Alexander Thomson

This is the grave of one of Geelong’s first settlers, Dr Alexander Thomson. He was a medical practitioner, pastoralist, politician, man of religion and ‘a general meddler in all kinds of governance’.

He was, yes, another Scotsman, born in Aberdeen, the son of Alexander Thomson, shipowner. That meant he was a man of wealth and privilege. 

After training as a doctor at Aberdeen and London, the younger Alexander married in his 20s and the following year he left his young wife to make the first of his several voyages to Australia as surgeon aboard the convict transport ships.

From what he had seen of the Australian colonies, he made the decision to migrate here as a free settler. 

But he was to do this in some style. He chartered his own ship, the Auriga, on which he arrived, first at Hobart in December 1831, with his wife, three-year-old daughter, and enough livestock, tools, implements and servants necessary to begin a new life here.

His aim was to settle in the colony and start a new society based on pastoral farming coupled to firm religious principles. At first he sailed to Sydney where Governor Lonsdale appointed him the medical officer to the Port Phillip district at a salary of 200 pounds a year. 

He arrived in the Geelong area in 1836 and set up on an extensive selection of choice land on the south side of the Barwon River. He lived in the house known as Kardinia, now in Belmont aside the Barwon River. As well as running his property, Alexander Thompson’s nature was such that he became involved in every aspect of early Geelong society. He held Bible study and church services on his property and petitioned the church in Scotland to send a minister, which they did, sending the Rev Love. He wrote letters almost daily to the Geelong Advertiser (Mr Harrison’s newspaper) urging Geelong people to donate to his causes. 

He stood for council and became a bitter political enemy to James Harrison, opposing almost every motion that Harrison forwarded. He even at one point started a newspaper to rival Harrison’s Geelong Advertiser when he thought it was not committed to his ideals.

And he was the first elected mayor of Geelong, beating Harrison by a handful of votes in that ballot, and he also was elected to the Parliament, though he gave up his seat on a moral issue. 

One public argument involved Thomson telling Harrison he would relish the thought of dancing on his (Harrison’s) grave.  However Harrison had the better of that one, by outliving Thomson by almost 30 years.

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