The Thompson’s Curse

There’s a very old, very little known tale connected with the Thompson Clan. Four brothers and five sisters lived on a beautiful bay in the island of Arran at Machrie.  The sisters do not feature in this tale as they all lived very long lives.

The bay at Machrie was famous for it’s beauty, and has always been quite a tourist attraction. The familly lived on a small farming homestead called ‘Auchencar’ situated at the north of the bay.

‘Auchencar’ has been lived in and worked as a farm by the Thompson familly since the 1760s. Due to the land being so fertile the area has been farmed since the mid fifteenth century, at one point homing more than 30 farms in this one area.
The word ”Auchencar’ means ‘field of stones’, because of the large ancient bolders that littered the site. One if these bolders still stands today, an imposing monolith on the landscape known as ‘The Druid’s Stone’.

Druid Stone

Druid Stone

These stones were locally called ‘cists’ which is an archaelogical term for a box-shaped buriel chamber either made from a stone slab or hollowed out tree trunk. The area was believed to have been an ancient cemetry of some kind from the Pagan days. A time when White robed priests held the authority over the land citing themselves as mystical messengers.

According to records several of these ‘cists’ were removed during the ploughing of the fields in the late 1890s. The Thompson brothers wanted to make the most of their fertile land. An unusual method was used to remove these stones, they were blown up! Three of the Thompson brothers were involved in the explosions – Donald, John and Alex. The brothers were accompanied by two cousins, who helped clear the land.

An elderley man living in a nearby cottage reputed to have second site angrily predicted that “These Thompsons will never have any luck because they are now cursed!”. This of course became known as ‘The Thompson’s Curse’.

The two cousins emigrated to America, seeking out the riches of the new world. They ended up in Nevada where they found work in a mine. But the curse found them and an explosion down the mine resulted in both men being killed outright. The brother – Alex Thompson went off to sea, but alas a sailing accident caused him to loose both of his hands in 1904, he was only 24.

Locals whisper this tale, not liking to speak it out loud for fear the curse will find them.


About Amanda Moffet

I run with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

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40 thoughts on “The Thompson’s Curse

  1. PatThompson

    The Thompson Curse is a legend, not fact. The Thomson on the Isle of Arran prospered, contrary to this tale and many moved to Glasgow, some to America from Glasgow. But the Thomsons of Arran are actually MacTavishes.

    Extracts from: The Book of Arran
    Vol 2, W. M. MacKenzie, Arran Society of Glasgow, Hopkins, Glasgow, 1914
    pp. 114, 115, and 127.

    “We have already seen one way of their coming as settlers ; another report is that MacAlisters came over to Shisken from their home country in the south side of Loch Tarbert to fill up places vacant by a destructive visit of the plague in 1666. The year preceding is that of the Great Plague of London, but there is no record of the infection having passed to Scotland. But the MacAlisters had been so often a plague to the island that it was fitting such a forerunner should prepare a place for them. Other families credited with occupying these sorrowful vacations are Thomsons and MacMillans, while Bannatynes came from Rothesay. But no doubt there was normally, from time to time, an infusion of Kintyre and Cowal blood in Arran. The ecclesiastical connection between Saddell and Shisken would be one channel. Several families of the name of Thomson are descended from Lachlan MacTavish or Thomson, a shepherd brought over from Skipness by Hector MacAlister (Eachann Og), tenant of Moine-choille and Glaster. Lachlan, after some time, married a relative of his employer’s wife, and later on, being desirous of acquiring a farm, got the sympathies of his own and his master’s wife enlisted to the end that Eachann Og should solicit this favour for him. During a visit to the castle Eachann Og did so, with the result that some families of MacGregors and MacAlisters were removed from their holdings in Achancar (sic Achincar) to make room for Lachlan MacTavish or Thomson.” [Bold Text supplied] (Achincar for clarity. See following: CLANS OF SHISKINE)

    In 1849 there was still living, at Kildonan, Lachlan Thomson, a veteran of the crew of the frigate Shannon, who had been present at her capture of the American Chesapeake on June 1, 1813. (p. 127)

    – MacTavishes took and used the name (alias) Thomson, and over a great expanse of time; for many families the alias became their surname.
    – The American 38-gun (Frigate) USS Chesapeake, was captured by HMS (Frigate) Shannon, in a single ship action on 1st June 1813. This two ship action remains one of the bloodiest of the war of 1812, and the numbers of casualties aboard both ships remained the worst for any single ship action for those years. Among the USS Chesapeake dead, was her captain, James Lawrence, whose dying words were “Don’t give up the ship!” It has been a rallying cry in the U.S. Navy ever since.

    Following is still further elaboration pertaining to the MacTavishes, alias Thomsons, from the Isle of Arran.

    (Skishkine, the Isle of Arran)
    -Extracts from Parts 1 and 2-

    Compiled and read by
    Mr. Charles Robertson, Burncliff, Shiskine,
    to the Natives of Arran in Glasgow, March, 1936

    From Part 1, p. 1.- “Mr Chairman and friends:- It gives me the greatest pleasure to be here this evening. I invariably read the reports of your meetings, and they seldom fail to strike a sympathetic note, as each and all of us are intensely interested in all that concerns our native Island. I am especially pleased to have in the chair this evening my friend and kinsman, Duncan Thomson. In fixing the title of my address, I had at the back of my mind the feeling than nothing could interest my audience more than to hear something (to use a Scripture phrase) of the rock from whence most of us were hewn. The subject must have a local setting. I therefore, at the outset, crave the indulgence of those from other parts of the Island. Yet I hope my whole survey will make a general appeal.”

    From Part 2, p. 3 – ” THOMSON. The Thomsons came to Arran from Argyllshire, farmed in Auchincar. There are no Thomsons in the district now. One cannot mention clans without associating certain christian names with those clans, for instance, you could not think of Bannatynes without Ebenezers and Ronalds; M’Alisters without Hectors and Matthews; M’Kenzies without Gilberts and Angus; Robertsons, Archibalds and Charles; Sillars without Malcolms; and Curries without Johns and Donalds, and M’Brides without Peters. I was very surprised at finding so many Old Testament names among the Christian names of the clans of Arran. ”

    –Note: Duncan Thomson, Part 1, is friend and kinsman to Mr. Robertson, of Shiskine, Arran, a direct descendant of the Thomsons sprung from Lachlan MacTavish who had settled at the farm of Achancar (Achincar) about 1667, as in the Book of Arran. Duncan Thomson is noted living in Glasgow, in the Lowlands.]

    The foregoing reveals that for nearly two centuries extended families of the MacTavishes, acquired the alias Thomson. They had occupied lands on the Isle of Arran. Later, none-too-few of them, had removed themselves from the island, and settled in Glasgow or the surrounding area, about the time of the Industrial Revolution.

  2. James Thompson

    I am a Thompson.My life has been a Happy one.I was born into large and loving family.I have been blessed with good health,a rewarding career,a wonderful family,and a firm belief in the love and protection of our LORD JESUS

    • Jenny MacTavish

      While it is good that you have had a good and happy life, it is very disrespectful to bring your religion into a thread that has nothing to do with religion and then to yell (the all-caps thing is rude) about it, which, in essence, is the same as forcing it on people. No one appreciates that.

      • Kathryn Gifford

        The capitals are a way of showing exuberance in his feelings. Not meant as a way to force anything only you… are we not free to express ourselves? For many of us, our beliefs are central to our culture and cannot be separated. This is far from disrespectful, however, telling someone they cannot express their God-given and country-given rights, is.

  3. theodore thompson

    I am a male Thompson and its real my life has been hell from my start my grandmother came to me in sprite to tell me im cursed. i have no clue why the males are cursed but i want to get rid of it jesus also told me im not meant to work ive lost it all because of this curse. anymore info on the curse please help!!!

  4. john thompson

    uh? my name is john daniel thompson. i dont know much about my thompson tree.. but my great great grandma never said much about my families history.

  5. Lyndsay

    I am also a Thompson; my line came to Massachusetts from Aberdeen in the 1870s. David Thompson and Margaret Gray emigrated with their four children in the 1870s; Margaret Gray outlived her husband and most of her children AND grandchildren. Her son, Alexander Thompson, was killed by a train in Boston in 1893; he was in his 20s and had a 5 year old son. His son William had an accident at work in his 20s and spent much of his life unemployable. Alexander’s two sisters both died young, and their children died either at birth or in infancy. The family looked pretty “cursed” in the 1890s. Fortunately, the 20th century descendants here in Boston have had much better luck – William had 9 children and 7 of them lived healthy lives well into their 90s, served in the military, and prospered financially.

    I’m also Irish (pretty much the rest of my family line), where misfortune and tragedy happened regularly and was quite normal, but we didn’t call it a curse – we just called it being Irish.

  6. Lyndsay

    I would also ask, is it also common for female Thompsons to outlive the males by several years? This is pretty common in my family.

  7. Alistair Paton

    As the closest living relative it falls to me to tell the full and true story known as the “Thomson Curse”.
    On the west coast of Arran in beautiful Machrie Bay, there is the farming homestead of Auchencar (the field of the stones). In the 19th century it was home to the Thomson family. There were four brothers and five sisters, one being my mother.
    In the Book of Arran (vol 1, pg 169), it states: Auchencar – several cists were removed in ploughing from a spot 100 yards south of Auchencar farm house.
    The method of removal is not stated, but it was spectacular. The “Druid” cists were blown up. The exact date is not known but it was in the late 1890s.
    Three brothers were involved; Alex, John and Donald, as well as two cousins whose names are unknown.
    The five sisters were appalled at what had been done. An old man who lived nearby and said to have the second sight declared angrily, “Those Thomson boys will never have any luck”. These words became known as the Thomson Curse.
    Make of this what you will:
    The two cousins emigrated to Nevada, U.S. They were working in a silver mine. There was an explosion and they were both killed. The exact date of this is unknown but it is thought to be around 1900.
    Alex went off to sea. His sailing ship foundered in a storm and he drowned in 1904. He was 25 years of age.
    John took over the tenancy of the farm when his father died in 1901. He fell out of a hotel window in Greenock in 1928 at 51 years of age.
    Donald emigrated to Montana, U.S. He was riding a horse along a railway track in 1934 when the horse panicked and threw him into a train. He died, at 58 years old.
    All those involved in breaking up the Druid cist met violent deaths. Was this the Thomson Curse coming true?
    The five sisters all lived into their 80s, therefore it is reasonable to assume that these three brothers and two cousins could also have lived to a good age.
    Duncan, the fourth brother, was not involved. He was in Glasgow learning to be an ironmonger. He became very influential in Arran affairs. He died at the age of 79.
    There is a very ornamental seat dedicated to his memory in the garden of the Heritage Museum in Brodick.

    • Mairi Morrison

      Hi Alistair,

      I am among the living relatives as well.

      Glad to hear you are well. Was so sad about death of Auntie Molly and Uncle Archie. Do you know what happened to Robin?

      Mairi Morrison here. My great grandmother Mary Craig (of the McBridges) married Alexander Thomson, farmer at Achencaharr. As Auntie Molly, your sister, my father’s cousin used to say
      ‘Your grandmother was an aristocrat. She married beneath her, She married a farmer, albeit a clever farmer. She married for love”

      I didn’t know as much about Arran as my grandmohter left with her guardian who had been Gamekeeper to Duke of Hamilton and moved with my grandfather to the highlands.
      It was good to finally read a detailed comment from another member of the specific Thomson nuclear family which the article described.

    • Donna Thomson

      Donna Thomson, Glasgow

      I have found this very interesting. My grandfather was Duncan Thomson, the inromonger mentioned by Alistair Paton. I remember visiting Alistair, his mother Jessie and his sister Molly in Bearsden. I also remember visiting Duncan’s sisters, his twin Mary and older sister Lizzie,who resided at Auchencar on many occasions. My family also attended the unveiling of the christening font in memory of Aunt Lizzie in the red church.

      • Euan Macdonald

        Hi Donna, Mairi,
        Alastair is finding it hard to write on his tablet now due to his advanced years (he has just turned 98), so he asked me to reply on his behalf. He was delighted to see responses to his message and he hopes that you are both well.

        As you know, his mother was Jessie Thomson of Auchencar (my grandmother) and it was her brothers, and their cousins, who were responsible for the destruction of the ancient cists. Alastair would like to point out that the Thomsons of Auchenar were Thomsons without a “P”.

        Here is a link to a picture of Duncan Thomson (the male Thomson who took no part in the destruction of the cists) as a young boy.

        We are all second cousins, if I have got my genealogy right.



        • Euan Macdonald


          I should have provided the names of the people in the picture, here they are:

          John Craig (farmer High Dougarie) 1813-1890, Duncan Thomson 1881-1960, Flora Jane Hamilton (nee Thomson) 1885-1967, Mary Craig (nee McBride) 1825-1912. John Craig and Mary Craig are my great, great grand-parents. Flora Jane is my great aunt. Duncan is my great uncle.



          • Euan Macdonald

            Another twist to the story of the Curse of the Thomsons, as related by Alastair Paton:

            “About the same time as the cists were destroyed, a new byre was being built at Auchencar adjacent to the house called Rockmount. Some broken slabs from the cists were used to partition off the cattle stalls. My Aunt Mary refused to go into this byre, she said it was haunted!”

        • Donna Thomson

          Hello Euan. A second cousin I didn’t know I had! Craig died 11years ago, so only myself left now. My nephews, Neil and David carry the Thomson name and live in Northern Ireland but have a great love of Arran where they’ve holidayed since childhood. I make my annual visit to Auchencar every summer, although we’ve always stayed in Lamlash where my Grandma Thomson ,(Black) was born and brought up. Please give my regards to your dad.

          • Euan Macdonald

            Hi Donna, nice to hear from you. Sorry about the late reply, I have only just seen your message. I will pass on your regards to my Uncle Alastair. We too still go back to Arran for summer holidays.

        • Mairi Morrison

          Hi euan

          Say cheers to uncle Alisdair. It was kind of shocked to see my comment actually got read by someone o know much less yourself. My grandmother was Katherine Thomson from the first set of the two sets of twins

          Hi Donna.

          How have we never met. We went to bears den all the time on the way up to stratherickk where we spent many summers. I hope to be in Scotland this fall will send u an email euan woul love to see you andfonnawpulflove to meet you

  8. Lauren Thompson

    I am a born, female of the Thompson family and i have had a cold, hard life and doubt only the male population of the family is cursed

  9. J. Thompson

    Maybe to set things right will remove the curse I have faced it many a day now and the struggle continues yet I knew not the reason until stumbling upon this ill begotten misfortune. I think its worse for me because im part of the Mcmullen and Thompson clan where there are definite tales of curses on both sides, The Mcmullen side has been cursed to having only male children. From my family I heard stories that these curses against the family name are not exclusive to Ireland or Scottland but in Norway as well where people will outwardly shun males but not the females because of the curses. I did not believe it at first start myself but I have grown weary of these evils. You may think of me as being soft in the head but I believe setting things right by possibly resetting the stones or replacing these destroyed cists might help bury the curses once and for all and might be a nice opportunity for long lost relatives to become acquainted as well.

  10. Tonya Thompson

    I am a Thompson with a (p). I can only speak about what has happened in my family. My grandfather, father and all of my uncles have died fairly young due to cancer. They all also had heart problems. None of their deaths were quick and painless. Unfortunately they all suffered. None of the Thompson boys had any sons, only daughters. Since the curse is only suppose to affect the males, I guess it is a mere coincidence the turn my life has taken. I have suffered from poor health my entire life. My daughter is very intelligent and talented and everything has always came easy to her. My son has always suffered from poor health and every bad thing that could happen to him has happened. I always felt that the family was cursed only to stumble upon the story of the Thompson curse. Now after reading about the curse, I am still not sure if my suspensions are true or not.

  11. Kathryn Gifford

    No such thing as a curse. Bad timing, ill conceived notions, trials and tribulations…all a part of every living thing’s life.

  12. Lex Borthwick

    Hiya. I’m not a Thompson, but when I was a kid my father told me of a Thompson family who lived near Sale, Victoria, Australia. The Thompsons and Borthwicks were very close, schoolfriends and such. I don’t recall the exact story, but dad said the Thompsons were well aware of a curse on the family’s men – something about them being fated to die young. I don’t, of course (?!) believe in curses, but the issue is how much the subject/s of the curse believe it. These Thompsons believed it. My father said the older ones all died young, and his particular friend, a big, strong, powerful man died after a car crash. He was thrown from the car and died in a couple of inches of water. He had a nephew, my age. I met him at uni when he was an engineering student. Did he die young? Sorry, I’ve got no idea. He wasn’t a friend, and I’ve not kept in touch.

  13. Lauraine Thomson O'Toole

    I am a Thomson by birth and I don’t know about dying young but my family has always joked about a curse. I guess it is not a joke.people in my family have experienced lifelong bad probpems..etc. Also..I am with Lauren, I don’t think women in the family are exempt. I have also heard of special “gifts” or abilities that are supposed to be familial. Has anyone else heard this?

  14. Michael Thompson

    Being a THOMPSON has long been a quandary. I acquired my Irish lineage from my father and Welsh from my mother. My grandfather THOMPSON was a mixture of English and Scottish. I quest that makes a proverbial Heinz 57 Anglo Saxon of sorts although I’ve always felt a strong allegiance to my Scottish heritage.After hearing about the THOMPSON CURSE however I think I will switch my allegiance to the Irish.

  15. Lisa Thomson

    I definitely feel cursed 😭 seriously since before day one. I’m trying to break said “curse” for my children though but it doesn’t hurt any less.

  16. Derick Thompson

    worst luck ever. bad circumstances follow routinely. thompson with a p and ancestors known to have came from Ireland during the potato
    famine to the USA. Devote Catholics with grandpa speaking actual real Latin, this guy was a devote Roman Catholic. Irish to the bone.

    This family is cursed with “somebody did something” way back when and not sure exactly the circumstances were but I mean to tell you I’ve personally had the worst luck of circumstances. The outcomes are not always bad but at the same time it hasn’t been a nice even keel of circumstances. I can confirm this pattern with most uncles and male family lineage.

    It’s almost like speaking to a buddy and them saying, “Man I’m sorry to hear about that” “I’m sorry you’re having to go through this” Don’t think for a second this is gossip behind this myth. The Thompson’s have extremely bad luck to circumstances that normally don’t affect
    most people from my experiences with family.


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