Occupation: Ship owner and designer
Cornelius was a member of the company founded by his father, Messrs.
George Thompson and Co, sailing ship owners who commissioned three
steamers, the Aberdeen, the Australasian and the Damascus, which were all successful
in the Australian trade. The company later became the Aberdeen White Star
Line. Marine engineer and naval architect 1
May 1890 p76 Mr Cornelius Thompson, of the firm of
Messrs. George Thompson & Co., London, sailing ship owners, at last
consulted with Dr. Kirk and Mr. Parker as to the advisability of having
the triple-expansion engine in their first steamer, and ultimately Dr.
Kirk's firm (Messrs. R. Napier & Sons) were favoured with the order
to build the now well known steamer Aberdeen,
which gave so much satisfaction that soon two others were built, viz.,
the Australasian and Damascus,
and I consider great praise is due to Mr. Cornelius Thompson for the
confidence reposed in these gentlemen. contributing so materially to
the advancement and development of the marine engine. Of course it is
useless for me to say that from the time the Aberdeen's results became known the
triple-expansion principle became general.
Notes: Cornelius was an enthusiastic
golfer, winning the Aberdeen Golf Club tournament in 1874. The country 1 October 1874 p295 Aberdeen.-
The annual autumn tournament of the Aberdeen Golf Club came off week,
and extended over three days. ... Two rounds or thirty holes were
played, and Mr. Cornelius Thompson, Aberdeen, gained the cup with a
total of 162 - 84 in the first round and 78 in the second.
Death: 18 January 1894, at sea, aboard
the Damascus, two days out
from London bound for Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald 5 March 1894 p6
This Aberdeen liner is coming round the coast at a good speed.
She reported off Green Cape at 5.30 n m. yesterday and is due here
about midday to-day. The steamer has made a good run from England,
traversing 11,185 miles in 41 days 9 hours 11 minutes, giving a daily
average of 285.5 miles, equal to 11.9 knots an hour. A report from
Melbourne says :—-Captain Alexander Douglas still has command, and
reports that the voyage was commenced at Lon- don on 16th January.
Moderate southerly winds and wet weather were experienced in the
English Channel, Ushant being passed on the 17th. On the evening of the
18th Mr. Cornelius Thompson, one of the members of the firm of Messrs.
George Thompson and Co, died at sea. The anchors were dropped at
Teneriffe on tho 22nd. The time occupied in traversing the 1636 miles
intervening between the Royal Albert Docks and Teneriffe was six days
one hour six minutes. The voyage was resumed shortly before midnight of
the 22nd.. The equator was crossed in 9° W. on the 29th. and she
reached Cape Town on 8th February. The run between Teneriffe and Cape
Town was made in 16 days five hours 48 minutes, the distance steamed
over being 4466 miles. The Aberdeen got out of Table Bay at 5 p.m. the
same afternoon. The meridian of Cape Leuwin was crossed on the 23rd,
Cape Otway sighted at midnight on Tuesday, and the Heads entered at
5.15 a.m. 2nd .March. The deck officers this trip are Mr. A. Walker
(vice Mr. Wm. Custard, deceased, Mr. D. Piggie (second), Mr. J.
Paterson (third), and Mr. H. Porter (fourth), with Mr. A. C. Riddle
directing affairs in the engine department. Mr. T. Willoughby, for many
years favourably known as purser on the passenger ship Sobraon, has
control of the commissariat department. The Damascus had 15 saloon and
37 steerage passengers, and a full cargo for Melbourne and Sydney.
Southland Times 6 February 1894 p2
Mr Cornelius Thompson, of the Aberdeen White Star line, had a
practical acquaintance with shipbuilding, and served an apprenticeship
on the Clyde at the building yard of Messrs John Elder and Co. Amongst
the first vessels designed by Mr. Thompson for the firm of George
Thompson, junr., and Co., with which he was connected, were the
Christiana Thompson, Jerusalem, and Centurian. He also designed the
clipper Thermopylę, which was built to beat anything of her class and
tonnage afloat, and which held her own against the world in Australian
and China voyaging. The ships Patriarch, Miltiades, Aristides, Salamis,
Samuel Plimsoll, Sophocles, Orontes, Pericles, Aviemore, and Thyatira
were also the products of his skill in draughting, and so successful
were these clippers in the Australian trade that they established a
name for themselves, of which not even the keenest competition has been
able to deprive them. Mr Thompson visited the colonies some seven years
ago. Mr George Thompson, the founder of the firn, and who survives his
son Cornelius, is 94 years of age.
Will: proved 12 April 1894, by George
Thompson Henderson, Stephen Thompson, William Parker, and Thomas
Fergusson, the executors.
Education: Blackheath High School and
Hacking College, North London
Muriel was the chauffeur for the Women's Social and Political Union
(WSPU), a suffragette organization, in 1909. The women's suffrage movement: a reference guide p97
(Elizabeth Crawford, 2001)
In April 1909 the WSPU presented Mrs PETHICK-LAWRENCE
on her release from prison with a new car, registration "W.S. 95". It
was an Austin, painted and upholstered in the colours, with white
wheels and a green body lined with a narrow purple stripe. mrs.
Pethick-Lawrence dedicated the car to the general use of the WSPU and
it was often used to take Mrs PANKHURST on her
country-wide tours, driven by the WSPU chauffeur, at first Muriel
Thompson, later succeeded by Vera HOLME.
Muriel Thompson joined the FANY as a driver in January 1915. On 8
February she crossed to Calais to a Belgian military hospital called
Lamarck which the corps was running. Their services having been refused
by the British authorities,
they drove ambulances and ran hospitals and casualty clearing stations
for the Belgian and French armies all along the western front. On 29
March she was personally decorated by King Albert with the Kinght's
Cross of the Order of Leopold II for evacuating wounded Belgian
soldiers under fire near Dixmude. The Argus 20 May 1915 p3 (Melbourne,
Victoria) THREE BRAVE NURSES. King Albert Honours.
The King of the Belgians has presented the Order of Leopold II. to
three nurses of the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry Corps for bravery under
shell fire in rescuing some wounded men from the trenches. The names of
the recipients, says the "Daily Mail's" correspondent in the north of
France are Miss Muriel Thompson, Sister Mary White, Miss Margaret
Waite. The three nurses had gone up us far as the rear line of trenches
not far from Oostkerke, when an officer asked them if they would like
to go to the first line. They readily assented.
As heavy firing was going on at the time, great care had to be
taken in advancing from one trench to another. They had to go one at a
time at two-minute īntervals with instructions to lie flat on the
ground if any shots came their way. In a little while they reached an
outpost, which consisted of a few cottages huddled close together. As
soon as they reached it, however, the Germans started shelling the
place vigorously, and several men were killed and wounded.
The officer who had asked them to come up held up his hand,
saying it was too dangerous to come any farther, and they must go back
to safety. They refused to listen to his advice, however until they had
attended to some of the wounded who were near them. They then found a
stretcher, and, with the aid of a man, they carried two back to safety
under heavy fire, and while under shelter dresscd their wounds, and
took them back to a temporary hospital.
I saw Miss Thompson to-day wearing her medal for the first time.
She was very proud of the fact that the King had pinned it on her
himself, and had shaken hands with her. In a short speech the King paid
high tribute to the heroic work which is being performed daily by
Englishwomen in Belgium.
On 1 January 1916, British army resistance to the women was finally
overcome and the
members of FANY Calais convoy became the first women to drive
officially for the British army. Muriel served as second in command to
Lilian Franklin on the Calais convoy, and was mentioned in dispatches
on 9 April 1917. On 1 January 1918 she was appointed officer commanding
of a new joint FANY-VAD (voluntary aid detachment) convoy based at St
Omer near the front line. The St Omer convoy became officially part of
the Second Army on 4 May. During the German spring counter-offensive in
1918 the St Omer convoy worked day and night under heavy bombardment
evacuating the dead and wounded. On 18 May they were called out
following a bombing raid on Arques, including one on an ammunition
dump. A second raid came over and, with shells exploding all around,
they were ordered to take cover. The women worked on regardless, moving
the injured to safety for which Muriel was decorated with the Military
Medal on 30 July 1918. London Gazette 26 July 1918 p9000
His Majesty the KING has been pleased to approve of the award of the
Military Medal to the undermentioned Ladies for distinguished services
in the Field as recorded:—
Miss Muriel Thompson, F.A.N.Y.
For conspicuous devotion to duty during an hostile air raid. All these
lady drivers were out with their cars during the raid, picking up and
in every way assisting the wounded and injured. They showed great
bravery and coolness, and were an example to all ranks.
Muriel also received the Croix de Guerre. Her medals were subsequently
given to the National Army Museum. Muriel kept a diary during the war
and later wrote a series a recollections in the diary entitled "Base
Notes", recreating the atmosphere of her experience rather than
specific events in a style that has been described as a precursor to
modernist. Excerpts from Muriel's diary and many more details of her
work during the War can be found in War girls: the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry in the First World War (Janet Lee, 2005) and excerpts from Base Notes deatiling their literary value are found in The second battlefield: women, modernism and the First World War (Angela K. Smith, 2000). The diary is held in
the Liddle collection at the University of Leeds.
Muriel returned to England on 2 September 1918. After a month’s
recuperation, she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force as a recruiting
officer. Administrator Thompson was given the temporary appointment of
Deputy Assistant Commandant in the Women's Royal Air Force on 1
February 1919 (London Gazette 20 May 1919 p6253),
and then Assistant Commandant on 21 March 1919 (London Gazette 22 July 1919 p9259).
She was demobilized on 1 October 1919. Muriel resigned from the FANY in
1922 in a policy disagreement over the corps’ post-war role.
Notes: Muriel was also a driver for
sport, taking part in races and "motor gymkhanas". The Motor car journal 31 August 1907 p582 SIR GILBERT
and Laly Clayton-East were at home to members of the Berkshire
Automobile Club, at Hall Place, near Maidenhead, on Saturday.
Four of the events in a motor gymkhana, which was the principal
part of the afternoon's programme resulted as under:-
Blindfold Driving.-Winner, Miss Muriel Thompson (25 h.p. Austin);
second, Major Portal; third, Dr. Norman H. Joy (6 h.p. Siddeley).
This latter test of skill gave rise to much amusement. Each
competitor was started alone, at a distance of 75 yards from the
finishing flag, with the back of the car towards that flag, and the
results were most ludicrous in some cases. Nearly every competitor lost
the sense of direction or length, some driving entirely off the
gymkhana ground, and others stopping before they had gone 20 yards, in
the belief they were at the finish. Miss Thompson came to rest at a
point only 39ft. from the post in 25 sec.
"Miss Muriel Thompson Winning the
Ladies Bracelet Handicap at Brooklands."
Muriel was involved in the foundation of the Brooklands Automobile
Racing Club, and on 4 July 1908 she won the Ladies Bracelet Handicap at
Brooklands, the first race held there for women drivers. Muriel was
driving her brother Oscar’s Austin racing car, nicknamed Pobble. Muriel
reached speeds of 60 m.p.h. over the three mile track. Clarence and Richmond Examiner 8 September
1908 p3 (Grafton, New South Wales) Lady Motorists' Race.
SIXTY MILES AN HOUR.
Society women drove racing motor cars at sixty miles an hour round the
Brooklands track on 4th July.
The race was the Ladies' Bracelet Handicap, the first contest for women
motorists run at Brooklands, and it was won, after a thrilling
struggle, by Miss Muriel Thompson by two lengths from Mrs. Locke-King,
the wife of the owner of Brooklands. Five ladies started in the race.
Seven had entered, but at the last moment Lady Muriel Gore-Browne and
Mrs. Ada Billing withdrew.
Each of the lady drivers wore a distinctive coloured silk motor
scarf tied in a bow behind her neck. The colours were white, purple,
pale blue, pink and yellow. They wore these in place of the jockey like
coats and caps of the men motorists. All disdained motor goggles as
"far too hideous," and they laughed at all suggestion of danger.
Miss Christabel Ellis, with a true feminine touch, had trimmed
the "bonnet" of her racer with bunches of cornflowers and sweet peas.
Her car, the Guarded Flame, struck quite a feminine note.
The styles of the various lady drivers were striking. Two of
them sat upright as at a piano, while Miss Muriel Thompson, tho winner,
bent forward over the wheel like an American jockey.
Miss Ellis lay almost full length on a sofa, with her toes
within reach of the regulating pedals and hands ready for the brakes.
The style she adopted is popular among racing motorists.
The distance was about three miles round the pudding basin sides of the
Brooklands track, and all the way Mrs. Locke-King and Miss Thompson
fought for the first pince. Mrs. Locke-King, however, could not regain
the three seconds start which her rival had, and Miss Thompson shot
over tho winning line 20 feet ahead.
Enthusiastic crowds surrounded the winner as she gilded back to the
paddock, and one with suffragist sympathies cried. "Women deserve the
vote now !"
The Sydney Morning Herald 6 September
1911 p9 CYCLING AND MOTORING.
According to the "Autocar" of August 5, the gala day of the
Royal Automobile Club and its associated clubs at Brooklands was a
great success. It was really what we in Australia would term a motor
gymkhana, excepting that we are limited in this respect we have not a
track like the Brooklands (England) in Australia to arrange such a
versatile and instructive programme, which included a hill climb, relay
race, obstacle race and hill climb combined, all-comers' open handicap,
skilful driving race, declaration handicap race, and a blindfold
driving competiton. The conditions were clearly set out, and the
various competitions were keenly watched by a large number of
enthusiastic motorists and the sport-loving public. An item worthy of
mention is that two of the events—the Declaration Handicap and the
blindfold driving competiton—-wore won by a lady driver, Miss Muriel
Thompson, who, according to the report, did quite 100 per cent. better
than any other competitor.
Death: 3 March 1939, at 30 The Grove,
Boltons, Kensington, London, England, of encephalitis lethargica, an
epidemic form of inflammation of the brain
Buried: Brompton cemetery, London,
1891: Greenwich, London: Muriel A. Thompson, daughter, is aged 15, born in Scotland
1901: Bournemouth, Hampshire: Muriel A. Thompson, visitor, is aged 23,
born in Aberdeen, Scotland
Biography: published at Driver
Muriel Annie Thompson was a volunteer ambulance driver and member of
the FANY. She was born at 17 Albyn Place, Aberdeen, the fifth of the
eight children of Cornelius Thompson shipowner and marine architect,
and the only daughter of his second marriage, to Agnes Marion
Williamson. Her grandfather was George Thompson junior, laird of
Pitmeddon, deputy lieutenant of Aberdeenshire, provost of Aberdeen,
member of parliament for Aberdeen, and founder of the George Thompson
Shipping Company, later the Aberdeen White Star Line. She was educated
at Blackheath high school and Hacking College, north London. After the
death of her father she lived with her mother at 48 Queensgate, London.
Muriel and her two full brothers, Walter and Oscar, were early and keen
motor vehicle drivers. They were involved in the foundation of the
Brooklands Automobile Racing Club, and on 4 July 1908 Muriel Thompson
won the Ladies Bracelet Handicap at Brooklands, the first race held
there for women drivers. She was driving Oscar’s Austin racing car,
nicknamed Pobble. Her speed over 3 miles was 50 m.p.h.
At the outbreak of the First World War Oscar joined one of the several
volunteer ambulance convoys raised to help the French, taking Pobble,
splendidly converted into an ambulance, with him. Women were not
welcomed so Thompson turned to the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry corps
(FANY). This was founded in 1907 by a former cavalry sergeant-major,
Edward Baker, as an all-female mounted ambulance unit. By 1914 the FANY
had moved to mechanized transport and on 27 October 1914 was the first
women’s organization to go to France. Their services having been firmly
refused by the British authorities, they drove ambulances and ran
hospitals and casualty clearing stations for the Belgian and French
armies all along the western front. On 1 January 1916 British
resistance was finally overcome and the members of FANY Calais convoy
became the first women to drive officially for the British army.
Thompson joined the FANY as a driver in January 1915. On 8 February she
crossed to Calais to a Belgian military hospital called Lamarck which
the corps was running. On 29 March she was personally decorated by King
Albert with the chevalier of the order of Leopold II for evacuating
wounded Belgian soldiers under fire near Dixmude. She served as second
in command to Lilian Franklin on the Calais convoy, and was mentioned
in dispatches on 9 April 1917. On 1 January 1918 she was appointed
officer commanding of a new joint FANY-VAD (voluntary aid detachment)
convoy based at St Omer near the front line. The St Omer convoy became
officially part of the Second Army on 4 May, choosing a perky-looking
red fish as its official insignia in memory of the surgeon-general’s
description of the corps in 1915, then in battle with British
officialdom, as ‘neither fish, flesh nor fowl … but damned good red
During the prolonged German spring counter-offensive in 1918 the St
Omer convoy worked day and night under heavy bombardment evacuating the
dead and wounded. On 18 May they were called out following a bombing
raid on Arques, including one on an ammunition dump. A second raid came
over and, with shells exploding all around, they were ordered to take
cover. The women worked on regardless, moving the injured to safety.
For their coolness and courage under fire they were awarded a total of
sixteen military medals and three Croix de Guerre. According to an
unpublished memoir by Beryl Hutchinson, all the decorations were
questioned, as there were too many for such a small unit; but each one
was so strongly supported by the British and French officers on the
scene that all were allowed. Muriel Thompson was decorated with her
Military Medal in the field by the general officer commanding, Second
Army, General Sir Herbert Plumer, and with her Croix de Guerre in the
main square of St Omer by General de la Guiche. Her medals were
subsequently given to the National Army Museum.
Muriel Thompson was a tall, dark-haired woman as evidenced by the
photograph showing her towering over General de la Guiche as she
received her medal. Handsome rather than beautiful, other photographs
capture her looking out of the many cars she drove over the years,
Pobble the Austin racing car, Flossie the Ford ambulance, and Kangaroo,
her own Cadillac. Badly affected by the death at Passchendaele in 1917
of her nephew Logie Colin Leggatt, a lieutenant in the Coldstream
Guards, and exhausted after nearly four years of continuous service,
she returned to England on 2 September 1918. After a month’s
recuperation, she joined the Women’s Royal Air Force as a recruiting
officer. She was demobilized on 1 October 1919. She resigned from the
FANY in 1922 in a policy disagreement over the corps’ post-war role.
Muriel Thompson, who never married, spent the next two decades at her
London home, 30 The Grove, Boltons, Kensington, where she died on 3
March 1939 of encephalitis lethargica, an epidemic form of inflammation
of the brain, of which there were several outbreaks between the wars.
She was buried in Brompton cemetery, London.
Oscar continued the shi[powning business founded by his grandfather, and continued by his father. The Argus 25 November 1933 p20
Geo. Thompson and Co. Ltd., merchants, shipbuilders, shipbrokers,
&c. Head office, 34 Leadenhall street, London. Agent in Victoria,
John Thomas Brennan, 447 Collins street, Melbourne. Capital £1,000, in
£1 shares. Directors are - Oscar Stephen Thompson, John Macmillan,
Basil Sanderson, Walter Henry Savill, and Sir Norman Alexander Leslie.
Notes: Oscar was well known in the
automobile world for his interest in racing, his car "Pobble" being a
well-known feature on the Brooklands Track. During the War he fitted up
the car as an ambulance and drove it himself in France under the French
He was elected an Associate of the Institution of Automobile Engineers in 1911.
Death: 26 July 1937, in Kensington district, London, England, aged 59 The Mercury 29 July 1937 p11 (Hobart, Tasmania) MR. OSCAR THOMPSON Prominent Shipping Magnate
MELBOURNE, July 28.
One of the best known houseflags in the history of Australian
shipping was lowered to half-mast yesterday above the office of the
Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line, when news was received of the death in
London of Mr. Oscar Thompson, a grandson of the late Mr. George
Thompson, who founded the company more than 100 years ago.
From the early days of colonisation in Victoria, the Aberdeen
Line played an important part in the history and development of the
State, and the traditions are still carried on in the green-hulled
"Bay" steamers of the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line.
The Sydney Morning Herald 29 July 1937 p10 SHIPOWNER'S DEATH.
LONDON, July 28.
The death has occurred of Mr. Oscar Thompson, a grandson of the
founder of the Aberdeen Line, He was well-known in the Australian
Mr. Thompson visited Sydney in 1927 in connection with
migration, of which he was an ardent supporter. He came to Australia
again in 1929 to represent the Aberdeen and Commonwealth Line at the
shipping freight conference held that year.
1891: Greenwich, London: Oscar S. Thompson, son, is aged 13, born in Scotland
1901: St Marylebone, London: Oscar Thompson, son, is aged 23,
born in Aberdeen. Occupation: Shipowner