George Thomson

Born: May 6, 1951;

Died: November 4, 2023

IN Glasgow, the city of “characters”, few were as fondly regarded and respected as George Thomson. George was one of Scotland’s best-known independent graphic designers, his work coming to be greatly valued by a cast of firms and corporations traversing media, business, sport and local government. Yet, confining any appreciation of him to his professional success in these sectors fails to do him justice.

From his early days as a young professional footballer with Dunfermline, Albion Rovers and Bolton Wanderers to his later life as a businessman, friends and colleagues recall a handsome and generous man who was never happier than when sharing his success with others.

Not long after retiring from first-class, professional football, Mr Thomson discovered a passion for rugby which led to him playing at a senior level for Glasgow Accies. His friend, the former Scotland and British Lions international, John Beattie, once described him at a charity dinner as “a better Number 8 than him”. And while Mr Beattie may have been exaggerating there are few other Scottish sportsmen who played football and rugby with equal distinction.

In St Helen’s Catholic Church, Langside, at his Requiem Mass the priest, Fr Benneth, described him as a man devoted to his faith and to his family and committed to working for the happiness of others. He retained a lifelong love for Celtic Football Club and counted several of the famous Lisbon Lions among his friends. That there wasn’t an empty seat in the church during the celebration of Mr Thomson’s life was testament to the affection and admiration in which he was held.

His great friend, Stephen Park Brown, who delivered the eulogy, said of him afterwards: “George was a great ambassador for his faith and for Glasgow. I’ve rarely encountered another whose attitude to life so closely reflected the values and mood of this city. He leaves a large hole in the lives of many here today.”

George Francis Thomson was born at Bellshill Maternity Hospital into a working-class Glasgow family headed by his mum, Maureen (or Mary as she was known in her home town of Dublin) and his dad George, a steelworker. It was a happy childhood where George attended St Jude’s primary in Barlanark, followed by St Gregory’s secondary where he would become head boy and begin to shine at art.

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A talent for football was also becoming evident and within a year or so George was playing as a goalkeeper for the well-known junior club Blantyre Celtic while attending the Glasgow College of Building and Printing. This led to his first job at the National Trust for Scotland in Edinburgh as a graphic designer. His goalkeeping talents were also being recognised at a senior level as a host of clubs summoned him to keep watch over their goal areas.

As an innovator with his own ideas about the importance and impact of good design it was inevitable that he would soon look to form his own company, which he duly did in 1983. Thus, Geo-Graphics was born which would soon become a familiar name in Glasgow’s business firmament, known for its ability to deliver high-spec design concepts quickly, but also for the personal charisma of its kenspeckle principal.

Not long afterwards he won a contract for the BBC to supply graphics for the iconic and fondly remembered comedy drama series Tutti Frutti which kicked off a long association with the BBC and other media companies.

At the BBC’s old brick sandstone galleon on Queen Margaret Drive in the city’s west end he would encounter his old teacher John McCormack who was controller of BBC Scotland throughout the 1990s. It was around this time that his business began to bloom.

On one occasion, having been commissioned by a multinational enterprise to design logos and a matching suite of brand folderols, he was upbraided by one of the corporation’s senior executives who had seemed aghast when George produced a pencil and began making doodles on some stray headed notepaper. “Is that all we’re paying you for? I do hope you’ll be using something more sophisticated than that,” said the pin-striped walloper. “These are just the tools; the sophistication is all inside here,” said George, tapping the side of his head. “This is what you’re paying me for.”

On another occasion, when the grand company opening of a local car firm (to be performed by Diana Dors) required some marketing artwork, George was suddenly thrown the keys of the owner’s top-of-the range Mercedes and told to move it. Never having previously driven an automatic, he shifted it into drive when it ought to have been reverse and drove it straight through the glass entrance of the main showroom. He emerged from the delinquent Merc with studied insouciance;,clicked it shut and threw the keys to their stricken owner with a “there you go” before walking out of the showroom.

As Glasgow’s old Finnieston district began its re-birth as a food and drink arrondissement, George moved his business into Argyle Street and expanded his staff to meet the needs of an assortment of new customers such as Coca Cola and the newly-formed Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. He was also becoming the go-to designer for many firms in Glasgow’s lively building and construction sector.

He was appointed to the board of Spina Bifida Hydrocephalus Scotland for whom he helped raise tens of thousands of pounds with several memorable charity nights.

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George died suddenly and very unexpectedly, departing in his sleep with his beloved Jackie by his side.

He was a proud dad, brother, uncle and a loving partner. He is survived by Jackie, son Chris, daughters Steph and Caitlin and his grandson, Lochlan.