Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Reid, Thomas (1791-1825)

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REID, THOMAS (1791–1825), naval surgeon, born of protestant parents in 1791, was educated near Dungannon, co. Tyrone. He passed his examination at the Royal College of Surgeons in England on 7 May 1813, when he was found qualified to act as ‘surgeon to any rate.’ He was admitted on 3 Nov. 1815 a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in England, and at the end of 1817 he made a voyage in the Neptune to New South Wales as superintendent of male convicts. A few years later he went in the same capacity in the female convict ship Morley. He revisited his native country in 1822, and made an extended tour through the central, northern, and southern parts of the island. He died at Pentonville on 21 Aug. 1825.

Reid was a sincerely religious man who laboured earnestly to ameliorate the condition of the prison population of the country. In early life he drew attention to the conditions attending the transportation of convicts, male as well as female, to the penal settlements in Australia. He showed how bad was the discipline to which they were subjected on board ship during their transference, and how atrocious were the arrangements made for their reception when they arrived in New South Wales. He strongly advocated that convicts should no longer remain idle, but should be employed in a rational manner.

Reid's works are:

  1. Two Voyages to New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land, with a Description of the Present Condition of that Colony … Observations relative to … Convicts; also Reflections on Seduction,’ London, 8vo, 1822; this book is dedicated to Mrs. Elizabeth Fry. The language, if somewhat inflated, gives a vivid picture of the treatment received by convicts at the beginning of last century.
  2. Travels in Ireland in the year 1822, exhibiting brief Sketches of the Moral, Physical, and Political State of the Country,’ London, 1823, 8vo. The book is prefaced with a brief history of the country. The second part contains an account of the tour in the form of a diary. The condition of the poor and of the prisoners is carefully considered.

[Gent. Mag. 1825, ii. 377; information kindly given by the secretary of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.]

D’A. P.