Part 40 - Meet the Author
by Lord Thomas the Black
Meet the Author
It occurs to
me, after three years of writing these monthly articles, that you, the readers,
don’t really know anything about me personally. So, since my overwhelming ego is
off its leash, I thought I’d use this month’s column to tell you about myself.
My name is Thomas Beckett (yes, really, for you history buffs out there). I’m 36 years old, and have been a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for ten years now. It doesn’t seem like it’s been anywhere near that long. I’ve done numerous demos, not only at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, but also schools, malls, bike shows, and other SCA events. I first became interested in the Middle Ages in third grade, when I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit”. I soon followed that up with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, and as time went by, my interest evolved from the fantastic to the historical aspects of medieval life. After serving six years in the U.S. Navy, I joined the SCA on the advice of the clerk at the local Tandy store.
At that time, I was interested mostly in leathercraft, but soon learned that seemingly everyone in my local chapter did leatherwork. I knew that the SCA allows one to advance as far as they want in any given craft, based on their efforts, but it didn’t seem that I could get too far with so many other people doing the same thing. Soon the Tandy corporation closed their stores, and my decision was made for me. I switched to making maille armor, since not many others were doing that.
I’ve been doing maille regularly for around seven years, but I learned how to weave it when I was a kid. There was a gentleman at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival with a maille demo, and he was teaching groups how to make maille throughout the day. I was there with some relatives, and couldn’t stay for the class, but I took one of his business cards, and later taught myself the basic European 4-in-1 pattern from the watermark on his card. Years later, I dusted off what knowledge I had of the art, and set about learning more. Before long, I had a number of weaves under my belt, and was getting known as the “chainmail guy” in my SCA group. In 1997, I moved to Kansas City and hooked up with the Barony of Forgotten Sea. They got me into the Kansas City Renaissance Festival, and I had so much fun doing that demo, I decided to do it every year.
Now I still demo at the KC Renfest, and I’m still in the SCA, and my knowledge
of the art and science of maille has grown considerably. Inspired by my good
friend Master Modar, I strive to be the “go-to guy” for maille in the Barony, if
not the Kingdom. Some day I’d like to reach the point where if anyone has a
question about maille, they’ll know to come to me, just as they know to go to
Modar with heraldry questions. I’m determined to be the Modar of maille!
Lord Thomas the Black
Lord Thomas the Black is my persona in the SCA, and is who I am at SCA events and most other demos. Thomas the Black was born in 1271, and served some time in the Knights Templar during the crusades, leaving their service shortly after the fall of Acre. The Templars taught him how to read and write, and he was first introduced to the craft of maille while in their service. Upon leaving the Templars, Thomas returned to Northern England, and began learning the craft of maille in earnest, studying with some of the finest armorers throughout England, Scotland, France, Italy and Germany. In 1305 he married Roise inghean ui Ruaidhri, a lovely woman he’d met while in the Holy Lands. Shortly after their wedding, they made the pilgrimage to the tomb of St Thomas a’ Becket, whom Thomas the Black was named after.
continues to ply his trade at the Canterbury Harvest Faire each year, and runs
the Black Oak Maille Guild with three promising students.
So there you have it. There’s more to both stories, of course, but I’m only writing a monthly column here, not my autobiography. If you want to know more, just ask! In the meantime, I’ve had a blast writing these articles for the last three years, and I thank you all for reading them! I have plenty more ideas still to come, so this isn’t the end by a long shot! Keep an eye on this site for future Blackmaille!
As always, any fan mail, hate mail, questions, or comments can (and should) be sent to:
c/o Tom Beckett
13628 Belmead Ave
Grandview, MO 64030
Or you can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
See you next month!
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