Mrs Mary Thomson (1832-1928)

Mrs Mary Thomson (1832-1928) Foundation member, Historical Society of Victoria (5th woman member)

Mary Thomson (nee McDougall), the daughter of Henry McDougall and his wife Jane Gray, was born at Longbottom (now the Sydney suburb of Concord), New South Wales in 1832.

In 1851 Mary McDougall married William Smith Thompson, a Scot who had arrived in Sydney ten years earlier. Their marriage took place on 23 December 1851 at the Wesleyan Methodist Church in Yarra Street, Geelong and it was in Geelong that their only son William was born in 1853.

The couple moved to Allansford near Warrnambool in Victoria’s Western District where four more children (all girls) were born. Many years later they adopted a son, Percy Villiers, who took their surname.

By the 1890s the family had moved to Melbourne and lived variously in South Yarra, Toorak and Prahran where William Smith Thomson worked as a carpenter.

In May 1909 the embryonic Historical Society of Victoria put out a call for pioneers to come forward, tell their stories and join the Society. The Thomsons answered that call and on the basis of their pioneer status they were granted honorary membership in August 1909, honorary membership being granted to applicants who had settled in Victoria before November 1856. At the time Mary Thomson was 77 years old and her husband was 78. Mary was the fifth woman to become an HSV member.

There is no evidence that the Thomsons made any significant contribution to the Historical Society’s collection and as members of the working class they stand apart from most early members who were people of wealth and influence. Up until now, the Thomsons’ story has not been represented in the RHSV collection.

The Thomsons lived a largely unrecorded life, but they remained members of the HSV until their deaths. William died in 1911 and Mary then lived with her unmarried daughter Annie until her death on 16 August 1928 aged 96. She had been a resident of Victoria for 81 of those years.

Mary Thomson is buried with her husband in the Wesleyan Section of St Kilda Cemetery.

Cheryl Griffin February 2021


RHSV archives – membership lists, inward correspondence.

Family trees (Ancestry)

Victorian Birth, Death, Marriage indexes

Victorian electoral rolls, 1903-1922

Age, 22 March 1893, 17 August 1928

Herald, 17 August 1928