Philosopher-journalist who knew the blues

Paul Comrie-Thomson

Paul Comrie Thomson's interviews with political pundits, economists, philosophers and writers reflected his natural curiosity, generous spirit, incisiveness, grace and passion for reconciling apparently conflicting ideas.

Paul Comrie-Thomson, journalist and author.

Born 1948; died 2014

In 2007, Comrie-Thomson joined journalist Michael Duffy as co-presenter on ABC Radio National’s Counterpoint – a perch he delighted in and on which he remained for more than six years. His radio conversations enabled him to explore every passion he possessed: philosophy, jazz and rhythm and blues, film, economics, language, religion and society.

Comrie-Thomson was born in Sydney on March 26, 1948, son of Eric Comrie-Thomson and his wife, Sylvia (nee Somerville).

He and his sister, Sue, grew up in Greenwich and he went to St Igatius College, Riverview, where, as his classmate Philip Sharp put it, several of the teachers were impassioned educators and occasional eccentrics. One was Tony Gallagher, a university medallist in the classics and a founder of Gleebooks, who would encourage his class to mull over a single Greek or Latin poem for an entire week.

While studying at the University of NSW in the late 1960s, Comrie-Thomson was one of the editors of the student journal Tharunka, which aimed to irritate authority figures at large and succeeded mightily. After graduating, he worked as a copywriter for the Endeavour Advertising Group then became a part-owner and editor of Rolling Stone magazine’s Australian edition.

When journalist Mark Colvin spoke at Comrie-Thomson’s funeral, he mourned the loss of his lunching companion. 'I stand here as just one representative of a group … who have been meeting Comrie for lunch every month or so for a decade or more … It’s really Les [Gock] who should be up here with a guitar and amp, peeling off licks from the rock and blues guitar greats. Comrie knew the blues and its roots.'

Comrie-Thomson knew about other 'blues' too. There were losses in his life that friends suggest marked him significantly. One was the sudden death of his first wife, Henrietta Resler, who had a congenital heart problem, and the other was the drowning of a friend at Freshwater where they were surfing as teenagers.

After he and his second wife, Susan, parted ways in 2000 and while he was running his own advertising consultancy, Comrie-Thomson enrolled part-time at the University of Sydney. In 2003, he was awarded a master of philosophy.

When Comrie-Thomson parted ways with Counterpoint, he began writing essays for The Spectator and The Australian Financial Review. One of his most memorable was on misogyny – or not – in Dead white men have last word, where he moved from Botticelli to Shakespeare to The Adventures of Barry McKenzie without missing a beat.

- By Patricia Anderson

Read full obituary: Paul Comrie-Thomson had an expansive personality and a sharp mind (SMH)

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