Thomas Brassey, born 200 years ago this November, the greatest railway builder in the world, was a colossus of Victorian enterprise who hs become, perhaps, the most unsung hero of his age. For some 30 years up to his death in 1870, Brassey was employing an average of 80,000 men on as many as a dozen railway projects simultaneously, in up to four continents. Brassey was a supreme exemplar of that workmanship, ingenuity, daring, and commercial probity which built England's reputation all around the world for the next one hundred years. He was revered by his workforce, whom he in turn nurtured and treasured. Many events, with sponsors as varied as the schools of Brassey's native Cheshire to London's Institution of Civil Engineers and the Victorian Society, are to mark the bi-centenary of Thomas Brassey's birth on November 7th - and also Brassey's numerous descendants, for whom his great-great grandson, the prize-winning writer Tom Stacey, has researched and composed this compelling and idiosyncratic biographical essay.
"Thomas Brassey; The Greatest Railway Builder in the World" sets Brassey's achievements in the context of Britain's expanding worldwide role in the 19th century, and penetrates the character and qualities of a figure who surely deserves to be as famous and honoured as his friends and frequent colleague, I K Brunel.
Tom Stacey is the author of seven novels, one filmed to his own screenplay; of collections of short stories; of three works of remote travel and ethnology including the most recently published 'Tribe: the Hidden History of the Mountains of the Moon' and of three books on current affairs. He is a former columnist, chief foreign correspondent of the Sunday Times, and the winner of the 'Foreign Correspondent of the Year award'. He won the John Llewellyn Rhys award for literature, and is the Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He was chief executive of the publishing house Stacey International from its inception in 1974 until 1999, since when he has remained non-executive chairman. In the field of penal reform, he is founder and Director of the Offender's Tag Association . He is married to the sculptor Caroline Stacey, mother of their four daughters and one son, Sam, a civil engineer. They live in the house in Kensington from which I K Brunel chose his bride, Mary Horsley.