Rev. Peter Ashley Thomson AM
Peter left school at 16 to collect rents for his father’s flourishing real estate business. However, Peter felt the urge to make more of his privileged life so he went to Ridley Theological College, Carlton and was ordained in 1959. Peter’s first vicarage was in North Melbourne, where he met Helen Sumpter, who was helping to paint the church basement. They married in 1961 and went and lived in England for a year. When Peter returned to Australia he taught maths at the local high school so his stipend at St James’, Thornbury could pay off the church mortgage. But this and his idea of raising further funds for the poor parish by using the church as a hairdressing salon during the week was considered too entrepreneurial by the church hierarchy. He was warned to desist or face the sack. He continued and was duly sacked. Between 1966 and 1968 Peter was Assistant Priest at St John’s East Malvern, completed his Diploma of Real Estate at RMIT and worked in the family real estate company. In 1969 Peter was appointed Chaplain at Timbertop (Geelong Grammar School). In 1974 Peter went back to England for further study. At St John’s College, Oxford he became friends with the future British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Geoffrey Gallop a Rhodes Scholar, (Premier of WA 2000 to 2006). Tony Blair was part of the same circle and found his life, faith and politics influenced by the larrikin vicar’s take on Christianity and its daily application to solving human problems. In 1975 Peter returned to Timbertop in the dual role of Chaplain and Principal, a role he held for eight years. During this time he oversaw the introduction of co- education to the campus. Peter was Master of St Mark’s College (University of Adelaide), Dean of International House, Melbourne University and Master of the residential accommodation at Deakin University. The year after Tony Blair became Labour leader he spent Christmas at the Thomson’s farm near Mansfield. Peter later said, “Things were happening for Tony, and I wanted to be part of it.” So in 1996 he moved to Britain and became Vicar of St Luke’s, West Holloway and in 1997, Tony became Prime Minister. Tony Blair acknowledged Peter in a video message at the Hall of Fame induction dinner as ‘simply the most influential and important person in my life’. In 2001 Peter returned to Melbourne to a part-time role at the Brotherhood of St Laurence and died in January 2010.
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