Thomas Deadman had a very successful fruit and vegetable
business in Wolverhampton Market Hall, and Tommy's
father, also called Thomas Deadman had worked there as a
young man. He was a bit of a wanderer and left
Wolverhampton to go to North America to follow a close
relative who had travelled across the country in a wagon
train at the time of the cowboys and Indians, and
settled in Moultrie County, Illinois. He soon returned
to Wolverhampton after his wanderings, and married and
settled down. During the First World war he joined the
armed forces and took part in the crossing of the Somme.
Unfortunately he suffered from the effects of mustard
gas, which made him ill for the rest of his life.
Tommy's Early Career
On leaving school at the age of 14
Tommy joined the sea scouts, and after making his way to
Torquay, he ended up in the navy, after lying about his
age. For several years he served on the mine sweeper
H.M.S. Onyx. On returning to Wolverhampton his uncle Bill Shakespeare,
who was a well-known Wolverhampton bookmaker, bought Tommy
a half-share in a garage at Queens Ferry, Chester, called Deadman and Williams.
After a couple of years Tommy returned home. He was very
young at the time and missed Wolverhampton.
He decided to emulate his
grandfather and set up a fruit and vegetable business.
He rented a small shop and bought a horse and cart to
collect and deliver the produce. Unfortunately he soon
discovered that this was not the life for him. He was no
good at all with horses. One kind gentleman even
informed him that he had the horse's harness back to
front! He decided to give the business to his mother and
father and set out on a new career.
Tommy must always have been
interested in mechanical things. At an early age he
completely dismantled his mother's sewing machine to
find out how it worked. After reassembly it worked first
time. He must also have been interested in motorcycles,
because in the first years of the 1920s he got a job as
a tester at A.J.S. on Graiseley Hill. Life as a tester
could be hard in the winter months when he would have
been constantly road testing new motorcycles in all
kinds of bad weather. The summer months must have been
far more enjoyable with runs through the local
countryside, which must have given him a thorough
grounding in all aspects of motorcycle riding and a good
insight into the mechanical problems that sometimes
occurred. After each trip he would have filled-in a
report card listing any problems that he found with the
machine under test. His riding skills must have been
recognised at the works because in the mid 1920s he took
one of the company’s 500c.c. motorcycles to Brooklands
for trial runs, possibly the first A.J.S. overhead cam
In the late 1920s Tommy moved down the Penn Road and
joined the competition, in the form of Sunbeam. He
became a competition rider, doubling as a tester, which
was normal practice in those days. He also became a
member of the Wolverhampton Motor Cycle Club.