3 – The Thompson Gang
While London had the Kray’s and the Richardson’s to contend with in the 1960s, Glasgow had its own dominant group of street thugs in the form of The Thompson Gang. Arthur Thompson, known as the ‘Godfather’ in the city, formed the gang and began his career as a money lender in a council estate. Failure to pay him what you owed resulted in a painful punishment. It was common for Arthur to crucify his victims by nailing their hands and feet to furniture.
He graduated to forming protection rackets and like some other gangsters of the era, Arthur wisely invested his money in legitimate businesses and became an exceptionally wealthy man. The Thompson Gang was soon the most feared group in Scotland and rivals were terrified of Arthur due to his sadistic nature. According to legend, he introduced himself to the Kray brothers by bursting into a club they frequented with a gun and shouting: “I’m Arthur Thompson, from Glasgow, remember my name.” Whether the story is true or not, he worked as an enforcer for the brothers.
His rivals tried and failed to eliminate him in 1966 when a bomb exploded under his car. Arthur survived, but his mother-in-law was killed. The gang boss was out for blood, and he suspected two members of the rival Welsh gang, Patrick Welsh, and James Goldie, of the attack. He drove his car directly at their van and forced it off the road. Both men died, but Arthur escaped prosecution because no witness would testify against him.
In 1969, Arthur’s wife, Rita, stabbed the wife of Patrick Welsh in the chest. She received three years in prison for the attack. By the 1980s, Glasgow was in the midst of a heroin epidemic as the drug flooded into the city in a market worth up to £30 million. Arthur’s son Billy became a heroin addict, and his daughter Margaret died from a heroin overdose. Despite these issues, Arthur made a fortune from drugs and was also reportedly earning £100,000 a week as a loan shark.
By now, his son Arthur Jr., also known as Fatboy, was in charge of the gang as Arthur Sr. took a backseat. Fatboy was very different to his father. While Arthur liked to make money and stay out of the limelight, Fatboy loved being known as a major player in Glasgow and reveled in showing off his wealth. In 1985, he was arrested and charged with supplying heroin in what was probably a set-up; an 11-year prison sentence was the result.
Old Arthur was less feared than before and apparently had a fondness for booze. With Fatboy in prison, Old Arthur had to return before his rivals picked his empire apart. Although he was aging, Old Arthur was still seen as a threat, so his enemies wanted to remove him from the picture permanently. However, he survived an assassination attempt in 1985 and another one in 1988. He accused Paul Ferris, a former enforcer for the gang, of trying to kill him in 1988. Three years later, Ferris was accused of the murder of the Fatboy who was shot three times outside of his home. On the day of Fatboy’s funeral, the bodies of two of Ferris’ associates were found in a car. They had been shot in the head and the anus. The car was deliberately placed on the funeral route.
Old Arthur testified against Ferris thus breaking the gangster code of silence. The Thompson Gang was finished at this point, and Arthur died in his bed in 1993. Ferris’ trial was the longest and most expensive in Scottish history up to that point, but he was acquitted. In 2000, Billy was stabbed close to the family home and survived. He died in March 2017, so at the time of writing, Tracey Thompson is Arthur’s only remaining child.