Thomas Thomson (advocate)

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Thomas Thomson FRSE FSA Scot (10 November 1768 – 2 October 1852) was a Scottish advocate, antiquarian and archivist who served as Principal Clerk of Session (1828–1852) and as secretary of the literary section of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (1812–20). [1]

Royal Society of Edinburgh academy of sciences

The Royal Society of Edinburgh is Scotland's national academy of science and letters. It is a registered charity, operating on a wholly independent and non-party-political basis and providing public benefit throughout Scotland. It was established in 1783. As of 2017, it has more than 1,660 Fellows.


Thomas Thomson, a portrait by Robert Scott Lauder Thomas Thomson Lauder.jpg
Thomas Thomson, a portrait by Robert Scott Lauder


Thomas Thomson was born in Dailly manse on 10 November 1768, the eldest son of Rev Thomas Thomson, minister of Dailly in Ayrshire, and his second wife, Mary, daughter of Francis Hay. John Thomson was a younger brother. After attending the parish school of Dailly, he entered the University of Glasgow at age 13, where he graduated with an MA on 27 April 1789. He attended classes in theology and law at the University of Edinburgh from 1789 to 1791. He passed the Scottish bar as an advocate on 10 December 1793. [2]

Dailly village in South Ayrshire, Scotland

Dailly is a village in South Ayrshire, Scotland. It is located on the Water of Girvan, 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Maybole, and 3.1 miles (5.0 km) east of Old Dailly. "New Dailly", as it was originally known, was laid out in the 1760s as a coal-mining village. In 1849 a fire broke out in Maxwell Colliery, one of the nearby mines, and continued to burn for 50 years.

John Thomson of Duddingston Scottish minister and landscape painter

Rev John Thomson FRSE HonRSA was a Scottish minister of the Church of Scotland and noted amateur landscape painter. He was the minister of Duddingston Kirk from 1805 to 1840.

University of Glasgow university located in Glasgow, Scotland, founded in 1451

The University of Glasgow is a public research university in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded by papal bull in 1451, it is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of Scotland's four ancient universities. Along with the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen, and St Andrews, the university was part of the Scottish Enlightenment during the 18th century.

His early Edinburgh address was 19 North Castle Street. [3] Here he was a neighbour and close friend to Walter Scott, at that time also a fellow advocate. [4]

Walter Scott 18th/19th-century Scottish historical novelist, poet and playwright

Sir Walter Scott, 1st Baronet was a Scottish historical novelist, poet, playwright and historian. Many of his works remain classics of both English-language literature and of Scottish literature. Famous titles include Ivanhoe, Rob Roy, Old Mortality, The Lady of the Lake, Waverley, The Heart of Midlothian and The Bride of Lammermoor.

Thomson acquired a practice at the bar, particularly in cases demanding legal learning. Legal and historical antiquities later absorbed his attention. His main role was deputy clerk-register of Scotland, a new post to which he was appointed on 30 June 1806. His work mainly consisted of reforming the system of public registries and the method of the custody of records, in rendering these records accessible to research, in rescuing and repairing old records, and in editing the acts of the Scottish parliament and other governmental records under the authority of the Record Commission. [4]

The Record Commissions were a series of six Royal Commissions of Great Britain and the United Kingdom which sat between 1800 and 1837 to inquire into the custody and public accessibility of the state archives. The Commissioners' work paved the way for the establishment of the Public Record Office in 1838. The Commissioners were also responsible for publishing various historical records, including the Statutes of the Realm to 1714 and the Acts of Parliament of Scotland to 1707, as well as a number of important medieval records.

In 1807 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposers were John Playfair, Sir James Hall and Thomas Allan. He served as Secretary to the Society from 1812 to 1820. [5]

John Playfair Scottish scientist and mathematician

John Playfair FRSE, FRS was a Church of Scotland minister, remembered as a scientist and mathematician, and a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh. He is best known for his book Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth (1802), which summarised the work of James Hutton. It was through this book that Hutton's principle of uniformitarianism, later taken up by Charles Lyell, first reached a wide audience. Playfair's textbook Elements of Geometry made a brief expression of Euclid's parallel postulate known now as Playfair's axiom.

Thomas Allan Scottish mineralogist

Thomas Allan of Lauriston FRS FRSE FSA FLS was a British mineralogist.

In February 1828 Thomson was chosen one of the principal clerks of the court of session. On the institution of the Bannatyne Club in 1823 he had been chosen vice-president, and on the death of Scott in 1832 he succeeded as president. Thomson, however, was lax on finance. After an inquiry into the accounts of the register office in 1839 he was removed from the office of deputy clerk-register. [4] At this time he was living at 127 George Street in Edinburgh. [6]

The Bannatyne Club, named in honour of George Bannatyne and his famous anthology of Scots literature the Bannatyne Manuscript, was a text publication society founded by Sir Walter Scott to print rare works of Scottish interest, whether in history, poetry, or general literature. It printed 116 volumes in all. It was dissolved in 1861.

Edinburgh Capital city in Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian, it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth's southern shore.

Medallion head of Thomas Thomson in Dean Cemetery Medallion head of Thomas Thomson in Dean Cemetery.JPG
Medallion head of Thomas Thomson in Dean Cemetery

Thomson died at Shrub Hill House, Leith Walk, Edinburgh, on 2 October 1852. [4] He is buried in Dean Cemetery in the section known as "Lord's Row".

He was succeeded as Principal Clerk of Session by Cosmo Innes. [7]


In 1836 he married Anne Reed.


The grave of Thomas Thomson, Dean Cemetery The grave of Thomas Thomson, Dean Cemetery.jpg
The grave of Thomas Thomson, Dean Cemetery

For research in the register office Thomson prepared some manuals: [4]

His various Reports appeared from 1807. Of works published by Thomson for the Record Commission, the major one was The Acts of the Parliament of Scotland, 1424–1707, vols 2–11 (1814–1824). Vol. 1, containing the Regiam Majestatem, with the oldest recorded Proceedings and Acts of Parliament, was published last; and, although almost complete before 1841, when Thomson's connection with the register office ceased, did not appear until 1844, when it was edited, with additions, by Cosmo Innes. [4]

Other works published under the authority of the Record Commission were: [4]

Other related works mainly derived from the same sources, were: [4]

Thomson also edited the Memoirs of Sir George Mackenzie (Edinburgh, 1821); and Memoirs of the Lives and Characters of the Right Honourable George Baillie of Jerviswood, and of Lady Grissell, by their Daughter, Lady Murray (Edinburgh, 1822); and he published: [4]

For the Bannatyne Club he also edited: [4]

In 1800 Thomson was chosen to edit an edition of Lord Hailes's Works. It never appeared; but the edition of Hailes's Annals and Historical Tracts (1819) acknowledged Thomson's help. A close associate of Francis Jeffrey and other projectors of the Edinburgh Review, Thomson contributed three papers (on Erasmus Darwin's Temple of Nature (1803); Anna Seward's Memories of the Past (1804); and John Mason Good's Life of Alexander Geddes (1804)); and occasionally undertook the editorship for Jeffrey. [4]

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  1. Waterston, Charles D.; Macmillan Shearer, A. (2006). Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002: Biographical Index (PDF). 2. Edinburgh: The Royal Society of Edinburgh. ISBN   978-0-902198-84-5. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  2. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN   0 902 198 84 X.
  3. Edinburgh Post Office Directory 1805
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). "Thomson, Thomas (1768-1852)"  . Dictionary of National Biography . 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  5. Biographical Index of Former Fellows of the Royal Society of Edinburgh 1783–2002 (PDF). The Royal Society of Edinburgh. July 2006. ISBN   0 902 198 84 X.
  6. "Edinburgh Post Office annual directory, 1832-1833". National Library of Scotland. p. 190. Retrieved 16 February 2018.

Further reading


Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain :  Lee, Sidney, ed. (1898). "Thomson, Thomas (1768-1852)". Dictionary of National Biography . 56. London: Smith, Elder & Co.