Friends of Hastings Cemetery

OBITUARY from the Hastings Observer 7 April 1906




Hastings has lost its oldest journalist and veteran local historian. Mr Thomas Brandon Brett passed peacefully into that bourne from which no traveller ever returns at 5.45 on Wednesday evening, at his residence in Norman Road, St Leonards.

Mr Brett would have been ninety years of age in May next.  He retained his vitality in a surprising degree.  It was only last Sunday morning that he took to his bed, and even then he insisted on getting up again at eleven o'clock, and remaining up till seven.  The cause of death was senile decay.  He was conscious almost to the last, talked quite rationally, and ate well. On Wednesday afternoon he took his medicine and afterwards ate some grapes. He passed away in his sleep.

As most of his acquaintances know, Mr Brett had strong opinions on the subject of doctoring, and seldom allowed any member of the medical faculty to prescribe for him.  He was, however, willing that Dr Scarlyn Wilson (for whose late father he had a great esteem) should attend him in the illness which proved to be his last.

It was characteristic of Mr Brett's untiring energy that during his last illness he attempted to revise the proof of a long article on Anti-Vaccination, as affected by the General Election of 1906, which he had sent to the Observer only a few days before.  The article extended to between six and seven columns, and the Editor, being unable to find space for such a long contribution, suggested to Mr Brett that it should be reduced to two columns, and this was the last literary task the veteran writer attempted — a task, alas! which was not completed.

Mr Brett's intellect was keen up to the very end, and his memory did not seem to fail in the least, although of late years he had been handicapped by deafness.  His physical powers were extraordinary.  A fortnight ago he was up at five o'clock in the morning.  About two months ago he walked as far as George Street.  During his last illness he asked for writing materials.  His calligraphy remained singularly firm and legible to the end.  He was, as an intimate friend says, "methodical without method".  His immense collection of books and papers would have bewildered anyone with a less retentive memory. Yet without troubling to arrange these carefully, he would go at any moment and find the particular item which he wanted for reference.

Mr Brett was born on the 30th May 1816. It was his pardonable boast that since he was ten years old he worked eighteen hours a day.  Those who only knew him as a painstaking journalist, a local historian, with a marvellous memory for details, and a port with an ability for stringing Hastings names together in a way which "J.J.B." might envy, will be surprised to hear that he has also been blacksmith, draper, schoolmaster, postman, cabinet maker, band conductor, composer, printer, and astronomer.  In the old days of the St Leonards Gazette he was a stickler for pure English.  In this connection, when an Observer representative last visited Mr Brett (to obtain some information on the Corporation Maces), the old gentleman recalled an argument which he once had with the late Alderman Winter, JP, on the subject of the strictly correct plural of the index of a book.


Thomas Brandon Brett, p.2