Thomas was born in 1842, in Cork City and baptised on the 18th September 1842 at the Church of St. Finbarr South. Thomas came out to Australia with brother James in 1861. He ran a shoemaking shop with James between at least 1868 to 1872 but by 1880 had set up his own business in Allansford, about 10km to the west of Warrnambool.
In 1874, Thomas nearly drowned. The following excerpt is from the February 20 Warrnambool Standard. ‘Mr Thomas Dorney, of Allansford, had a very narrow escape in the bay of Tuesday last. He went in to take a bathe between seven and eight am, the sea not appearing to him to be dangerous. It was however, extremely rough, large waves coming within a few yards of the beach, with a large nasty cross sea. Having swum out a little distance he tried to get back to shore. The current had carried him further out than he supposed, and he found to his dismay that he could make no headway he called out for help, and Mr. Dawson Wilson at once stripped and came with a hurdle as a kind of life buoy. The waves however turned it over and kept it down for a little, and when it had been adjusted he could not make the slightest progress. Mr W.A. Mackat ventured out to his assistance, but had difficulty in getting back again. Mr H.T. Read who had arrived at the beach, also swam out, but had to let go without rescuing Dorney. Mr. Marshall, of the Medical Dispensary then swam out, and all those named joined hands, and contrived to drag Dorney out, very weak and exhausted but not insensible. He had been about half an hour in the water.’
There is a story that he also taught dance classes in Allansford, and that he was a very good tap-dancer, earning the name ‘Skip’ Dorney. In March 1892 Thomas donated a sword to the Warrnambool Museum.
In 1895 his trotting pony won first prize at the Koroit Show.
He died in Warrnambool at the age of 62 on 12th of March 1907 and was buried in the Warrnambool cemetery.
Legal documents relating to the administration of Thomas’ estate state that he died intestate, single and that James was his closest living relative. Thomas left a house and an acre of land valued at £100 (of which £45 13s 9d was owing to the bank) and very few other possessions.
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