James Thompson has been an integral part of the Swan Hill community since 1974.
Born in 1937 at Numurkah, Jim (as he’s known to friends and family) was a fifth-generation farmer whose ancestors were pioneer settlers in the Shepparton District. Jim’s parents farmed at Tallygaroopna where he grew up with his two sisters and three brothers. After the war, Jim helped his father by working on the family farm. It was during this time where he would learn skills that would help him later in life. Being the eldest son, a lot of responsibility was placed on Jim who ran and managed the farming enterprise when his family were away.
By the age of 20, Jim met the love of his life, Esma Smith, at a dance hall in Shepparton. The couple married a year later and had four children during the next six years – Ian, Pauline, Alan and Kerry.
After they had leased farms for several years, Jim and Esma had saved enough money to buy their own dairy farm in 1964. In 1966, Jim first became involved with Freemasons Victoria at Moira. Jim would join the Ultima Masonic Lodge and later the Swan Hill and Tresco Lodges.
But due to the political events of the 1970s, Jim had changed his mind about farming and they sold the farm in 1973.
“It was the best move we ever made”, Jim said.
“We looked around and asked ourselves what were we going to do and decided a change of lifestyle was needed”.
Jim and Esma undertook a drastic lifestyle change when they moved to Swan Hill and bought the Paruna Motel.
“We went from milking cows seven days a week to serving customers seven days a week,” Jim said. It was during this time when Jim joined the Tourist Industry Group.
The group merged with the Chamber of Commerce and founded the Swan Hill Development Association, which later became Swan Hill Inc. Jim also spent three years on the Pioneer Settlement Authority Board of Management, which he found a deeply rewarding and exciting experience.
In 1978, Jim and Esma moved on from the motel industry and bought a wholesale business, Scown & Standen (later called Swan Hill Wholesalers). The business was a huge success which Jim would own for 35 years.
“It was great being part of the Swan Hill business community for such a long time,’ he said.
“I was able to give back to the community who has treated us so well.”
Officially, in 2001, his son Alan took over the family business until it was sold in 2010. Throughout his life Jim was heavily involved in Freemasons Victoria, and was given the honour of becoming the First Foundation Master of the Swan Hill Masonic Lodge in 1997.
In 2014, he was awarded the title of Past Deputy Grand Master, the highest honour possible to receive in the organisation.
“I’ve been lucky enough to be part of the state ceremonial team, who go around the state to perform at installation ceremonies,” he said.
Over the years, Jim has been involved with many fundraising events through the Masonic Lodge. Most recently, the Swan Hill Masonic Lodge organised the big goods and services auction last year which raised $36,000, all of which was donated to the Swan Hill Hospice.
“Our parent organisation Freemasons Foundation Victoria have matched this number and have donated money to the Hospice,” he said.
Since it began in 1995, the Swan Hill Masonic Lodge contributed over $160,000 to the community. The event was recognised by the Swan Hill Rural City Council at last year’s Australia Day Celebration and was awarded the ‘Event of the Year’ award.
In the past, the organisation has donated to the Catalina Museum at Lake Boga, Swan Hill District Health, Swan Hill Specialist School and Alcheringa (among others). He celebrated 50 years of membership of Freemasons Victoria and received a special certificate at the annual Christmas party earlier in the month.
“I felt very proud to have 50 years of service and to have been given the title of Past Deputy Grand Master,” Jim said.
Jim is involved in other community groups as well, including the Swan Hill Bowling Club (of which he is President) and Swan Hill Rotary Club.
He also holds the claim to fame for being one of only four Victorians who carried the Olympic torch – in 1956 and 2000.
Jim said he has found a true home in Swan Hill and loves the community.
“Swan Hill has been good to our family,” he said.
“It has allowed us to achieve what we want to do. What I’m doing through Freemasons is just giving back to the community which is a great place to live. My aim is to continue with my community involvement for as long as I’m able to.”
Article by The Guardian – For more Swan Hill news click here