William Tomison (1740-1829)
William Tomison was born in South Ronaldsay in 1740 and joined the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1760, aged 20.
Like many young men he went to the Nor West, where he began work as a labourer. He worked his way up to become the Company’s first chief at York Factory. He was responsible for spreading the activities of the company further inland and was very successful.
He is further credited with founding the city of Edmonton in 1795, when he established a fort there.
Tomison became a very rich man and, when he retired, he returned to Orkney in 1810. He spent his final years at Dundas House, a home he had built for himself.
Since 1793 he had been providing money to support a school as well as other charities in the parish.
When he died in 1829, and with no surviving heir to inherit his fortune, he left a large amount of money that was to be used to set up a school. Tomison’s Academy is a very fine building.
Tomison’s tomb is close by his former home in South Ronaldsay. The current owner of the land, Willie Mowat, has a keen interest in the Hudson’s Bay Company. Several years ago the recently-retired Governor, David Mitchell OC, visited Orkney and was surprised to be greeted by the sight of the company flag flying over Tomison’s former home.