Jack first arrived in Malawi in 1970 to begin a life-long absorption with the country and its people. He remained in touch with many of his students from his early years at Livingstonia Secondary School and with the church leaders he came to know during his time as Director of Theological Education by Extension in Malawi (TEEM). His interests in Malawi were very wide-ranging but he found a particular niche with Ngoni history, on which he became a major authority. His work on the relationship between the Ngoni and Scottish missionary Donald Fraser was an important archetype of the Scotland Malawi Partnership. Jack was greatly honoured when the clan name “Jere” was bestowed upon him and he thus became associated with the Ngoni royal family.
When Jack was appointed to a Lectureship at Edinburgh University in the early 1990s he quickly became a leading figure in Scotland-Malawi relations. He chaired the Scotland Malawi Network, which was formed in 1992 to support the dawn of the democratic dispensation in Malawi and in some ways was a precursor to the SMP. He was also part of the small group which met in 2002 to lay plans for the formation of the SMP and when it was formally constituted in 2005 he became Vice-Chair of the Board. At the same time, he was an unyielding champion of the need for a viable counterpart body in Malawi and worked tirelessly to bring MaSP into being. In addition, he took a leading role in the Higher Education dimension of the Partnership, drawing on his extensive professional experience in both countries. It was a great joy for Jack to be able to return to Malawi for a year as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Livingstonia.
He remained a member of the SMP Board until his death and his contributions were always independent, forthright, gracious and collaborative. The range and depth of his knowledge of Malawi was a priceless asset to the Board and he was always generous in making himself available to SMP staff as a mentor and source of support. The scale and vitality of Malawi-Scotland relations today owes an incalculable debt to Dr Jack Thompson. His passing leaves a gap that will be very deeply felt but the legacy he leaves us will continue to bear fruit.