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Thomson, Alexander


Son of Alexander Thomson, a shipowner of Aberdeen, Scotland, was born in 1800. He was educated at Dr Todd's school at Tichfield, Aberdeen university, and at London, where he studied under Sir Everard Home and qualified for the medical profession. In March 1824 he married Barbara Dalrymple, and in 1825 sailed to Tasmania as a surgeon on a convict ship, the first of several voyages made by him. He was then in comfortable circumstances having been left a sum of 9500 by his mother. In 1831 he decided to settle in Tasmania, and bringing with him his wife and daughter, obtained a grant of 4000 acres of land. In 1832 he bought two small steamers and established a service between Hobart and Kangaroo Point. He, however, sold both vessels during the next two years. He became interested in the colonization of Port Phillip, but did not join the Port Phillip Association, though invited to do so, and in November 1835 he sent across the first cattle to arrive in the new settlement, a draft of 50 Hereford cows. In March 1836 Thomson arrived with his wife and daughter. He came over as medical officer and catechist for the Port Phillip Association, and built a house near the corner of Flinders and Elizabeth-streets, Melbourne. In May he acted as one of three arbitrators in connexion with disputes between Henry Batman and Fawkner (q.v.), and before his house was completed he was in the habit of holding a service on Sunday in his tent. He was secretary to the first public meeting held in Melbourne, on 1 June, and in October Lonsdale (q.v.) appointed him medical officer at a salary of 200 a year. He resigned this position in January 1837, and having selected land on the present site of Geelong, settled there. He did some exploring, acquired more land in several localities, and in 1846 held about 150,000 acres. He was a director of the Port Phillip bank, which was a failure, and the Port Phillip Steam Navigation Company, and he was the first to make cash advances on wool. He was foremost in every movement connected with Geelong from the removal of the bar at the mouth of the harbour to the founding of a mechanics' institute. He also took much interest in church affairs and in the well-being of the aborigines. In these matters he gave not only time, he also spent considerable sums of money. The town was incorporated in 1849, then having 8000 inhabitants, and, as was fitting, Thomson was elected its first mayor. He field this position again in 1851, 1855, 1856 and 1857. He had been elected a member of the New South Wales legislative council as one of the representatives of the Port Phillip district in 1843, but as it was impossible to attend the meetings at Sydney, soon resigned. He was active in the anti-transportation movement, in 1852 was elected a member of the Victorian legislative council, and brought in and passed a bill incorporating the "Geelong and Melbourne Railway Company". Thomson presided at the first meeting of shareholders and was one of the directors. The line was completed in 1857. In the meanwhile Thomson had resigned his seat in the council and visited England where he found he could get no information about the Australian colonies bills. There had been a change of ministers and Lord John Russell, now in charge of the colonial office, had gone to Vienna. Thomson followed him there, obtained an interview, and got a promise that there would be a separate constitution bill for the colony of Victoria. In May 1855 Lord John Russell sent him a copy of the bill which soon afterwards became law. In 1857 Thomson was elected member for Geelong in the Victorian legislative assembly but retired in April 1859. His many activities had led to the neglect of his own financial affairs, and towards the end of his life he accepted the position of medical officer to the Sunbury boys' home. He died at Geelong on 1 January 1866. His wife survived him with a daughter.


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