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Location: Glasgow Guide / Glasgow Information / Famous Glaswegians / Alexander Thomson   

Famous Glaswegians (and those who became famous in Glasgow)<<

Thomson, Alexander[Born:  April 9, 1817, Balfron - Died: March 22, 1875, Glasgow]

Famous Glaswegians: Alexander 'Greek' ThomsonA world renowned architect.

Alexander 'Greek' Thomson was one of the two great architects of international stature produced by Victorian Glasgow. Thomson was born in Balfron, Stirlingshire, on 9th April 1817 and died in Glasgow on 22nd March 1875 at his home at no.1 Moray Place in the terrace he had himself designed and which the American historian, Henry-Russell Hitchcock once described as "the finest of all Grecian terraces". In his day, Thomson was conspicuous for his originality in producing a distinctive modern architecture from the lessons and precedents provided by the Greeks, Egyptians and other ancient civilisations, and made extensive use of new materials like cast-iron and plate-glass. His personal Graeco-Egyptian style was almost entirely confined to Glasgow, where he designed commercial warehouses, blocks of tenements, terraces of houses, suburban villas and three extraordinary Presbyterian churches, of which the St. Vincent Street Church is the only intact survivor. Other important works still standing include Moray Place, Great Western Terrace, Egyptian Halls in Union Street, Grecian Buildings in Sauchiehall Street, and his villa, Holmwood, at Cathcart, which is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Grave monuments designed by Thomson worthy of study include those to the Revd. A.O. Beattie and the Revd. G.M. Middleton and that for John McIntyre in Cathcart Old Parish Cemetery.

Thomson purchased two lairs in the western section of the Southern Necropolis on 17th March 1854. This was three days after the death of his eldest child, Agnes, from cholera and he subsequently buried four more of his children there.

He died in 1875 at his home in Moray Place in Strathbungo in Glasgow, fittingly in one of his own creations. As a postscript, his Queens Park church in the south side of Glasgow became the only building of architectural significance to be destroyed in the city during the second world war after it was hit by a stray bomb and set ablaze.

Thomson himself was buried in the same lair on 26th March 1875 and he was joined there by his widow, Jane Nicholson, in 1889. It is not known what stone Thomson raised over his children's grave. Following his death in 1875, a marble bust of the architect by John Mossman was presented to the Corporation (now in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery) and the Alexander Thomson Travelling Studentship established, of which the second winner was Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Had there been no monument over Thomson's grave at this time, the Alexander Thomson Memorial Trustees would surely have erected one. But whatever stone was there had gone by 1960 and was probably cleared by the authorities in the 1950s following the neglect and vandalisation of the cemetery.


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