Norham Churchyard Section C Row 7 -9 – Thompson
Erected in memory of Martha wife of James THOMPSON of Shoreswood Hall who died 26th November 1838 aged 81 years.
Also the above James THOPMSON who departed this life 9th May 1844 aged 88 years.
Also Ralph their son planter in Jamaica who died July 12th 1831 aged 49 years.
Also James (M.D.) their son who died in New Orleans in America 23rd May 1833 aged 31 years.
Also Isabella their daughter who died at Berrington June 30th 1857 aged 61 years.
Also John their son who died at Berrington November 13th 1866 aged 70 years.
Also Jane their daughter who died at Berrington August 21st 1871 aged 72 years.
Adam THOMPSON who died 25th March 1877 aged 90 years.
Martha THOMPSON daughter of the above Ralph THOMPSON who died 22nd November 1882 aged 73 years.
Birth 1781 26 26
, Berwick on Tweed, Northumberland, England
Christening 18 May 1781
Scotch Church, Berwick on Tweed, Northumberland, England
Marriage Isabella Fish
16 June 1805 (Age 24)
Norham, Northumberland, England
Death 12 July 1831 (Age 50)
, , , Jamaica
Burial 12 July 1831 (on the date of death)
, , , Jamaica
Searching the records it looks like Ralph Thompson was a slave trader or some type of Attorney.
In the history of Jamaica he is mentioned with conections to Berwick (Jamacia Manchester) Also Roxburgh Castle is mentioned.
I can tell you some general things about Ralph Thompson based on the slave registers. He was in Jamaica from at least 1817 when he owned one enslaved person, a man aged about 20 years who was listed as "African" so was trafficked across the Atlantic rather than born into slavery in the Caribbean. The man was named Berwick, interestingly, which suggests Ralph Thompson named him. I've attached the 1817 register.
In 1817 he was also working as an attorney, which was a distinct Caribbean role and not the same as an English attorney in the sense of being a lawyer. A Jamaican attorney was more of an estate manager. The large number of absentee planters had created a demand for men who could take responsibility for running an estate, dispatching crops, keeping accounts, making general financial and practical decisions and communicating effectively with the estate owners given the long time delay in letters crossing the Atlantic. Most of these attorneys had begun their careers as overseers, who supervised the labour of enslaved people (or even as book-keepers who worked more closely in the fields). It would be usual for Ralph to have begun in this way. There was a lot of talk about the corruption of attorneys and there was certainly a lot of opportunity for shady dealing. It was a lucrative career, with the largest firms controlling many large estates - some examples of major attorneys are Donald McLean, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146632971 and Francis Graham, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/2146631129. Ralph Thomspon was working on a smaller scale but still attorney for some large estates in 1820, suggesting he had been in Jamaica for a while. Like most attorneys he then became a slave-owner. Berwick was probably a personal servant but many attorneys gradually bought larger numbers of enslaved people and hired them out as labourers. At some point between 1817 and 1820, Ralph bought a female enslaved person, named Maria. She appears in the 1820 slave register (I've attached a copy). By 1823 he had invested in land as well. He bought Christiania, an estate in Manchester, and separately bought around 60 enslaved people from another estate in a different parish. This is not a large enough workforce for a sugar estate, and much of the land in Manchester is mountainous. It's likely he was growing coffee or perhaps pimento or raising livestock. He owned Christiania jointly with Isaac McCorkell. This doesn't suggest he had a huge amount of money behind him but is still a significant investment. Around this time he appears to have stopped working as an attorney. There were obvious advantages in working for yourself, but it was also more risky and often less profitable.
He may have married someone called Eleanor Jane Carpenter, but I haven't found a marriage record. I found this in Caribbeana:
A footnote states, "Eleanor Jane Thompson (born Carpenter), daughter of Thomas and Ann Carpenter (born Lovibond), who was great-grandson of Samuel Carpenter, Treasurer of Barbados, and afterwards of Philadelphia, U.S.A., the friend and companion of Penn." See http://www.dloc.com/UF00075409/00003/211j. I found Eleanor and her sister Ann in the census of 1851 and she's also in the National Probate Calendar 1874.