Merritt, Thomas

Cornish Methodist, author of carols and tune composer. He was born on 26 October 1863 in Pool near Redruth, the son of a miner and baptized at Broad Lane PM chapel on 31 July 1865. Although frail from birth, he went to work at Carn Brea Mine in 1875, following the death of his father. Later he worked at the tin stream recovery works at Tolvaddon. At about 18 or 19 he began to study music, devoting several hours a day before and after work to practising piano and harmonium. When sufficiently competent he gave up mining to teach music. In about 1899 he was appointed organist and choirmaster in the Illogan Highway WM chapel, a post he held for twelve years. Outside the present schoolroom of the chapel is a plaque commemorating Merritt, 'once organist in this chapel and composer of Christmas carols sung by Cornishmen and women the world over'. He was also organist at Chili Road UMFC at Illogan Highway. This chapel is now demolished, but the Merritt organ is now at St.Andrew's Church, Pencoys, Four Lanes. His compositions are in a fugal style, and were published in two volumes by Reid Brothers of Northampton. Titles include 'Lo ! He Comes an Infant Stranger' and 'Hail Sacred Day', and tunes to 'Hark the Glad Sound' and 'While Shepherds watched'. Published at a time of massive emigration from the county, his carols and tunes were taken and sung with great emotion in South Africa and north America, and are still in use in Cornwall. Merritt died on 17 April 1908 and is buried in Illogan Churchyard.

Entry written by: CCS
Category: Person
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