Perry, Thomas (c.1744–1818), violin-maker, was of huguenot descent and is believed to have been a relation of Claude Pierray, the distinguished violin-maker in Paris in the first part of the eighteenth century. His family emigrated to Ireland, where they changed their surname to Perry, but it is not known when or where Thomas was born. His father was also a violin-maker and established a workshop at 6 Anglesea St., Dublin. Thomas quickly learned the family trade and took over the running of the business in 1778 after his father's death. His younger brother, James Perry, moved to Kilkenny, where he became a prolific violin-maker, but his craftsmanship was poor and he never achieved the same reputation.
Taking Richard Tobin as his apprentice, and working with Vincenzo Panormo, Thomas Perry quickly established himself as one of the finest violin-makers of the period. There is some speculation that he based his distinctive design on an Amati violin lent to him by the duke of Leinster, but it seems more likely that he combined Tyrolean styles with a knowledge of the work of Richard Duke in London. Perry used the finest wood, adding a brown or golden-amber varnish that was probably based on a special Italian formula. His instruments were usually numbered, and branded ‘Thomas Perry’ under the button at the back; a characteristic aspect of his design was the narrow stem and small aperture at the top. Although his violins looked slightly unbalanced, the best ones were tonally far superior to anything his contemporaries could produce and their sound was ‘wonderfully sweet and mellow’ (Tighe, 30). Perry also made violas, cellos, and at least one double bass. Expanding his premises, in 1803 he moved to 4 Anglesea St.
Perry died in June 1818. He married (his wife's name is unknown) and had at least one daughter; it is possible that the Joseph Perry who made musical instruments in Dublin around 1800 was his son. His daughter married William Wilkinson, an entrepreneur and violin-maker who attempted to continue with the business after his father-in-law's death. The workshop of Perry and Wilkinson traded till about 1839, but there was a sharp decline in standards and the craftsmanship was poor. In a prolific career Thomas Perry made almost 3,000 instruments, and although the quality was variable the standard was generally very high. Now recognised as one of the finest violin makers in Britain and Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, he has been called the ‘Irish Stradivarius’.