CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 2304
TitleWilliam Thom, poet and weaver: papers
Extent1 volume
Creator NameWilliam Thom (1798/9 - 1848), alias The Weaver Poet of Inverurie, poet and weaver
Administrative HistoryWilliam Thom was born in Aberdeen at the end of 1798 or the beginning of 1799, but not in 1788, as given in some biographical sources. After a rudimentary education he commenced work as a weaver at the age of 10 and was employed in firms in Aberdeen for 21 years, before moving to Dundee accompanied by his wife, c 1830. The marriage proved a failure and she returned to Aberdeen, where she died some time between 1870 and 1880. Two other women, Jean Whitecross and Jean Stephen, to whom he was devoted, were the mothers of his children The former died in childbirth in Inverurie in 1840, and the latter in 1848, a few weeks after the death of Thom himself, in Dundee, in 1848.

Thom had returned to Dundee, impoverished, shortly before his death, having spent several years in London, writing for various periodicals and becoming involved with Chartist leaders, whilst preparing further editions, in 1845 and 1847, of his 'Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver', first issued in Aberdeen in 1844. In this work Buchan gives an account of his early life in Aberdeenshire and Angus, which was amplified by a biographical sketch prefaced to a later edition published in 1880 by William Skinner, which includes material taken from William Buchanan's 'Glimpses of Olden Days in Aberdeen' (1870) and contains previously unpublished poems, some of which were of dubious authorship. In 1970, Robert Bruce, the grandson of Thom's friend of Inverurie days, William Bruce, produced a further biography and appreciation of the poet, 'William Thom the Inverurie Poet - a New Look', which incorporates some fresh material from letters and manuscripts preserved by William Bruce, corrects mistakes or injustices which had appeared in earlier biographies, and includes a bibliography of Thom's works. Bruce also mentions a missing portfolio of Thom's papers, which many years later came into the hands of the editor of the 'Aberdeen Weekly Free Press', who published four articles based on this material, Jul - Aug 1899, before further issues were suppressed, at the request of the poet's daughter, Marion, wife of David Scott, Peterhead (as is related in MS 2304).
Custodial HistoryMS 2304 was probably originally compiled by Walker some time in 1888, with later additions between 1892 and 1922.
SourceMS 2304 was bequeathed to the University by William Walker, c 1931.
DescriptionThis small collection contains 15 papers relating to Thom's life and works, apparently assembled and bound into a single volume by William Walker, c 1888. Relating principally to the claim made by James Bruce, of Sutherland, c 1888, that he had provided editorial assistance to William Thom in 1843, by editing poems for publication, and by revising biographical matter included in 'Rhymes and Recollections of a Handloom Weaver' (1844), it includes autobiographical details of the said James Bruce; correspondence between him and the editor of the 'Aberdeen Free Press'; and notes by William Walker disputing his claim. James Bruce, graduated from King's College, Aberdeen, MA 1827, and was a member of the Arts class of 1823 - 1827, but nothing further regarding his career has been found outside his own autobiographical notes, transcribed by William Walker in MS 2304/ 7 - 10.

In addition to the James Bruce material there is also a pamphlet printed in 1841 by, or for, J.A. Gordon of Knockspock, containing biographical details, poems and correspondence of William Thom; a photograph of William Thom and Jean Stephen's daughters, Rosie and Marion, n.d.; the manuscript of a poem by Thom, 'The Hameless Ha', which may have been set to music by a Mr Stevenson, n.d.; and copies of the four disputed newspaper articles printed in the 'Aberdeen Weekly Journal', giving extracts from hitherto unpublished manuscript relating to William Thom, Jul - Aug 1899 (see Administrative History).
ArrangementListed by folio
Access StatusOpen
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