Basic Biographical Details
|Name: ||John Russell Thomson |
|Designation: ||Architect, Engineer |
|Born: ||1843 |
|Died: ||6 March 1910 |
|Bio Notes: ||John Russell Thomson was born in 1843 in Longridge, West Lothian, one of the six (or more) children of Robert Thomson, general merchant and his wife, Janet Russell. He served his articles with Messrs Bell & Black in Edinburgh and studied at the School of Art there, taking his certificate in 1857. During this time he exhibited the painstaking accuracy and attention to detail which characterised him in later life and he won a competition for a measured drawing of the Scott Monument. One of his earliest designs was for a school in Longridge which was still in use in 1910. |
At the age of twenty he took a post as assistant in the Bute Estate office in which he rose to be sub-factor under Henry Stuart. He was in charge of the organisation of the coming-of-age celebrations for the Marquis of Bute. From this and his other work in the estate office he gained the respect of the Marquis. The Marquis is said to have given him a cheque of three figures when he left in 1869 to commence business on his own account.
He business soon flourished and he was entrusted with the design of some of the most prominent buildings in Rothesay. Not only did he conduct business as architect and land surveyor, but he also acted as engineer to the Rothesay Harbour Trust and ran an extensive house factoring business at the same time. He also acted as secretary to the Rothesay Tramways Company before the system was electrified.
Soon after arriving in Rothesay, Thomson took an active interest in the affairs of the town and county. In 1872 he entered the Town Council and served one term of three years. Returning in 1880 he served for eleven years, after which he finally retired. He was Dean of Guild from 1882 to 1888; that of Baillie 1883 to 1887, becoming Provost in the latter year and serving for the usual three years. During his tenure of this post he oversaw the adoption of the ten o’clock closing hour for licensed premises; the alteration of the burgh building and the formation of a new council chamber; and the erection of a new gasholder. He returned to being an ordinary Councillor after this, in order to see through to completion the Loch Ascog filtration scheme, which he himself had initiated. He retired from this after one year when he took the duty of engineer to the Harbour Trust.
Thomson undertook a wide variety of other public duties. Amongst others he was a member of the Rothesay School Board from 1888 to 1891; a member of the Parochial Board (from 1895 the Parish Council) until his death; a JP; clerk to North Bute school Board; director of the Norman Stewart Institute ; vice-president of the Bute Savings Bank and of the State Insurance Company. He was also involved in various charitable schemes.
Thomson joined the local Volunteer Corps shortly after arriving in Bute and became one of the best shots in the company. He was a keen curler and became a member of the Bute Curling Club. After the local club joined with the Royal Caledonian Club in 1865, Thomson became secretary, a post which he held for 45 years.
Thomson was a member of the Free Church in Rothesay and took a great interest in the church and its affairs. He was session clerk latterly. Later he was involved with various committees of the United Free Church at its headquarters in Edinburgh, in particular the Building Committee with its scheme for re-housing dispossessed congregations. He superintended the work of erecting new churches in various places including Arran, Tarbert and Islay.
Thomson made two extensive tours in North America, visiting Newfoundland where his wife’s relatives ran a business, Canada and the States, calling on many well-known Bute people in the course of his journey.
His obituarist notes that he had been ‘endowed by nature with a handsome and stately presence and a genial personality’, yet was a ‘little shy and reserved at first with strangers’. He had ‘ a wonderful organising faculty, [a] mastery of detail [and] a keenness of scrutiny’.
Thomson suffered from angina which had first struck several years before his death. It recurred in early 1910 and although he appeared to be recovering, he died suddenly 6 March. He was survived by his three brothers and two sisters. His wife, Margaret Munn, had died many years before.
Private and Business Addresses
|The following private or business addresses are associated with this architect, engineer:|
| ||Address||Type||Date from||Date to||Notes|
|Fairmount, Argyl Terrace, Rothesay, Scotland||Business|| ||1910|| |
|Rothesay, Bute, Bute, Scotland||Business||Before 1869||After 1906|| |
Buildings and Designs
|The following periodicals contain references to this architect, engineer:|
| ||Periodical Name||Date||Edition||Publisher||Notes|
|The Buteman, Advertiser for the Western Isles (lat||11 March 1910|| || ||Obituary|
|The following archives hold material relating to this architect, engineer:|
| ||Source||Archive Name||Source Catalogue No.||Notes|
|Professor David M Walker personal archive||Professor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material|| ||Research by Iain Paterson|