Former colonial administrator in Fiji and governor of the British Virgin Islands; Born January 8, 1920; Died March 13, 2008. SIR Ian Thomson, who has died aged 88, was a former Glasgow High School pupil whose expertise in Fijian issues revitalised the islands' ailing airline. A fluent speaker of Fijian and a knowledgeable admirer of the South Pacific, he rose to become governor of the British Virgin Islands.

Born in Glasgow and a graduate of Glasgow University, John Sutherland Thomson targeted the colonial service as a career early in life. He would modestly say that he enjoyed a boost in entry into the service in 1941 simply because the war had thinned out the number of able candidates.

He arrived in Fiji's capital, Suva, in 1941 as ADC to the governor, Sir Harry Luke. After the attack on Pearl Harbour in December that year, Government House in Suva became a centre of strategic operations and Thomson became responsible for decoding.

His love of Fiji and Fijians developed in service as an officer with the 3rd Battalion of the Fiji Infantry Regiment. In 1942, as a lieutenant, his CO was Ratu Sir Edward Cakobau ("Ratu" being the equivalent of a clan chief), and with the battalion he camped on the Tailevu coast, carrying out coastal surveillance and training for combat in the Solomon Islands.

For nine months during 1943 and 1944, as adjutant in Papua New Guinea, he saw front-line action against Japanese forces. On his return to Fiji, Captain Thomson was made MBE in the military division for his "gallant and distinguished service". Thomson looked back on this experience as the basis of his fluency in Fijian and the reason that wherever he went in Fiji, he always met old comrades.

For the next 21 years, he worked around the Fijian archipelago, first as district officer for the provinces of Lau, Lomaiviti and Kadavu, then the Northern Division. A fellow district officer in the Northern Division was his life-long friend, Ratu Sir Penaia Ganilau, who would later become the first president of Fiji.

Thomson's expertise in local land issues began to develop in 1957 when Ratu Sir Lala Sukuna selected Thomson as his understudy and eventual replacement as chairman of the Native Lands and Fisheries Commission.

Thomson's patience and integrity, along with his fluency in Fijian, were recognised by the then governor-general as "an outstanding and abiding contribution to Fiji and the Fijian people". Thomson viewed the period as one of the most satisfying of his career.

Colonial secretary in Fiji as the colony prepared for independence, Thomson reluctantly took up the post in 1967 as governor of the British Virgin Islands, a role he held for the next five years. When the new Fiji prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, invited him to return to chair the Sugar Industry Board, he gladly accepted. Thomson's leadership skills led him to the chairmanships of various committees, including the Fiji Coconut Board and the Fiji Development Board.

When he was appointed head of the ailing Fiji airline Air Pacific, he revitalised the business by negotiating an alliance with Qantas that exists today.

Thomson was made CMG in 1968, and knighted at Holyroodhouse in 1985. A lifelong Christian, he had been an elder in Suva of St Andrews Presbyterian Church.

Thomson married Nancy Kearsley, a fourth generation Fiji islander in Suva in 1945, and they raised seven sons and a daughter.

Together they retired to Argyll in 1986. Nancy died in 1988, and Thomson later married Nancy Caldwell, a childhood friend from his Glasgow days. The couple moved to Edinburgh, where he died.

He is survived by Nancy, his children Andrew, Peter, John, David, Richard, Mark, Sally and Douglas, and his grandchildren.