6th August 1861

Publisher DC Thomson is born

David Couper Thomson founded DC Thomson, the Dundee-based publishing group that bears his name. His family had made its money in shipping, and acquired the Dundee Courier and Daily Argus, and the Weekly News, of which David became manager while still in his early twenties.

Thomson’s father became the papers’ sole proprietor, and eventually other members of the family were granted – or bought – shares in the company. In 1905, the continued success of the family’s publishing activities allowed DC Thomson itself to be founded.

DC Thomson building in Dundee
DC Thomson building in Dundee

DC Thomson’s growing business

Although it has expanded significantly in the intervening years, DC Thomson remains a privately-owned company. It is still headquartered in Dundee, but has offices in Glasgow, London and Manchester, and has diversified out of pure publishing to incorporate broadcasting, podcasting and online services.

Thomson was a great traveller, spending time in America, eastern and western Europe, Russia, Palestine and Egypt. He also funded fact-finding missions by his staff, including two female members of the Dundee Courier, who were dispatched on a round-the-world tour to write features about conditions for women in different countries.

DC Thomson and politics

Thomson wasn’t afraid to use his newspapers as campaigning instruments, and when future prime minister Winston Churchill contested one of the two Dundee seats in the General Election of 1922, both of Thomson’s newspapers called on readers to vote for his opponents.

Churchill wasn’t prepared to accept that, and he spoke out against Thomson’s titles. The Dundee Courier (a Thomson paper) of 15 November – election day – quoted him saying “it is not only the Communist and Socialist tag, rag and bobtail which indulges in [disturbances at public meetings]. I am sorry to say that Mr Thomson, the proprietor of the Dundee newspapers, has equally set his face against the free expression of opinion… I am very glad to see the Press here, because I have no doubt that Mr Thomson’s papers will boycott every word I have said, and dare not print every word I have to say. I am sure it will only be in keeping with their conduct.”

In tune with his audience

Churchill was particularly perplexed by the fact that Thomson owned newspapers on both sides of the political divide and, again as recorded by the Dundee Courier, said, “Here we get in the morning the Liberal Mr Thomson through the columns of the Liberal ‘Dundee Advertiser’ advising the Liberals of Dundee to be very careful not to give a vote to Mr Churchill because his Liberalism is not quite orthodox… at the same time you have the Conservative, the ‘Die Hard’ Mr Thomson through the columns of the conservative ‘Dundee Courier’ advising the Conservative electors of Dundee to be very careful lest in giving a vote to Mr Churchill they should run the risk of building up opposition to the new Conservative Government: and you get the same man behind these two absolutely different dishes, hot or cold, roast or boiled, seasoned or unseasoned, according to taste, and both brought out by the same cook from the same kitchen. Behind those two, I say, you get the one single individual, a narrow, bitter, unreasonable being eaten up with his own conceit, consumed with his own petty arrogance, and pursued from day to day and from year to year by an unrelenting bee in his bonnet.”

Later life and death

Such a speech was a remarkable intervention from a politician looking to be elected. Whether it had a role in settling voters’ minds we will probably never know – but what is known is that Churchill failed to secure the seat, eventually coming a poor fourth. The two seats were secured by ED Morel for Labour, and Edwin Scrymgeour for the Scottish Prohibition Party.

Thomson was a governor of Dundee’s University College, deputy lieutenant for both the county and city, director of the Chamber of Commerce, and a Justice of the Peace. He remained chairman of his company until his death, in 1954, at his home in Broughty Ferry. He was 93.



Other events that occured in August

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