Thomas Ranken T.D. W.S.

Thomas Ranken was a Writer to the Signet, and a Match Rifle Shot who won medals in The Olympic Games in 1908.

Figure 1. Ranken, William Bruce Ellis; The Throne Room, Madrid; © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Thomas Ranken was born on the 18 May 1875 to Robert Burt Ranken and his wife Mary  nee Dunlop in Edinburgh . His father was a Writer to the Signet. (1)  It was a prosperous household. In the 1881 census he lived at 8 Learmonth Terrace, Edinburgh with father, mother, 2 siblings and household staff which included a cook, 2 housemaids, laundress, 3 nurses and a kitchen maid. (2) His brother, William Bruce Ellis Ranken (3) was to become an artist and his sister, Janette Mary Fernie Ranken was to become a well known actress and socialite, marrying Ernest Thesiger. (4) Their father rented a country house in the Borders, Cringletie Manor and in the census of 1891 (5) two of the children are there but not Thomas. This was because he was educated at Eton and then at Balliol College. (6) In 1896 , when he was 21 years of age and had reached his majority, The Edinburgh Evening News reported that the tenants and employees of the Cringletie Estate had presented him with a rose bowl to mark the occasion. (7)

He graduated BA in 1899. During his time at Balliol he was a Lieutenant in the 1st Oxford University V.B. Oxford Light Infantry and it was there that he began a lifelong involvement with rifle shooting. He was president of the University shooting committee and of the Small- Bore Club. (8)

He returned to Edinburgh and was apprenticed to his father in1899. The apprenticeship was for two/three years because he had graduated from Balliol. In 1902 (9) Thomas was accepted as a Writer to the Signet and in the same year his father died. (10)  This was the beginning of his professional life and he continued to practise until his death.  

He had another interest which continued successfully for many years and this was small-bore rifle shooting. There are many references in the press about his success in his chosen pastime. Indeed when he died his obituary in the Scotsman (11) is headed ‘Champion Rifle shot . Death of Major T Ranken’.  He competed in the 1908 Summer Olympic Games. (12)  He won a silver medal in the Single Shot Running Deer event and in the Double Shot Running Deer event (both now discontinued) and came fifth in the 1000 yards free rifle event. He was also in the team which won the silver medal for the team prize. He took part in the 1924 Olympic Games but won no prizes. (13)

He served as a member of the council of the National Rifle Association and was a member and sometime Captain, of the Scottish Twenty. Among the many prizes he won were the Prince of Wales Prize, The Association Cup for Match Rifles and the Scottish Champion Cup  at Barnley in 1906. He was often in the final stages of the Queen’s and Kings Prize at Bisley. (14)

He served in the First World War, rejoining the 8th Royal Scots from the T.F. reserve in 1915. He acted as a Musketry Officer from April 1915 to June 1915 and then Brigade Major to 2/1 Lothian Infantry Brigade. He was thereafter attached to the General Staff Scottish Northern Command until 1919. (15)

In 1920 he married Marion Bruce, daughter of the Hon F J Bruce of Seaton House, Arbroath. (16) They had two sons. (17) He died on 27 April 1950 and is buried in the Dean cemetery in Edinburgh (18) (19) and his gravestone reads:

                                 Maj. THOMAS “TED” RANKEN

                Remember TOM RANKEN a large lovable personality.

                                        18 V 1875 -27 IV 1950


I have to thank the Archivist of the Library of the Signet in Edinburgh for his help with my researches. It was much appreciated.


In 1948 Thomas Ranken wrote to the keeper of the Art Galleries in Kelvingrove offering several paintings. The following were accepted: (20)

Figure 2. The Honourable Mrs Alexander Macalister;by John Watson Gordon © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection
Figure 3. Alexander Macalister of Loup, Torrisdale and Strathaird (1802-1876);by John Watson Gordon © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

  • The Honorable Mary Fleming by John Watson Gordon
  • Alexander MacAllister of Torrisdale by John Watson Gordon
  • The Throne Room Madrid by William Bruce Ellis Ranken


  1. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1875
  2. National Records of Scotland Census 1881
  3.   Wendy and Gordon Hawksley
  4. Jeanette Thesiger
  5. National Records of Scotland Census 1891
  6. Archive of The Signet Library, Edinburgh. Personal Communication
  7. Edinburgh Evening News 26 May 1896
  8. Balliol College Register   www.
  9. Archive of The Signet Library, Edinburgh. Personal Communication
  10. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1950
  11. The Scotsman 29 April 1950
  12. Wikipedia Summer Olympics 1908
  13. Wikipedia summer Olympics 1924
  14. The Scotsman 29 April 1950
  15. Archive of The Signet Library, Edinburgh. Personal Communication (WS Roll of Honour 1914-1919)
  16. Dundee Evening Telegraph 27 February 1920
  18. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1950
  19. Dean Cemetry
  20. Correspondence in Glasgow Museums Archive

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