John Barnes, Historian

Sir Frederick Thomson, 1st Baronet of Glendarroch (1875 – 1935)

Frederick Thomson was not yet sixty when he died in April 1935. He had spent most of his political life in the Whips Office, although Baldwin had made him Solicitor General for Scotland in his first administration. When the Conservative Government lost office in January 1924, following their General Election defeat, Thomson returned to the Whips’ room and continued to serve as a whip when the Conservatives returned to power in the autumn. That was thought quite unusual for someone who had briefly held a Scottish legal post, but may well have been at his own request. Certainly he loved the work of the Whips’ room and was still engaged in it when he died. His death caused a by-election in his parliamentary seat, Aberdeen South.

In a message to Sir Frederick’s son, Donald, who had been chosen to fight the by-election, the leader of the party, Stanley Baldwin spoke of their “bitter loss” and this was not hyperbole. Thomson was immensely popular on all sides of the House and his political opponents who held Scottish seats knew that they could go to him over matters concerning the Scottish Grand Committee or Scottish business and they would receive generous and ungrudging help. He had the reputation of being willing to go out of his way to help any who sought him out with advice based on his own experience and shrewdness. That advice always proved sound and many recalled the rather wistful smile that accompanied its giving. He was also well-liked by the Parliamentary lobby.

When acting as Vice Chamberlain of the Household, it was his job to present messages from the King to the Commons and none who were in the House at that time ever forgot the sight of this tall and very impressive figure announcing in sonorous tones, “A message from the King in his own hand.” Later the Parliamentary correspondent of the Times was to question whether the Royal Household had ever had three more impressive figures nominally representing it in Parliament than Thomson, Sir George Penny and Sir Victor Warrender, although by then Thomson’s shoulders were preternaturally bowed.

Severely wounded during the war, Thomson’s health never fully recovered and in the summer of 1928 he caught a severe chill and was advised by his doctors to take several weeks break from politics. After the 1929 election, he chose to continue as a whip rather than taking a further well-earned break, such was his enthusiasm for the job. His particular care was for the Scottish Unionist Members of his party.

Frederick Charles Thomson, the third son of James Wishart Thomson of Glenpark, Balerno, Midlothian, shipowner, and his wife, Barbara Gray Cunningham, was born in Edinburgh on 27 May 1875 and educated at Edinburgh Academy and University College, Oxford, where he took his degree in Classics and History; and he then proceeded to Edinburgh University, where he took his LL.B. He was called to the Scottish bar in 1901, and to the English bar in 1904.

He married in 1904 Constance Margaret, the younger daughter of Hamilton Andrew Hotson, the general manager of the British Linen Bank in Edinburgh and their son, James Douglas Wishart Thomson, was born in the following year. Thomson took great pleasure in the fact that Douglas followed in his footsteps at University College, Oxford, graduating in 1928.

During the First World War Thomson served in Egypt as a Lieutenant with the Scottish Horse and in Salonika with the Lovat Scouts. In this latter campaign, he was severely wounded and his health never really recovered.

First elected as the Unionist Member of Parliament for Aberdeen South in 1918, he held the seat until his death on 21 April 1935.

He was PPS to Sir Robert Horne, 1919–1922, and a Junior Lord of the Treasury from February–April 1923. He was appointed a Kings Counsel in 1923 and made Solicitor General for Scotland from 1923–1924. He was again a Junior Lord of the Treasury from 1924–1928, and was promoted within the office to be Vice Chamberlain of HM Household, 1928–1929. In the National Government, September–November 1931 he again took that position, coupled with that of Scottish Unionist whip, but after the General Election became Treasurer of the Household. He continued to hold it until his death in Edinburgh on 20 April 1935. He had been suffering from pneumonia for about a fortnight, but had been on duty at Court as recently as the evening of 29 March..

His funeral was held in St Giles Cathedral and he was buried in the Dean cemetery.

He had been created a Baronet in 1929, and was succeeded in the baronetcy and his seat by his son Douglas who won the by-election on 21 May 1935.