The Thomson Family
William Thomson arrived in Australia from Scotland in 1876 where he learnt the baking trade. After a stint working in Melbourne at his own bakery and catering business, he sold it in 1892, and moved the family to Western Victoria.
William purchased Lorimer’s, an orchard, vineyard and working winery at Rhymney, the hilly
country behind Ararat. It happened to be 13km south of Henry Best. Together with his 16-year-old son, Frederick Pinchon Thomson, William built a new homestead and called the property St Andrews. Between 1892 and 1900, the property steadily increased, with the purchase of the Lorimer's Vineyard in 1893, establishing the Thomson family as one of Victoria’s most successful wine families.
In 1908, Frederick Hamill Thomson, better known as Eric, was born, followed by William Hamill Thomson in 1911. As the Thomson family expanded, so did the business. A neighbouring property Fairview was purchased for sparkling grapes.
By his early 20s, Frederick Pinchon was ready to take over the business and William returned to Melbourne to pursue his baking interests. In 1924, on a return sea voyage from their native Scotland, Mrs Thomson died suddenly and two days later, William Thomson followed his wife, dying quietly in his sleep. Both were buried at sea.
His son Frederick, now in sole charge of the winery, bought the Best’s business from Henry’s son Charles Best and the rights to use the Best’s Great Western name for £10,000 and added the Concongella Vineyard to the Fairview and St Andrews Vineyards.
Economic decline and The Depression forced the sale of the original St Andrews Vineyard in 1927 and the family homestead was relocated to the Concongella property. Then, in 1930, pioneering the wine industry in the Swan Hill region, the family purchased a small-holding called Misery Farm, re-naming it St Andrews in memory of the first vineyard.
In 1949, Frederick developed an acute surgical condition while on a sea voyage to the Far East and, like his parents 25 years before him, passed away far from home in Hong Kong. His sons Frederick and William, both born and bred with viticulture, were well placed to take over the Best’s business, which continued to flourish throughout the 20th century.