Thomas Arthur Nelson

9 mars 2018


Thomas Arthur Nelson (1886–1917) was a Scottish rugby union player, also in business as a book publisher, who was killed in the First World War.


The grave of Thomas Nelson, Grange Cemetery, Edinburgh


He was born on 22 September 1876, the son of the publisher Thomas Nelson and his wife Jessie Kemp. The family lived in the house of their grandfather Thomas Nelson : Abden House on the south of Edinburgh, the grandfather having died in 1861. His father built a new house, St Leonards, in the grounds of Abden House and the family moved there on its completion in 1890.

He was educated at Edinburgh Academy where he became a rugby player. He then went to Oxford University to study Classics where he befriended John Buchan.


He played for Oxford University RFC like Freddy Harding Turner and was capped for Scotland in 1898.

The John Buchan novel The Thirty-Nine Steps is dedicated to him. Nelson and Buchan had been friends since Nelson was an undergraduate at University College, Oxford. He became head of the family publishing firm of Thomas Nelson and Sons, which employed Buchan as literary advisor and was one of the writer’s publishers.

He was killed on 9 April 1917 on the first day of the Battle of Arras in World War I while serving as Captain with the Lothians and Border Horse attached to the Machine Gun Corps. He is buried in Faubourg D’Amiens Cemetery near Arras, grave reference VII.G.26.


He is also memorialised on his parents grave in Grange Cemetery in south Edinburgh.

Family : In 1903 he was married to Margaret Balfour, daughter of the Liverpool merchant, Alexander Balfour. They had six children including Alexander Ronan Nelson (1906-1997) and Elisabeth Nelson (1912-1999), who married Lord Bryan Walter Guinness, then becoming Lady Moyne, Elizabeth Guinness.

Following his death Margaret married Paul Lucien Maze (1887-1979), a Frenchman, and became known as Margaret Balfour Nelson Maze.
He died on 9 April 1917, age 40, and is buried in Faubourg D’amiens Cemetery,
Arras.