Basic Biographical Details

Name: Frank Drummond Thomson
Designation: Architect
Born: 1882
Died: 16 August 1961
Bio Notes: Frank Drummond Thomson was born in 1882, the son of James Thomson, then a senior assistant in the office of the City Engineer, Francis Mackison, and was also educated at Dundee High School. About 1898 he was articled to Thomas Martin Cappon. He did not like Cappon or his work - 'you can't imagine how I felt having to draw out such terrible stuff' - but in Cappon's senior assistant, William Gillespie Lamond, he found a good teacher; and like his elder brother Henry he attended the Technical Institute where another disciple of Lamond's, Patrick Hill Thoms ('the best [architect] we ever had in Dundee'), had begun teaching architecture. About 1902 Frank moved to London as assistant to Niven & Wigglesworth, working mainly with Niven on the Dundee Courier Building. His salary was augmented by evening and weekend work from his father who was appointed City Architect in 1905 following the death of William Alexander in the previous year, and City Engineer after the dismissal of William Mackison in 1906. From his London lodgings he designed the Blackness and Coldside libraries and negotiated with the sculptor Albert Hodge whom he already knew from his work on the Courier Building.

In the same year, 1906, his brother Henry, who was by then in independent practice, secured the commission for the King's Theatre in Dundee, and asked Frank, then still in London with Niven & Wigglesworth, to design it. Frank was already well equipped for the task. He had a good singing voice and was thoroughly familiar with London's theatreland. He thus had some knowledge of the practical requirements from the beginning. He bought a copy of Sachs 'Modern Theatres and Opera Houses', and designed the project from his London lodgings. In the later stages he was taken into partnership by his brother, some time before the opening on 15 March 1909, enabling him to marry and set up house in Cupar. Before the theatre was completed the original promoter who had a link with the D'Oyly Carte Company had embarrassed himself and his backers deserted him, the project being taken over by another local syndicate, United County Theatres, who brought in an untraced English consultant named Ward (perhaps an assistant in one of the larger theatre architects' offices) to complete it with more elaborate plasterwork ('all right if you like that kind of thing').

In 1911 the partnership won the competition for St John's Cross Church, a burgh church transferred to the Blackness area and shortly thereafter Frank moved to Daisybank, Maryfield where he lived for the rest of his life. But by the beginning of the First World War the partnership had run into difficulty. Harry was more socialite than worker, and although the practice had prospered he had borrowed heavily from his brother partly to finance his move from Yew Bank Avenue to Oakley Place in Queen Street. Their problems came to a head over unpaid tradesmen, a matter which went to court where Frank had to give evidence which contradicted that of his brother. The practice was damaged by the publicity the case received and the partnership was dissolved: 'he broke it, I didn't, I always regretted it,' Frank observed some forty years later, although Harry's debts had never been repaid.

After the war Harry and Frank practised independently but on 2 November 1921 Harry died from a fall in the stairwell of a Broughty Ferry hotel when leaning out to turn off a gaslight. Frank's health was affected and in 1922 his father sent him to Finland to convalesce. He recovered but with a slight tremor which affected his line when drawing freehand: while at Niven & Wigglesworth he had learned to draw to scale without a measuring stick ('saves a lot of time'). But in the meantime his chief assistant William M Patrick had set up in practice on his own account and a number of clients were lost. In 1924 his father joined the practice on his retirement from the posts of City Architect and Director of Housing. There was no formal partnership and he dealt with clients and site supervision rather than design matters until his death in November 1927. Thereafter Frank Thomson's practice remained small but fastidious, famed for the sheer quality and quantity of working drawings for every project. Thomson was active in professional life, serving as a member of the Council of the Dundee Institute of Architects c.1930, but he never sought membership of the RIBA.

In his last years Frank Drummond Thomson worked completely alone in a small dark office in the Nethergate, surrounded by a magnificent library. He died still in practice on 16 August 1961. His wife had died three years earlier but he was survived by his daughters Gertie and Trixie. Although Colin McWilliam had appealed to him to bequeath his drawings to NMRS some years earlier, they destroyed his records in accordance with his wishes. Trixie herself died on 26 November 2015.

Private and Business Addresses

The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect:
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 226, Castle Street, Dundee, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1909After 1911 
Item 2 of 211, Nethergate, Dundee, ScotlandBusiness1930 or 1931 *1939 or 1940(?) 

* earliest date known from documented sources.


Employment and Training

Employers

The following individuals or organisations employed or trained this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 3Thomas Martin Capponc. 1898c. 1902Apprentice 
Item 2 of 3Niven & Wigglesworthc. 19021908Assistant 
Item 3 of 3H & F Thomson1908c. 1914Partner 

Employees or Pupils

The following individuals were employed or trained by this architect (click on an item to view details):
 NameDate fromDate toPositionNotes
Item 1 of 8William Macfarlane Patrick1918 or 1919c. 1921Assistant 
Item 2 of 8Charles Fell Duncan19191921Junior Assistant 
Item 3 of 8Arthur George Wright OgilvieJanuary 1919July 1919Senior Assistant 
Item 4 of 8James DeucharsSeptember 1922September 1927Apprentice 
Item 5 of 8James Thomson1924November 1927PartnerUnofficial partner
Item 6 of 8George Watt19241928Apprentice 
Item 7 of 8James DeucharsSeptember 1927February 1932Assistant 
Item 8 of 8William Sinclair Gauldiec. 1934(?)c. 1939(?)Apprentice 

Buildings and Designs

This architect was involved with the following buildings or structures from the date specified (click on an item to view details):
 Date startedBuilding nameTown, district or villageIslandCity or countyCountryNotes
Item 1 of 40 CinemaHilltown DundeeScotland 
Item 2 of 40 CinemaLochee DundeeScotland 
Item 3 of 40 Forfar and Kincardine Hall  DundeeScotlandInterior work - no date. Only minor work executed
Item 4 of 401906Blackness Library  DundeeScotlandFrank working for his father, then City Architect, 1905-08
Item 5 of 401906Coldside LibraryHilltown DundeeScotlandWorking for his father
Item 6 of 401906King's Theatre and Hippodrome  DundeeScotlandCompleted in association with ___Ward
Item 7 of 401909Factory (hackle-making works) fronting North Lindsay Street  DundeeScotlandOriginal building
Item 8 of 401909Warehouses, Laing Street  DundeeScotland 
Item 9 of 401910Eagle Buildings   DundeeScotland 
Item 10 of 401910St David's Parish Church hall  DundeeScotland 
Item 11 of 401910Two-storey shopfronts, Overgate  DundeeScotland 
Item 12 of 401910Whitehall Works  DundeeScotlandExtension
Item 13 of 401911Masonic HallBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 14 of 401911St John's Cross Church and halls  DundeeScotland 
Item 15 of 401911Ward Road public gymnasium  DundeeScotlandGallery added
Item 16 of 401912Loftus Tea RoomsBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 17 of 401913Broughty Picture HouseBroughty Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 18 of 401913Factory (hackle-making works) fronting North Lindsay Street  DundeeScotlandExtension
Item 19 of 401913G L Wilson's Department Store  DundeeScotland 
Item 20 of 401915Frew's Bar  DundeeScotlandInterior refitted
Item 21 of 401919Caledon Shipbuilding Company offices and model room  DundeeScotland 
Item 22 of 401919Offices, entrance hall and new bond for Cream of the Barley  DundeeScotland 
Item 23 of 40c. 1920417, 418, 419 Blackness Road  DundeeScotland 
Item 24 of 401921Drumfork HouseBlacklunans PerthshireScotlandCompletion of alterations and interior work, taking over from Andrew Grainger Heiton as a result of illness and inability to complete drawings
Item 25 of 401922Craigie Garden Suburb  DundeeScotlandDesigned housing
Item 26 of 401923Broughty Ferry LibraryBroughty Ferry DundeeScotlandDrew up plans - not executed. Gifford gives James Thomson 1923 as architect and date. Other sources disagree.
Item 27 of 401923Semi-detached houses, East Haddon Road  DundeeScotland 
Item 28 of 40c. 1923Caird Hall  DundeeScotlandUnexecuted classical scheme for flanking buildings - circumstances of preparation unclear
Item 29 of 40c. 1923Semi-detached houses, Greendykes Road  DundeeScotland 
Item 30 of 401927Alhambra Cinema  DundeeScotland 
Item 31 of 40c. 1927Franchi's Restaurant  DundeeScotland 
Item 32 of 401930s'The Bungalow'  DundeeScotland 
Item 33 of 401930s16A Lammerton Terrace  DundeeScotland 
Item 34 of 401930s21 Bingham Terrace  DundeeScotland 
Item 35 of 401930s6 Castle Terrace  DundeeScotland 
Item 36 of 401930sHouse in Strips of Craigie RoadCraigiebank DundeeScotland 
Item 37 of 401930sVillas, Kinsway  DundeeScotland 
Item 38 of 401930Park, Hill of Kirriemuir, Barrie Pavilion and Camera ObscuraKirriemuir AngusScotlandWon competition to secure job
Item 39 of 401937Craigiebank Church and HallWest Ferry DundeeScotland 
Item 40 of 401943Hall ChurchLinlathen DundeeScotland 

References

Bibliographic References

The following books contain references to this architect:
 Author(s)DateTitlePartPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 3Horan, Martin2001The King's, God's and Commoners   
Item 2 of 3RCAHMS1992Dundee on Record RCAHMSAerial view of Craigiebank Garden Suburb built in 1937 showing Craigiebank Parish Church p52
Item 3 of 3RIBA1939The RIBA Kalendar 1939-1940 London: Royal Institute of British Architects 

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this architect:
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 2Courtesy of Iain Flett, Dundee City ArchivistEmail to Yvonne Hillyard Courtesy also of Mark Watson, HES - originally information from Councillor Fraser Macpherson's blog.
Item 2 of 2Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Copy of letter from Trixie Thomson to Historic Buildings and Monuments 10 July 1990; personal information from Frank Thomson, Gertie and Trixie Thomson, and W Sinclair Gauldie