Tom's father, Francis, joined the Temperance League. The League aimed to encourage the working class to give up drinking alcohol. This was not an easy task in Victorian Britain. Gin (and beer) was safer than water! However Francis and Tom travelled around the county to address crowds of people in an attempt to recruit them to the League. Tom gave "Penny Readings" of his poems, which were published in 1867. Many of his poems warned men (and women) of the evils of drink and how they could be led astray if they drank too much.
In “Owd Johnny an t’ Ghoast”, Johnny Sykes (a local farmer) saw the ghost while drunk as he staggered home past a “fir-tree wood” where a murdered woman had been found. Tom’s warnings were often given with humour, as in this poem.
Tom wrote a poem about "Johnny Bland the Blacksmith" for the Settle Temperance Festival in 1865. In the poem a stranger persuades Johnny to change his ways, who admits "I've been a slave to drink..." He also wrote a poem giving advice to young women to avoid men who drank alcohol. In Advice to Young Ladies he wrote that if a man known to be a drinker proposes marriage then "Just bid him begone, an’ ne’er com again".
One of the public's favourite poem seems to be Lines Composed on Seeing a Woman Intoxicated in Settle Streets on a Market Day. Tom describes the social side of market day as well as the comical, if sad, sight of a woman who had drunk too much and "...she couldn’t walk streight, nor stand steady o’ t’ spot."
In 1870 Tom recited "Address to Strong Drink" at Settle Temperance Festival in 1870, a poem specially composed for the event.