Place of birth
United States of America
Place of residence
National identity

Ralph Thompson

Short biography
Ralph Thompson was born in America in 1928. His family on his mother’s side goes back three generations in Jamaica, a mixture of crypto Jewish (Isaacs) and Irish stock (Fielding). It was staunchly Catholic and claimed to be white. His mother’s marriage lasted only three years and she returned to Jamaica and brought up her two children aided and abetted by a household of intellectually brilliant but poor and highly eccentric aunts and uncles.

Ralph Thompson's education was heavily influenced by the Jesuits through high school in Jamaica and university in America. After earning his Doctor of Law degree at Fordham University in New York, he served for two years as an officer in the US Air Force in Japan, after which he returned to Jamaica and started his career as businessman, painter and poet. The father of four children, he lives with his wife in Kingston.

He has given public service under both political administrations in Jamaica and was awarded the C.D. (Commander of Distinction) in the Jamaican National Honours of 1988. He is a regular broadcaster and panelist on Jamaican radio and contributor of articles to Jamaica’s press.

Throughout his business career, working as Director of Seprod, Jamaica’s largest private company, first painting (he held a major one-man exhibition in Kingston in 1976) and then poetry have been ordering passions in his life. During a five year sojourn in Florida he did graduate work in English at the University of South Florida and arranged readings there by Derek Walcott, John Figueroa and John Hearne.

His poetry appeared in such journals as The Gleaner, Jamaica Journal, Kyk-over-Al, Carib, The Caribbean Writer and London Magazine, before his first collection, The Denting of a Wave was published by Peepal Tree in 1993. This collection contains a long poem, ‘The Other Island’ which explores his wartime Japanese experience. His second collection, Moving On (Peepal Tree, 1998) includes a witty eighteen part autobiographical poem, ‘Goodbye Aristotle, So Long America’ that deals with the experiences of a white West Indian abroad. View from Mount Diablo, Thompson's book-length narrative poem, won the 2001 Jamaican National Literary Award and will be published by Peepal Tree in early 2003.

For a more detailed account of Ralph Thompson's family background go to SEARCH/REVIEWS/Ralph Thompson/‘A Jamaican Family Saga’