Memories of the Post Office
William Thomas's eldest son, (another William!), grandson of the founder, was called home from his school in London at the age of fifteen to help in the family business. His grandfather was seriously ill and was soon to die, aged 72. Will started work in the post office, learning Morse code to send and receive telegrams and delivering them all over the West Wight. In his memoirs he recalled:
"Before I was 16 years of age I was sending and receiving telegrams on the Morse Printer…When a lad I had sometimes to deliver telegrams – have walked over to Brook House lots of times , and several times to Pitt Place, Brighstone – which was our longest delivery – a boy and cart were used sometimes but this was not always available and you often had to walk, no cycles except the penny farthings and a small lad couldn’t ride them – Can you see a boy nowadays walking to deliver telegrams six miles - and return?”
The hours of duty were long in the post office at Freshwater Bay. Monday to Saturday hours were from 8 am to 8pm; Sunday hours were from 8 am to 10 am and from 4 pm to 4:30 pm. Bank holiday hours were the same as ordinary weekdays and there were no half days.
At the age of 26 Will became postmaster, succeeding his father, William Thomas. He was to remain in the post until his retirement in 1954 at the age of 82! In his memoirs he recalled handling telegrams between Queen Victoria at Osborne House near East Cowes and the poet Tennyson at nearby Farringford House:
“I remember receiving quite a number of telegrams over the wire from Queen Victoria to the poet – they were always signed by Minnie Cochrane, or one of the Gentlemen in waiting and usually they were to ask Tennyson to lunch or dine. Only one I remember was from the Queen herself direct – it was just after the rather sudden death of the Duke of Clarence  and was as follows – ‘Thank you for your beautiful lines on the death of my dear Grandson’ – Victoria R.I."