© Hugh Close (via Geograph)
Thomas set off from his home in Jedburgh to his first Head Gardener post on 28th February 1867. At 25 he already had nine years’ experience in horticulture, including his eight months’ study in France. Again supplied with a situation courtesy of Downie Laird and Laing of Edinburgh, he traveled to Newtonairds near Dunscore. Thomas says of the situation:
The estate was not large but it was a nice place but out of the way. The owner was Mr. P Smith, formerly a Glasgow merchant. I soon found that he was not very popular, but he employed a great number of men in building a nice house in the Scotch castle style.
Typically, Thomas says almost nothing of the day-to-day work there, except that once again the main focus of his occupation was to be glass houses: ‘I had hothouses to erect and furnish’. As was so often the case, never more so than at Palé, Thomas struck up a good relationship with his employer – at least at first! ‘I got on uncommonly well with himself and his son Hugh, who was all the family. I found both to be original characters and full of anecdotes.’
As a Head Gardener, Thomas found time to follow his own hobbies, whist working in the gardens to his employer’s satisfaction: ‘During the summer I botanised the whole district, and found many plants new or rare to me.’
The servant class pursued their employment, whilst the upper classes sometimes led more exotic lives: ‘May 2nd  I went to sow some seeds in the garden of Stroquhan, a house rented by my employer. This is a nice old-fashioned place belonging to a fast young man who had to fly the country for bigamy’ Meanwhile, Thomas continued in his socially upwardly mobile trajectory by accompanying his employer on journeys to purchase plants for the garden: ‘May 7th Tuesday I went with Mr. Smith to Edinburgh to buy plants. We both stayed in the City all night, and I enjoyed my trip very much.’ ‘September 23rd Monday Mr. Hugh Smith and I went to Edinburgh for more plants. He made me travel in the same carriage as him, and to luncheon with him in the Café Royal. We got many rare plants. I stayed again two nights in the city. We got all our hampers of plants to the station to take with us, but when the station master saw them he said to Mr. Smith ‘You cannot take these as luggage’. Mr. Smith answered, ‘I can take an elephant if I pay for it! And all you have to do is get a van and put them in it at once!’ The station master soon did as told. We got home all right and I enjoyed myself very much.
However, it is clear that the Head Gardeners of the time, once trained and in post, were in a strong position when it came to employment, and could leave one position and take up another without detriment to their career path: ‘I found that this part was very rainy and disagreeable in autumn and spring, and during summer it was most uncomfortable to walk out owing to flies. I had to keep continually whipping them off. I determined to leave this place owing to the way that father and son disagreed about what was to be done. I had the offer to go to Derbyshire from the firm of Downie and Laird. The Smiths were very angry with me for leaving, but they knew the cause was of their own making. I parted as the best of friends in the end, Mr. Hugh shaking me heartily by the hand. I left on Monday 11th November 1867′