Maggie on their minds

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Former British Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher’s death this week has revived memories for a Glenorchy farming family. 

Mount Earnslaw Station runholders Tommy and Reta Thomson hosted Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher for a private break during her New Zealand visit in 1976 – three years before she started her 11-year reign as PM. 

Thatcher, who visited with her husband Denis, had asked to visit a high country station – Tommy at the time was chairman of the then Lake County Council. 

The Thatchers flew from Queenstown to the head of the lake by Air Force Iroquois. 

The Thomsons’ son Geoff says: “They wanted to be with a family they could just relax with – my parents provided a nice environment where they could feel at home.” 

Geoff recalls Thatcher: “You noted that strong will that she had but you saw the soft side, you might say, we saw the mother-type thing. 

“She wasn’t the sit-around type – she’d be up helping move the plates.” 

Then-fledgling local MP Warren Cooper – who with his wife Lorraine joined the Thomsons and Thatchers for dinner that night – says: “I met her subsequently too – she was very vital, very companionable, in my assessment.”
Geoff Thomson says his family continued to keep loose contact with the Thatchers, and his sister Annette Thomson visited them in England.