Thomason was the
third President of British Rotary (then known as BARC) between 1916 and
David Shelley Nicholl tells us that at 33 Thomason was the
youngest RIBI President. There seems a discrepancy over Thomason's exact
age as Roger Levy in his history of RIBI tells us that Thomason was aged
about 35 when he assumed the Presidency - but no matter Peter Thomason
is definitely the youngest President of RIBI - not surprising given that
unlike today, early Rotarians and their leaders were usually in their
mid-thirties or early forties.
Thomason, an early member of the
Manchester club, had the unexciting
classification of "Book-keeping machines". It is reported by Levy that
Thomason also joined the Rotary Club of Glasgow. This would probably be
because Thomason was an agent for the Comptometer company and travelled
extensively. Like the Travelling Insurance salesman Arthur Hollman on
the Pacific west coast, Thomason was in a significant position to
promote Rotary extension. He helped found the Rotary Club of
Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1915.
The most interesting fact about Peter Thomason is that he could not
fulfill all his Presidential duties between 1916-17. The First World War
interrupted Rotary business. Peter's youth would lead to call-up to the
Royal Engineers - alas Rotary was not deemed important enough for Peter
to escape conscription! Thomason, however, would never have avoided his
duty - he was a devout church-goer with strong beliefs.
in France during 1917 with the rank of 'pioneer' before promotion to the
rank of 'sapper'. During active service, the BARC President was wounded
in battle and returned home to England and, of course, Rotary.
During Peter's presidency the Dublin club would propose that ladies
should be admitted for Rotary membership. The fields of Flanders may
have seemed a bit more attractive place to be for young Peter at that
particular moment! After 'discussions', the proposal was quietly
withdrawn. In his time, Thomason also wrote many reports for the RIBI
magazine "The Rotary Wheel" (now shortened to just "Rotary") entitling
such articles "The Back of the Front".
He would serve the movement for 50 years until his death in 1961 aged
80. He lived long enough to attend RIBI's Golden Anniversary in
Bournemouth where the movement was blessed with speakers of the calibre
of the Lord Chancellor and the Rt. Hon. Tony Benn MP.
According to RIBI historian Roger Levy, Thomason was "a man of great
charm and dignity, and an exceptionally cultured and gifted speaker".