WHITELEGGE, THOMAS (1850-1927), naturalist, was born on 7 August 1850 at Stockport, Cheshire, England, son of Moses Whitelegg, an illiterate bricklayer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Grant. Born into poverty, Thomas left school at the age of 8 and worked in factories around Cheshire. Apprenticed to a hatter, he broke his indentures. He lived as a fugitive for two years on a farm at Hurstbrook, Lancashire, where he developed an interest in natural history and obtained work as a journeyman with a hat manufacturer who was sympathetic to his plight.
When his life became less troubled, Whitelegge read and attended lectures in natural history. Interested in geology, he began a fossil collection which brought him into contact with the local societies of artisan naturalists. In 1874 he joined the Ashton-under-Lyne Linnean Botanical Society and began to study botany. He quickly gained a reputation for his knowledge of local natural history ...Read more at the source website