Peter Thomson

You might be wondering why the title of this post does not obviously relate to the urban map it superimposes? In what follows I will do my best to bridge title and image. So please read on.

My wife Sian was born in Perth, and the bedroom of her childhood home looked down from Kinnoull to the city of Perth. From that window Sian painted this beautiful picture:

You can see the river Tay in Sian’s painting, and had the foreground trees not grown so well, you would see a bridge that crosses the Tay to reach South Street. This Bridge is still known as ‘Victoria Bridge’ or sometimes ‘Queen’s Bridge’.  It was completed in 1900 and was of four spans carried by three stone pillars:

In 1960, due to the demands of increased vehicular traffic, the old stone bridge was replaced by the first long span pre-stressed concrete structure in Scotland, which cost £150 000:

As a family we cross this bridge regularly and I find myself wondering how many times Sian’s parents may have crossed it?

Before 1900 there was no bridge, as this map of 1861 reveals:

Planning for the Victoria Bridge began in the 1890s, however there was a problem. To connect to South Street, the grounds of Marshall Cottage on the North bank would have to be divided and this ancient property and garden was in the private ownership. In May 1898 the Perth Burgh Commissioners took Mr Rollo to Court:

By 1898 Marshall Lodge, a Georgian House, was become rather ‘tired’. It was occupied by an elderly gardener and his son who had been in the employ of Mr Rollo for more than twenty years.

I have not been able to find any pictures of Marshall Cottage from this time. However, there is this delightful description from May 1898:

Peter Thomson, the elderly gardener, was well regarded by the guid folk of Perth. He died in his 94th year and it was recorded in his obituary that he was of a “most cheerful disposition” and a “delightful raconteur of bygone incidents”:

Peter Thomson would have recalled the circumstances of the Rollo family purchasing Marshall Cottage and the reason why it was renamed ‘Rodney Lodge’. In a previous post I shared the sad story of George Patton, Lord Advocate and Solicitor-General for Scotland. The Paton family was then wealthy and owned a number of properties, both urban and rural. Marshall Cottage was their “Perth Villa” and Glen Almond their ‘Country Seat’. On the 20th September 1869, Lord Paton  took his life. He did so by cutting his throat and then falling into the river Almond. His body was recovered a few days later at the Spout of Buchanty.

Peter, the old gardener, would have recalled this awful ‘bygone incident’. Peter Thomson’s family came from Leadketty near Dunning. His father, William, was a cattle breeder and in 1838 sold an Ox of the Tees-water breed that “measured 70 stones Dutch”

Peter, the old gardener, died in February 1906, his son and namesake continued as gardener at Rodney Lodge, but now in a house and garden that had been divided by the Victoria Bridge. In December 1914 Peter Thomson junior went missing.

It seems likely that Peter jumped from Victoria Bridge. What a sad end for this family of gardeners.

Footnote:
It was at Leadketty, once family farm of the Thomsons, that the ‘earliest artifact in Perthshire was found’. In a newspaper report of 1994 it was described how 60 fieldwalkers had scanned a ploughed field at Leadketty. Among the many discoveries a neolithic scraper was found. It was reckoned to be at least 6000 years old. Encouraging others to fieldwalk, the newspaper advised readers to purchase this ‘explanatory video’: