Pim, Thomas (1771–1855), merchant, was born 27 October 1771 in Mountmellick, Queen's Co. (Laois), second son among nine sons and four daughters of Jonathan Pim (1741–1824), tanner, originally of Rushin, Queen's Co., and later of Mountmellick, and his second wife, Sarah (1746–1805), daughter of Anthony Robinson and Margaret Robinson (née Bewley). Educated at Ballitore School, Co. Kildare, he was in the late 1780s apprenticed to Joshua Edmundson, a linen draper in Dublin. He completed his apprenticeship in 1795 and began trading as a merchant from the premises of his eldest brother, James, at 69 Grafton St. By 1802 he had become the principal in a partnership with his younger brother Jonathan (1778–1841), based at 22 South William St., Dublin.
The firm began as general merchants specialising in the import and wholesale distribution of cotton wool and soon built up a trade with New York, Liverpool, and the West Indies. The Pims’ business exported linen to all three markets and in addition supplied poplins to Liverpool and coarse cotton products to the West Indies. They imported spices from the West Indies and sourced cotton wool directly from New York and indirectly from Liverpool, from where they also imported fancy goods. At home they supplied fancy goods and poplins to the retail trade but the largest constituent of their business was the supply of cotton wool to Irish manufacturers.
In order to maintain and expand the market for cotton wool Thomas and his brother often bankrolled customers such as James Greenham, who had a manufacturing concern at Roper's Rest in Dublin. In order to finance expansion Greenham mortgaged the property to Thomas and built (1808) a weaving mill at Greenmount, Harold's Cross, Dublin. With the purchase of Temple Mills, Celbridge Co. Kildare, Greenham was employing 1,600 weavers and using twenty-seven tons of cotton a week, all of which was supplied by Thomas Pim. In 1813 Greenham encountered difficulties and mortgaged the Harold's Cross premises to Thomas and Jonathan Pim. Around the same time the youngest Pim brother, Joseph, joined the partnership. Greenham went bankrupt in 1824 and from 1826 the firm headed by Thomas Pim took over the running of the Greenmount mills and added manufacturing to their increasing number of businesses. The volume of goods being imported and exported had become so large that Thomas owned three ships: Hannah, Margaret, and Hibernia.
In 1831 the partnership was restructured as Joseph Robinson Pim and Thomas Pim began to devote more time to their shipping concerns. The Dublin Directory for 1832 lists the partnership as Thomas, Jonathan Pim & Co, wholesale linen merchants, cotton spinners, and manufacturers. In 1834 they installed 100 power looms at the Greenmount mills, which by then used a mixture of water and steam power. The mills employed more than 300 workers, for whom the Pim brothers built cottages and gardens. By 1841 Thomas had become wealthy enough to purchase the adjoining premises at 23 South William St., and in the following year he was involved in the foundation of Pim Bros on South Great George's St. with his son, Jonathan Pim (qv) (1806–85). His firm had become so large that it was represented by agents in New York and London.
Apart from his primary mercantile business Thomas was involved in several other commercial enterprises. In 1805 he joined other merchants in the initial attempt to found a Dublin chamber of commerce. In 1811 he became a founding shareholder of the Irish Marine Insurance Co. He entered a mixed mercantile and brewing partnership in 1813 that was initially so successful he renewed the partnership with his cousin James Pim in 1816. However, the partnership became less profitable and he left it shortly afterwards. In 1824 he was appointed a director of the National Insurance Co., and in the same year became a founding shareholder in three enterprises spearheaded by his brother, Joseph Robinson Pim: the Patriotic Insurance Co. and the St George Steam Packet Co., based in Cork, and the Irish Mining Co. He was also the first chairman (1834) on the Dublin & Kingstown Railway Co., to which his family contributed 20% of the initial capital. When he died 29 November 1855 in Dublin, an obituary in the Freeman's Journal (3 December 1855) described him as one of the most distinguished merchants in the city.
He married (1805) Mary, daughter of William Harvey and Margaret Harvey (née Abell). In his later years he lived at Monkstown House, Monkstown, Co. Dublin. He had three sons, including the MP Jonathan Pim, and four daughters.
Joseph Robinson Pim (1787–1858), shipping and insurance pioneer and youngest son of Jonathan Pim, was born 30 June 1787 in Mountmellick. Educated at Ballitore, he was later apprenticed to the partnership of his brothers Thomas and Jonathan, based in Dublin. On finishing his apprenticeship, he was made a partner in the firm and quickly became a driving force behind the proliferation of joint stock companies that ensued after the ending of the ‘bubble’ act in 1824. He was a founding shareholder and deputy governor of the Hibernian Gas Light Co. and in February 1824 was instrumental in setting up the Irish Mining Company. His involvement with the import and export partnership led to an interest in the shipping and insurance side of the mercantile business, and it was here that he made his biggest impact.
As a merchant continually looking for expanding markets at home, he realised that the Irish economy needed capital to develop. However, the lack of Irish insurance companies meant that much capital was flowing out of the country through English firms. He was a founding shareholder in the National Insurance Co., and in 1824 founded the Patriotic Assurance Co., in which he, his brothers, and other family held a 6 per cent stake. Not only did the new firm help retain capital in the country, it meant that the Pim brothers were not paying other firms to insure their imports and exports. Joseph Robinson Pim became the de facto executive officer and was responsible for purchasing offices on St Stephen's Green and establishing an agency at Liverpool. Between 1825 and 1835 the company's Irish market share grew from 10 per cent to nearly 19 per cent.
In order to save costs and secure control of the cotton wool market for the Pim brothers, Joseph Robinson spearheaded the foundation of the St George Steam Packet Co. (1822). Through his marriage, he had connections with Cork merchants in general and John Lecky (qv) in particular. The Pims and the Leckys became founding shareholders in the new firm, which launched its first ships, Lee and Severn, in 1824. The company was initially run from offices based at Liverpool and Charlotte Quay, Cork, but the headquarters later moved to purpose-built premises at Penrose Quay, Cork. It also had offices at 11 Eden Quay, Dublin. In 1825 Joseph Robinson Pim extended his shipping interests with a shareholding in the Dublin Steam Packet Co. By 1828 the firm had offices at Cork, Dublin, Hull, Liverpool, and London; agents at Newry, Derry, Belfast, Westport, Galway, Limerick, and Belfast; and twelve vessels running routes from Cork and Dublin to Dundalk, Newry, Liverpool, London, Bristol, Hull, Glasgow, Hamburg, and Rotterdam. In 1835 Pim briefly moved to Birkenhead to supervise his shipping concerns, and a contemporary described him as having nearly half the steamers in the kingdom under his management. In that year he also took a 10 per cent stake in the Waterford Commercial Steam Co.
The following year (1836) he began to invest money in the banking sector. Initially he bought stakes in the Agricultural & Commercial Bank and the Royal Bank, and these were closely followed by shares in the Hibernian and the Provincial Bank of Ireland. Joseph Robinson Pim created a finely balanced network of enterprises that allowed the merchant business to control its markets through shipping, which was in turn financed by the banks he invested in and insured by the Patriotic Assurance Co., which he founded. Between 1836 and 1843 he also succeeded in opening direct trade routes from Ireland to the USA. In 1836 he became a founding director of the British & American Steam Navigation Co. As a public relations exercise the company chartered the Sirius from his other shipping concern, the St George Steam Packet Co., and funded its voyage across the Atlantic – the first such voyage completed (22 April 1838) by a steamer.
However, during the latter part of the 1830s it was already clear that his shipping interests were in trouble. Furthermore the collapse of the Agricultural & Commercial Bank and its subsequent winding up diverted much of his attention away from his other concerns. The St George Steam Packet Co. suffered losses to the extent that it was later (October 1844) amalgamated with a new company, the City of Cork Steamship Co., which was headed by Ebenezer Pike (qv). Joseph Robinson Pim died 6 March 1858 in Dublin.
He married first (1819) Hannah (1797–1829), daughter of John Lecky, banker and merchant of Youghal, and Susannah Lecky (née Jacob). They had five daughters. He married secondly (1831) Anna Jemina (1796–1881), daughter of William Lecky and Blessing Lecky; they had two sons and two daughters and lived at Greenmount, Harold's Cross, Dublin.