Obituary: Alastair Gordon Thomson, businessman

Alastair Thomson
Alastair Thomson
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Born: 5 November, 1929, in Broughty Ferry. Died: 26 September, 2012, in Angus, aged 82

ALASTAIR Thomson was a forward-looking great-nephew of the legendary DC Thomson and one of the team who helped the family’s Dundee newspaper firm move from the old hot metal days into new technology.

Although he was closely involved in all aspects of the company, he took a particular interest in the management of the business’s technical and production departments.

He travelled extensively to continental Europe, the United States and Japan to help the company benefit from the latest developments and techniques in the printing industry and helped to drive its technological advance.

The elder son of Sidney and Madge Thomson, he was born at the family home in Broughty Ferry and educated at Cargilfield and Merchiston Castle Schools in Edinburgh.

He began his national service in 1948 and served with the Royal Artillery, mainly in Dortmund, Germany, with the British Army of the Rhine.

In 1950, he joined the family publishing firm, founded by William Thomson and his brothers David and Frederick. The family had long had interests in newspapers and shipping, but the company came into being as DC Thomson in 1905 when David – David Couper Thomson or DC – was asked to run the business.

The group now encompasses interests from Aberdeen to Bath, including the Press & Journal and Dundee Courier, the Sunday Post, the People’s Friend and the Beano, plus book publishers.

Always beautifully turned out, Alastair Thomson is remembered as a tall, handsome and rather dashing figure striding into the offices of various publications such as the Weekly News where, in the 1960s, the staff would still rise to their feet as the door swung open and chorus a melodic “Good morning, Mr Alastair”.

Only the editor would remain standing until, on Mr Alastair’s departure, the youngest member of staff present leapt to his feet to open the door for the boss. The ritual reflected the fact it was a traditional organisation and that he was a stickler for good manners.

Although viewed as a very private firm with family values at its heart, it was also progressive, evidenced by his fundamental role in turning it into a modern-day plant.

Appointed as director in 1974, he held the position for 30 years until retiring in July 2004, having served the company for 54 years.

“He enjoyed being part of a team that helped each other freely, and took a keen interest in all aspects of the business and in our staff members,” said Andrew F Thomson, chairman of DC Thomson.

Alastair Thomson also served on the board of a number of companies related to DC Thomson and was governor of Pitlochry Festival Theatre for more than 30 years.

He stepped down from the theatre’s governing body in 2005, but maintained a keen interest in the theatre and regularly attended performances. He also enjoyed opera, travelling to see productions in Verona and attending concerts of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

He enjoyed a wide variety of interests, including gardening. He often went hillwalking and skiing, was a life member of the Dundee Ski Club and regularly visited European ski resorts.

He was a keen supporter of the Strathspey Railway Preservation Society, had a lifelong interest in motoring and cars, and regularly visited his favourite holiday spot, the Isle of Arran.

He married his first wife Margaret, in 1957, with whom he had sons Fraser and Blair and daughter Morag.

Widowed in 2003, he is survived by his second wife Gwendiline, his children and five grandchildren.

ALISON SHAW