Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Coats, Thomas
COATS, THOMAS (1809–1883), thread manufacturer, was born at Paisley 18 Oct. 1809. He was the fourth of a family of ten sons. His father, James Coats, was one of the founders of the thread industry of Paisley. In the hands of Thomas and his surviving brother, Sir Peter Coats, the Ferguslie Thread Works became one of the largest in the world. Coats was distinguished for the interest he took in the public welfare, and for many private acts of unostentatious generosity. In 1868 he presented to the town of Paisley a public park, called the ‘Fountains Gardens,’ the first place of recreation for the poor of the town. He took great interest in education, and in 1873 was elected chairman of the school board, an office he continued to hold with credit until his death. He gave large sums to improve the school accommodation, and provided a playground for the scholars. From 1862 to 1864 he was president of the Paisley Philosophical Institution, and in 1882 he presented to the society the observatory situated on Oakshaw Hill; he furnished it with an equatorial telescope and other costly instruments, and provided a residence and endowment for the curator.
For several years Coats was an enthusiastic collector of Scottish coins, and his collection became the largest and most valuable of its kind. He was desirous of making a catalogue of the various specimens, and entrusted the work to Edward Burns, a well-known Scottish numismatist. But in Burns's hands the catalogue swelled into an elaborate ‘History of the Coinage of Scotland,’ and was unfinished at the time of Coats's death. Burns himself died suddenly in the midst of his labours, and the task of completion was entrusted to other hands. The work is now (1887) in the press.
In November 1881 Coats and his brother Sir Peter were entertained at a banquet at Paisley, and presented with their portraits, painted by Sir Daniel Macnee, P.R.S.A. Coats died of an affection of the heart on 15 Oct. 1883. His funeral was attended by a large concourse of people. A statue was recently erected at Paisley to his memory. In religion Coats was a baptist, and in politics a liberal.[Glasgow Herald and Glasgow News and Scotsman, 17 Oct. 1883; Paisley and Renfrewshire Gazette, 20 Oct. 1883; Paisley Daily Express, 22 and 25 Oct. 1883.]