Alexander Thomson was born in the Stirlingshire village of Balfron on 9th April 1817. His father John Thomson was married twice, first to Christine Glass with whom he had 8 children and then to Alexander’s mother, Elizabeth Cooper, with whom he had a further 11 children. Alexander was number 17. After the death of his father in 1824 Alexander and those of his family still living in Balfron moved to Glasgow to be near the rest of the family. In Glasgow he trained as a lawyer’s clerk but his potential as an architect was soon to be recognised by Glasgow architect Robert Foote who after seeing some of his drawings made him an apprentice. Robert Foote retired in 1836 and Alexander joined the firm of John Baird I.
Alexander Thomson was a founding member and president of the Glasgow Institute of Architects and in 1876, through fundraising by friends and fellow architects, the GIA established the Alexander Thomson Memorial. This was a travelling studentship to be awarded every three years to promote the study of classical architecture. In 1890, it was awarded to Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The studentship was revived as part of Glasgow’s 1999 City of Architecture Festival.
A competition was drawn up inviting entries for the design of a replacement monument for the grave of Alexander Thomson, the original having been removed through vandalism. The award was given to Glasgow based architecture students Graeme Andrew and Edward Taylor and was assembled by Watson Stonecraft. The polished black Irish granite monument was unveiled on 25th May 2006 by the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Liz Cameron and attended by members of the Thomson Family.