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Glasgow Gangster Arthur Thompson: The Godfather

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Izzy is a longtime online writer who loves writing about a wide range of topics—from recipes to gardening to exotic plants.

Arthur Thompson was an infamous gangster in the Glasgow underworld. Learn about his life and death.

Arthur Thompson was an infamous gangster in the Glasgow underworld. Learn about his life and death.

Thompson's Early Years

Known as The Godfather, gangster Arthur Thompson ruled Glasgow’s underworld for many years, stretching right back to an early age. Born in 1931 of respectable parents, young Arthur soon learned to earn respect from his peers by using his fists to get what he wanted, and by the age of 12 he had graduated to using open razors (nice child!).

During the Second World War years, a teenaged Arthur was robbing stores. By the time he was 22 he already had built up quite a reputation in extortion rackets where he demanded money from businesses to prevent them getting burned out.

His first jail sentence was for 18 months, and he came out determined to carry on with his life of crime without getting caught.

Bank Robberies and the Kray Twins

Arthur Thompson then became involved with bank robberies and invested his shares of the ill-gotten gains in businesses. Not content with that, he formed his own team to continue robbing banks, and after a particularly sloppy robbery in which he dropped his own house keys at the scene, he got caught and sentenced to three years in jail.

Jail allowed him to extend his criminal contacts, and when he was released this time, he moved south to London where he continued his life of crime.

This was the territory of the notorious Kray Twins, and the story goes that the Kray Twins wanted him out and put a price on his head. Instead, Thompson calmly walked into the pub where they normally hung out, the Double R club, and after demanding to see them, produced a sawed–off shotgun and threatened to blow their brains out along with the immortal words, “I’m Arthur Thompson. You’ll no’ forget me.”

His Ruthless Reputation Grows

Throughout the '50s and '60s, Arthur Thompson continued to be a feared underworld gangster throughout Britain, but especially in Glasgow. His legitimate businesses, which included bars and clubs, continued to thrive, making him a very wealthy man, but he was ruthless.

As a money lender, he frequently nailed people to the floor for non-payment, literally. He crucified them by hammering nails through their hands pinning them to doors or floors. This sent out a very strong message to others that he was not to be crossed. Debts must be repaid on time. Like all loan sharks, the repayment rates were ridiculously high and many already poor people suffered.

Dispute With the Welsh Family

Then another family of criminals tried to muscle in on his territories. The Welsh family were total degenerates with no moral fibre but plenty of gumption, and Arthur Thompson and his team set about them armed with knives, hatchets and cleavers, but were beaten back with guns and ammunition.

A deep hatred grew between the two factions, and Arthur Thompson used every opportunity to exact revenge, including forcing a van being driven by a Welsh family member off the road, resulting in the deaths of two young men.

The Welsh family retaliated by placing a bomb inside Arthur Thompson’s car, and when it exploded, it killed his mother-in-law, who was in the car with him.

The Arms Trade

By the late '60s or early '70s, Arthur Thompson was involved in the lucrative arms trade, smuggling guns to Northern Ireland to add to the tensions there. This brought him to the attention of MI5, and in return for passing on information, Arthur Thompson was granted immunity of prosecution, leaving him virtually free to do as he liked.

supply of heroin

supply of heroin

The Drug Trade

By the early '80s, he had moved into the lucrative drugs trade, especially heroin.

Heroin is highly addictive and it is not difficult to get yourself a few customers simply by giving out a few free ‘samplers’. No doubt henchmen were involved in turning almost a whole generation of Glasgow youngsters into junkies, but the profits were huge and to a man like Arthur Thompson, what did he care?

His son Arthur Thompson Junior was in charge of the drugs side for his father, but he needed enforcers to ensure drugs were paid for in time. Enter centre left a young neighbour Paul Ferris, who acted as enforcer for the family. It just so happened that Paul Ferris also hated the Welshes, and so they made a good team.

A vicious knife crime.

A vicious knife crime.

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris has since claimed in book releases that he was bullied as a child by the Welsh family. That does not explain how he found it so easy to pull out knives and stab people who hadn’t paid a drug debt—people who were not members of the Welsh family.

After an especially horrific incident when Ferris has stabbed a car driver and his dog in front of witnesses, the Thompsons sent Ferris to the family’s remote holiday home on a Scottish island until the furore died down.

Unbeknownst to Ferris, however, Arthur Thompson Sr. had tipped off the police as to his hideaway location, and a subsequent police raid saw him up in court for Class A drug dealing, as an amount of heroin was found on his person at the holiday flat.

Death of Arthur Thompson Jr.

While the man he attacked later dropped the charge, Ferris still found himself jailed for 18 months, not for the drugs offences, but for having a weapon on his person.

This set Paul Ferris against his former employer, and when Arthur Thompson Jr. was brutally shot dead outside his family home in 1991, Paul Ferris was an immediate suspect.

The Trial

At that time, Paul Ferris had two gangster associates, Bobby Glover and Joe Hanlon.

On the morning of Arthur Thompson Jr.’s funeral, both men were found dead in a car in the east end of Glasgow.

Paul Ferris stood trial alone for the killing of Arthur Thompson, and Arthur Thompson senior went to court to give evidence against him. It was probably the only time in his life Arthur Thompson had testified for the prosecution, and it is generally reckoned that Paul Ferris would have been a dead man if jailed because Arthur Thompson would have paid a hitman to take him out.

The jury found him not guilty.

Death of the Godfather

This crushed Arthur Thompson and in 1993, just two years after the death of his son, he died of a heart attack at his home in Glasgow’s Blackhill district.



Jocky on January 11, 2020:

Lot of bollox never got called a grass when alive lol only when dead so easy to tarnish a name when dead

No on July 06, 2019:

My great uncle fml

Steven duckyboy on July 02, 2019:

I’ve never got it,all the betrayal and violence,lots of money but lots of jail aswell,I’d prefer peace and smiley faces but we’re all born different,i was brought up in inner city Birmingham and know the crack etc,but managed to keep myself to myself,I’v had and lost friends who were lovely kind people who in another environment would have become good happy adults,so to some degree you can be a product of your environment,

IzzyM (author) from UK on June 25, 2011:

Absolutely. But isn't there another saying about the sins of the fathers?

Thanks for commenting and adding extra info for the readers, and can I just add you have an awesome website!

Glasgowgangland on June 25, 2011:

Arthur Thompson was a police informant for years, there are so many myths that surround this man and his fat son that most people take them as facts, the man was a bully , a grass and his son was even worst.They set up their own kinds with drugs and guns, tried having one of their most loyal soldiers killed by rogue police, luckily his pregnant partner was with him.

A bad family that rules through fear.But their house of cars soon fell when people took a stand against their bullying intimidating ways.Once the son was gone the old man knew he would be next and his heart couldn't cope with the worry.

Then his other son who also took liberties while his father and brother were alive was beaten half to death and is now a lone junkie spastic, living in homeless accommodation.

You could say what goes around comes around.

IzzyM (author) from UK on April 03, 2011:

Thanks for commenting, EuroCafe :)

Anastasia Kingsley from Croatia, Europe on April 03, 2011:

Very interesting. Definitely learned something. Thanks.