First name

Text source

James Thomson was born in Stirling and became a burgess of Kirkcaldy by the mid-1670s. He would later become more famous as an important merchant in Sweden. He was the brother of Patrick Thomson [SSNE 6475] who later formed a joint-stock company with Andrew Russell [SSNE 143] in Rotterdam and Robert Turnbull in Stirling. These were all friends from Stirling who discussed the idea in the 1660s. Formally constituted on 1 January 1684, each man put up £1000 sterling. Turnbull gave over half to his son-in-law, Alexander Baird. James Thomson became an associate and managed the trade from Norrkoping and Stockholm. Professor Smout explains the partnership as one where each man used his expertise in each location for the benefit of all. The Scottish based partners sourced coarse wool for Rotterdam and finer cloth, gloves, raw wool, stockings, tallow and herring for Sweden. Russell too provided goods for Sweden, while the Swedish based merchants sourced iron and copper to be shipped to Bo'ness, Amsterdam or where instructed. Turnbull sent coal to La Rochelle where salt was collected and sent by Russell to the Thomsons in Sweden. 

James, based at Norrkoping, corresponded with Andrew Russell [SSNE 143] factor of Rotterdam between 1684 and 1696. In one letter to Russell dated 5 April 1684 from Stockholm, this James Thomson made it quite clear that there was another man of the same name operating within the Thomson-Russell network [possibly SSNE 7580?]. He stated "Since the 8 October [1683] I have not had a lyne from my brother nor non in Scotland. I have written to James Thomson several tymes and he answered me not lykways". It is probable from this reference that the second James Thomson was based in Scotland or in Rotterdam. James certainly sent respects to him and his family (as well as his own sister) through Russell. A further letter from 26 April again mentioned the other James Thomson as well as this man's brother-in-law who was with Russell in Rotterdam. Other Scots connected to the network in the Netherlands included Thomas Nisbet to whom Thomson frequently ordered Russell to pay using bills of exchange payable in Amsterdam.Letters from David Melvin [SSNE 1159] in Elsinore show clearly that the Thomson brothers were both his good friends and trading partners. When mail started to go missing in 1685 Melvin took on the job of forwarding the company letters to Andrew Russell. It is very likely that the Thomsons stayed at Melvin's house when in Elsinore as the skippers they employed did. Another Scot in Scandinavia that Thomson specifically calls his "very good friend" was Andrew Spalding [SSNE 714] with whom he also conducted much of his business. Indeed in a letter of Thomson's to Russell on 27 February 1685, he noted that it was due to this friendship that a bill of exchange had been paid despite the requisite paperwork being incomplete. James wrote to Russell on 9 October 1685 to inform him that Patrick Thomson had taken a house in Stockholm and that James's own wife had finally joined him in Sweden [details of her name or nationality are not yet established]. By 15 of the same month he could report that there was no profit to be made in Sweden on Dalkeith cloth, though he could do with quantities of good English wool and Dunbar herring.

There were certainly tensions in the business. On 26 August 1685, Patrick Thomson was already writing in terms suggesting a breakdown of relations between John Gib (Elder) [SSNE 7071] and the Thomson brothers. In another letter of 17 September, it appears that Patrick was suggesting Gib was refusing his commissions. On 23 June 1686, James Thomson wrote to Andrew Russell confirming this and declaring that in Norrkoping Gib had said he was not obligated to freight goods of the company as he already had his charterparty. Thomson commented that "the man is very high and my brother not only now but before has such a kyndness for that man that he can do no wrong". The anti-Gib invective was becoming stronger by the time of James Thomson's letter to Russell of 30 September in which he accused him of breaching hospitality. By 18 October 1686, James Thomson again wrote to Russell complaining Gib stating "I had enough to do to command my passion, he having (besyd what he said the last voaydge) called me the basest of men and also my wyfe that she conversed to hell in Kircaldie with the greatest of witches". He remained in their pay however in what Patrick Thomson called his "rotten old bush". There was also a dispute between the Thomson brothers themselves and in an undated enclosure of c. November 1685, Patrick Thomson wrote to Russell expressing concern that his brother James "did not make me at home".

In 1689 James Thomson wrote to Russell that the brothers were sick of Sweden and wished to return to Scotland "and learn to die". He later wrote to Russell September 1694 requesting a loan in order to repay his debts. They continued trading for some years with the company winding up in 1696. As Smout has noted, "the company did not perish of insolvency - it died of old age". 

Sources: National Archives of Scotland, RH15/106/531 (16 items from 1684); 574 (24 items from 1685); 607 (13 items from 1686); 609 (various letters of David Melvin mentioning the brothers); RH1/2/975 (1694); T. C. Smout, Scottish Trade on the Eve of Union (Edinburgh & London, 1963), pp.56-57, 111-114; Steve Murdoch, Network North: Scottish Kin, Commercial and Covert Associations in Northern Europe, 1603-1746 (Brill, Leiden, 2006), pp.112, 141, 144-145, 153, 163, 166-167, 177, 218, 244-245. 

Davie Horsburgh kindly provided the following additional information; "Claes Serick, skipper in Stockholm, Disposition of "ane ship" to Robert Gib & Patrick Thomsone, merchant burgesses in (Stirling) and James Thomsone, merchant in Kirkcaldy; 22 May 1675." Source: Kirkcaldy Burgh Registers of Deeds, B41/7/1 fol 24-25.

Service record

Arrived 1680-01-01
Departed 1694-12-31