John Albert Thomson
John Albert Thomson spent the whole of his career (51 years) working for the City of Northcote, notably as Town Clerk. In fact at the time of his death, the municipality of Northcote, had only had two Town Clerks in 72 years, William Swift followed by John Thomson. John joined the council as an ‘office boy’ in 1905. He studied hard and became Rates Collector and eventually Town Clerk in 1923. Over his lengthy career he gained great respect from his colleagues and the general public of Northcote. During his years as Town Clerk he and his wife, Rubie assisted the Mayor and Mayoress in many ventures such as organising and attending Mayoral Balls and numerous other civic duties.
Many years later, Rubie was honoured for her work with a park named after her – the Rubie Thomson Reserve in Separation Street, Northcote. During the 2nd World War, John acted as a District Warden for Air Raid Precautions. In the local history book, The Northcote side of the river, Andrew Lemon noted the following:
‘As his staff dwindled during the war, the Town Clerk somehow shouldered his extra responsibilities and administered Northcote as smoothly as before. John Thomson had been trained in a tradition of service, and he seemed to give Northcote six days of work a week. On the seventh he sang in the James Street Presbyterian Church Choir.’
He was a lifelong member of James Street Presbyterian Church – Sunday school secretary, member of the choir for 50 years, Church treasurer and chairman of the trustees.
In the early 1950s the Council honoured Mr Thomson by making him City Manager, a post which gave him authority over all departments.
He was also appointed as Senior Vice President of Preston Northcote Community Hospital (PANCH) committee of management and worked for a lengthy period on the Finance and Building committee after being instrumental in forming the original group in 1950.
John also found time in his busy life to take on the following responsibilities:
• Secretary of the Northern Group, Weights and Measures Union, a group of municipalities in the north of Melbourne formed to administer the Weights and Measures Act.
• Member and Secretary of the Northcote Free Library Committee
• Trustee of the Northcote Tent, Independent Order of Rechabites, a temperance movement and friendly society.
• Foundation member of Northcote Rotary Club
• Member Trustee and player at Thornbury Bowling Club
• Fellow member of Commonwealth Institute of Accountants as well as acting as an auditor and trustee for several other groups.
In 1956 John Thomson died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 67. The funeral was attended by a huge crowd and the procession was followed by two trucks carrying floral tributes and 110 cars as it passed the Town Hall and the family home.
Mayor Sheppard noted that in the death of Mr Thomson, Northcote had lost its greatest citizen and ‘I would say that no more popular man ever lived in Northcote and he has left a lasting monument – Northcote itself – and I have not the slightest doubt that his sound administration and influence extending over such a lengthy period has been largely responsible for the orderly progress and advancement of our city.’
In the late 1940s the Council named the Separation Street quarry site the ‘Thomson Reserve’ in recognition of John’s work. Unfortunately the site was never developed fully and was used for car parking eventually being incorporated into the car park for the Northcote Plaza. After his death a citizens’ committee raised funds to buy a memorial clock for the Town Hall along with a plaque which was installed at a formal ceremony in October 1957.
Lemon, Andrew (1983). The Northcote Side of the River. North Melbourne: Hargreen.
CROWDS LINE STREET IN RAIN FOR FUNERAL. (1956, January 10). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p.1
72 YEARS AND TWO TOWN CLERKS. (1956, January 10). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p.12
TRIBUTES TO LATE CITY MANAGER. (1956, January 10). Northcote Leader (Northcote, Vic. : 1882 - ), p.12