Burial register ID: 12710
Surname: THOMSON
First name: JOHN
Middle names: BELL
Gender: Male
Age: 47 Years
Cause of death: Accidental death
Burial type:
Date of death: 20-Feb-1915
Date of burial: 23-Feb-1915

Block: 109
Plot: 1

Bio contributor: From:’A Tribute’,Patricia Rainey, 2003.

John Bell Thomson, (Jack), M.B.Ch.M. 1868-1915

John Bell Thomson was the son of Sarah, (nee Black) and John Bell Thomson snr/1st. He was born in the family home in Cargill St, Dunedin. He had an older sister Elizabeth and three younger siblings, James, Lilias and George. All five children attended the Presbyterian Church and Sunday School. John has light brown or sandy hair, green eyes and fair skin.

The children were probably schooled at home by a tutor as there seems to be no record of them attending the local primary schools. The boys were keen walkers, tramping and camping out, and also played football and cricket.

In 1879 John Bell Thomson sat and won a junior scholarship, coming 5th in Otago Province, to go to the Dunedin High School, later Otago Boys High School, into which he was enrolled in 1880 aged 11. The school’s annual report for that year shows he received a Certificate of Merit in Arithmetic

In 1881 (4th class) John received Certificates of Merit in Mathematics and English. In 1882, (5th class) he again received Certificates of Merit this time in Latin, French and English. Also in that year John sat a Senior Scholarship examination in English, Grammar, Geography, Arithmetic, Dictation, History, Mathematics and Latin. He came first in every subject and was top in Otago Province.

In 1883, in the 5th class (Upper School) John received the W. Watters Prize for Latin, Mr Horsburg’s Prize for English and the Chamber of Commerce Silver Medal for Arithmetic and Writing. However in December of that year John lost his first cousin and best friend, William (Bill) Street, son of Mayor-Elect Wm. P. Street, in a fatal shooting incident on Saddle Hill. John would normally have been out with his friends as usual on this trip but this day he was not and was spared the horror of witnessing his friend’s sudden and violent death, unfortunately his brother James was present. John was a pall-bearer at the burial of William who is also buried in the Northern Cemetery, Dunedin.

In 1884, 6th class (Upper School) John won Mr. Mackerras’ Prize for Dux in Latin. The following year he won the Chamber of Commerce Gold Medal for Arithmetic and English. He was also co-Dux of the school, winning the Govenor’s Gold Medal.During 1885 John and school friedn Graham Turton produced and edited a new magazine for the school to be published every second month. John also joined the Cadet Corp. and the Debating Society to which he was elected Society Chairman the following year.

John was very keen at sport and excelled at cricket and rugby. He played cricket for the High School and was Captain of the first XI from 1883-1886. He also indulged in track and field sports such as long jump and running. In 1886 at Carisbrook he won the high jump with a leap of 5ft 4inches, five inched higher than the runner up and a record that was not broken for 65 uears!

Sadly John’s father passed away in October 1885 at the family home of an unspecified ‘long illness’. John continued to maintain his high standards and returned to school the following year as one of only five boys to do so, he also added tennis to his sporting interests. However Rugby and cricket were his real passions.

John played rugby for the Boy’s High first XV from 1883-1886. In 1886 he was selected and played three games for Otago. He played for the Pirates Club on leaving school and was selected for the South Island team in 1888, by this time he was playing for the University team. While John would travel far and wide his love for and participation in sport continued.

In his last year at high school John was awarded the New Zealand Junior Scholarship to Otago University after coming top in New Zealand in Latin, French, Mathematics, Chemistry and Mechanics. The following Year he attended Otago taking a Degree in Medicine. In 1889 John left for Edinburgh to complete his medical degree. While in Scotland John met and fell in love with Isabella Thomson, sister of a fellow student and friend. The couple became engaged.

John returned to New Zealand on completion of his degree, with Honours, in 1892. He took a position as Locum in Balclutha/Kaitangata for Dr. Smith, where he remained until 1894. Later that year Isabella made the journey from Scotland and the two were married at the Thomson family home in Cargill St. in September.

Dr. John (Jack) Thomson was offered and accepted a position as Superintendant of the Lake County Hospital in Arrowtown, Central Otago. The couple soon moved into the newly built home that came with the appointment, and set about involving thamselves in the doings of their new community. During this time their first child Margaret Cameron Bell Thomson was born but unfortunately died soon after birth.

On April 3rd 1897, their second child, a son, was born and named John Bell Thomson. In 1900 the couple took a trip to Edinburgh and London but returned to Arrowtown later in the year. On August 24, 1901 their third child, a daughter, Isobel Margaret Bell Thomson was born. A second son was born in 1904 and named James Cameron Bell Thomson.

The Thomsons remained at Arrowtown until 1914 when John accepted a post as Medical Inspector of Schools in Auckland, the family them moved to Takapuna. John had experienced ill health since 1906 and when World War One broke out in 1914 he was not well enough to enrol as a medical officer. He resigned his post in Auckland and returned to the family home in Dunedin where he died suddenly on February 20th 1915. he was 46 years old.

Isabella Thomson later returned to Edinburgh with Margaret and James. Isabella died in 1947 after a ‘long illness’. James Bell Thomson, a promising Engineer, also died in Edinburgh in 1939 after contracting a tropical disease in Nigeria while working on Public Operations there.

John Bell Thomson( II) (Jack), is buried in the Northern Cemetery with his parents John and Sarah

There are 4 Interments in this grave:

Surname First names Age Date of death Date of burial
THOMSON GEORGE ALFRED 81 Years 10-Sep-1956 11-Sep-1956
THOMSON JOHN BELL 60 Years 29-Oct-1885 31-Oct-1885
THOMSON JOHN BELL 47 Years 20-Feb-1915 23-Feb-1915
THOMSON SARAH 72 Years 27-Oct-1915 29-Oct-1915