Jean Harris

Jean Thomson Harris

wife of Founder Paul Harris
November 8, 1881 – November 9, 1963


The young hiker had not noticed the underbrush’s damage to his jacket. “Oh, it’s torn!” cried somebody sympathetically. “But I could easily repair it for you. My name’s Jean Thomson.”
He looked at her and promptly forgot all about the trip.
“I’m Paul Harris,” said he. “I enjoy hiking. I think it’s wonderful.”
The Golden Strand (An informal history of the Rotary Club of Chicago) Quadrangle Books, Chicago 1966.

From Paul and Jean’s 1934 visit to RC of Edinburgh] “So, on April 4, they traveled to Edinburgh where Lord Provost Thomson had invited Rotary’s President Emeritus to attend and speak as the guest of honour at the banquet of the Assembly of the Lords Provost of Scotland. Highland pipers played the plaintive ‘Road to the Isles’ as the Harris’ ascended the steps to the City Chambers. For the 52-year-old Jean, who had left her city 25 years earlier, it was a most memorable homecoming.”

Read the article at Paul Visits.

In “My Road to Rotary,” Chapter 42 The End of The Journey2, Paul Harris writes these three paragraphs about his “Scottish Lassie,” Jean Thomson Harris.

“So here we are at the end of our journey and Jean and I are sitting at our fireside drinking a cup of tea. One who marries a Scottish lady must acquire the habit of sitting at the fireside and drinking black tea and indeed it is a delightful break in the cares and duties of the day.

If the tea is good and the fire burns merrily, one enjoys recreation and rest.

It’s a good way to end the day.

Have you noticed Paul Harris’s age on the marriage license? Did he give his age to the Clerk as ’40’?

He was actually aged 42, 14 years older than his bride so perhaps he felt that a
more youthful age might look better? Or did the Clerk make a mistake?
And if so, why did no one correct it?

Your guess is as good as ours, unless you actually know the reason.
*Additional references to Ed Lucas’s PDF article are
from the James Walsh 1979 Book, The First Rotarian
the post office street directories of the period;
Edinburgh School records; and the 1881 and 1891 Census Documents.

Avenue, the home of the Thomson family in Edinburgh.
A PDF file by *the late Ed Lucas of RC of Edinburgh on the life of Jean Harris.

The tea cozy at my lady’s right hand keeps the tea hot for a long time and there is nothing my lady enjoys better than filling one’s cup. Many cups of tea has she served to visiting friends from Britain and other countries and how sociable and friendly a custom it is. The bellow sends the sparks flying up the chimney when applied by my lady’s vigorous hands and she will tolerate no assistance either in building her fire or keeping up the music of the snapping embers.

Queen of the fireside and the teatable at “Comely Bank” is my lady Jean and the thought often comes to me that her steadfast devotion to duty was not excelled even by grandmother. I am indeed a fortunate man; of that I am sure and this is the very place and this is the very hour for reverie even thought lady Jean maintains that my reveries far too frequently are preludes to cat naps and my cat naps preludes to slumber outright.”

August 1963 photo with RI President Carl Miller, three months before Jean died.