Born in Mossburnford, he trained with his father, William Turnbull,
from the age of eleven, then studied at the Watt Institute, Edinburgh,
and at Anderson's College, Glasgow (now University of Strathclyde).
In 1873, he became a partner of
Alexander 'Greek' Thomson
after the business side of the practice and supervising construction, a role which enabled Thomson to concentrate exclusively on design.
's death in 1875, with David Thomson (no relation) as
his new partner, 1876-83, they completed the old firm's outstanding contracts
's unexecuted designs for new clients.
The city's southern suburbs are particularly rich in their post-
work, and includes several tenements and villas in Pollokshaws
and Pollokshields, e.g., the convex, Graeco-Egyptian, Salisbury Quadrant,
Nithsdale Drive (c. 1878), and the serenely elegant, 2-38 and 40-46 Millbrae
The West End and other prosperous districts also received their
quota of Thomsonesque tenements and houses.
However, lacking the subtelty of
's original ideas, much
of their work has become almost indistiguishable from that of the city's
Turnbull's son, Robert, became a partner after David Thomsons's
departure in 1883, and the firm continued into the 20th Century.
Turnbull was buried at the Auld Aisle Cemetery, Kirkintilloch,
his grave marked by a Thomsonesque monument which he designed for his
first wife in 1877.