Moles, Thomas (1871–1937), MP and journalist, was born 13 November 1871 in Belfast, second son of Edward Moles of Ardmore, Ballymena, Co. Antrim, and Margaret Jane Moles (née Carson). He was educated at the old Collegiate School in Ballymena and was subsequently appointed to the staff of the Ballymena Weekly Telegraph. He then moved to Armagh to take up the position of editor of the Ulster Gazette. During this time he came under the notice of Sir Robert Baird (qv), managing director of the Belfast Telegraph, and was invited to join the staff of the Telegraph in 1902. In 1909 he became chief leader writer and in 1924, following the death of A. W. Stewart, he was promoted to managing editor and held this position until his death. He was made a fellow of the Ulster District Institute of Journalists in 1925 and also sat on the committee of the Belfast branch of the Newspaper Press Fund.
As one of the leading assistants of Edward Carson (qv), Moles was prominently identified with the anti-home-rule campaign. His main contribution was in the field of propaganda, and his ‘open letter’ to A. G. Gardiner, editor of the Observer, was a tour de force. As well as advocating the position of the Ulster unionists in the pages of the Telegraph, he produced a number of pamphlets including The Ulster situation and The real Ulster (1917). The leadership of Edward Carson was originally written for inclusion in an album presented to Carson but was later made available to the public. In 1911 he was appointed Irish representative on the British press visit to Canada, and he was the only journalist who knew in advance of the Larne gunrunning. He witnessed and took part in the landing of the consignments of rifles from the Mountjoy and subsequently wrote a description of the event. In 1917 he was invited by leading members of the Ulster party to join the secretariat of the Irish convention, and kept an extended record of its proceedings.
His parliamentary career began in December 1918 when he was elected as the unionist member for Ormeau in the imperial parliament. In November 1922 he was returned unopposed to Westminster for Belfast South and he held this seat until 1929. During this period he was involved in protracted negotiations over the financial implications of the Government of Ireland Act. Both Moles and H. M. Pollock (qv) considered that the scheme of finance on offer from Westminster was inadequate, and insisted on the setting up of the joint exchequer board. The Colwyn committee was appointed by this board and ultimately conceded many of Moles's and Pollock's demands. In keeping with one of his election promises Moles also successfully redressed the demands of the prewar RIC pensioners, whose allowances did not take account of postwar living costs.
In May 1921 he was elected for Belfast South in the first election to the Northern Ireland parliament and had the distinction of being the first member declared elected. Given his experience as an MP at Westminster, he was appointed deputy speaker of the new house and chairman of the committee of ways and means. In 1929, however, he suffered two attacks of nephritis and resigned his seat in the imperial parliament. On hearing this, Carson wrote: ‘all through our campaign in Ulster and in the house of commons you were a very devoted and able comrade and I could never thank you sufficiently for all the loyalty and help you lavishly devoted to myself’ (Belfast Telegraph, 3 Feb. 1937). Moles continued his parliamentary career in the Northern Ireland house of commons as the representative for Belfast (Ballynafeigh) from May 1929 until his death in 1937.
Outside politics, his recreations included cycling, football, boxing, and shooting, and he did a great deal to foster such outdoor pursuits. He was a leading figure in the Ballymena cycle club and was largely responsible for the construction of a cement racing track in the town. He was also responsible for the promotion and organisation of sporting events such as the ‘Ballymena walk’ and the ‘cyclists’ parade’. He later held a unique record in that he sat on the governing bodies of five different sports. He was a member of the council of the Irish Football Association and the international selection committee; president of the Northern Ireland Amateur Athletic Association; president of the Ulster Centre National Cycling Union; and patron of the Belfast Sports Club. In later years he became an ardent motorist and made frequent contributions to the athletic and cycling press.
Moles had a long association with the Masonic order and was a member of the Tower of Lebanon Masonic Lodge No. 285, the Rosetta Masonic Lodge, and the Press Lodge No. 432. As a member of Star of Down LOL and Preceptory, the Friendly Sons of Ulster LOL, London, and Avonmore Royal Arch Chapter, No. 26, he was prominently identified with the Orange order and frequently addressed Twelfth of July demonstrations. He was also a member of the Walker club apprentice boys of Derry.
A member of the Church of Ireland, he was connected to the congregation of St Jude in Belfast. In 1923 he was appointed as a privy councillor for Northern Ireland and was the first working journalist to receive this honour. He married (1901) Charlotte Douglas, third daughter of M. Branigan of Ballycastle; they had one son and two daughters. He died on 3 February 1937 at a private Belfast nursing home.