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Charles Colin Thompson (1906–1994)

by Murray Johnson

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with Elizabeth Mary Thompson

Charles Colin Thompson (1906–1994) and Elizabeth Mary (May) Thompson (1910–1972), agricultural show riders and campdraft competitors, were husband and wife. Colin was born on 29 May 1906 at Killarney, Queensland, fourth child of New South Wales-born parents Francis Charles Thompson, station manager, and his wife Ellen Josephine, née Kennedy. Raised on his parents’ property near Tenterfield, New South Wales, he finished secondary school after a year at Scots College, Warwick (1920–21). He had already become an excellent rider, winning his first campdrafting event at the age of twelve.

In 1918, after his brother Frank was killed on active service in Palestine, Thompson inherited an outfit of horses, including a number of brood mares trained for stock work and campdrafting. On leaving school he worked as a horse-breaker and stockman on properties in northern New South Wales, particularly Cheviot Hills. He also worked briefly as a bullock-driver, carting timber to the head of the Clarence River, and as a butcher. Throughout these years he contested riding competitions and rodeos in southern Queensland and northern New South Wales. He began competing at the Warwick Rodeo and Bushman’s Carnival in 1930 and, in January 1932, was only marginally short of the Australian record when he won the broad-water jump at the Killarney Show on X-ray. At the Warwick rodeo he recorded wins in two events in 1937: throwing and tying, and wild cow milking. In World War II he served part time (1942–44) in the 7th Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps.

Thompson moved to Inverai, near Jandowae, Queensland, after marrying Elizabeth Mary Wood on 9 October 1934 at the Inverai Public Hall. May was born on 18 November 1910 at Toowoomba, Queensland, daughter of Victorian-born parents Francis Wood, farmer, and his wife Elizabeth, née Sawyer. Francis had been a leading showjumper and exhibitor in southern Queensland, and May began to compete as a child, winning her first campdraft event at the Brisbane Exhibition (later the Royal National Show, known as the ‘Ekka’) as a ‘petite and dainty’ (Warwick Daily News 1952, 2) seven-year-old. From 1920 to 1926 she was defeated only once in the girl rider event, when she came second.

The Thompsons (May continuing to compete under her maiden name), with Francis Wood, were formidable competitors who dominated show-ring jumping and campdrafting events along the Queensland-New South Wales border. In 1935, at the Ekka, May won the first, second, and third prizes in the ladies’ hunt, the sash for best equestrian, and narrowly missed winning the inaugural ladies’ campdraft. She had success at the Warwick rodeo; she was crowned best all-round female competitor (1931, 1936, and 1937), and she won the ladies’ campdraft (1930, 1946–47, 1950, and 1952–54). In 1955 and 1956, and again from 1958 to 1960, she was awarded the prestigious May Scott memorial trophy for the most successful lady rider; in 1958, she also won the Risdon Draft Cup. Throughout this time she won numerous events on the southern Queensland show circuit, and despite the difficulties of transportation, was a regular competitor with her husband at the Royal Easter Show in Sydney. In 1947 and 1948 she had back-to-back wins in the Palace Hunt on Hero, and, with two others, shared the Interstate Challenge Cup with her husband in 1949.

Colin was the most successful hunt rider at the Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1948. Having declined an invitation to compete in the Olympic Games at Helsinki, in 1953, 1955, and 1956 he won the coveted Gold Cup at the Warwick rodeo on Chance. The year 1953 was particularly successful for the Thompsons: they were crowned top campdrafters at Warwick and, together with two of their children, won champion rider events at the Ekka. In 1956 they purchased Kingston, a property near Dulacca, Queensland, where they bred Braford cattle, and became accredited instructors in the pony club movement. Horses continued to play a major role in their lives; in 1958 and 1959 Colin gave demonstrations of campdrafting to visiting members of the British royal family. He also formed part of the mounted guard of honour during Princess Alexandra’s visit to Toowoomba in the latter year.

May died of lung cancer on 7 July 1972 in Brisbane and was buried in Miles cemetery. Colin continued breeding cattle at Kingston, from where he regularly travelled to judge campdrafting and show-ring events. Survived by two sons and a daughter, he died on 8 March 1994 at Miles, and was buried alongside his wife.

Research edited by Malcolm Allbrook

Select Bibliography

  • 50 Years of Rodeo: A Pictorial History of the Warwick Rodeo. Warwick, Qld: Warwick and District Tourist Association, 1979
  • Chittick, A. J. High, Wide and Handsome: A Pictorial History of Australian Show-Ring Jumping 1900–1950. Moss Vale, NSW: A.J. Chittick, 1989
  • Goodall, A. V. ‘Thompsons Top Campdrafters.’ Queensland Country Life, 29 October 1953, 5
  • Neville, Claudette. ‘Colin Thompson and Chance.’ In The Warwick Gold Cup: Campdrafting’s Memories and Magic Moments, edited by Bev Cheers. Glen Innes, Qld: GE Books, 2002, 53
  • Warwick Daily News. ‘Famous Warwick Rodeo.’ 18 September 1952, 2
  • White, Karen. Personal communication

Additional Resources

Citation details

Murray Johnson, 'Thompson, Charles Colin (1906–1994)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2018, accessed online 30 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 19, (ANU Press), 2021

View the front pages for Volume 19

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