Basic Biographical Details

Name: John Russell Thomson
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 :
 AddressTypeDate fromDate toNotes
Item 1 of 2Fairmount, Argyl Terrace, Rothesay, ScotlandBusiness 1910 
Item 2 of 2Rothesay, Bute, Bute, ScotlandBusinessBefore 1869After 1906 

Buildings and Designs

This 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 10 Albany TerraceCraigmore, RothesayButeButeScotland'built and owned' by Thomson
Item 2 of 101869Rothesay Academy and Thomson InstituteRothesayButeButeScotlandOriginal building
Item 3 of 101875AquariumRothesayButeButeScotland 
Item 4 of 101883Norman Stewart InstituteRothesayButeButeScotland 
Item 5 of 101897Victoria HospitalRothesayButeButeScotland 
Item 6 of 101898Rothesay PierRothesayButeButeScotlandWidening and east and west extension
Item 7 of 101900Rothesay CastleRothesayButeButeScotlandRoof and east wall of hall repaired
Item 8 of 101905Rothesay High ChurchRothesayButeButeScotlandRecasting of interior and addition of vestry
Item 9 of 101910Kildonan UF ChurchKildonanArranArgyll & ButeScotland 
Item 10 of 101910Stewart Memorial UF ChurchWhiting BayArranButeScotland 


Periodical References

The following periodicals contain references to this :
 Periodical NameDateEditionPublisherNotes
Item 1 of 1The Buteman, Advertiser for the Western Isles (lat11 March 1910  Obituary

Archive References

The following archives hold material relating to this :
 SourceArchive NameSource Catalogue No.Notes
Item 1 of 1Professor David M Walker personal archiveProfessor David M Walker, notes and collection of archive material Research by Iain Paterson