Stephana Thomson

Stephana Thomson

Stephana Thomson

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STEPHANA Catherine Thomson, a teacher for more than 40 years at Ripon Cathedral Choir School that was founded by her husband, has died aged 90.

She was a spirited member of a prominent and distinguished family and was a talented musician as a pianist and a cellist, a gift inherited by her own children several of whom work in the arts.

She was head of music at Ripon from its founding in 1960 until about 1987, but she continued teaching there until she was 80 and until recently still had adult pupils.

She was born in Winchester, the fifth of six children of Archibald Wilson who was a housemaster at Winchester College, and his wife Ethel.

Her father died when she was an infant and before the birth of her younger sister, the philosopher Dame Mary Warnock.

One of her brothers, Sir Duncan Wilson, a distinguished diplomat, historian and writer, was British Ambassador to Moscow from 1968 to 1971 and then Master of Corpus Christi, Cambridge until 1980.

Mrs Thomson was educated at Downe House, in Berkshire, and Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she gained two degrees.

The first was in chemistry, for which she studied before and during the Second World War.

During the war, she also worked at a torpedo factory in Glasgow. When it ended, she returned to Oxford where she studied music.

While at Oxford she met Duncan Thomson, also a talented musician, and they were married in 1950.

A year later he was ordained to the priesthood and they went to Northleach, in the Cotswolds, where he was a curate.

They moved to Yorkshire in 1953 when he was appointed a Minor Canon and Succentor at Ripon Cathedral. He went on to be Precentor and it was then he was asked by the Dean and Chapter of the Cathedral to found the choir school in 1960 where he was headmaster until he died in 1983. Mrs Thomson was asked by his successor to stay on as head of music.

Both she and her husband had also taught at Asygarth School where he was chaplain until about 1957.

Ripon was an extremely successful school and Mrs Thomson was saddened by its closure last summer. Many of her pupils have gone on to enjoy musical careers, but it was as a teacher of the theory of music that she excelled and a lot of them were very grateful to her for getting them through their examinations.

Several of her own children were at pupils at the Choir School. Her eldest son Roderick had also been a Cathedral chorister, and later her eldest daughter, Christina, taught there until it closed, and was also wardrobe mistress.

Last year Ripon Cathedral Old Choristers’ Association made her a life member in recognition of her work, and that of her husband.

Mrs Thomson was also a great countrywoman and a very good horsewoman, owning her own horses and riding until she was 75.

She was also very knowledgeable about horse racing and extremely interested in horses and their training. She was a keen follower of steeplechasing – she found Flat racing boring – was a member at Wetherby, and had a very good eye when it came to gambling on them.

A few years ago, in one season she successfully backed the first, second and third horses in both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National.

Mrs Thomson is survived by her four daughters and two sons, and by six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held for her in Yorkshire in the New Year.

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