The children of John Thomson and their Caribbean connections

In the last post I wrote about Glasgow merchant John Thomson (1741 – 1818), the father of Penelope Thomson who in 1805 married my ancestor George Robb, who was also a merchant in Glasgow. In this post, I’ll summarise what I’ve managed to find out about Penelope’s brothers and sisters, and in particular about their connections with the colonies of the Caribbean.

I don’t have any definite information about James Thomson after his birth in August 1770, or about John Thomson junior after his birth in 1772, or any information at all about Margaret Thomson. And because her story is central to this history, I’ll discuss Penelope Thomson in a separate post. 

John Thomson’s eldest daughter Marion, who was born in 1765, was married on 14th August 1785, in an ‘irregular’ marriage like that of her parents, to merchant Simon Pellance, whose carpet warehouse was on Havannah Street, just off the High Street, in Glasgow. Simon and Marion Pellance had two children that I’m aware of: Elizabeth Pellance, born in 1786; and John Thomson Pellance, born in 1791, who seems to have inherited the family business.

Screenshot 2019-06-24 at 08.20.29

Map of Jamaica, circa 1750 (via ctgpublishing.com)

According to a record dated 1800, when he would have been thirty-four years old, John Thomson’s son Thomas served as an attorney in Jamaica. He was associated with St Elizabeth parish, in the south of the island. According to one source, Thomas may have been married to a woman named Jane White. He had a mixed race son named George baptised in St Elizabeth parish in 1803: recently, I was contacted by George’s great granddaughter Charmaine White, who has offered to share the information that she has about him. In the same year that his son was born, a newspaper reported Thomas Thomson’s death ‘in the island of Bermuda where he had gone for his health’.

Born in 1768, Thomas’ brother Colin Thomson was a merchant in Glasgow, but he also seems also to have had business – and personal – relations in Jamaica. There is a record of him serving in the parish militia of St Elizabeth parish in 1788, when he would have been twenty years old. Colin may have moved at some point from Jamaica to the island of St Kitts, where there are references to someone with the same name active between 1798 and 1808. 

In later life Colin Thomson lived in London and in his final years was said to be insane. He was cared for in his last illness by a woman named Amelia Hall. Colin made his will in 1816, leaving money to Ann, his daughter by a ‘mulatta’ woman named Ritta Allinan or possibly Allison. He died in February 1819.

Colin’s daughter Ann Thomson married Glasgow merchant James McEachran at Cardross in March 1819, shortly after her father’s death. He was the son of Archibald McEachran and Janet McLeod.  Archibald may have been the man of that name who was a planter in Bladon County, North Carolina, serving the Loyalist cause in 1776 and then settling in Jamaica by 1783. James and Ann McEachran had three children: Janet, born in 1820; Margaret Thomson in 1822; and Archibald in 1826.

Henry Thomson, another of the sons of John Thomson, worked as a law writer in Glasgow. He married Jean or Jane Sharp in 1810 and they had two children: John, born in in 1811; and Jane Sharp, born in 1814. As later posts will relate, John and Jane would marry their first cousins, in both cases the children of their father Henry’s half-sister Penelope. Henry Thomson died in 1824.

African men being shackled on board a slave ship

John Thomson’s youngest son Archibald lived in Jamaica, on an estate named Hillhead after the area of Glasgow where he was born. The slave register of 1817 records that he owned a considerable number of slaves in the parish of St Elizabeth, while an almanac of 1820 names him as the proprietor of an estate, possessing 81 slaves and 18 head of livestock. He died at Hillhead, Jamaica, in 1821.

The youngest Thomson child, Elizabeth, did not marry and died in 1847 at the age of 62. It was my discovery of an 1851 court case, in which various members of Elizabeth’s family disputed the terms of her will, that provided me with my first insights into the tangled connections between the various branches of the Robb-Thomson family.

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