William Thomson

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Family Tree


As a child William attended the Glasite Church in Dundee but did not become a member. In 1841 he married Margaret in the Glasite Church in Edinburgh, Scotland, where her father was an Elder, although she herself was not a member.

William was associated with a firm of India Merchants known as Malcolm & Co., and represented them at Birkenhead, England, living in Tranmere, England.

In 1845 William and Margaret moved to Kolkata, India taking their eldest son John with them. Their second son, William, was a delicate child and remained in Edinburgh, Scotland with relatives.

There were only two common routes to India at that time. The P&O Company ran a steamer to and from Egypt from where passengers then travelled overland to Suez, to embark there on another steamer for India. Alternatively, many sailing ships made the long voyage around the Africa, via the Cape of Good Hope.

Three further children, James, George and Elizabeth, were born in India. Margaret brought the children back to Edinburgh, Scotland in 1854 where she gave birth to a final child, William. The four older children remained in Edinburgh, Scotland to be educated, in the care of their aunt, Anna Gordon (nee Pratt), and her husband James, an artist. Margaret returned to India with baby William.

In partnership with a Mr. Shaw, William became a tea planter in Assam, India. It is not known how the Indian Mutiny affected his interests. In his memoirs, William's grandson, Edward Allan Thomson, recalls a portrait of William in the uniform of a Sergeant of the Calcutta Volunteers, probably done at the time of the Mutiny.

On their return from India in June 1863, it was said with a sizable fortune, William and Margaret decided to settle in the South and rented a furnished home known as The Cedars, Enfield, England, then a country district near London. Two years later they moved to Bush Hill House near New Southgate, in Middlesex.

During this period they re-established contact with William's older brother John, Margaret's brother-in-law, Alexander Blaikley and other people that they knew through their Glasite upbringings.

When the Agra and Masterman Bank in India failed, in 1867, William lost a large part of his capital. He decided to use what was remaining to emigrate to New Zealand. The family sailed from Greenock in the Brig “Maria”, in December 1867, all except John, their eldest son, who returned to Kolkata, India and settled there.

Margaret's brother John had died a year earlier, leaving a widow and four children. It is not known what happened to the only son, John, but the widow, Matilda, who was then only 26, married again and William took his three nieces, Margaret, Matilda and Bessie, with him to New Zealand.

Otago, New Zealand, where they settled, had been formed in 1848 and was still in a very undeveloped state. They bought Mabel Bush, New Zealand, a farm, near Invercargill. It did not prosper and eventually the family sold up and moved to Dunedin, New Zealand.

While in Kolkata, India, William and Margaret had both taken communion in the Established Church of Scotland, but in Dunedin, New Zealand, William became a member of the Congregational Church. His youngest son, William, joined him there but James, George and Elizabeth, became members of the Knox Church one of the early Scottish Presbyterian churches in Dunedin, New Zealand.

At the time of his daughter Elizabeth's marriage, in 1874, William was living in Belle Knowes, New Zealand.

When William's son-in-law, Edward Thomas Fox, opened a retail outlet in Dunedin, William and his youngest son managed it as Thomson, Fox & Co.. Unfortunately Edward's business in Gloucestershire subsequently failed and the store closed.

In 1883 William made the long voyage to England to see Elizabeth who then travelled back with him for a return visit, via Kolkata, India, where they stayed with John's family, collecting his two eldest children who were to be educated in Dunedin, New Zealand.

William lived with his son, James, in Newington, New Zealand, for about ten years before his death in 1897. His grandson Edward, remembered him as being of “medium height, broad shouldered and had been a man of immense physical strength” who “went regularly to his office until within six months of his death. He was well read and fond of music and had been something of a martinet.”


Date Known

9 May 1811

William Thomson is born to Susan McKenzie and John Thomson in Dundee, Scotland. Sources: 1

7 October 1841

Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson marry in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sources: 1

7 December 1843

John Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Tranmere, England.

21 December 1844

William Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Edinburgh, Scotland.


Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson move to Kolkata, India, India.

4 September 1846

James Cox Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India. Sources: 1

2 October 1848

George Malcolm Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India.

22 May 1850

Elizabeth Anna Thomson is born to Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson in Kolkata, India.


Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson return to the United Kingdom from India.


The Agra and Masterman Bank fails and Margaret Justina Pratt and William Thomson lose a large part of their capital funds.

December 1867

William and Margaret Thomson emigrate to New Zealand with their children James, Elizabeth and George plus three neices Margaret, Matilda and Elizabeth.

4 September 1897

William Thomson dies in Dunedin, New Zealand. Sources: 1