Burns, Thomas (Tommy; ‘The Scotchman’) (1898–1991), jockey, was born 13 February 1898 in Ayrshire, Scotland, eldest son and third child of James Burns (d.1954), racehorse trainer, and Jane Burns (née Tait; d. 1931). Educated at Ayr Academy, he quickly eschewed school for the racetrack, achieving his first win at Thirsk (1913). His grandfather had been born in Virginia, Co. Cavan, and in 1915 the family moved to Ireland when his father took up the position of trainer for Col. Hall Walker (later Lord Wavertree). In 1916 Tommy was the leading professional jockey in Ireland, collecting two Irish classics, the Oaks and the inaugural St Leger. He won twenty-one Irish classics in all, including six St Legers, five 2,000 Guineas (among them the initial running, 1921), five 1,000 Guineas, four Oaks, and one Derby (aboard Raeburn, 1936), placing him second in the all-time list behind Morny Wing (qv).
In 1928 he retired to pursue his ambition to train, but resumed riding after a year. He ended another brief retirement during the second world war after the death of his son James. He won his last classic in 1953 and finally abandoned riding in 1954, by which time he had accumulated over 2,000 winners: most of them on the flat, but more than a hundred over hurdles. His infrequent forays over fences were less successful, resulting in few wins and a lengthy suspension in 1918. He ceased training in 1988 and died 26 February 1991 at Drogheda Memorial Hospital, Co. Kildare.
He married (1921) Stella O'Connor (d. 1980) of Roscommon. They moved in 1922 into Lumville, the Curragh, Co. Kildare, where he eventually took up training, assisted by his son John. His greatest training success came in 1961 when Vimadee, ridden by his other son, T. P. (Thomas Pascal), won the Irish St Leger. T. P. was later to become assistant trainer to Vincent O'Brien (qv) and Dermot Weld.