All text and images © Helvellyn Consulting 2019
James (Jimmy) Dawson Thompson was born on the 22nd February 1885 in Pooley Bridge. At the time of Jimmy’s birth his father, Thomas Metcalfe Thompson, was working as a grocer in Barton. Thomas was originally a mariner who had settled in Pooley Bridge and also worked as a captain on the Ullswater Steamers. Thomas was born in Kendal and had married Jimmy’s mother, Margaret Brown from Dacre, in 1874. He had divorced his first wife, Zillah Higgins, in 1873. They had had two children, John Thomas (in 1865) and Albert Augustus (in 1868). By the time Jimmy was born Thomas and Margaret already had five children -
Jimmy would have attended the school in Pooley Bridge with his siblings and by 1901, at the age of 16, he was working as a coachman on a farm in Dacre. By 1904 he had moved to Patterdale and was working as a farm labourer at Braysteads farm in the Grisedale Valley. On the 9th February 1905 he married Mabel Walton at St Patrick’s Church Patterdale. Mabel was the daughter of Thomas Winder Walton, who was originally the post master and grocer in Glenridding until his death in 1892. The post office and shop was then taken on by Mabel’s mother Agnes, who was helped by her children, including Mabel’s brothers, Thomas and Amos Walton.
Jimmy and Mabel settled in Patterdale and their first child, Eleanor (Nellie), was born in July 1905. At the time Jimmy’s occupation was given in the register as being a “Mason’s Labourer” but he soon became a driver and ran a carrier business between Patterdale and Penrith. He and Mabel had six more children before he enlisted, Agnes (in 1906 -
Alice must have arrived around the time Jimmy enlisted, in the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). He probably enlisted in 1915, and served in Salonika in Greece with the 143rd Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery. It is possible he encountered other men from the Dale serving there as his Battery was likely to have been supporting the 9th Border Regiment, which included the likes of Frank Boustead and George Stout. We know that the 143rd Battery landed at Salonika on the 25th July 1916. The Heavy Batteries of the RGA were equipped with heavy guns, typically 60 pounder guns, and their role was usually to destroy enemy artillery positions, as well as to bombard enemy strongholds and positions. We know from accounts of life for the infantry battalions in Salonika that life was fairly tough for the soldiers stationed there (more details of this can be seen in the stories of Frank Boustead and George Stout).
Two of Jimmy’s brothers also served in the forces during the First World War and we are very grateful to Jimmy’s grandson for providing this photo of the three brothers together in uniform. Jimmy is shown in his RGA uniform sitting on the chair at the front.
Standing to his left is his younger brother, George Metcalfe Thompson, who had followed their father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy in 1913. He served with distinction in the Navy throughout the war, mainly on the HMS Prince Edward. This ship was a Packet Steamer called into service during the war (and Originally called the Prince of Wales). George would have seen service with her in various campaigns, including Gallipoli. George remained in the Navy after the war until at least 1916.
Standing to Jimmy’s right is his elder brother Charles. At the time the photo was taken (possibly in 1915 before Jimmy embarked for Greece). Charles was a sergeant in the 14th Hussars Regiment, who had enlisted early in the war and served in Egypt from November 1915. He later transferred to the Royal Engineers from where he was eventually demobbed in November 1919.
Their father Thomas, who died in 1917, must have been very proud of his sons.
After the war Jimmy himself returned to Patterdale, and we know that Jimmy suffered a great deal from malaria and was in and out of hospital for quite a long period after the war, almost certainly brought on by the harsh conditions at the front. However he worked hard for his family, and under a Government training scheme, he served an apprenticeship to the motor trade with Messers. Tinkler &Co, in Penrith. Back in Patterdale he did various jobs in motor car maintenance, chauffeuring and gardening and was also rent and rates collector for the Lakes Urban Council. He and Mabel had two more children, Mabel (in 1922) and George Metcalfe (in 1927).
Mabel died in September 1930, and just six years later his youngest son, James Dawson Thompson, died at the age of 16. Despite these tragedies Jimmy continued to lived in The Township Patterdale and lived a full life. He was a well-
“Without exaggeration Jimmy Thompson could be called a prince of anglers. He had been following the sport since he was eight years old. The day he was given and first used a fishing rod was engraved on his memory, for he caught a half-
For many years he kept a record of places fished and the numbers of fish caught. He knew Ullswater in every mood and as an angler, just which was the most likely place to cast a line with any hope of success. His knowledge of the lake was equalled by his knowledge of the fell backs and the mountain tarns…. Over the years he undertook engagements to teach visitors how to fish, but he was equally delighted to instruct a village lad. He was concerned to coach his pupils to cast a line so that it would fall on the water as gently as gossamer…
But of course, angling was his own hobby and he would spend hours on the lake in the solitude of his boat. He was fond of this quotation from "Tom Brown at Oxford": The trout fisher, like the landscape painter, haunts the loveliest places on earth and haunts them alone.”
For many years he was a contributor to the Herald of writing about angling under the pen-
He ended his life living with his eldest daughter Nellie (who was now Mrs Markham) in Carlisle, where he died in December 1965. As another obituary from his friend, the Radio Broadcaster and Author Norman F Ellison (known as Nomad, who had also served in the First War) said.
“Above all Jimmy Thompson was a Lakelander through and through, with an inborn love of the open air which nothing could supplant"
He was buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard Patterdale alongside Mabel and their son James Dawson. His gravestone (seen here to the left) was inscribed with the epitaph that he as a “Fisherman, Hunstsman and Writer”.
For some reason Jimmy does not appear on the Glenridding Village Hall Roll of Honour despite having lived in the Dale before the start of the war. However he was a remarkable man who thoroughly deserves his place on this Ullswater Memorial site, alongside his brothers in law, Thomas and Amos Walton, and many others from the Dale who would have been lifelong friends.
Jimmy was survived by six daughters and one son. Two of the daughters, Margaret (Mitchell) and Elizabeth (Porter) had moved to Australia and the rest of the family were living Carlisle, Nellie (Markham), Anne (Faulkner), Mabel (Langhorn), Alice (Martin) and his surviving son, Thomas Walton Thompson.
We are very grateful to Jimmy’s grandson for sharing the family photos above and below with us. If you have any further information on Jimmy or his family please contact us.
Gunner James (Jimmy) Dawson Thompson
103047 143rd Heavy Battery Royal Garrison Artillery
Born 22nd Feb 1885, Pooley Bridge. Died 11th December 1965, Carlisle, Aged 80
Son of Thomas Metcalfe and Margaret (nee Brown) Thompson of Pooley Bridge
Husband of Mabel Walton, sister of Thomas and Amos Walton
Father of 10 children. Lived at Township Patterdale
Photos of Jimmy in later life kindly provided by his family, and to the right the obituary of his father, Captain Thompson in 1917
Jimmy’s Medal Card from his service in World War One above, and below his entry in the RGA Medal Roll