[From The Manx Quarterly, #24]
Died October 13th, 1920.
The career of Mr Thomas Henry Cormode, one of the ablest public men this Island has possessed for the past generation, has had an unhappy ending. Two years ago Mr Cormode had a nervous breakdown which left him subject to fits of extreme depression, and quite recently he became an inmate of the Mental Hospital. For the greater part of this period his mind was as lucid, and his interest in current affairs as intense, as ever, and old friends and colleagues used to visit him continually, and he found satisfaction in their company, but the necessity continued for his remaining under care. On October 13th, he went out from the grounds of the Hospital, and did not return ; and the following morning he was found dead in a field close by. The. cause of death was heart disease.
Despite its tragic conclusion, Mr Cormodes career was one to be admired and emulated. At the beginning of life he set out to fit himself for the service of his fellows, and though he enjoyed the barest minimum of educational advantages, he so cultivated his talents that he became one of the most influential men in his country, and he faithfully followed the ideals of duty and of personal and public righteousness. He was 58 years old, and followed the business of his late father, Mr John Cormode, blacksmith, of Quines Hill, near Port Soderick. He was one of a remarkable family ; his youngest brother, the late Mr Ben Cormode, was a gifted exponent of advanced political views ; another brother, Mr C Arthur Cormode, is also a prominent Labour politician, and recently contested an election for the House of Keys ; Mr Alfred J Cormode is a local preacher of unusual popularity, and Mr Edward Cormode is recognised by his acquaintances as an unusually shrewd and well.informed man, by no means destitute of the power of self-expression.
Mr T. H. Cormode displayed a passion for public questions from his early youth, and long before his election to the House of Keys he was famous all over the Island as a " tribune of the people." When he was returned for Peel in 1903, defeating the late Mr Alfred N. Laughton after a historic contest, his advent to the Legislature was hailed with enthusiasm. A common country blacksmith, he was the first worker with his hands to obtain a seat in the House of Keys, and it became fashionable to refer to him as " the Manx John Burns," and the " first Manx Labour member. " Along with the late Mr W. T. Crennell and with Mr W. M. Kerruish, he carried on the tradition of eloquence, of public speaking as an art, which was then smouldering towards extinction, and which is now almost spark out. He was returned unopposed in 1908, he repelled an attack in 1913 by Mr G. B. Kermode, and it was only because of the misfortune that overtook him that he felt it necessary to retire from public life at the General Election last November.
Mr Cormodes services to the Island as an administrator were mainly performed by reason of his membership of the Harbour Board, to which he belonged for a considerable number of years. For some time he was Deputy Receiver-General. He was one of the main authors of the famous Reform petition, and he constantly fought to the last ditch in favour of social reforms and of the abolition of the bad old system of financing the government of the country wholly out of indirect taxation. He served on numerous occasional committees of the House of Keys and of the Tynwald Court, and a word ought to be said concerning his duties as a member of the Appeal Tribunal appointed under the Military Service Acts. Mr Cormode had for years committed the noble folly of spending himself physically and mentally in the service of his country. It was regularly his wont to toil at the anvil in the early morning, go to Douglas and undergo the strain of a legislative sitting, and return to the anvil in the evening. The labour and anxiety of his membership of the Appeal Tribunal, coupled with the sorrow occasioned to him by the death of Mr Crennell, with whom he had a friendship like that of David and Jonathan, proved the last ounce of pressure which led to collapse.
Mr Cormode was a local preacher in the Primitive Methodist Church from his early teens and became perhaps the most distinguished local on the Island He was in deed a typical product of the plan His speech displayed marked peculiarities of intonation and pronunciationnot of grammar or diction there he was as perfect as the most accomplished scholarand it must be confessed that his manner was not always urbane He was not at all unclubable - he was a generous indeed a chivalrous friend and though not invariably a generous opponent, still he was always a fair one. He was proof against all those temptations to overstate ones own case and to misrepresent the other man s which so often beset the path of the impatient reformer He had represented Manx Primitive Methodism at the Liverpool District Synods and at Conference, and he was one of the leading speakers at the centenary of the Primitive Methodist Connexion, held at Mow Cop, the site of the first camp meeting. He was an ardent Rechabite and temperance advocate generally, and was a Past District Chief Ruler and Past District Superintendent of Juvenile Tents and he had been a representative to the H.M.C.
Besides possessing the gift of speech, Mr Cormode handled the pen skilfully and it is an open secret that for years he acted as leaderwriter to the Mona s Herald Another subject in which he interested him self was agriculture, and he was a regular attendant at meetings of the Isle of Man Agricultural Society and a worker at the Societys shows.
The funeral took place at Braddan on Oct. 16th, and was attended by a large number of the deceased gentlemans admirers. The Legislature, the Douglas Town Council, the Primitive Methodist Church, and the Rechabite Order, were well represented. The officiating clergymen were the Rev. F W. Henshall, superintendent of the Douglas Primitive Methodist circuit, and the Vicar of Braddan, the Rev. W. A. Rushworth ; and the Rechabite funeral oration was read by Mr Joseph Allen, Mr Cormodes latest successor in the office of District Chief Ruler.
At the opening of the sitting of the House of Keys on Tuesday October 19th
The Speaker said : Before we begin the work of the session, I think members will agree with me that it is only fitting that we should make some public reference to the sudden death of Mr Thomas Henry Cormode The House will remember that al most exactly twelve months ago those then occupying these seats placed on record their appreciation of Mr Cormode s long services, their regret at his continued ill health, and their hope for his speedy recovery That hope has unfortunately not been realised and for those of us, at any rate who have seen Mr Cormode in recent weeks and knew how much he felt his enforced idle ness and how much he dreaded a long future in his then state of health it would be affectation to regret, for his sake, his decease But the loss to the country and to us is not the less on that account Mr Cormode for 16 years represented the town of Peel with great acceptance to his constituenty and with great benefit to his country. He was a man who, without any advantages of education, by sheer force of character and by indomitable pluck pushed himself into the front of public affairs in this Island. He was, I think, a man whose natural bent of mind was critical, and was a man who took life very hardly, perhaps too hardly for his own well-being. The bow always seemed to be fully stretched. He was not, I think, a man who made friends very quickly, but when once he had made friends, there was no man more loyal to them. And when once he had made up his mind that a certain course was the only course that could be pursued, in the interests of right and the interests of the country, he never swerved from it, even though, in the words of the Psalmist, " it worked to his own hindrance." Such men as that are the salt of the earth, and so long as we can produce men of that character, and of the high standard in thought and deed, we need not despair of the future of our country.
Mr Shimmin then, at the call of the Speaker, moved the following resolution
That this House desires to place on record its recognition of the invaluable public services rendered by the late Mr Thomas Henry Cormode, who for many years represented the town of Peel in this House, with acceptance to his constituents and with greet benefit to the Manx people; and desires to convey to the relatives its deep sympathy with them in the loss which they have sustained.
Mr Shiminin, moving the resolution, said he was intimately acquainted with Mr Cormode for about 16 years, and had a full opportunity of studying both his private and public life, and it was his conviction that with his passing, the Isle of Man had lost one of its worthiest sons. " Tom" Cormode was the first bona-fide workingman to be elected to the House of Keys, and it was good to know that though he was compelled by circumstances to drudge at exhausting manual labour in order to provide his daily bread, yet intellectually he kept abreast of, and at times even led, his more privileged and leisured colleagues In the House. On an occasion such as this, when one reviewed the finished life-work of a fellow-man, it behoved one to think kindly, and to forget any differences of opinion one might have had, and gladly to acknowledge the unselfishness and the high purpose of a life freely given for ones fellow-men. Mr Cormode had little leisure in his youth ; the responsibility of being head of the household fell upon him, and he did his duty to his family honourably. As a tradesman he was skilful, and as a business man, he was respected. As a Christian, he loyally served his Master, and fought the good fight to the bitter end. As a politician,. he fought with ability and courage against reaction and sectionalism. He was a true Manxman, and the Island was the better for his having lived. To those who knew him, his memory would be an inspiration, and a stimulus to them to give their best service, also, to the common good.
Mr Dalgleish, seconding, also claimed personal friendship and political comradeship with Mr Cormode. Mr Cormode was a great statesman, a man of broad vision and high ideals. His sympathies were with the poor; . be never neglected or disowned them, and all his efforts were directed towards uplifing them. His programme was one of advanced Reform, and they rejoiced to think that, through his services and those of the late Mr Crennell, Mr W. M. Kerruish, and other stalwarts they had secured valuable measures of political and social reconstruction. It was a great pity that he had not remained with them to assist in putting these great reforms into practice He was also a great preacher, and served his church unstintingly, and toiled, as it were, seven days in the weekfor it was a very rare Sunday that he spent at home. He sacrificed his very life for his fellows. He was also a man of deep humility. When he secured his first victory at Peel he did not take it gloatingly, but remarked to his committee friends this is not a thing to make a man big it is rather a thing to make him humble." So long as the country was possessed of such noble characters as the lath T. H. Cormode, it could look for-ward to a happy future.
The motion was carried in silence, all the members standing.
At the Bucks-road Primitive Methodist Church, Douglas, on Oct. 17th, brief reference was made to the passing of Mr Cormode, and also to the sudden death the previous day of Mr Frank S. Clucas, who was a member of the congregation.
Many of those who recognised and admired the great talents and the fine character of the late Mr T. H. Cormode, journeyed to Bucks-road Primitive Methodist Church, Douglas, on Sunday, Nov. 7th, when special tributes were paid to the deceased gentlemans memory. Mr Cormode was for forty years a local preacher and a worker in every description of activity in the Douglas Primitive Methodist circuit, and the Rev. F. W. Henshall, the present circuit superintendent, took occasion to enlarge on the meaning of "true wealth" as illustrated in the life of Mr Cormode. True wealth, said the rev. gentleman, was character, and Mr Cormode gave himself up to the cultivation of character ; he was a~n in-dependent personality, and no mere echo, and wherever he went, he spoke what he himself felt to he right. He (Mr Henshall) heard across the water the othesday what he considered a fine tribute to true power of Mr Cormodes personality. A young man whom religion did not at all attract was staying at Port Erin (so the story ran which was told by Mr Henshall), and he went to an open-air service which was addressed by Mr Cormode, and he exclaimed when it was finished, "That is a man ! I can stand that !" No doubt, said Mr Henshall, Mr Cormode did preach a fine sermon on that occasion ; he never preached anything else ; he gave his best wherever he preachhed ; but, as Dr Parker was wont to say, it was not that he had his sermon, but he was his sermon. Materialism was reigning today, and all sections of the community seemed to be engirosseid in seeking how much they could get for themselves, but underneath it all, there was a respect for goodness, and when a man passed away who had given himself far his fellows, even those who had scoffed at him in life paid their tributes to him in death.
The secret of Mr Cormodes influence went back to the mission service in 1880, when this young fellow, then aged 18, surrendered his all to his Saviour, he saw that he could best serve his Saviour by serving his fellows, and he began to preach, and to work in the Sunday-school, and he went into public life in order to bring himself into line with the purpose of his Master. But he was happiest, not in the House of Keys, but in the Sunday school and chapel at Quines Hill. He was one of the busiest men in the Island, but he always had time for the week-night service. He (Mr Henshall) had gone up there, and had seen Mr Cormode, after having had a harassing day in the Tynwald Court or the Appeal Tribunal, working in his apron at the blacksmith's shop. But at seven oclock he would throw off the apron, and would light the lamp and the stove fire in the chapel for the evening service. He was proud to do the humblest duties for his Church. What the Church stood for was everything to him. And if they wanted this nation to be made better, it would be done by their sharing the spirit of their departed friend, and consecrating themselves to the highest ends in the same way that he did.
Alderman John Kelly, as one of Mr Cormodes oldest friends, narrated several interesting incidents of his intercourse with the deceased gentleman.
During the service, the choir, under the direction of Mr T. P. Fargher, rendered the anthem, "God shall wipe away all tears" (J. C. Field), and a setting by F. C. Maker of Tennysons poem, "On crossing the bar." A duet, "The Psalm of Life" (Knight), was rendered by Miss Effie Fayle and Mr Allan Quirk, and a solo, "Abide with me" (Liddell), by Miss Fayle.