Patrick Grant Thomson

Double stone. Left stone: In memory of Mary I. L. Wilson, wife of R. D. Thomson, died 8th January 1886 aged 60; Robert Douglas Thomson died 26th November 1910 aged 93; also of Patrick Grant Thomson who died at Rochdale Military Hospital 29thNovember 1918 aged 23, younger son of John Stuart Thomson; also of Robert Douglas Thomson, died 25th March 1966 aged 72, elder son of John Stuart Thomson.
Right stone: In memory of George Douglas born 21st June 1856, died 9th February 1860; Robert Douglas born 24th November and died 26th December 1861; Edward Lothian, born 2nd March 1863, died 1st May 1864 at Maxton and was buried there; David Maxton, born 17th July and died 7th August 1910; John Stuart, born 3rd October 1854, died at Campbell River B.C., 9th February 1910; Helen Douglas, born 23rd April 1860, died 17th March 1951; children of Robert Douglas Thomson

CWGC: Corporal Patrick Grant Thomson, service no. 21870, 1st Bn. Wiltshire Regt; d. 29 Nov. 1918 at Rochdale Military Hospital, a. 23; b. at Carlisle; s. of John Stuart Thomson and Isabella Gordon Thomson, of The Manse, Maxton, Newtown St Boswells, Roxburghshire.  N 352

Patrick Grant Thomson was born in Carlisle on 28 July 1895, the younger son of John Stuart Thomson and his wife Isabella Gordon McKerron (1869-1952).  John Stuart Thomson (1854-1910) was the son of Robert Douglas Thomson (1817-1910), a grocer and wine merchant in Edinburgh, who had been born in Maxton, where his father, John Thomson, was the minister from 1810 until his death in 1865;  Robert’s mother, Helen Douglas (d. 1831) was the daughter of another Borders minister, Robert Douglas, minister at Galashiels 1770-1820, who had done much to help the development of manufacturing in Galashiels and sold Walter Scott the estate on which Scott built Abbotsford House.

John Stuart Thomson was an analytical chemist living in Uphall, West Lothian, when he married Isabella at his parents’ house in South Gray Street, Edinburgh, in 1891.  Isabella was the daughter of yet another Borders minister, Peter McKerron, minister of Kelso North Church from 1865 until his death in 1890, and his wife Annie Denholm.

After the birth of their elder son, Robert Douglas Thomson, in Uphall in 1893 and before the birth of their younger son, Patrick Grant Thomson, in Carlisle in July 1895, John and Isabella moved to Carlisle where John had bought the aerated water manufacturing business owned by Grieve & Co.  It was a disastrous move.  John Stuart Thomson ended up in Carlisle Bankruptcy Court in December 1901.  A report of proceedings revealed that he had bought the business for £1600 with a loan from the Royal Bank of Scotland, for which his father stood surety.  By 1901 his unsecured debts amounted to £2345 and he had assets estimated at £326.  His father paid the debt to the Royal Bank of Scotland and John offered a composition of 10s in the £ on all other provable debts.  He blamed his failure on a number of factors including having paid too much for the business in the first place and competition from other firms.  The creditors accepted his offer and the bankruptcy was annulled the following month. The following year John emigrated to the USA, arriving at Ellis Island on 11 July 1903 en route to Tacoma, Washington State.  By 1910 he had crossed the border into Canada as he died at Campbell River, British Columbia, on 9 February 1910.  The rest of the family stayed behind.  Isabella (generally known as Ella) appears to have kept house for her brother, David Denholm McKerron (1863-1948), who in 1905 was ordained as assistant and successor to Manners Hamilton Nisbet Graham minister at Maxton – Graham had succeeded John Thomson as minister there in 1865.  At least in term-time, the two boys lived in Edinburgh with their paternal grandfather and after his death in 1910 with their two spinster aunts.  Neither David or Isabella have been found in the 1911 census but Robert and Patrick were at Littledene in Priestfield Road, Edinburgh, with their aunts, Helen and Mary Thomson.  

Patrick’s early life was marred by bronchial asthma.  He attended George Watson’s College 1905-1908 and then Edinburgh Academy 1908-1914.  At the Academy he won the Ferguson Medal for Mathematics in 1912 and the Carmichael Class Club Prize for English and Greek in 1913. In his last year at school he specialised in history and in December 1913 was awarded a scholarship in modern history at Corpus Christi College Oxford.  However, his arrival at Oxford coincided with the outbreak of war. He tried to enlist three times but was rejected due to asthma, heart weakness and poor eyesight.  He worked temporarily for the Red Cross in France between August and November 1915 tracing missing soldiers.  

Patrick was finally passed fit for service in April 1917 – the heavy losses on the Somme the previous year meant young men who had previously been rejected on health grounds were now being accepted for service. He obtained a temporary exemption to 10 July 1917 to enable him to take his final exams and was awarded a first class degree in Modern History in June 1917.  After training and time in a labour battalion he transferred to the Wiltshire Regiment in February 1918 and went to France in time to take part in the defence of Mount Kemmel in late April.  By October he had been promoted to Corporal but was seriously wounded in the left leg by shell fire in early October and evacuated back to Britain.  After a spell in hospital in Manchester he was moved to St John’s Auxiliary Military Hospital in Rochdale.  His wounds healed and he was beginning to get around on crutches when he caught influenza.  This was combined with bronchial asthma, but two weeks later it was heart failure that caused his death on 29 November 1918.  His mother was the informant on his death certificate. 

Patrick’s brother, Robert Douglas Thomson, attended George Watson’s College 1901-1911, was apprenticed as a chemist, studied medicine (dentistry) at Edinburgh University 1913-15 and was also a member of the University OTC.  He enlisted in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1915 being gazetted a second lieutenant in the 8th (service) battalion in March 1915 and was promoted to Lieutenant in July 1917.  He returned to Edinburgh after the war and lived with his aunts until their deaths.  He died unmarried in 1966 and his death certificate recorded his occupation somewhat curiously as a “Searcher of Records (Retired)”.

Patrick Grant Thomson, The Watsonian War Record 1914-1918

The Edinburgh Academy Chronicle, vol. XXVI, No. 3, February 1919, pp. 64-65

The Scotsman, Friday, 20 December 1901, p. 2, Carlisle Bankruptcy Court; Yorkshire Post & Leeds Intelligencer, p. 12, Tuesday, 7 January 1902, Carlisle Bankruptcy Annulled.

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, Friday, 19 December 1913, The University – Corpus Christi College

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette, Friday, 18 May 1917 – Oxford Local Tribunal