Mary Alston Waddell Thomson (1876-1947)

‘There was submitted a letter from Messrs. A. and J. Graham, writers, intimating that the late Miss M. A. W. Thomson of Ridge Park, Lanark, had bequeathed to the corporation a collection of pictures and the committee, after hearing a report from the Director, agreed to accept eighteen of the pictures mentioned in the list now submitted.’1

The pictures selected consisted of five watercolours and thirteen oils. The water colours were:

Sir John Lavery R. A.   Head of a Child                                          (2634, Accession No.)

Sam Bough R. S. A.     Busy Harbour                                             (2635)

Jan Zoetelief Tromp   The Young Harvesters                                 (2636)

Janet M. Aitken          Trafalgar Square                                         (2645) 

This artist lived at 2 Woodlands Terrace until 1925. She exhibited at the Glasgow Instutute 1906 – 1920.                           

M. B. Barnard (?)        Shore Scene                                                (2648)  

The thirteen oils are shown below. Given the dates of completion, it seems likely that Miss Thomson purchased all of them.           

Figure 1. Park, Stuart; Vase of Roses; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (2633)
Figure 2. Park, Stuart; Orchids; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (2649)(
Figure 3. Park, Stuart; Daffodils; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (2650) (

Figure 4. McEwan, Thomas; Tea Time; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (2638) (

Figure 5 McGhie, John; Fisher Girls Landing the Catch; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (2639) (

Figure 6. Hornel, Edward Atkinson; The Paper Hat;  © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2641) (
Figure 7. Hornel, Edward Atkinson; In a Japanese Garden; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2642) (

Figure 8. Allan, Archibald Russell Watson; Harvest Time; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2643) (

Figure 9. Elwell, Frederick William; The Squire; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2644) (
Figure 10. Jansen, Willem Georg Frederik; Milking Time; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2646) (

Figure 11. Anderson, James Bell; Still Life; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2647) (

Figure 12. de Hoog, Bernard; Tea Time; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2637) (
Figure 13. Westerbeek, Cornelis; At the End of the Day; (currently under restoration). © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(2642) (

Mary Alston Waddell Thomson was born on 14 December 1876 at 10 Moray Place, Regent’s Park, Strathbungo – one of a row of houses designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson but apparently no relation. This was the home of her grandparents after whom Mary was named. Her mother Catherine was born in 1851 at Wiston, Lanarkshire to James Waddell a coal master and his wife Mary Alston.2 Catherine married William Thomson on 28 October 1875 also at 10 Moray Place.3 Mary’s birth was registered in two separate birth certificates – one for Kinning Park and one for Shettleston which was her father’s ‘domicile’. Her father, William Thomson a rope manufacturer, had a house ‘Ferndean, in Shettleston, Glasgow.4 The family business was the Glasgow Rope Works which was founded in 1842 by William’s father, Archibald Thomson. The firm had offices at 58 Howard Street, Glasgow, and a factory in Shettleston. Archibald Thomson lived nearby at Braidfaulds, Tollcross. 5 In 1891 this was ‘one of the oldest houses engaged in this branch of productive industry in Glasgow. The trade of the firm is of world-wide proportions and at one time employed over three hundred people’.6

The 1881 census recorded Mary and her parents at Ferndean, 299 Main Street, Shettleston. Mary’s father was a ‘cordage manufacturer, master, employing 105 men, 95 boys, 40 females’. Also on the census was Mary’s younger brother Archibald and her aunt Mary Waddell.7 Mary’s sister, Helen Jane Thomson was born in 1883.8 William Thomson died suddenly and intestate at Ferndean on the 11 September 1888 aged forty-two.9 An inventory valued his personal estate at £1189.16.3. 10 Archibald Thomson then assumed sole control of the ropeworks and moved into Ferndean. 11

In the 1891 census the family was at Stockbriggs House near Lesmahagow. (Stockbriggs was a family estate owned at one time by Mary’s great grandfather James William Alston a wealthy Glasgow merchant one of whose sons Edward Richard Alston became a prominent zoologist contributing many papers to the ‘Proceedings of the Zoological Society’. He was elected Zoological Secretary of the Linnean Society in 1880 but died the following year. 12) In the census, the head of the household was John Waddell, Mary’s uncle, who was a coal master. Also present were Mary’s grandmother Mary Waddell, aged seventy-five and Mary’s mother Catherine both of whom were living on private means. Mary, aged fourteen, her brother and sister were all ‘scholars’. Also present were Catherine’s sister Mary McMillan and her family. 13

Archibald Thomson died aged seventy-four on 27 October 1893. Shortly afterwards the firm amalgamated with John Black and Co. to become Archibald Thomson, Black and Co. 14 They maintained the works at Shettleston until about 1911. 15 Mary’s grandmother, Mary Waddell died at 11 Newark Drive, Glasgow on 30 January 1899. Her death was reported by her son John A. Waddell whose address was 10 Moray Place. 16

In 1901 Mary was with her mother who was living on her own means, brother Archibald and sister Jane, at Cragieburn, Crichton Road, Rothesay. Mary was twenty-four, with no occupation listed. Archibald aged twenty was a bank clerk and Jane aged seventeen, was a scholar. 17 Archibald Thomson was a former pupil of Glasgow High School. In 1914 he succeeded his maternal uncle to became Laird of Stockbriggs. He was interested in agriculture and would have been keen to develop the land around Stockbriggs for farming but with the outbreak of WW1 he enlisted in the 16th Highland Light Infantry. 18 He served with the 14th Platoon, ‘D’ Company and later transferred to the 97th Machine Gun Corps. Unfortunately, he did not survive the War and was listed as missing in action on 2 December 1917. He was commemorated as ‘Private Archibald Thomson, H.L.I., of Stockbriggs, Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire. Only son of Catherine Thomson (now of Largs, Ayrshire) and the late William Thomson.’ 19

Mary and her mother Catherine moved to Largs possibly as early as 1914. By 1925 Mary was the proprietor/occupier of Moorburn House and Grounds on the north side of Largs. 20 Five years later she was still the proprietor of Moorburn but apparently, not the occupier. 21 Mary’s mother Catherine died at Moorburn on the 21 May 1931. She was eighty-six. 22 In the 1935 valuation roll Mary is listed as the proprietor of Moorburn and also of Moorcote House in Haco Street, Largs. 23 Moorburn House was described as ‘one of the most stunning mansions in Largs’. 24 After her mother’s death, Mary put Moorburn House on the market. It sold for £7,500 and became the offices of the district council in 1936. 25

On 26 May 1934, Ridge Park House in Lanark was advertised for sale. 26 This was after the death of the owner Maria Louisa Roberts Vassie the previous month. 27 However, the house did not sell and was re-advertised the following year when it was purchased by Mary Thomson. The house was set in nine acres of land and has three public rooms, a billiard room and five bedrooms with central heating, a garage, a tennis lawn and a greenhouse. 28

While resident at Ridge Park, Mary Thomson involved herself in local affairs and especially those involving the youth of the area. She ‘acted as inspecting officer for a Girls’ Guildry display in 1938 and expressed herself greatly impressed by the smart appearance of the girls. She also presented prizes and decorations.’ 29 The following year she was present, along with the great and good of the district, at the opening and dedication of the new Salvation Army Hall in Westport. She proposed the vote of thanks after the dedication service. 30 Towards the end of 1945 she was present at the re-opening of the Lanark YMCA Institute, which had been commandeered by the military during the war. In her speech she said that ‘the YMCA was the big brother of the BWTA the women of which had run a soldiers’ parlour in the town for three years and the YMCA had helped greatly. She thought it would be nice if the YMCA could carry on the work among the men who were returning from the forces. She was pleased that BWTA had helped them furnish their premises and she wished them every success.’ 31

Mary Alston Waddell Thomson was found dead at Ridge Park on the 21 April 1947. She was seventy years old and had died suddenly from heart failure. Her death was reported by a friend Walter J. J. Cook. 32 After a service at Ridge Park, she was buried in Cathcart Cemetery. 33

In her will, Miss Thomson left bequests to various charities and to her household staff as well as the bequest to Glasgow Art Galleries. 34 In November 1947 a sale of furniture and household effects was conducted by McTears auctioneers. This raised £5000 and was notable for the fact that a bedroom suite sold for more than £700 which, as the local newspaper reported, could have purchased a small bungalow.35 Miss Thomson left Ridge Park House and her estate of £74,000 to the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Glasgow. She hoped that the house would be converted to a childrens’ or nurses’ home. However, the hospital decided against conversion and sold it to the local council for £8,555. 36

Miss Thomson suffered from a rare eye condition called side-vision which meant she could not see things in front of her, only to the side. As part of her bequest, she instructed that her eyes should be offered for research to either the Glasgow Ophthalmic Institute or the Glasgow Eye Infirmary. Both institutions turned down the bequest. 37


  1. Glasgow Corporation Minutes, 10 June 1947, Mitchell Library
  2. Old Parish Registers, FamilySearch
  3. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  4. Scotland’s People, Birth Certificate
  5. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1880-81
  7., 1881 Census, Scotland
  8. Scotland`s People, Birth Certificate
  9. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  10. Scotland’s People, Wills and Inventories
  11. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1890-91
  12. Bettany, George Thomas. Edward Richard Alston, in Dictionary of National Biography, , Vol 1,1885-1900
  13. Scotland’s People, 1891 Census
  14. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1900-1901
  15. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1911-1912
  16. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  17. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census
  20. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, 1925, Largs, Ayrshire
  21. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, 1930, Largs, Ayrshire
  22. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  23. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, 1935, Largs, Ayrshire
  25. Ibid
  26. Scotsman, 26 May 1934
  27. Scotsman, 7 April 1934
  28. Scotsman, 2 March 1935
  29. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 28 April 1938
  30. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 17 November 1939
  31. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 26 October 1945
  32. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  33. Glasgow Herald, 23 April 1947
  34. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 22 August 1947
  35. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 21 November 1947
  36. Ibid
  37. Carluke and Lanark Gazette, 22 August 1947

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