principles into the young men around him. Many mining engineers who have reached the foremost rank of their profession began their career with him.”
After retirement he moved to Darlington where he continued his civic activities as a member of Darlington Rural District Council.
He died on 13, June 1920, one month short of his 91st birthday – the last of the original members of the Institute.
Death of Mr Thomas Douglas Transactions – Institution of Mining Engineers 60 1920-21, 1-2
Douglas, T. Presidential address [NEIMME] Transactions – North of England Institute of Mining and Mechanical Engineers 44 1894-95, 196-204