WHITE Thomas Peter

Name Thomas Peter WHITE
Country Of Origin Australia
Born 1912
Died 1996
Birth/ Baptism Born 3 February 1912, The Prince of Wales Hotel, Evandale
Parents Alfred Devereux and Alice Gertrude White (formerly Kitto)
Apprenticeship Jacksons Lock and Brass Works
Skills Watchmaker
Work Locations Launceston
Street Address
Maitland Street, Launceston
Charles Street, Launceston
Marriage/Spouse 2 March 1939, Launceston, to Merle Anne Hawkey
Other By Robin White (son) 2018:

Thomas Peter White was born at Evandale in 1912 at The Prince of Wales Hotel, of which his father was the publican licensee. His father died when Tom was only two years old, and the family moved to George Town, where he spent his early years attending school and helping provide for the family by working several jobs after school. One of the many chores was to milk Major Davies’ cow at The Grove for a few pence a day. He also delivered mail on his pushbike along Lefroy Road for miles. When it was time to get a real job, he moved to Launceston and gained an apprenticeship with Jacksons Lock & Brass Works in Cameron Street near the Supreme Court. He worked with Jacksons for nearly 30 years, and one of the many jobs he did was the brass plaque on the monument at George Town, where Lieutenant Colonel Paterson landed in 1804. Tom was not happy with the conditions and pay he was receiving as a lock and brass worker, so he decided he wanted to improve his income and working conditions.He placed an advertisement in the newspaper asking for old or used watches, and with these, he would spend hours in the evening at home at his workbench dismantling and reassembling the intricate workings of the watches. He kept repeating the process until he became confident enough to advertise through some of his friends via word of mouth to begin serious repairs.

Tom, his wife, and three young children were living in Maitland Street by now, and he had changed employment from Jacksons and was working full time with Braemar Engineering in Wellington Street. The period was the late 1940s and early 1950s when many people were still walking or cycling to work. Maitland Street was relatively close to Patons and Baldwins Woollen Mill, where many mill workers walked past Tom’s house to and from work. The word got around that he was a watch repairer and his little sideline started to grow month by month.

So, Tom, this self-taught watch repairer, thought there was enough work to take on full time watch work and left Braemar to work from home at his beloved bench. As his small business grew and he earned an assured income, he purchased more specialized equipment and tools to carry out more complex and tricky repairs. Tom was approached by two jewellery shops asking him if he would be prepared to take on some of their watch repairs on a casual basis. He accepted their offer, and in the beginning, there was not a great deal of work from them, but over some time, the number of repairs increased significantly. The jewellers were F W Bearup and Son, Charles Street, and H Wathen and Son, Charles Street, next to Fitzpatrick’s Pharmacy on the corner of Elizabeth Street.

Around 1960, Tom asked a neighbor in Maitland Street named Vern Denholm, a brilliant cabinetmaker and restorer of antique furniture, to build a replica cutler roll top desk for his watch repairs. It was a great improvement as a workstation as it had so many compartments and drawers to place all the necessary tools and parts required for the job. Vern Denholm was also a self-taught craftsman who worked in the basement of his home at Maitland Street and did many antique furniture restorations for the late Dr. Clifford Craig, who used to buy at auctions.

Tom continued to work from home until Milton (Mit) Wathen asked him to move to H. Wathen & Son and work full time in a room above the shop. Tom then set up his workshop there and continued until retiring around 1978.

In 1966, the Horological Guild of Australia accepted Tom as a Fellow in recognition of his service to the industry. He achieved this by undertaking numerous theoretical and practical tests set by the Guild of Watchmakers in Sydney. He proudly displayed the framed certificate above his workbench.Even in retirement, Tom was still approached by many of his old friends and past customers to repair their watches but would only take on easier repairs.

Tom spent his latter years at Fred French Nursing Home and passed away on 18 September 1996, aged 84 years.

Death 18 September 1996, Launceston
Robin White (son), Launceston, 2018.
TAHO: Name Indexes: 2105173, File No. 3134, Birth 1912.
Web: City of Launceston, Carr Villa Cemetery 1996.
The Mercury (Hobart) 1 March 1939.