J. L. Thompson  

Wednesday January 25, 1893


It is with unfeigned regret, which we feel sure will be shared by our readers, that we have to record the death of Mr. Joseph Lowes Thompson, J. P., one of the oldest shipbuilders on the Wear. A paragraph in the Echo yesterday was the first intimation which the public of Sunderland had of his illness, and the news of it's fatal termination will be a painful surprise to them as it was a severe shock to the members of his own family. A few years ago, Mr. Thompson passed through a serious crises in his health. He rallied, and appeared to have quite recovered, but a week ago he had a fresh attack of inflammation of the bowels, which confined him to bed at his residence, Ashville, Newcastle road. Yesterday morning, inflammation of the lungs supervened. Dr. Percy Blumer had been in attendance, and Dr. Drummond, of Newcastle, was called in consultation, but the patient never rallied, and surrounded by several members of his family, passed peacefully away at nine o'clock last night.
Coun. Robert Thompson, J. P., was in London on the business of the firm at the time. A telegram was sent to him in the course of the day, and he at once set off for home, but arrived just too late to console the last moments of the deceased. They say expressions of sympathy have been heard on all hands, for the late Mr. Thompson was of a most genial, kindly disposition, and was respected by his fellow townsmen, and almost beloved by the workmen at the North Sands shipyard, who from their contact with him were aware of and appreciated the splendid qualities of his heart. It is remarked that unlike many self-made men, he was the same in riches as in poverty. There were none more approachable, and none more ready to extend a helping hand to the weak and the suffering. The deceased gentleman was a son of the late Mr. Robert Thompson, the founder of the North Sands shipyard, and was in his seventieth year at the time of his death. Born in a cottage a little above Claxheugh, he started life as a working shipwright. By steady industry and strict integrity, he came to be a foreman for Mr. John Candlish, M. P. at Southwick. In February, 1846, his father took possession of
The business was continued by the sons, Joseph Lowes, John, and Robert, both of whom are still living. John retiring about 1869, and Robert establishing himself at Southwick, where he still carries on a large yard. These were the days of wooden shipbuilding, and the firm were the builders of the first wooden vessel having diagonal straps. She was constructed in 1853, and named The City of Carlisle. With the decay of wooden shipbuilding,  the  yards  have  adapted  for  the  output  of  iron
vessels, and on March 1st, 1871, Mr. J. L. Thompson laid the keel of the first iron steamer. In 1875 the name of the firm was changed to J. L. Thompson and Sons, the later being taken into partnership. The whole of the North Sands came into the possession of the firm in 1880, and since then their operations have assumed a large scale, and the yard is one of the best known in the kingdom. Feeling that he had earned a right to retirement, and that he needed rest, Mr. J. L. Thompson, at the end of 1875, made over the entire business to his three sons, Coun. Robert Thompson, J. P., Coun. J. L. Thompson, jun., and Mr. C. R. Thompson, each of them practiced shipbuilders. However he was a constant visitor to the yard, and continued to manifest the keenest interest in the progress of the concern, his remarks showing that he had lost none of the shrewdness which was
of his business career. Scarcely a day passed in which he did not visit the offices, to keep the staff up to the collar, as was jocularly remarked, and on some days he used to skip about like a young man, as if he must find some outlet for the enormous energy which seemed to electrify him. He did not take much part in public affairs. However recently he was made a magistrate for the borough, and he was also the Chairman of the Fulwell School Board. Mr. Thompson may truly be said to have "tempered justice, with mercy" during the weeks that he was on the bench. He had a weak side to all appeals for clemency, and stories are told of his having secretly offered to pay a fine imposed by his brother J. P. upon some of the misguided people who came before them. These stories are probably true, for Mr. Thompson did not believe on the narrow proverb that "charity begins at home". He was the soul of generosity, always ready to lay the foundation stone of a new place of worship, or preside at a gathering, and follow it up with a substantial cheque, which his means permitted him to do.
and in religion, a Methodist, Mr. Thompson was very broad minded in his opinions and a staunch supporter of the Dock Street U. M. E. C. and a good friend of Ebenezer, Roker Avenue. By his death, a familiar figure will be seen no more at the Newcastle Road football ground. Mr. Thompson was an enthusiastic supporter of the game. He rarely lost a match be the weather fair or foul, and from the press box he would evidence by his intelligent criticism on the play and players that he was well posted in all the niceties of the pastime. On a recent occasion, it is stated, he was passing the enclosure with two friends, while a match was in progress, when a triumphant shout arrested his attention, and he dashed into the ground "like a lamplighter" leaving his companions on the other side of the road. He had been twice married. By the first wife he had three sons, and by his second, two daughters, all of whom survive to mourn him. The funeral will take place at Mere Knolls Cemetery on Saturday. The flags at the Town Hall and the Liberal Club are hoisted at half mast.