No. 200

OSB Logo The Old St Beghian
  January 2022


John Fairfax Gardner Thomson (F 43-47), who died in August 2021 aged 92.

The following is an edited version of the address given at the funeral, which was kindly sent by Colin Thomson.

“Dad was born in Heversham, Cumbria, in 1929, the oldest of three children. He went to boarding school at St Bees, completed his National Service in the Royal Tank Corps in Luneberg, in northern Germany, then decided on a career in civil engineering, starting off at the surveyor’s office of Northumberland County Council, before moving to Dowsett Engineering, a construction company with whom he spent the vast majority of his working life. He met our mum in Newcastle and they married in 1955, and they had three children. In his early days working for Dowsett, dad’s work revolved around the initial construction of the UK’s motorway network, meaning that the family moved around the country a fair bit, eventually settling in Leeds for the construction of the M62 trans-Pennine route. Mum and dad stopped moving house at that point, with dad instead driving around the country, clocking up enormous mileages and spending a lot of time away from home. When his company decided, in the late ‘70s, that they wanted to expand and take on overseas contracts, that then meant that his work took him further afield and for longer periods away from home. I think it’s fair to say that he really enjoyed travelling. His overseas work started in southern Africa, in Malawi in particular, and later went on to include the Middle East. He certainly seemed to have a soft spot for Malawi, and in later years talked about going back there, but unfortunately he never did.

Having caught the travel bug, the plan was that he and mum would travel together after he retired, but this was not to be, with mum passing away only a few months after dad gave up work. At a family gathering near Silverstone, in the mid ‘90s, he announced at dinner that he was going to go on cruises around the world; he just wanted to get back travelling. And that’s what he did, going on various cruises, some with his sister Judy. He subsequently met Avrila through the church and they got married in 2003. Although they did manage to travel together for a short while, this was unfortunately cut short after Avrila had a stroke. He did manage to make a couple of trips abroad after this point - he travelled to France in 2009 and also managed to get out to Singapore for the 2011 Singapore F1 grand prix. It was during this trip that he met Jackie Stewart and was able to remind him that they’d met before in York in the early ‘70s at some advanced driving event. Oddly enough, Jackie seemed to remember the occasion, remarking that clearly dad had not won that day, else he’d have the Rolex that was the 1st prize! But dad was not able to leave Avrila alone for long periods of time, and he spent many of his later years caring for her until it all became too much for him and she moved into a care home in mid-2017. By this time, we were starting to see the signs in dad of what would eventually be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease, although to be honest, his memory for names was always pretty shocking. But he still had one last overseas trip in him and he came back out to Singapore in early 2018 - I remember him coming through immigration and out into the arrivals hall in Singapore with a loud ‘I’m buggered’, which certainly caught people’s attention. And he certainly made the most of the trip, which we all felt was pretty remarkable for someone of his age, enthusiastically engaging with any of our touristy suggestions and happy to try out unfamiliar foods.  He eventually moved to Stratton Court Care Home where he became so happy and was so well cared for by all the staff.


Obit - John Thomson


Dad was a good person and we remember him with love and affection, whilst maybe wishing that he’d told us more about himself. But perhaps a school report was right - dad did ‘have his own quiet way.’ He didn’t talk much about his experiences, he just got on with life, doing what he needed to do, not blowing his own trumpet, not looking for praise. He clearly touched many people who saw him as a kind, caring, patient and generous man; someone who played with and took interest in his grandchildren; who was fun and sometimes a bit cheeky; a special person that people looked up to; a role model. But there was one description that came up so many times - he was a gentleman. We held dad’s 90th birthday party at Stratton Court in April 2019 and that year was just the best for him. He was happy in his new surroundings, engaging in all the activities that were organised for residents, and really he was without a care in the world.”




The St Beghian Society    
St Bees School,    St Bees,    Cumbria,    CA27 0DS

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