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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Thompson, Duncan Fulton (1895–1980)

by M. L. Howell and R. A. Howell

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Duncan Fulton Thompson (1895-1980), footballer, was born on 14 March 1895 at Warwick, Queensland, fourth of nine children of Charles Thompson, carpenter, and his wife Jane Elizabeth, née McLeod, both Queensland born. Educated at local schools, he worked at the Warwick Post Office, then joined the Australian Bank of Commerce in 1911 and was transferred to Ipswich. There he played Rugby League football with St Paul's Church of England and the Starlights clubs; he also played cricket and ran in competitive sprints. Thompson's sporting prowess was most evident as a half-back in Rugby League: he represented Combined Country in 1913 and Queensland in 1915; when the bank transferred him to Sydney, he played for Norths.

As his parents would not allow him to volunteer at the outbreak of World War I, Thompson went to Queensland and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 20 September 1916. He sailed to England as a reinforcement for the 49th Infantry Battalion, trained at Salisbury Plain and joined his unit at Ypres, Belgium. Shot through the chest at Dernancourt on 5 April 1918, he was repatriated and discharged in January 1919 with the edict that he could never play sport again.

Joining the Commonwealth Bank, he was sent to Ipswich where he played social cricket. Known as 'One Lung' and 'the Wizard', in 1919 Thompson played Rugby League for the Starlights, for Queensland (as captain) and for Australia against New Zealand. He was in the Valley (Brisbane) side in the 1919-20 cricket season when they won a premiership. On 12 October 1920 he married Dorothy Agnes Easton at St Paul's Anglican Church, Ipswich. Through his bank, Thompson initiated a move to New South Wales where he played for Wests in Newcastle, then rejoined North Sydney which won league premierships in 1921 and 1922. Having been a member in 1920 of the Australian team in the second and third Tests against Harold Wagstaff's Englishmen, in 1921-22 Thompson toured England, scoring 107 points from 49 goals and 3 tries. In 1920-23 he captained New South Wales.

In March 1923 Thompson resigned from the bank to set up a sports store. He represented Australia in two Tests in 1924, and played for Queensland (1924-25) and for Toowoomba for three years (at £400 a year) when that city was known as the Rugby League capital of the world. In this period Toowoomba's 'Galloping Clydesdales' defeated England, New South Wales, Victoria, South Sydney, Ipswich and Brisbane. Not a noted tackler, though one of the finest running half-backs in the history of the game, Thompson was lightly built and 'played with his eyes and brain'.

Retiring from football at the end of 1925, he represented Queensland in tennis, had a handicap of three in golf and played bowls for Toowoomba in later life. During World War II he served in the A.I.F. as amenities officer at Townsville and in Papua New Guinea. In the early 1950s Thompson (the 'Downs Fox') coached Toowoomba to six State victories. A great theorist of the game, he became an administrator, Australian selector and patron of the Queensland Rugby League. He was appointed M.B.E. on 1 January 1960. Survived by his wife, son and daughter, Thompson died at Wesley Private Hospital, Auchenflower, on 17 May 1980 and was cremated.

Select Bibliography

  • J. Sweeney, The Gentle Clydesdale (Toowoomba, Qld, 1975)
  • Queensland Rugby League Annual, 1926
  • Sunday Truth (Brisbane), 20 June 1971
  • Courier Mail (Brisbane), 20 May 1980
  • D. Thompson, Rugby League: The Game (manuscript, 1978, privately held).

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

M. L. Howell and R. A. Howell, 'Thompson, Duncan Fulton (1895–1980)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 27 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

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