Tom Hanlin was born in Armadale in 1907. He showed promise at school and was interested in becoming a writer from an early age. However, he had to leave school at fourteen years of age to begin work. He worked on a farm for a year, and then he worked down the mines for the next twenty years, from the age of fifteen until 1945. In 1942, he attended a school of journalism in Glasgow, making the fifty-mile weekly journey while still working down the pit.
As a result of a pit accident, he spent three months in the Royal Infirmary. During that time of convalescence, he wrote five stories, which he was able to sell. One of them, Sunday in the Village, won the Arthur Markham Memorial Prize, awarded annually by Sheffield University and available to those who were ‘manual workers in or about a coal mine, or have been injured when so employed’.
Later, he won the Big Ben prize of £500 for his long story, which became his first novel, Once in Every Lifetime. 250,000 copies of the Big Ben paperback edition were sold in England in the first month of publication.
His home was in Mayfield Drive.