George Malcolm Thomson (1899–1996) was a Scottish journalist and publicist for Scottish nationalism. He is now best known for the sectarian slant he adopted the 1930s, aimed at Irish-Scots, and as an activist working on behalf of the Scottish Party.[1] His biographer George McKechnie wrote "His modern Scottish reputation is grounded almost exclusively on his obsessive campaigns against Irish Catholics."[2]

Life

He was born in Leith on 2 August 1899 into a Presbyterian family, the eldest son of the journalist Charles Thomson and his wife Mary. His parents belonged to the United Free Church.[3] He attended Daniel Stewart's College from age 10, and was a student at Edinburgh University from 1919 to 1922. In his final university year, he founded with another undergraduate, Roderick Watson Kerr, the Porpoise Press.[4]

Kerr in 1922 went to work on The Scotsman, and in 1926 moved to the Liverpool Daily Post.[5] The same year, following his marriage, Thomson moved to London to work as a journalist, and write books.[6] His early books attracted the attention of Lord Beaverbrook, and he joined Beaverbrook Newspapers in 1931.[7] He acted as Principal Private Secretary to Beaverbrook, who was in government during World War II.[8]

In 1990 Thomson was awarded an OBE for services to journalism.[9] He died in June 1996, in Hampstead.[10]

Scottish nationalist

Caledonia (1927) had dwelt on Irish immigration to Scotland, as did Andrew Dewar Gibb's Scotland in Eclipse (1930), with the connected theme of slum housing in Glasgow. The two authors described a perceived threat in the influence of the Roman Catholic Church.[11] At this time, the newly-joined United Free Church and Church of Scotland were leading a campaign against Irish-Scots Catholics, now seen as racist. Gibb and Thomson repeatedly denounced the same group.[12] Their position has been described as a "strident, racially oriented nationalism which was politically to the far right and had quasi-fascist tendencies."[13] The context, identified by Stewart J. Brown, was the "exclusivist racial nationalism" of Presbyterians, dating from the early 1920s and their distancing from the UK Labour Party, and associated with the Church union in Scotland.[14]

In terms of party politics, the National Party of Scotland, of the left, was first countered by the Scottish Party set up in 1932, of the right, by Gibb and James Graham, 6th Duke of Montrose, with others. Then with the mediation of Thomson and Neil Gunn, the two parties merged in 1934, to form the Scottish National Party, with the exclusion of some radical nationalists. Electorally the Scottish Protestant League peaked in Glasgow local government in 1933. Fascist ideology made no further advances in Scotland.[15] Gibb and Thomson went on to found the Saltire Society, concerned with Scottish culture and heritage, in 1936.[16]

For Thomson, 1935 and the publication of his book Scotland: That Distressed Area marked the end of his involvement in Scottish politics that had been pursued covertly. Lord Beaverbrook as his employer required him to sign an agreement that he would cease these activities.[17]

Works

  • Caledonia: or the Future of the Scots (1927), in the To-day and To-morrow series. It provoked a reply, Albyn: or Scotland and the Future (1927) by C. M. Grieve.[18] Both works met with criticism from the historians Robert Rait and George Smith Pryde (1899–1961).[19]
  • The Re-Discovery of Scotland (1928)[20]
  • Whisky (Porpoise Press, 1930), as Aeneas MacDonald, one of the Seven Men of Moidart[21]
  • Can the Scottish Church Survive? (1930), pamphlet[8]
  • The Kingdom of Scotland Restored, undated pamphlet of 1930/1[22]
  • Scotland: That Distressed Area (1935)[23]
  • The Twelve Days: 24 July to 4 August 1914 (1964)[24]
  • The Crime of Mary Stuart (1967)[25]
  • Vote of Censure (1968)[26]
  • Sir Francis Drake (1972)[27]
  • The Prime Ministers: From Robert Walpole to Margaret Thatcher (1980)[28]
  • The First Churchill: The Life of John, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1980), novel[29]
  • A Kind of Justice: two studies in treason (1970)[30]
  • The North-West Passage (1975)[31]
  • Warrior Prince: Prince Rupert of the Rhine (1975)[32]
  • The Ball at Glenkerran (1982)[9]

His play Moonlight Flitting was produced at London's Whitehall Theatre in 1938.[33]

Family

Thomson married in 1926, in Oslo, Else Ellefsen (died 1957), whose portrait had been painted by Eric Robertson (1887–1941) of the Edinburgh Group.[6] She translated (1923) The Plague in Bergamo by Jens Peter Jacobsen for the Porpoise Press.[34]

Notes

  1. ^ Rosie, M. (2004). The Sectarian Myth in Scotland: Of Bitter Memory and Bigotry. Springer. pp. 103–4. ISBN 9780230505131.
  2. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. p. 83. ISBN 9781908931320.
  3. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. pp. 26–7. ISBN 9781908931320.
  4. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. pp. 30–2. ISBN 9781908931320.
  5. ^ Royle, Trevor (2012). In Flanders Fields: Scottish Poetry and Prose of the First World War. Random House. ISBN 9781780574325.
  6. ^ a b McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. pp. 36–7. ISBN 9781908931320.
  7. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. p. 10. ISBN 9781908931320.
  8. ^ a b Haffenden, John; Eliot, T. S.; Eliot, Valerie (2014). The Letters of T. S. Eliot Volume 5: 1930-1931. Faber & Faber. p. 313 note 2. ISBN 9780571316335.
  9. ^ a b MacDonald, Aeneas; Thomson, George Malcolm (2006). Whisky. Canongate. p. xvii. ISBN 9781841958576.
  10. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. p. 15. ISBN 9781908931320.
  11. ^ McCulloch, Margery Palmer (2009). Scottish Modernism and its Contexts 1918-1959: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange: Literature, National Identity and Cultural Exchange. Edinburgh University Press. p. 98. ISBN 9780748634750.
  12. ^ The Oxford Companion to Scottish History. p. 517. ISBN 9780199234820.
  13. ^ Finlay, Richard J. (1994). Independent and Free: Scottish Politics and the Origins of the Scottish National Party, 1918-1945. John Donald Publishers. p. 130. ISBN 9780859763998.
  14. ^ Brown, Stewart J. (1990). "The social vision of Scottish Presbyterianism and the Union of 1929". SCHS. p. 91.
  15. ^ Lyall, Scott (2006). Hugh MacDiarmid's Poetry and Politics of Place: Imagining a Scottish Republic: Imagining a Scottish Republic. Edinburgh University Press. pp. 38–9. ISBN 9780748630059.
  16. ^ Scott, Paul Henderson (2003). Scotland Resurgent: Comments on the Cultural and Political Revival of Scotland. The Saltire Society. p. 199. ISBN 9780854110834.
  17. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. pp. 191–2. ISBN 9781908931320.
  18. ^ Lyall, Scott (2006). Hugh MacDiarmid's Poetry and Politics of Place: Imagining a Scottish Republic: Imagining a Scottish Republic. Edinburgh University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9780748630059.
  19. ^ McKechnie, George (2013). The Best-hated Man: George Malcolm Thomson, Intellectuals and the Condition of Scotland Between the Wars. Argyll Publishing. p. 11. ISBN 9781908931320.
  20. ^ Gallagher, Tom (1987). Glasgow, the Uneasy Peace: Religious Tension in Modern Scotland, 1819-1914. Manchester University Press. p. 130. ISBN 9780719023965.
  21. ^ Buxton, Ian (2009). Beer Hunter, Whisky Chaser: New writing on beer and whisky in honour of Michael Jackson. Neil Wilson Publishing. p. 32. ISBN 9781906476953.
  22. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm. The Kingdom of Scotland Restored. Humphrey Toulmin.
  23. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1935). Scotland: That Distressed Area. Porpoise Press.
  24. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1964). ˜The Twelve Days: 24 July to 4 August 1914. Hutchinson.
  25. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1967). The Crime of Mary Stuart. Hutchinson.
  26. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1968). Vote of Censure. Stein and Day.
  27. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1972). Sir Francis Drake. Secker and Warburg.
  28. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1980). The Prime Ministers: From Robert Walpole to Margaret Thatcher. Secker & Warburg.
  29. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1980). The First Churchill: The Life of John, 1st Duke of Marlborough. Morrow. ISBN 9780688035563.
  30. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1970). A Kind of Justice: two studies in treason. Hutchinson.
  31. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1975). The North-West Passage. Secker and Warburg.
  32. ^ Thomson, George Malcolm (1976). Warrior prince: Prince Rupert of the Rhine. Secker & Warburg.
  33. ^ Wearing, J. P. (2014). The London Stage 1930-1939: A Calendar of Productions, Performers, and Personnel. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 716. ISBN 9780810893047.
  34. ^ Glen, Duncan (2006). Small Press Publishers of Scotland: Idealists and Romantics 1922-2006: With a Checklist of Publications from Small Scottish Literary Publishers 1920-2006. Akros Publ. p. 54. ISBN 9780861421763.