Having written about Spiers and Glassford I have now got round to completing the trio of the major Glasgow Tobacco Lords by writing about William Cunninghame.
The Cunninghame Family
Cunninghame’s wider family can be traced back at least to the mid seventeenth century in Ayrshire, in the parish of Stewarton, his great grandfather being Adam Cunninghame. He was connected to the Cunninghame’s of Caprington in the county and was servitor (assistant) to Sir William Cunninghame, a position usually taken by a family member. In 1653 Sir William borrowed £2,000 with Adam acting as cautioner (he would be liable for the debt if Sir William defaulted). Unfortunately that is what happened and a decree was granted in 1654 against Adam by the Commissioners of Justice in Scotland in favour of Lieutenant Colonel Osborne.
Prior to that he acquired the lands of Kirkland in 1653 and in the same year he married Janet Baird. It seems they had several children, the eldest surviving son being George, the Tobacco Lord’s grandfather. In 1673 he purchased the lands of Little Bridgehouse in the parish of Riccarton thus beginning the family’s connection with that estate. He died in 1677, his wife Janet being his lawful heir in accordance with the marriage contract agreed in 1653. There were five surviving children when he died, four daughters and son George who was his mother’s heir.
George had a son, Alexander, however it’s not clear if and when he married. He died in 1696  just before he intended to marry, the lady in question bearing him the son after he died. If true that would make Alexander illegitimate. There is a suggestion however that he actually married a Sarah Miller, but no evidence has been discovered that supports that or any marriage, or Alexander’s birth date. Three surviving sisters of Alexander appear to have been the beneficiaries after their mother’s death however before that in 1726 by various decreets of the Court of Sessions he had gained one half of his grandfather Adam’s property.
Alexander was a very successful merchant in Kilmarnock and was a bailie of the parish in 1729 and 1730. He married Barbara Hodgert, widow of William Findlay in 1727, who had one son by her first husband who became Professor of Theology at Glasgow University.
Alexander and Barbara had eight children, all born in Kilmarnock parish, as follows:
John, born 1729. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1742 and graduated MA in 1746. He was licensed as a minister by the Presbytery at Irvine in 1753 and was ordained at Dalmellington in 1756. In 1762 he moved to Monkton parish where he died unmarried in 1774, his younger brother William his heir as the next eldest brother.
William Cunninghame, the Tobacco Lord, more of him in due course.
Alexander, born 1741. He became involved in the tobacco trade through his brother William and went to America to act as agent for his company. He eventually returned to Glasgow and set up his own company, Alexander Cunninghame and Co., his partners being William, Alexander Houston, Robert Bogle and James Dougal. He died circa 1773, testate, his will being confirmed at the Glasgow Commissary Court in March 1773 his heirs being his sisters Elizabeth and Barbara.
Alexander senior died without leaving a will in 1748, eldest son John inheriting his estates and other property. A sum of £1800 was also left, William’s share being £300. The registration of Alexander’s death adds to the puzzle surrounding his birth and parentage as his age is recorded as 58, which implies his birth date was c.1690.
William was born in Kilmarnock on the 30th May 1731 and baptized the following day. Where he attended school has not been established but in 1746 he went to Virginia as an apprentice working on the tobacco plantations of Andrew Cochrane who at that time was an established colonial trader and was the founding partner in Cochrane, Murdoch and Co. Cunninghame was apparently related to Cochrane hence his introduction to the tobacco trade at which he was to excel. Andrew Cochrane was an original ‘Tobacco Lord’ long before Glassford, Speirs and Cunninghame came to the fore. He had been Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1744/45, in 1748/49 and again in 1760/61. In 1745 he led the opposition to Bonnie Prince Charlie’s quartermaster (Squire Hay) who demanded a levy of £15,000 from the city. Along with Allan Dreghorn, Andrew Buchanan, Lawrence Dinwoodie, Andrew Aiton, James Smith and Richard Oswald he managed to reduce that sum to £5,000 cash plus £500 in goods.,
Cunninghame was to remain in Virginia until 1762 during which time, from 1752, he had become responsible for running all of the company’s business in Virginia. Whilst there in 1759 he entered into a partnership on his own account with two fellow plantation factors or managers, John Doncastle of Maryland and Alexander Finnie of Virginia, the purpose of which was to supply the British Army in Pittsburgh with wine, sugar and other similar produce. He also owned 2,000 acres of land in Virginia.
On his return to Scotland he became a full partner in Cochrane, Murdoch and Co. and was established as the managing partner responsible for all aspects of the business, shipping, trading, and specifying the operations of each of the companies stores in Virginia.
An indication of how successful he was is indicated by the company’s capitalisation values. In 1755 as Cochrane, Murdoch and Co. it was £22,903. In 1773, by which time the company name had changed to William Cunninghame and Co. it was £79,300. The partners during this period were, Cunninghame, Peter Murdoch, Andrew Cochrane, son in law to Murdoch having married his daughter Janet, Robert Bogle, John Murdoch, James Robinson, William Reid, William Henderson, and John Hamilton, the last four named being located in America. William was a partner in two other companies involved in Maryland, firstly with his brother Alexander’s company as previously stated. After his brother’s death c.1773 it became Cunninghame, Findlay and Co., the other partners being Robert Findlay, Robert Bogle and Alexander Houston, the latter two being partners in the original company. In addition two others were based in America as storekeepers, James Dougal and David Walker. The third company was Cunninghame, Brown and Co., the other partners being Robert Findlay and James Brown.
His major company was however the one bearing his name. The share distribution was such that Cunninghame owned 229, the Murdoch’s 104, Cochrane 48, Bogle 64 and James Robertson 13. The financial stability of the company was to a large degree assured by the fact it had access to the Glasgow Arms Bank, established in 1750, as Cochrane and John Murdoch were two of its founders, to be joined later as a major shareholder by Peter Murdoch. It had fourteen stores in Virginia located at Fredericksburg, Falmouth, Richmond Petersburg, Culpepper, Dumfries, Fauquier, Amherst, Cabin Point, Brunswick, Granvill, Halifax, Mecklenburg, and Rocky Ridge, generally located in the vicinity of the Potomac, Rappahanock and the James rivers. In 1772/3 just under 5,200 hogsheads of tobacco were shipped back to Glasgow, the ships involved being the Cunninghame, Ocean, Cochrane, Venus , Janett, and the Neptune, each ship making two journeys between December 1772 and September 1773, except the Janett.
William also had other commercial interests being involved with the Port Glasgow Sugar House, the Pollockshaws Printfield Co., the Dalnotter Iron Co., the Glasgow Tanwork Co., the Glasgow Bottleworks, and the Anderston Brewery.
He married three times, firstly to Jean Dunmore in 1763, the daughter of Thomas Dunmore a Glasgow merchant. They had six children all born in Glasgow:
The sons from this marriage were disinherited by William, no reason has been ascertained.
His second marriage in 1775 was to Elizabeth Campbell the daughter of James Campbell, another Glasgow merchant. They had one child William, born in 1776.
William was educated in London and studied at Utrecht University. He then went to India to serve in the Bengal Civil Service. It was there he met the Baptist missionary William Carey which led him in due course to become a biblical scholar. He was at the forefront of the 19th century’s prophetic scholarship movement. He died unmarried in 1849.
Prior to this marriage William’s brother John had died in 1774 but it was not until 1777 he came into full ownership of his estates as John ‘s heir. It was around this time, probably c.1778 that he started to build his mansion in what was Cow Loan, now Queen Street. The area was essentially swamp land and by the time the mansion was completed in 1780 it had cost c. £10,000. He also purchased the estate of Lainshaw in Stewarton in 1779, these two events demonstrating the wealth he had accumulated through tobacco trading, which like his contemporaries, relied on the exploitation of African slaves, men women and children.
There was one other action which he took which significantly increased his fortune. The American War of Independence began in 1775, with the colonists declaring themselves independent of Britain during 1776. Cunninghame’s company had some initial difficulties when the war started but as tobacco supplies decreased the price of tobacco increased to sixpence per pound as a consequence. The partners of William Cunninghame and Co. met to discuss selling the company’s stock which was the largest of any in Britain. Cunninghame offered to buy each partner’s share of the company stock at sixpence per pound which was readily accepted. The price subsequently rose to three shillings and sixpence per pound, Cunninghame having sold his stock before then ensuring a vast profit.
The company’s ships were also eventually put to use as privateers, the Cochrane in 1778 capturing a French East Indiaman with a cargo valued at £100,000.
His mansion house still exists today but not in its original form. He sold it to the Stirling family in 1789 for £5,000 who occupied it commercially and as a residence until 1817, it then being sold to the Royal Bank of Scotland. The bank made some alteration to the building, essentially retaining the mansion house, and thereafter carrying out its banking activity. It remained as such until 1827 when the bank sold it to the committee for establishing a new Exchange. Architect David Hamilton was charged with making major changes to the building and amongst his changes were the addition of the portico now seen at the front of the building, a newsroom described as Glasgow’s most magnificent 19th century interior and the cupola. It took from 1827 until 1832 to complete.
The Royal Exchange as it was known continued to operate as such until 1954 at which time it became Stirling’s Library, the library donated by the Stirling family in 1791 moving from its original premises in Miller Street.
Since 1996, its current manifestation is as the Gallery of Modern Art, (GoMA), the original mansion being subsumed into the building, the core structure being over two hundred and forty years old.
Elizabeth died at the age of 35 in 1778, cause of death given as ‘chilbed’ which I believe means a problem arose during her giving birth which resulted in her death
His third wife was Margaret Nicolson Cranston, the daughter of the Honourable George Cranston. They married in Edinburgh in 1780 and had eight children all born at Lainshaw.
It seems that Cunninghame retired from business around 1780, spending the rest of his life at Lainshaw as evidenced by the birth of his children at Stewarton, although he did become a founding member of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in 1783.
He died in 1799 at Lainshaw, son William inherited his Ayrshire and Peeblesshire estates, with his Kirkcudbright estate going to his youngest son John.
There is a lot more to the story of William Cunninghame. I would recommend the following books:
The Tobacco Lords, Tom Devine, 1975, John Donald Ltd Edinburgh.
Scottish Firm in Virginia 1767 – 1777, William Cunninghame and Co., Tom Devine (ed.), 1984, Scottish History Society.
Studies in Scottish Business History, Ed. Peter Payne, 1967, Frank Case & Co. (Reprint from the William and Mary Quarterly entitled ‘The Rise of Glasgow in the Chesapeake Tobacco Trade 1707-1775)
Capital and Credit in British Overseas Trade, Jacob M Price, 1990, Harvard University Press.
 Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878). The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry. 2nd. ed. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. LXXVI. Mount Vernon. http://gdl.cdlr.strath.ac.uk/smihou/
The recent publication of a new book on the life of William Burrell has prompted me to look at some of the research I did eleven years ago on his activity as a councillor.
He was elected in November 1899 (see my post Sir William Burrell Glasgow Corporation Councillor 1899 – 1906). In his first year Burrell sat on the Gas, Electricity, Police and Library Department’s committees and two special committees on the Telephone Service and the setting up of a Friendly Society. As perhaps expected, he was also on these department’s Finance sub committees. He was also on the Police Department’s Health committee included in which was a subcommittee dealing with Uninhabitable Dwellings as defined by the Glasgow Police Act of 1890. This committee, whose membership was that of the Health committee, was chaired by Councillor Dick.
Burrell’s ‘maiden motion’ at a full corporation meeting on 17th May 1900 was to move that the city engineer be instructed to submit a statement showing the respective values of the sites of the city churches. The motion was delayed at meetings on the 7th June and the 5th July and eventually agreed on 27th September. An early indication perhaps that the ‘mills of the Corporation grind exceeding slow’.
He was however active in meetings before that in particular with those of the Police Department (he attended 90% of them). On the 7th February 1900 a motion was proposed and seconded that a resolution received by members of the Corporation from the Glasgow United Trades Council (in this case representing Cleansing Dept workers, in particular close sweepers) be remitted to the Committee on Cleansing for report. The resolution by the trade council regretted the Corporation’s refusal to grant a wage increase and the language used by some councillors when referring to the rights of employees to have their complaints represented to the Town Council by their union representatives. An amendment was proposed and seconded by Robert Graham and Thomas Watson (both of Exchange Ward) that the resolution ‘lay on the table’ i.e. no action to be taken. The amendment was supported by Burrell (also a member for Exchange Ward ) and carried. Interestingly his brother in law Charles John Cleland supported the motion.
On the 11th June all three members of Exchange Ward voted for a motion (which was carried) which gave approval to the Superintendent of Cleansing, the department’s Cashier and Bookkeeper all getting a rise in wages. However on the 15th October he voted for an amendment against a wage increase for sanitary inspector assistants, which was carried.
During this first year his attendance at the Health Department’s meetings were less than 50%. Around one third of these meetings had content referring to uninhabitable premises sub committee one of which Burrell attended.
25 addresses were deemed unfit over the year and appropriate action identified and implemented which included demolition, closure, re-housing of tenants and improvement action. It’s not clear if any demolitions occurred.
Section 32 of the Glasgow Police (Amended) Act 1890 was the relevant legislation for identifying such premises and for the action to be taken which ranged from improvement through closure to demolition of the premises. The process was begun by the issuing of certificates, by the city Sanitary Inspector, its Medical Officer and the Master of Works following inspection by these individuals stating premises were unfit for human habitation. Burrell was not a member of this committee at this time which had twelve members (7 Baillies and 5 Councillors), chaired by councillor J Carswell.
The next two years saw Burrell retain membership of the above referenced committees. Significantly perhaps, he was added to General Finance in 1901. He appears to have played a full part in all financial matters associated with his committee membership, no doubt bringing his own business experience into play. However on several occasions he was defeated on his motions or his amendments, ranging from dissenting to the acceptance of departmental accounts to trying to stop by amendment, the creation of Glasgow Corporation 3% Redeemable stock. He had some successes particularly with accounting for depreciation of departmental assets. Reference the committee on Uninhabitable Houses very little action seems to have been taken, Burrell becoming a member in 1901, it still being chaired by J. Carswell.
Towards the end of 1902 the Lord Provost set up a special committee within the Police Department to review the work of the Health Committee, apparently due to concerns about the effectiveness of the Uninhabitable Houses sub committee and the relatively new Public Health Act of 1897.
In 1903 at the first full Corporation meeting of the year Burrell was elected as a Baillie, a vacancy having arisen from the death of Baillie James Hamilton. He was nominated by River Baillie Shaw and seconded by Thomas Watson, fellow Ward 10 councillor. He was opposed by Councillor George Taggart who was nominated by Councillor Alexander Murray and seconded by Councillor W.F. Anderson. Burrell gained 44 votes to Taggart’s 26, having had the support of the Lord Provost John Ure Primrose, his brother in law Charles John Cleland and Robert Graham.
He remained on the General Finance, Police, Gas and Electricity committees becoming sub convener of Electricity. He was also on seven other special committees all dealing with different aspects of Corporation finances. These covered, amongst others, rates collection, capital expenditure, tendering and bye laws for auction sales.
His focus remained matters financial and he continued to put forward his responses to situations which he felt merited it. On 13th November 1903 for example he seconded a motion which would allow private enterprise to supply or hire electric motors adding the corporation should not undertake the responsibility (he was firmly against any municipalisation action by the corporation). The motion was defeated 10 votes to 3. He could also bring simple practical input to the meetings. In 1904 he proposed that no Corporation meetings should be held ‘in July fortnight which includes the Fair week’. The motion was passed – just!
On 6th November 1903 the Corporation (presumably on a recommendation from the Special committee set up in 1902) nominated the Health committee to enact the Public Health Act of 1897 “with a view of efficiently and with reasonable expedition carryinginto operation the Sanitary and Public Health provisions of the Act.” The sub committee of Uninhabitable Houses became ‘Uninhabitable Houses, Areas and Back Lands, and Underground Dwellings’ as required by the Act, Convener was W. F. Anderson, membership was again that of the Health committee. As before it had the power to issue closure notices and demolish premises that did not meet the requirements of the Act with respect to human habitability.
During the committee’s first year over fifty properties were identified as not complying with the Act: the previous 4 years had barely got into double figures when non-compliance had been measured against the Police Act.
Fifteen months after it was created, in January 1905, Burrell became its Convener, perhaps surprisingly as the general thrust of the committe was to resolve working class housing through some form of municipal action. Was that because it’s action would somehow be ‘contained’ by him or did he he have a genuine desire to improve the situation? His previous voting record, where he resisted what he called unnecessary expenditure which would not benefit the ratepayers of the time, makes me tend to the former reason rather than any altruistic feelings he may have developed to support the non rate paying working class. I recognise that I may be doing him an injustice in saying that as he was born into a tenement flat in 3 Scotia Street, however his life as a businessman, councillor and collector really give no indication of any kind of social concern.
He also continued to be involved in all his other committees in what proved to be his last full year as a councillor, but there is no doubt the Health sub committee became a major focus of his attention.
From the first meeting of the newly named sub committee on 7th November 1904 to the last chaired by him on 10th January 1906 nearly 200 premises were recommended for closure to be followed by demolition should the owners not comply with required improvements (they were given one month) or closure.
There seems to have been some initial success in that the first premises recommended for demolition at 101 Maitland Street and 240 Gallowgate were approved on 21 December at a cost of £37 10s., and in due course demolition took place.
However an indication of how the committee faired in the longer run in dealing with this significant social problem can be given by looking at the case involving 16 Sharps Lane.
The owner of these premises (James McNicol) had been given an improvement order during November 1904. At a meeting held on 28th December the Town Clerk advised Burrell that the owner had appealed to the Sheriff to have a demolition order rescinded. The Sheriff indicated he would hear the arguments from both sides on the 16th January. It’s not clear what happened in detail at the appeal but what is certain the property reappeared as a concern to Burrell’s committee at their meeting on 29th March 1905 when a further order was recommended. This was approved at the full Corporation meeting on 27 April and the Town clerk instructed to pursue the issue. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that all the recommendations for improvement, closure or demolition that Burrell’s committee recommended during his 14 month tenure were all approved by subsequent full corporation meetings.
The owner continued to appeal until November when the Town Clerk was instructed to request the Sheriff (who always seemed to want more information, particularly from the Corporation) to refer the matter to the Court of Session for their determination as was allowed for by the Act, which the Sheriff refused to comply with! Eventually the property was demolished as was indicated to Burrell at his final meeting on 10th January 1906, at a cost of £25.
Burrell’s attendance at his other committee meetings declined noticeably during the latter half of 1905, he was building ships again and preparing to return to running Burrell & Son. Despite all his Uninhabitable Housing committee’s input and the Corporation’s approval there appears to have been no process or sufficient capacity in place to create the desired results. All Burrell’s recommendations went to the Town Clerk to action, all Corporation supporting actions or recommendations also went to the Town Clerk. This activity would not be the only responsibility he or his department would have. Was he and his department sufficiently prepared to deal with the process required, both in terms of understanding what that should be and what resources he needed? As an individual who always was running his business efficiently and seeking improvement this situation must have been very frustrating for Burrell, purely, at least, from an efficiency point of view.
There may have been one other source of irritation for Burrell during this time. At a meeting on 10th May 1905 his committee recommended that a report be prepared with plans, for circulation among Corporation members, dealing with the work done by it. On the 24th May a Special Committee was set up by the Lord Provost to deal with Part 2 of the Housing of Working Classes Act 1890 relating to ‘Buildings Unfit for Human Habitation and Closing Orders and Demolition’. This committee was initially chaired by Councillor Steele who was a member (and remained so) of Burrell’s. Burrell was present at the first meeting of this new committee as a member but did not attend any subsequently. In terms of what activity it undertook it clearly was no different from that of Burrell’s, which continued to meet, with Councillor Steele in attendance!
Burrell remained a Baillie until 10th November 1905. At the start of 1906 he decided to resign. His letter of resignation dated 17th January was accepted by the full corporation meeting on 18th January without comment.
His election as a councillor was not pre planned, he became a candidate due to the death of Robert Murdoch, who was one of three sitting members for Ward 10 (Exchange). He was the retiring member for 1899 and was standing again, unopposed for re-election. What is therefore not in doubt is that Burrell’s later comments that he had become a councillor to help solve Glasgow’s slum housing problem are not borne out by the facts. A number of ratepayers had specifically pressed him to become a candidate as there were some concerns that the selected candidate after the death of Murdoch, Richard Hunter, who helped found Quarrier’s orphans home, would have some degree of liberal concern for social issues despite his general conservatism, and that Burrell would better represent the views of commerce and business.
In my post John Glassford – Tobacco Lord (1715-1783) Part 2 I touched on his interest in art and his support of the Foulis brothers Art Academy. Further research has shown I understated the number of paintings sold by his executors in 1786 and that he had sold paintings at Christie’s in 1797. I have also identified purchases he made from the same auction house in 1779 and 1783.
February 1779. Sales Catalogue Br-A1186.
March 1779. Sales Catalogue Br-A1199.
Glassford bought nine paintings at these auctions, total cost being £37 2s. Notable artists bought were Albrecht Durer and Artus Quellinus, a scholar of Rubens, his painting being the most expensive purchase at £12 1s.
January/February 1783. Sales Catalogue Br-A1342.
April 1783. Sales Catalogue Br-A1353.
The sixteen paintings he bought at these auctions were most likely the last time he bought art as he died five months later on 27th August. His purchases included work by Jan Brueghel (the elder), William Hogarth, entitled ‘Story from Don Quixote’, and Samuel Scott, this last work costing £20 9s, total cost of the sixteen paintings being £80.16s.
What do these costs (total £117 18s) equate to today? Straight forward RPI changes since 1783 equate to somewhere around £15,000. However that number does not do justice to the true cost of a commodity in 1783. Using that comparison Glassford’s spend amounts to over £1.5m.
May 1797. Sales Catalogue Br-A2231.
In 1797 Glassford sold twelve paintings, realizing £11 2s.
23rd December 1786. Sales Catalogue Br-A1548.
The catalogue associated with this sale included one hundred and twenty five paintings. Clearly I have not been able to identify anywhere near his total purchases, nor when he made his first buy, which is disappointing as some of the artists whose works were sold were, in modern parlance, ‘old masters’ and it would have been interesting and informative to have known from whom he bought the paintings and at what price.
The catalogue included works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Durer, Gainsborough, Breughel, Titian and Canaletto as well as paintings after the style of some of these artists. One Rubens sold for £2 1s., a Rembrandt for £1 15s.
The sale realized £384 2s which today by using the commodity measure would equate to £4.9m.
What these figures don’t show is the probable effect of the appreciation in value of some of the artworks sold in 1786. As an artist’s fame and skill grew and as a consequence demand increased, then what a particular painting sold for would be influenced by the reputation of the artist, its subject matter and rarity. An example perhaps of that is Ruben’s painting of Lot and his Daughters which was sold for £44.9m in 2016.
Glassford’s art collection, along with the properties he bought and his grandiose lifestyle would not have been possible without the exploitation of African slave labour, men women and children. We may be tempted to congratulate him for his apparent erudition and taste, ahead of his time perhaps, but I take the view that his interest in art was as a commodity, which was used to demonstrate his vast wealth, like all other tobacco merchants, with no regard as to how he achieved that wealth.
In 1916 Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (RBCG), adventurer, politician and writer, donated a portrait of his wife Gabriella by John Lavery to Glasgow Museums.
Starting this research I rather assumed that following the surname of the donor back in time would present no more than the usual difficulties and similarly with his wife. However that that was not the case as Cunninghame Graham’s surname was not a consistent feature of his ancestry. Additionally his wife’s name was an assumed one, entirely different from her birth name.
RBCG’s great great great grandfather was Nicol Graham, the son of Robert Graham of Gartmore and his wife Isobel Buntine, who was the daughter of Nicol Buntine, laird of Ardoch. Unfortunately there are no primary sources that confirm this however I’m reasonably confident that this marriage is the source of the Bontine part of RBCG’s surname. Hopefully what follows will support that.
Nicol Graham married Margaret Cunninghame, eldest daughter of the Earl of Glencairn in 1732. This marriage is the source of the Cunninghame element of RBCG’s surname. They had four sons; the eldest William, baptized in 1733,  the second, Robert, born circa 1735, being RBCG’s great great grandfather. William, the heir presumptive to Gartmore, and Robert both matriculated at Glasgow University in 1749.
In his entry in the matriculation records William is described as being an advocate in 1756, although I have been unable to find any evidence to support a law degree from Glasgow. In James Boswell’s London Journal 1762-1763, reprinted in the Penguin Classics series in 2010, it is recorded in the notes that he met William on the 18th June 1763 and again in Lausanne, Switzerland on the 21st December 1764, this latter encounter caused Boswell to comment that it pleased him to see that ‘an Advocate may be made a fine fellow’. In 1767 William married Margaret Porterfield, the daughter of Dr. Porterfield of Edinburgh.
In the meantime Robert had decided his fortunes lay in Jamaica, going there it seems in 1752 at the age of 17. His father had a cousin there who was Clerk of the Court in Kingston therefore it’s probable he was the catalyst for Robert leaving Scotland. As it happens the cousin’s name was Bontein, the relationship no doubt as a consequence of the marriage of Nicol Graham and Isobel Buntin.
By 1753 he was appointed Receiver-General of Taxes, deputed by Thomas Graham (a relative?), a previous holder of the office. In August of that year he wrote to his mother essentially seeking news from home, in particular asking after his sister Henrietta. He suffered all the usual sicknesses that newcomers to the Caribbean colonies did, overcoming them due to the care of ‘very friendly ladys, the power of medicine and the strength of his constitution.’ He wrote two letters to his mother in 1757, the first telling her of his health problems, the second stating that he was again fit and well.
As he gained experience in his tax role he became confidant enough to write to Sir Alexander Grant, a London Parliamentarian who previously had business interests in Jamaica and had advised the Board of Trade on West Indian commerce, criticising the methods employed in the collection of taxes and stating that it was a hindrance to trade. His first personal commercial venture was to invest ‘a small sum’ in a privateer whose sole purpose seems to have been capturing French ships for prize money.
His relatively peaceful existence however was severely disrupted by a slave revolt in 1760. The ringleader was Tacky an Obeah man who claimed occult powers that would protect the rebelling slaves. (Obeah can be broadly defined as anything used, or intended to be used by anyone pretending to be possessed of any occult or supernatural power.)
As can no doubt be imagined the revolt was put down brutally and without mercy, any captured rebelling slave being dealt with by ‘Burning, Hanging and Gibetting.’ The slaves set up a negress called Cabeah as queen of Kingston with robes and a crown. In due course she was caught and executed. Tacky was shot and killed during a chase by an army lieutenant, with two other ringleaders Kingston and Fortune being up hung up in chains alive, Fortune taking seven days to die, Kingston nine days. He reported these events to his father in a very matter of fact way, as if he was describing how to cure belly aches and fevers.
At the end of 1760 a law was passed outlawing Obeah to prevent further slave revolts. Another view of this might be that Act in reality was to protect the concept of the slavery of Africans and to deny the slave population’s African origins.
Robert remained in Jamaica until 1770 continuing with his public duty as Receiver- General until 1764. In the following year he was elected to the National Assembly for the district of St. David’s remaining in that position until 1768. He was also the owner of two sugar plantations on the island: Roaring River and Lucky Hill, his biographical notes in the Glasgow University Story website stating he owned fifty-one slaves of the latter plantation valued at £3,604. In 2018 Stephen Mullen and Simon Newman wrote a report for Glasgow University, its theme being how the University benefited financially from slavery. In it Robert Graham features significantly, including reference to his fathering illegitimate children writing to a friend that he had ‘rather too great a latitude to a dissipated train of whoring, the consequence of which [is] I now dayly see before me a motley variegated race of different complexions’.
In 1757 the Bontine estate of Ardoch was entailed to him by kinsman Nicol Bontine, the entail requiring him to assume the name of Bontine. In 1764 on the death of Bontine he duly became the Laird of Ardoch. Some sources say that Bontine’s death occurred around 1767-68 although I can find no primary source to confirm that.
In 1764 in Jamaica Robert Graham married Anne Taylor, daughter of Patrick Taylor and sister of Simon Taylor, a wealthy merchant who owned several plantations and at the time of his death in 1813 owned 2228 slaves.
Robert and Anne had six children two of whom were born in Jamaica, the others in Scotland. Their first was Margaret Jane who was born in Kingston in 1765  and died the same year. 1766 saw the birth of their second, also Margaret, who in due course travelled back to Scotland with them in 1770. She was a beneficiary of her uncle Simon Taylor’s will in 1813 inheriting £10,000.
Their Scottish born children were John, born and died in 1773, William Cunninghame, born in 1775 and RBCG’s great grandfather, Ann Susannah, born 1776, died 1778 and Nicol, born in 1778, who became a soldier in the Austrian army rising to the rank of Maréchal de Camp.
Robert and Anne on returning to Britain had initially lived in London for a short period but by late 1772 the family were living in Ardoch House, his father Nicol and his elder brother William and family living at Gartmore.
William had been in poor health for some time and in 1774 had gone to Lisbon with his wife hoping that would help him. Unfortunately no improvement occurred and he died there later that year. As his three children were all girls that meant Robert was the next male heir of his father. When his father died in 1775 Robert became Laird of Gartmore in addition to Ardoch.  He and his family moved to Gartmore House sometime during 1776.
From that time on he worked to improve his estates He also appears to have supported his brother’s widow financially and paying for their three girls education. In 1779 he took a house in Edinburgh to facilitate the education of his own children. Funds were also provided for the education of his illegitimate ‘offspring’ in Jamaica. In 1784 he became a burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh.
Since his return to Scotland he had not engaged in any commercial activity however in 1778 he gave a Captain Stephenson £250 to help fit out a ship to be used in the Jamaica trade.
Despite periods of ill health (gout) life at this point seemed to be very satisfactory, his interest in politics and literary matters growing, however that was to change with the death of his wife Anne circa 1781. Her cause of death has not been established however RBCG refers to periods of illness from when she settled in Scotland. He also from time to time refers to her as Robert’s creole wife however no significant evidence is produced in his book to support that. Robert subsequently married Elizabeth Buchanan Hamilton circa 1786 which was short lived, ending by separation in 1789.
His interests in politics and literary matters had been developing for some time. He became MP for Stirlingshire from 1794 to 1796 with a keen interest in political reform. He promoted a bill of rights during his tenure which although unsuccessful could be said to foreshadow the Reform Bill of 1832. Prior to that he had been rector of Glasgow University from 1785 to 1787.
He also wrote poetry, his main claim to fame lying with his lyrical poem ‘If doughty deeds my lady please’. When it was written is not clear, probably sometime between 1780 and 1790, but it was included in Palgrave’s Golden Treasury of 1875 and in 1866 Arthur Sullivan put it to music and dedicated it to a Mrs. Scott Russell, the mother of Rachel Scott Russell with whom he had or hoped for, a romantic attachment, much to her mother’s displeasure.
Thereafter Graham was known as ‘Doughty Deeds’, RBCG’s biography of him bearing that title.
In 1796 he inherited the estate of Finlaystone on the death of the last Earl of Glencairn, John Cunninghame, and assumed the name Cunninghame, thereafter known as Robert Cunninghame Graham. He died in 1797 at Gartmore, son William inheriting.
At the age of twelve William matriculated at Glasgow University in 1787, under the tutelage of family friend Professor William Richardson, who holidayed often at a cottage on the Gartmore estate. Apparently destined to run the family estates rather than be involved in business or commerce he then went on to study French and German in Neuchatel in Switzerland from around 1790 until late 1793.
He married twice, firstly to Anne Dickson in 1798  and they had five children between 1799 and 1809, the first born being Robert Cunninghame his eventual heir and grandfather of RBCG. The others were: Anna (1802), William John (1803), Douglas (1805) and Charlotte Maria Elizabeth (1809).
His second marriage, in 1816, was to Janet Bogle nee Hunter. They had four children as follows: Thomas Dunlop Douglas (1817), Alexander Spiers (1818), Susan Jane (1820) and Margaret Matilda (1821).
Like his father he became involved in politics being MP for Dunbartonshire from June 1796 to May 1797, winning his seat by eleven votes to three, his father Robert being the other candidate. He apparently had committed to support the then government but subsequently ‘now found he was unable in conscience to do so,’ hence the short duration of his political career.
If he really was destined to run the family estates then what he achieved was the exact opposite. He was a gambler, not a very good one as he lost a fortune, and ultimately a swindler. He was forced to leave the country in 1828 to avoid his creditors, having squandered the family art collection through his gambling plus compromising the financial stability of his estates. By 1832 he was living in Florence with his wife Janet and their two daughters.
He was something of a mechanical genius developing a machine with which he could very accurately make copies of rare and famous engravings, thereby earning a living by selling these copies. The machine however was in due course used to produce false letters of credit of the bank Glyn, Halifax, Mills and Co.
There were fourteen individuals involved the main instigator of the fraud being the Marquis de Bourbel. They initially obtained a genuine letter of credit from the bank, from a strong box which Cunninghame Graham’s stepson Allan George Bogle had control of, thus seeing the approval signatories required. They were then able to procure the same paper used by the bank, create a number of letters of credit and then forge the bank signatures using Cunninghame Graham’s machine to ‘trace’ them on to the false documents. By this means the conspirators were able to defraud banks in Italy, France, Belgium and elsewhere of £10,700 in six days. That sum today would, on RPI changes alone, be worth around £1million.
However, as always seems to happen, greed overcame caution with one of the fraudsters being arrested on the Ostend ferry whilst trying to flee, the rest when learning of his fate scattered. An article in the Times newspaper goes into great detail with regards to the scheme with all the fourteen conspirators being named, including William, his son Alexander and his stepson Allan Bogle. None of the main players in the fraud appear to have suffered any adverse consequences with the exception being the Graham family. Allan Bogle sued the writer of the article which he claimed defamed him. He was eventually awarded one farthing damages and ordered to pay his own legal expenses. Alexander lived under an assumed name in France and died there within the year at the age of twenty three. William was banished from Tuscany, ending up in London where he died in 1845.
He was succeeded by his son Robert Cunninghame Cunninghame Graham. He had married Frances Laura Speirs in 1824 in the parish of Port of Monteith, she being the daughter of Archibald Speirs, son of tobacco lord Alexander Speirs and his wife Mary Buchanan. They had nine children between 1826 and 1844, born in a variety of places. His eldest son and heir William Cunninghame Bontine was born in Leamington, Warwickshire in 1825 as was brother Douglas Alexander in 1844. Four were born at the family estate of Finlaystone between 1826 and 1834, a son and a daughter were born in Edinburgh in 1838 and 1839 respectively, and one daughter was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1842. In the 1851 census he is recorded as a visitor to the Speirs family in the parish of St. Ninians in the county of Stirling.
Presumably the Finlaystone births over eight years are an indication of his involvement with the management of his estates, what he was doing in the other localities, in particular Germany, has not been established. He was Vice Lieutenant of the county of Dunbartonshire and Deputy Lieutenant of the counties of Renfrew and Stirling.
Robert died in 1863 at Castlenaw House, Mortlake, in Surrey, his son William being his sole executer. Also in 1863 his son William was forced to sell of the Finlaystone estate to pay off outstanding debt, presumably emanating from his grandfather’s gambling activities. In the year of Robert’s death his personal estate was valued at £20,358, however in 1879 a second confirmation took place which identified further inventory valued at £134,276. On this occasion there was a reference to William’s curator bonis, a legal representative who looks after an individual’s affairs because of some physical or mental incapacity. The reason for that will become clear in due course.
William Cunninghame Bontine Graham was to spend most of his life in the military. Prior to that however he attended Trinity College, Cambridge in 1842. What he studied has not been established. In 1845 he became an ensign in the 15th Regiment of Foot (Scots Greys) by purchase, a year later becoming a Cornet in the same regiment, again by purchase. At that time he was serving in Ireland remaining there for circa five years.
He married Anne Elizabeth Elphinstone Fleeming, daughter of the late Admiral Sir Charles Elphinstone Fleeming, in June 1851. They had three sons, the eldest being Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham (RBCG), born at Cadogan Place, London in 1852. The second son was Charles Elphinstone Fleeming Cunningham Graham, who enlisted in the Royal Navy in 1873 at the age of nineteen. He was promoted to Lieutenant in 1877 and served until 1888. He was awarded the M.V.O. and in 1908 became Groom in Waiting to the King. In 1910 he became Groom of the Bedchamber. The youngest son Malise Archibald Cunninghame Grahame became a minister of religion dying aged twenty five in 1885.
William’s final promotion came in 1855 when he was made a major in the Prince of Wales Renfrew Regiment of Militia. He remained at that rank until 1862 when he resigned his commission. In the following year he became Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Stirling on the death of his father.
From the late 1850’s he began to suffer mental health issues. Whilst in Ireland with his regiment he had been attacked in Waterford and had suffered a severe head injury, letters written by his wife between 1857 and 1866 making reference to his problems and suggesting that they arose from this attack. By 1876 it was of such concern that there was a legal notice in the Edinburgh Gazette requiring ‘in the Queen’s name’ the Lord President of the Court of Session to summon William to attend the Parliament House in Edinburgh to determine his sanity. Clearly at some time after a curator bonis was appointed to look after his affairs hence the comment in the 1879 probate statement.
For the rest of his life William continued to have significant mental health problems. He died in 1883 at Eccles House in Penpont, Dumfriesshire, cause of death given as ‘Insanity – about 19 years.’ 
RBCG’s life by any measure became an incredible journey starting essentially as a cowboy, then general adventurer, a politician holding, for the time and considering his lineage, very socialist ideas, and a prolific writer.
His schooling began at Hillhouse in Leamington Spa from 1863 to 1865 followed by two years at Harrow. His education continued in London and Brussels before he went to the Argentine in 1869/70.
Why the Argentine? The answer probably lies with his mother Anne Elizabeth who was half Spanish, her mother being Dona Catalina Paulina Alessandro de Jiminez who married Sir Charles in Cadiz in 1816. She was apparently aged 16, he was 42 years old. Another connection to South America may have been that RBCG’s mother had been born on board her father’s flagship HMS Barnham in 1828, whilst it was off-shore from Venezuela. At any rate he was brought up heavily influenced by his Spanish grandmother, speaking Spanish fluently from a very early age, and in general having, for the time, an unconventional upbringing.
One other, perhaps more pressing reason, was that his father’s illness had resulted in significant debts for the family, hence, as the eldest son, he would feel an obligation to deal with those debts. It was during this time in the Argentine where he rode with gauchos, dealt in cattle and horses, for which he had an abiding passion, that he became known as Don Roberto. Unfortunately whatever he did in South America had no effect on the debt situation at home and only served to create debt of his own. One clear benefit however was his experiences there were the basis of a number stories he wrote in later life detailing the turbulent every-day life with the gauchos and the physical expansiveness of their country. He returned to Britain around 1877 however he was to go back to South America in later life on a number of occasions, one specific stay was in Uruguay where he purchased horses for the British army during World War I.
He lived in Paris for a while which is where he met his future wife Gabriela de la Balmondiere, apparently half French, half Chilean, marrying her there around 1878. However that was an entirely assumed name, more of which later.
His political career began in the General Election of 1885 when he stood as a Liberal candidate in North-West Lanarkshire. He lost to his Conservative opponent John Baird by over a thousand votes. In July of the following year, again as a Liberal, he stood against the same opponent and won by 332 votes. However he clearly identified as a radical socialist throughout his political career being described as the first socialist elected to parliament. He condemned a whole series of injustices of the society of the day. He was anti-imperialism, anti-racism, against child labour and was for abolishing the House of Lords.. He was also vigorously against the profiteering he saw in property and industry which was to the detriment of the people making the profit, that is, the workforce. Considering his ancestry and family background these were astonishing views to have held but by all accounts not out of character.
His maiden speech in the House of Commons included the following words:
‘ the society in which one man works and enjoys the fruit – the society in which capital and luxury make Heaven for thirty thousand and a Hell for thirty million, that society…. with its want and destitution, its degradation, its prostitution and its glaring social inequalities – the society we call London….’
In 1887 the threat of disorder was such that demonstrations were forbidden. That did not stop a rally in Trafalgar Square against unemployment which ended in a riot. Among the leaders of the rally were RBCG and fellow socialist John Burns. Police and the army were in attendance which resulted in violence with over seventy people seriously injured and over four hundred arrests. RBCG and Burns were both severely beaten, arrested and eventually each sentenced to six weeks in Pentonville jail.
Throughout his time in Parliament (until 1892) he continued to espouse his socialist views clearly and emphatically. On one occasion at the end of his speech he said:
‘To sum up the position briefly. Failure of civilisation to humanise; failure of commercialism to procure a subsistence; failure of religion to console; failure of our parliament to intervene; failure of individual effort to help; failure of our whole social system.’
This led to his expulsion from the House of Commons.
Around 1888 he left the Liberal party and along with Keir Hardy formed the Scottish Labour party, RBCG becoming its first president, Hardy its first secretary general. In 1892 they both stood for election as party candidates, Hardy was successful in West Ham, London however RBCG lost in the Camlachie constituency in Glasgow, thus ending his parliamentary career.
That set back did not change his political views, which even led him to criticise Labour MPs for not presenting a radical challenge to the government. He had always advocated home rule for Scotland becoming president of the Scottish Home Rule Association and in 1928 president of the newly formed National Party of Scotland. Six years later the Scottish National Party was created when the National Party joined with the Scottish Party, RBCG being appointed president of the new organisation.
Being freed of his formal involvement with politics allowed him and his wife to travel more often. He also wrote prolifically about his travels, his politics and his concerns about the disappearance of local cultures and ways of life he had experienced in his travels. He had a large number of friends and acquaintances from all walks of life, including Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, artist John Lavery who painted portraits of him and his wife, Whistler, Epstein and Augustus John. From his early visits to South America his writings refer to gauchos he befriended in particular Exaltacion Medina and Raimundo Barragan. He had also become friendly with the author Joseph Conrad from about 1897 with the writer in a letter to RBCG commenting on his wide experiences and the people he had met by saying:
‘What don’t you know? From the outside of a sail to the inside of a prison!’
In 1900 due to the level of debt, including death duties, he was forced to sell his Gartmore estate to Sir Charles Cayzer, a cause of great disappointment and sorrow to him.
More was to follow with the death of his wife in 1906 in France. Her true name was Carrie or Caroline Horsefall born in 1858 to a Yorkshire surgeon. Why she chose her assumed name is not clear however it seems she was rebelling against her strict upbringing and took herself to Paris which may have been the reason. Another, perhaps the more plausible, is that she assumed her chosen name on her marriage to RBCG to be more acceptable to his social circle. Presumably close family members knew of the deception but that is not clear.
She was an accomplished writer contributing to The Yellow Book and writing, amongst others a life of St Teresa of Avila, had artistic and musical skills, and wrote poetry.
She died on the 8th September at Hendaye in France, her name registered as Gabriela Chideock (where did that come from?) Cunninghame Grahame. As she had wished she was interred in the Inchmahome Priory on the Lake of Menteith.
RBCG’s writings covered over thirty books which included 200 short stories and sketches. He also wrote ‘Doughty Deeds’ a history of his great great grandfather Robert Cunninghame Graham. As may be expected during his life-time he had a very good reputation as a writer, his writings often being full of exotic individuals and adventure in faraway places. That has not fared very well since his death. A number of his stories also indicated the sadness he felt about the changes that occurred in some of the places he had visited such as the Pampas. His political reputation was also well established, particularly in the labour and Scottish Independence movements although with his privileged background it may have seemed strange but welcome to some and perhaps traitorous, to his class, to others. Again as for his writings his political activity is not well remembered today.
He had one other passion and that was horses. He owned several throughout his life but his favourite was Pampa, an Argentinian stallion he saw pulling a tram-car in Glasgow. He bought it from the tram company and rode it at every opportunity until it died in 1911.
When he went to buy horses for the British Army in Uruguay during the Great War he had two opposing emotions. He was happy to be riding again in the Pampas, but was saddened to think of their likely fate in Flanders. He wrote a book about his experience in Uruguay entitled ‘Bopicua’. The book ends with the words, to the horses, ‘eat well there is no grass like that of La Pileta , to where you go across the sea. The grass in Europe all must smell of blood’.
His made one last trip to Argentina in 1936, dying there in the Plaza Hotel in Buenos Aries on the 20 March. He lay in state in the Casa del Teatro his strong affinity with the country being recognised by the attendance of the Argentinian President at his funeral. His body was subsequently returned home and buried beside his wife in the Inchmahome Priory. The last of the family estates, Ardoch, was inherited by his brother Charles’ son Angus.
 Testamentary Records. England. 19 January 1886. CUNNINGHAME GRAHAM, Malise Archibald. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 17 July 1936. Cunninghame Grahame, Robert Bontine. Scottish National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. p. G63. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
In the 16th century many of Glasgow’s benefactors were clergymen. I’ve already written about Zachary Boyd and John Howieson who were both decided Presbyterians and against an Episcopalian Church of Scotland.
On this occasion my subject is James Law who became the seventh post reformation Archbishop of Glasgow in 1615. James VI of Scotland who succeeded to the throne in 1567 was in favour of an episcopalian church and had restored bishoprics after becoming king, the first Glasgow post reformation archbishop being John Porterfield, appointed in 1571. When the crowns of England and Scotland united on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603 James specifically aimed to have the same church structure and doctrine in Scotland as existed in England.
This objective was shared by his son Charles I who succeeded in 1625, leading to the National Covenant of 1638 which opposed the king’s intentions. Bishops were finally abolished in the Church of Scotland when William of Orange and Mary Stuart ascended the throne in 1689.
James Law was born circa 1560 to James* Law of Spittal in Fife and Agnes Strang of Balcaskie, also in Fife. He matriculated at St Andrews University in 1578  and graduated M.A. in 1581. His first ministerial appointment (given by the king) was in 1585 to Kirkliston in the presbytery of Linlithgow. He was not a stern Calvinist and on one occasion was rebuked by the Lothian synod for playing football on a Sunday with his friend John Spottiswoode, who was to precede him as Archbishop of Glasgow. As time went on his leanings were not to the Presbyterianism of John Calvin or Knox but to the Episcopalian system espoused by the king. Probably the most fervent supporter of the king’s objectives re the Scottish church was Law’s friend Spottiswoode.
In general terms the majority of the leaders of the church at this time were king’s men and consequently Law’s career developed and grew accordingly. In 1589 he became a commissioner for the maintenance of religion in Linlithgow and became a royal chaplain in 1601. He remained in Linlithgow for a number of years and in 1608 was Moderator of the Assembly held there.
In 1605 he was appointed titular bishop of Orkney following the establishment of the episcopal Church of Scotland eventually being consecrated in 1611 by his friend John Spottiswoode, then the Archbishop of Glasgow. Other appointments in Orkney included being a commissioner of the peace and also for the justiciary. He also became chamberlain and sheriff principal during his relatively short tenure there.
His time in Orkney seems to have been very successful in that he established Scots law replacing Norse, and established the bishopric financially, legally and in accordance with King James’ objectives.,,
He was also instrumental in bringing to an end the despotic and oppressive rule of Orkney and Shetland by Patrick Stewart, the second Earl of Orkney. His father Robert was the bastard son of James V, and initially he and his half cousin James (VI) had been close. However that was not to last as his behaviour, claims and his mistreatment of ordinary islanders, and in some cases those who owned land and property, brought him to the attention the authorities in Edinburgh. He faced a piracy charge in 1594 and between 1600 and 1608 was engaged in seizing property from the rightful owners, using islanders as slave labour and generally behaving in a manner that was construed as challenging the king’s authority.
In 1609 Bishop Law laid charges against him and he was summoned to Edinburgh to face trial. In the event he was released on swearing he would not escape. That was not to last as he was reimprisoned in 1610 in Dumbarton Castle. Whilst there in 1614 his son Robert, at his father’s instruction, landed in Orkney, took possession of the Earl’s Palace, this action being seen as an uprising against the king. In the event it did not last more than a few months with Robert being captured and hanged in Edinburgh in January 1615. A number of prominent buildings were badly damaged or destroyed by artillery during the fighting, with St Magnus Cathedral being spared the same fate by the direct intervention of Bishop Law. Despite blaming his son for the ‘uprising’, a month later on the 6th February Patrick Stewart was beheaded, his execution being delayed to allow him to learn the Lord’s Prayer.
In July 1615 James Law was promoted to Archbishop of Glasgow, following his friend John Spottiswoode who became Archbishop of St Andrews. He also became a member of the king’s Privy Council shortly afterwards. He remained as Archbishop for the rest of his life undertaking a variety of commissions which supported the doctrinal and structural church King James wanted. In 1616, he was chosen to compile a book on canon law.
Since the Reformation Glasgow Cathedral had suffered structural damage and vandalism and there were views expressed that it should be demolished as it was in poor condition. There were also strong feelings that it was representative of the kind of doctrine and practises which existed in the pre-reformation church.
However it survived, James Law playing a part in that by donating 1,000 merks for the restoration of the library house and to complete the cathedral’s lead roof. That sum equalled £56 sterling which in today’s terms is somewhere between £12,000 and £3.2m, with the latter number being the more likely one.
He married three times, his first wife in 1587 being Marion Dundas with whom he had a daughter Margaret. She married Patrick Turner, minister of Dalkeith in 1612. He then married Grizel Bosworth and had a further six children, four boys and two girls, son Thomas being a minister at Inchinnan, and son George becoming a burgess of Glasgow in 1631. Grizel died in 1618 and two years later James married widow Marion Ross (nee Boyle).
James died in 1632 and in his will bequeathed 500 merks to St Nicholas’s hospital and 250 merks each to the Merchants and Trades Houses hospitals.
On his death his wife had erected in the chancel of the cathedral a magnificent monument, described as the finest in the ‘High Kirk’ commemorating his life and his gifts to Glasgow..
 Scott, Hew. (1928). Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae. The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. Vol. VII. New Edition. Synods of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness, Glenelg, Orkney and Shetland, The Church in England, Ireland and Overseas. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p.322. https://archive.org/details/fastiecclesiaes07scot/page/322
 Scott, Hew. (1928). Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae. The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. Vol. VII. New Edition. Synods of Ross, Sutherland and Caithness, Glenelg, Orkney and Shetland, The Church in England, Ireland and Overseas. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p.322. https://archive.org/details/fastiecclesiaes07scot/page/322
A few years ago I came across an individual named Robert Dreghorn (3rd of that name) who was very wealthy, facially scarred by smallpox and who liked to follow young women. His nickname was ‘Dragon Bob’, no doubt as a consequence of his scarring, and he lived from 1748 to 1804.
Recently I was clearing out some old research paperwork and came across notes I wrote about him which have prompted me to do a bit more digging into his family, where his wealth came from, what he did, if anything, professionally, and so on. Did he or his family benefit Glasgow in anyway being the question I’m trying to answer.
Dragon Bob’s grandfather was Robert Dreghorn(1st), a wright in Glasgow, born around 1679. In 1703 he married Margaret Dickie, daughter of deceased fellow wright Robert Dickie and his wife Isobel Anderson.,
It appears that grandfather Robert had wide business interests in addition to his trade as a wright and sometime plumber, the Dreghorn family being involved in timber and lead as merchants. He also invested in the coalfields at Govan and Camlachie, having bought Easter Camlachie in 1731 from Walter Corbet of Tollcross. He was a member of the Trades House in Glasgow and was Wrights Deacon in 1724, 1725, 1728, 1731, 1735 and 1740. He was also a Burgess and Guild Brother of the city.
He and Margaret had six children all born in Glasgow:
Allan, b. August 1704. He was initially a wright like his father however he had wide ranging commercial interests which included trading in timber and lead and was a major partner in the Smithfield Iron Company. This particular company which was founded in 1732 had strong trading links with the American colonies, where the partners had extensive possessions. In Tom Devine’s book ‘The Tobacco Lords’ Allan is listed as a tobacco merchant with which company is not clear although it seems probable that he was in partnership with Peter Murdoch in Murdoch, Dreghorn & Co. In 1741 however he and brother Robert (2nd) with three others, one of whom was Matthew Bogle, his wife’s half-brother, decided to use the ship ‘Boyd’ for a single journey to Virginia after which the vessel would be sold. This was despite the fact that ‘they had a settled factor in the colonies to purchase tobacco in advance … and drawing bills on the partners in Glasgow.In 1750 a partnership was formed consisting of Allan, William McDowall, Robert and Colin Dunlop, Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier and Alexander Houston to establish what became known as the Ship Bank (Dunlop, Houston & Co.). It was located in the Bridgegate close to the then Merchants House. A man of many talents he is also known as an architect. Between 1737 and 1756 he is credited with designing and perhaps building the Town Hall, which later became the Tontine Hotel, and St Andrew’s Church in St Andrew’s Square, just off the Saltmarket, the design of the church being based on St. Martin in the Fields in Trafalgar Square, London. By 1752 he had also designed and built his house, Dreghorn Mansion, in what was then called Great Clyde Street. Around that time using the joiners from his own woodyard he also had built the first private carriage to be seen in Glasgow in which he used to travel about town. Prior to the building of Dreghorn Mansion, in 1749, he had purchased the estate of Ruchill from the Peadie family. Clearly all his commercial activity and partnerships, not least of which was tobacco trading, gave Allan Dreghorn significant financial benefit which allowed him to become an important businessman in Glasgow at a time when the tobacco lords were in their pomp. In 1755, along with others he granted power of attorney to William Cuningham and John Stewart who were merchants on Rappahannock River in Virginia.  He also undertook several civic duties. He became a Burgess and Guild brother of Glasgow in 1737 through his father  and in 1741 was a Glasgow Bailie. A unique civic duty occurred in 1745 when he, and five others were commissioned by Glasgow to deal with Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite army. The commissioners were charged with the following task: ‘Whereas the City of Glasgow is in danger of being attacked by a force which they are in no Condition to resist and the inhabitants and their Trade may be exposed to many inconveniences. These are therefor Beseeching you Andrew Aiton Andrew Buchanan Lawrence Dinwoodie and Richard Oswald merchants in Glasgow Allan Dreghorn wright and James Smith weaver in Glasgow. In case any such force shall approach the city and require to be Lodged therein That you meet with the Leaders of the said force and make the best terms you possibly can for saving the City and its Trade and Inhabitants.’ Hay, the Prince’s quartermaster levied the city at £15,000, in the event the commissioners were able to reduce that to £5,000 cash plus £500 in goods.Allan married Elizabeth (Betty/Bessie) Bogle, daughter of Robert Bogle and Jean Carlyle in 1737, The Bogles were a well-established merchant family involved in a variety of businesses including the tobacco trade. There were two main branches of the family, Daldowie and Shettleston, Robert being a member of the latter. Allan and Betty had no children which resulted in his nephew Dragon Bob, son of his brother Robert (2nd), inheriting his estate  when he died in 1764 at Ruchill. His wife was provided for, and he also bequeathed £21 sterling to the Merchants house of Glasgow. Elizabeth died at Ruchill in 1767.
Robert, (2nd) b. April 1706. He was a wright, who like his brother was involved in a number of business activities, the main one seemingly being the Virginia tobacco trade. As mentioned above he was involved with brother Allan in the ‘Boyd’ venture, is described as a tobacco merchant by Tom Devine and was a partner in James Brown & Co, tobacco merchants. It also seems probable that, like his brother, he was involved with Murdoch, Dreghorn & Co. He was a ship owner, owning two in 1735, the ‘Margaret’ and the ‘Graham’. In 1737 he became a Burgess and Guild Brother of Glasgow. Like many of his contemporaries, and his brother, his wealth enabled him to buy landed property which he duly did in 1752 with the purchase of the Blochairn estate from the Spreull family for £976 sterling. He married Isabella Bryson around 1747 and they had three children as follows: Robert (Dragon Bob), born in 1748, Elizabeth, born 1751 and Margaret, born 1755. There seems to have been a fourth child, a daughter born in c.1858 called Marion. I can find no evidence of her birth however there is a death notice in the Caledonian Mercury of 3rd June 1815 announcing her death at Ruchill, describing her as the daughter of the deceased Robert Dreghorn of Blochairn. Robert died in 1760, Dragon Bob being his heir and executor along with his mother Isabella and others. He bequeathed £10 sterling to the poor of the Merchants House.  One interesting detail of his inventory was that he was owed a fifth share of just over £690 for goods sent to a William Cathcart of Jamaica.
Margaret, b. July 1708. Married shipmaster James Scot from Greenock in 1735. They had nine children.
Robert (1st) died in June 1742  leaving to the poor of the Merchants House in Glasgow £100 Scots (£8 6s 8d Sterling). Margaret died in 1756.
Dragon Bob matriculated at Glasgow University in 1761 at the age of thirteen. By that time he was already the putative owner of his father’s estate, including Blochairn. Four years later in 1764 he inherited his uncle Allan’s estate including Ruchill, thereby becoming an extremely rich individual. At one point his annual income was said to be £8,000, personal and heritable estate being valued at £70,000, in today’s terms worth £14.5m and £127m respectively.
His physical appearance had suffered badly from smallpox. His nose was flattened and to one side and he had lost an eye. Some of the pock marks on his cheeks were ‘as large as threepenny pieces’.
I have not been able to ascertain whether he played a part in any of the partnerships and activities of his father and uncle, as most accounts of his life deal with his looks and eccentric behaviour. The tobacco trade with Virginia was still going reasonably well as the family company Dreghorn, Murdoch & Co. imported 574 hogsheads of tobacco in 1773 and 502 hogsheads in 1774. The company his father had been a partner of, James Brown & Co., had over the two years imported just under 1,100 hogsheads, although I’m not sure if he had any continuing interest in that company. To put that into some perspective however it’s worth pointing out that Glassford, Spiers and Cunningham collectively imported over 14,000 hogsheads in each of these years.,
Bob appears to have maintained at least an interest in the tobacco trade as he would join with other tobacco merchants at the Tontine Hotel, whether that was an active interest is not clear. Generally he seems to have been a man of few friends. He did not participate in social events such as concert and dances, perhaps as a result of his disfigurement, nor does he come across as someone with an intellectual bent. In his early years he rode his horse in town and was a member of the Glasgow Hunt. That gradually reduced to riding to Ruchill occasionally from Dreghorn mansion, with a manservant accompanying him.
Walking in the Trongate and Argyll Street became almost his sole preoccupation. He would be dressed in a fairly long coat, have a black ribbon bow in his hair pigtail and carry a cane. However his walks and his associated peculiar behavioural traits caused him some notoriety particularly when it came to following young women. Today, probably, it would be described as stalking.
When he came across a young female servant during his walks who caught his eye, he would immediately start to follow her. That continued until either the young woman moved indoors or more often than not another young woman would get his attention and he would immediately start to follow her; this process being carried out for several hours and during every daily walk, sometimes he would speak to the young woman being followed.
There seems to have been nothing sinister in this, with his walks being well known and the source of some amusement for other passers-by. To some extent it appears that the young women being followed felt complimented by his attention. He also had the habit of leaving a conversation with acquaintances abruptly and whistling.
Despite his fortune he was rather a miserly individual, keeping tight control of his finances. In 1773 Glasgow’s wealthier citizens were assessed to allow money to be provided for the poor of the city. He initially paid what was due by him but after twenty years of doing so in 1793 he objected to the amount asked of him, £19, and refused to pay. The subsequent litigation took four years to conclude with Bob losing and being ordered to pay the required amounts and the expenses of the legal action.
There is also the story told of how on one occasion when hosting a dinner the wine ran out and he was encouraged to get some more from his wine cellar. He was unable to rise from his chair and one of his guests offered to go in his stead to get more wine, it seems he had previously been Bob’s butler, as he knew the way. Bob gave that short shrift by saying that he did not trust him and that he knew the road to the cellar ‘o’er weel’. Bob’s solution was to have his ex-butler carry him to the cell to collect more wine and return to the table again carrying him and the wine, which is what happened.
Dragon Bob comes across as a not particularly happy individual, with very few friends, mean with his money and with very odd behavioural habits. Unsurprisingly he never married and died in 1804, apparently by committing suicide although the registration document simply says, ‘sudden death’.
His fortune went initially to his oldest sister Elizabeth who was unmarried. When she died in 1824 it went to the four daughters of her sister Margaret, who I believe predeceased her, and James Dennistoun of Colgrain whom she married in 1785. Niece Isabella Bryson, who married Gabriel Hamilton Dundas fell heir to Ruchill, her sister Mary Lyon, who married Sir William Baillie, to Blochairn.
Did the Dreghorn family benefit Glasgow? Like other people in the tobacco trade, they did, but at a cost in human misery in the American plantations. Allan Dreghorn is not exempt from that however he did design St Andrew’s in the Square, a beautiful building inside and out and described as the most important and impressive 18th century church in Scotland. It has been category ‘A’ listed by Historic Environment Scotland since 1966.
I suppose it could also be said that Dragon Bob, benefited Glasgow in that he amused its citizens by his eccentric behaviour.
 Ewing, Archibald Orr. (1866). View of the Merchants House of Glasgow. Glasgow: Bell and Bain. p. 583.
To avoid confusion donor Cecilia Douglas will always be in bold.
In 1862 Mrs Cecilia Douglas (nee Douglas) bequeathed oil paintings and sculptures to the then Glasgow Corporation. The paintings, thirteen in total consisting of an old master, copies of old masters and other originals, initially were on display in the Mclellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street. Currently they are located in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre or on display in Kelvingrove Art Galleries.
She and her husband Gilbert represented two different branches of the Douglas family. Hers, according to one source, perhaps wishful thinking, descended from the Douglas Earls of Angus via the Douglas families of Cruixton and Stobbs, Gilbert’s from the Douglases of Mulderg in Ross-Shire. Her mother was a Buchanan, descending from the Buchanans of Leny, Gilbert’s mother was a Robertson, daughter of a farmer from Balcony (Balconie). Interestingly there is a line of descent chart which shows the Robertson family descending from Edward I of England and his wife, the daughter of the king of France. All pre-eminent families, particularly the Douglases and the Buchanans who were heavily involved in the West Indies in the 18th century, owning plantations and dealing in sugar and tobacco.
Gilbert’s paternal ancestry can be traced back to Hector Douglas, the first of Mulderg, who is mentioned in the 1644 Valuation Roll of the Sheriffdom of Inverness and Ross. He seems to have been the proprietor of the estate from around 1630.He died before 1653, his son Hector succeeding him being “retoured as heir of his father” (legally recognised). Son Hector had married Bessie Gray around 1630 producing at least three sons, however his time as owner of the estate was short lived as he died around 1657, to be succeeded by son Robert. Robert, his brother another Hector who succeeded him, both had no issue the estate passing on to a third brother, first name unfortunately not known. This brother was succeeded by his son Hector who was Gilbert’s great grandfather. Around 1718 the Douglases ceased to own Mulderg, Gilbert’s great grandfather’s eldest son (Hector!) being the last.
The second son was Robert  who married Catherine Munro in 1703. She was his second wife and they had three children one of whom was yet another Robert, a farmer in Balcony, who was Gilbert’s father. He married Janet Robertson, daughter of farmer Hugh Robertson also of Balcony, Gilbert being born in 1749. He was baptised in the parish church of Kiltearn in Ross-shire.
From 1378 to 1660 there were twelve Douglas Earls of Angus, the last one being William Douglas, who became the Marquis of Angus in 1633. No clear connection has been established between the Earls and Cecilia’s father John Douglas, a Glasgow merchant, however I believe his first traceable direct ancestor, and Cecilia’s paternal great great grandfather was Robert Douglas, an Edinburgh merchant who married Helen Hunter in 1665. According to the Douglas Archives website they had a son, Robert of Cruixton, who married Rachael McFarlane, who in turn had a son named William, John Douglas’s father. William was a merchant in Leith. He married Katherine Dunlop of Garnkirk and died in 1772.
John Douglas was born in Leith in 1727. He married Cecilia Buchanan in 1766, the daughter of George Buchanan, a maltman, burgess and guild brother of Glasgow. Her paternal ancestry can be traced back to Walter Buchanan of Leny in the 16th century, his grandson Andrew Buchanan of Gartacharn being her great grandfather. She shares this ancestry with Mary Buchanan, the wife of Alexander Speirs, who also was Andrew’s great granddaughter.
Andrew’s son George was a maltman in Glasgow, a member of the Trades House from 1674, where he held a number of positions. At various times he was also a Glasgow Bailie and Deacon Convener of the Trades House. He married twice, his second wife being Mary Maxwell, daughter of Glasgow merchant Gabriel Maxwell. They had ten children, seven sons and three daughters.
The eldest was also George, born in 1686 who followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a maltman in Glasgow. He was also Glasgow Burgh Treasurer at one point and became a Bailie in 1732. He married three times, his third wife Cecilia Forbes, whom he married in 1736, being the mother of Cecilia Buchanan who was born in 1740.
George’s younger brothers Andrew, Neil and Archibald, who was Alexander Speirs’ father in law, were heavily involved in the American tobacco trade becoming Glasgow’s largest tobacco importer by 1730.
The Family of John Douglas and Cecilia Buchanan
John and Cecilia had eleven children, all born in Glasgow, as follows:
William, b. October 1766. Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1778. Died before 1828, the Trust deed of Cecilia Douglas, written in 1828 refers to him as her late brother as she bequeathed to his daughter Rosina £250. As the name Rosina in the Scotlandspeople records for that time is rare there is some reasonably strong evidence, but not fully conclusive, that William was a ship’s captain, had married Rosina Service, daughter Rosina being born in 1811. She died in 1912, the widow of Peter Drew whom she married in 1854, her father being described as a master mariner.
John, b. May 1768. What happened to his twin George has not been established except that he matriculated at Glasgow University in 1780 and died young. John also matriculated at Glasgow and afterwards was significantly involved with the sugar trade in Demerara, (British Guiana, now Guyana) probably on his own initially but subsequently with his brothers through the family firm of J. T. and A. Douglas & Co. Probably/possibly his involvement in the trade was through Gilbert Douglas who owned plantations in the West Indies. He actually lived in Demerara around 1800 owning, with his brothers, at least three sugar plantations directly, plus others indirectly as mortgagees. Whilst there he fathered three children, two boys and a girl, with a free creole woman. The second son James, born in 1803, was to have an astonishing career considering his parents never married and his mother was of mixed European and black descent. He came to Scotland with his brother Alexander, possibly with their father, for his early schooling and in 1819 they both went to Canada to work in the fur trade for the North West Company. By 1821 James was working for the Hudson Bay Company. He married Amelia Connelly, who was half native Canadian, half white in 1827 and continued to rise through the Hudson Bay Company, eventually being transferred to British Columbia to run its operation there with a wide range of responsibilities. By 1851 he had been appointed governor of Vancouver Island. When it became officially a crown colony in 1859 he became the first governor of British Columbia, holding the two posts until his retirement in 1864 at which point he became a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He died in 1877.
John returned to Glasgow before 1809, probably around 1806/07 as the first time the family firm of J. T. snd A. Douglas & Co., located at 51 Virginia Street, appeared in the Glasgow Post Office Directory was in the 1807 edition. He married Jessie Hamilton, the daughter of a Greenock merchant in 1809 and they had at least three children, one boy named for his father and two girls. I have the impression that he returned to Demerara at some point but there is no clear proof of that. He eventually moved to Edinburgh living at Moray Place where he died in 1840. His estate in Scotland was valued at just under £71,500, the majority of it in bank, railway and canal stock. Today that would be worth between £7m and £290m. His estate in England was valued at ‘under £20,000’, being finally settled in 1862, his brother Thomas being by that time the sole surviving executor, John’s wife Jessie having died in 1861 at Moray Place.
R0bert, b. 20 July 1770. Not mentioned in her 1828 Trust deed presumably having died before then.
Cecilia, b. 28 February 1772, more of whom and husband Gilbert to follow.
Neil, b. 24 February 1774. Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1786 then became a partner in Douglas and Brown, cotton spinners. Joined the Rifle Brigade in 1801 as a second lieutenant and had an extremely successful military career. By 1811 he had attained the rank of major and had fought with Sir John Moore in Portugal and Sweden. He was no desk soldier being wounded twice between 1810 (Busaco) and 1815 (Quatre Bas). In June of that year he had commanded his battalion at Waterloo. He continued to progress through the ranks becoming by the end of his career Lieutenant General of the 78th regiment in 1851. He was an aide de camp of William IV from 1825 to 1837 and from 1842 to 1847 was governor of Edinburgh Castle. He was awarded many honours being made a Commander of the Order of Maria Theresa in 1815 by the Austrian emperor, in 1831 he was knighted becoming a Knight-Companion of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order, finally becoming a Knight Commander of the Bath. I’ve not been able to clearly identify when he was given this last honour but when he was appointed to Edinburgh Castle in 1842 he was described as a KCB. In 1816 he married Barbara Robertson, the daughter of George Robertson, a banker of Greenock. They had at least one son, Sir John Douglas, who like his father became a soldier. He fought in the Crimean War and was involved in dealing with the Indian Mutiny of 1857. He reached the rank of general in 1880. Sir Neil Douglas died in Brussels in 1853.
Thomas Dunlop, b. 1 February 1776. He began his business life as an apprentice hat maker with Thomas Buchanan (a relative of his mother?) in Glasgow and by 1801 had his own hat making business located between Brown Street and Carrick Street. Following the partnership with his brothers John and Archibald in 1807 he continued as a hat maker until 1816, the last year he appears in the Glasgow directory as such. From 1823 until 1857/58 he was described as an insurance broker. From 1807 until 1855 he continued to be a partner of J. T. and A. Douglas & Co., that being the last year the company appeared in the Glasgow directory . He married Rose Hunter of Greenock in May 1808, there being, apparently, no children of the marriage. He was a member of the Board of Green Cloth, a Glasgow whist and supper club from at least 1809 and in 1845 bought the Dunlop estate in Ayrshire, which was once owned by the Dunlop family his grandfather William Douglas had married into. He died in 1869 at Dunlop House, his wife Rosina pre- deceasing him. His inventory of assets totalled over £64,000 in Scotland and £176,000 in England, combined total being £241,600. Today this would equate to around £500m in terms of economic worth. In his trust settlement of 1867 he made several bequests to the families of his brothers, other family members, servants, farm hands and charitable institutions, however the most significant beneficiary was Thomas Dunlop Douglas Cunninghame Graham, who I believe was a nephew or great nephew, but not proven.
Archibald, b. 10 October 1778. Reliable information about Archibald has been difficult to get, however like his brothers he matriculated at Glasgow University in 1789. He clearly was a partner in the family business but rarely appeared in the Glasgow directory. There is an Archibald Douglas, stocking manufacturer, in the 1801 directory, becoming Archibald Douglas & Co, hosiers by 1807, thereafter no further entries. Similarly his personal life only becomes clear through his Trust settlement of 1860. In the Regality Club of Glasgow publications he is described as a merchant in 1811 and a member of Glasgow Golf Club in 1815. In addition to being a partner in J. T. and A. Douglas and Co. he was also a partner, with brother Neil, in Douglas, Brown and Co., cotton spinners. He purchased the estate of Glenfinnart in Argyllshire in 1845 where lived for the rest of his life. He died there in 1860 and it is in his Trust document that you get primary evidence that he married and had children. He married firstly Christina Riddell in 1810, then Harriet May in 1828, and finally Anna McNeill in 1838. There appears to be children only of the last marriage, namely John, a colonel and Assistant Adjutant General of Cavalry who was his executor and main beneficiary, and daughters Anna Glassford and Eleanor Louisa, who pre deceased him. His estate was valued at over £28,000.
James, b. 8 August 1779. Very little known about this brother except he seems to have lived and died in Demerara. The only evidence I have for that is that there is a reference to his death in the July-December 1853 issue of the Official Gazette for British Guiana concerning a share of the Good Hope plantation there being transferred to his brother Thomas Dunlop Douglas. In his sister Cecilia’s Trust deed of 1828 he is described as ‘of Demerara’ however it’s possible he may have returned to Glasgow on occasion as in his brother John’s will in 1840 he is described as a merchant in Glasgow. In his only entry in the Glasgow directory in 1850/51 he is described as a partner in the family company his house address given as 234 St Vincent Street. 
Colin, 25 November 1781. Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1793 and graduated M.D. in 1802. He is very likely to have died unmarried before 1828 as sister Cecilia does not mention him or any family of his in her Trust settlement of 1828
As Indicated previously John Douglas senior was a Glasgow merchant. Around 1775 he purchased from John Miller a plot of land in what became Miller Street. In the same year he and two other city merchants were charged by the Sheriff Depute of the County of Lanark, with ensuring that the Clyde from Dumbuck Ford to the Broomielaw had been deepened in accordance with the contract between Glasgow and a Mr. Goldburne, which was confirmed as seven feet at an ordinary neep tide!
What kind of merchant he was is not entirely clear as entries in the Glasgow directories don’t always specify. His first entry in the1783 John Tait directory simply says he was a merchant in Miller Street. However in the Jones directories in 1789 and 1790/91 the only John Douglas entry in each states he was a wine and rum merchant, located in Miller Street. Confusingly another source states he was the father of Sir Neil Douglas, which is correct, but then goes on to describe him as an insurance broker.
I have not been able to clearly identify when John Douglas died but it must have been after 1803, the date of his last entry in the Glasgow directory and before 1810, the date of his wife Cecilia’s death where she was described as the relict (widow) of merchant John Douglas.
J. T. and A. Douglas and Co.
The company lasted for just under fifty years, the final entry in the Glasgow directory being in 1854. Its main area of operation had been the sugar plantations it or the brothers owned in Demerara and Berbice in British Guiana. They had an involvement with at least six plantations Union, Better Hope, Enfield, Good Hope, Belmont and Windsor Forest either as owners or mortgagees which collectively had 1155 slaves. Additionally there were five more slaves presumably household for either John or James. When slavery was abolished they claimed compensation, eventually receiving as owners £41517 and a further £48874 from other owners which paid off the outstanding mortgage debt. The total of these sums, £90391, equate today to £392m in terms of economic power. That sum was in addition to the profits they made over the lifetime of the company, the majority of that time investing in human misery to their clear advantage. That misery erupted into a slave rebellion in Demerara in 1823 which was savagely put down by the military with hundreds of slaves killed, those who weren’t being sentenced to 1,000 lashes and hard labour.
Cecilia and Gilbert Douglas
Cecilia and Gilbert married in Glasgow on the 26th January 1794. There were no children of the marriage. As a farmer’s son Gilbert presumably spent his early working life on his father’s farm in Balcony, however there is not a great deal known about his subsequent business activities. At the time of his marriage he was described as a merchant in Glasgow but the usual sources to confirm that such as the city directories, the Merchants House and the Scottish Record Society records of burgesses etc, contain no reference to him. Nor is there any record of matriculating/graduating from the University. What is known is that at the time of his death he owned a cotton plantation called Fairfield in Demerara and a sugar plantation called Mount Pleasant, on the island of St. Vincent, where he had lived for a period. How and when he acquired them has not been discovered.
In 1800 he bought the Douglas Park estate from Major-General John Hamilton of Orbiston, following which he engaged architect Robert Burn to build a mansion on the site of the old Orbiston House based on plans apparently prepared in 1795. He also bought the estate of Boggs from Hamilton a year later. He and Cecilia lived there for the rest of their lives.
He died in 1807 at Douglas Park, his deed of settlement in St. Vincent naming Cecilia and her brothers as trustees of his estate. She specifically was bequeathed half shares in the two plantations as well as life rent of the Douglas Park and Boggs estates.
As it turned out the plantations had debts which Cecilia paid off by continuing to sell the Demerara produce for a time and eventually her half share in the plantation itself.
The remainder of Cecilia’s life does not reflect that of a typical Victorian lady. She travelled to Italy and lived there for an extended period, she purchased the estate of Orbiston, adjacent to her own and renamed the whole estate and house Orbiston, and she had a number of significant industrial and financial investments which included the Forth and Clyde Canal (£3536), the Bank of England (£7977) and various railway stocks (over £9700). She also retained her half share in the ownership of the St. Vincent plantation which had 231 slaves. When slavery was abolished in 1834 she claimed compensation and in 1836 was duly awarded £3014. She collected art in many different formats, paintings, sculptures, furniture and so on, the collection in due course being donated to Glasgow.
In December 1860 she came into the ownership of the Tontine building in Glasgow. The Tontine scheme in 1781 financed the reconstruction of the old Tontine Hotel creating what became known as the Tontine Building. Individual shares were purchased at £50 per share, there being a total of one hundred and seven shares sold. Two shares were bought in young Cecilia’s name one of which was by her grandfather William Douglas, the other by Glasgow merchant Alexander McCaul. The objective of the scheme, apart from having a grand civic building, was that the last living share holder would have ownership of it. That turned out to be Cecilia,although it was a close run thing as she was the oldest of four survivors in February of that year.
She died at home in 1862 in her ninety first year, essentially from old age. She left a personal estate valued at just over £40,365. In accordance with her Trust deed her bequests included family and a number of charities and organisations, and individual members of her domestic staff. In accordance with her husband’s Trust deed the Orbiston estate was left to his grandnephew Robert Douglas.
She and her husband are commemorated by a plaque on the wall of St. Bride’s Collegiate Church in Bothwell inscribed as follows:
To the memory of Gilbert Douglas of Douglas Park Born 28th May 1749 Died 10th March 1807 and also of Cecilia Douglas of Orbiston his wife Born 28th Feby 1772 Died 25th July 1862
Before her death she funded a window in Glasgow Cathedral dedicated to her husband and her parents and siblings, which was completed in October 1862, part of it being shown below.
In 2013 articles about the paintings bequest to Glasgow appeared in the Herald newspaper, one entitled “The Paintings Sullied by Slavery”. It goes into detail about the Cecilia Douglas fortune being founded on slavery and asks the inevitable question about whether paintings with their financial provenance should ever go on show. A complex question with no easy answer. The following are two telling and moving extracts referring to the conditions on the Douglas plantation in St. Vincent.
“Slavery conditions on the Mount Pleasant estate on St. Vincent were brutal.Large gangs of slaves would spend much of the day digging holes for the sugar cane and constantly weeding the plantation, with women not spared such physical labour.”
“The slaves die off because they are being worked in very difficult conditions very hard with inadequate nutrition.” 
It’s clear that the fortunes of the family of Cecilia Douglas, both paternal and maternal, came about, either directly or indirectly through the exploitation of African slaves, the extracts above indicating what little regard they had for the enslaved people creating their fortunes.
Glasgow generally has come late to the idea that slavery underpinned the city’s commerce from around the Act of Union to the mid 1800’s. This was a major ‘self-denial’ that persisted well into the twentieth century, the following, which was printed in the Herald in 1883, being typical of the mindset that existed until fairly recently..
“The American War of Independence finished the latter (the tobacco lords), but the trading instinct of Glasgow was not to be denied, and prompted no doubt by its favourable situation for the purpose, the merchants of Glasgow embarked largely in the West India (West Indies) trade. The other great sugar ports were London, Bristol and Liverpool, and it is to Glasgow’s lasting honour that while Bristol and Liverpool were up to the elbows in the slave trade Glasgow kept out of it. The reproach can never be levelled at our city, as it was at Liverpool, that there was not a stone in her streets that were not cemented with the blood of a slave.”
 Devine, T. M. An Eighteenth Century Business Elite: Glasgow West India Merchants etc. In : The Scottish Historical Review Vol 57, No. 168. Part 1 April 1978. pp. 40-67. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. https://www.ucl.ac.uk/lbs/person/view/27301
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 22 January 1861. DOUGLAS, Archibald. Trust Deed of Settlement and Inventory. Dunoon Sheriff Court. SC51/32/11. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
This is another post that in part differs, in two respects, from what I write about normally. Firstly it’s about a company which brought benefit to Glasgow although it clearly includes the people involved in its creation. Secondly, strictly speaking, for a significant part of its early life Fairfield’s was not in Glasgow, being located in the burgh of Govan until 1912, when the burgh and others were annexed by Act of Parliament to Glasgow.
Steam powered ship building began on the Clyde when Henry Bell had the ‘Comet’ built by John Wood & Co. in Port Glasgow. The engines were supplied by John Robertson, the boiler and smoke-stack by David Napier, both of Glasgow. It was launched in 1812 and despite initial difficulties operated successfully until 1820. However Bell was not the first to prove that steam powered ships were the future.
Bell had been keenly interested in steam propulsion since the early 1800s having presented to the Admiralty Lords in 1803 a plan which proposed steam powered warships. In the event it was rejected as having no value, the sole supporter of his scheme being Lord Nelson. He shared his ideas with Robert Fulton, an American, who built the ‘Clermont’ in 1807 which on its maiden run on the Hudson River and subsequently, proved the viability of steam powered ships.
The genesis of Fairfield’s began with Charles Randolph in 1834. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1822 at the age of thirteen, subsequently serving an engineering apprenticeship with Robert Napier at Camlachie. He was trained by David Elder, the father of John Elder, the key individual in the process that ended with the creation of Fairfield’s. On completing his apprenticeship he worked in Manchester for a time with Ormerod’s and then Fairbairn and Lillie.
He returned to Glasgow in 1834 and set up, Randolph and Co. (Millwrights), with his cousin Richard Cunliffe. The company’s engineering reputation grew as did their business and around 1838 John Elliot, previously a manager with Fairbairn and Lillie, became a partner in the business, the company then trading as Randolph, Elliot and Co.
The company continued to trade as such until 1852 when John Elder became a partner, the business renaming as Randolph, Elder and Co., John Elliot having died in 1842.
John Elder was born in 1824, the second son of David Elder and his wife Grace Gilroy. At the time of John’s birth father David was the manager of Robert Napier’s engineering works at Camlachie having held the post since 1821. He had been born near Kinross and came from a long line of wrights who had lived and worked in Fife and was to a very large extent self-educated, through reading and the observation of existing engineering machinery.
In 1822 David designed and built Napier’s first marine engine which was fitted to the steamer ‘Leven’. The tools used in the manufacture of the engine were primitive, however not only was the engine successful in operation the manufacturing experience led him to design tooling for milling, turning and boring that was much more accurate, speeding up the production process and producing a better quality of component which in turn helped improve the efficiency of the engines being built. David Elder worked for Napier’s until his death in 1866, his marine engineering skills and knowledge producing marine engines that, for example, led to the success of the Cunard line’s early transatlantic operations.
John Elder attended the High School in Glasgow, followed by classes at the university. He then served a five year apprenticeship with Robert Napier, his training directed by his father. His first occupation as a journeyman was with Hick’s of Bolton-le-Moors in Lancashire following which he was a draughtsman with Great Grimsby Docks. In 1848 he returned to Napier’s as their drawing office manager and chief draughtsman during which period he assisted his father with the engines built for Cunard referenced above. He remained with Napier’s until he formed his partnership with Charles Randolph.
Elder’s skill in marine engineering was very quickly put to use with the partnership moving into that field, firstly with engines and then with shipbuilding. Initially around 1853 Elder was concerned with improving engine efficiency. He endeavoured to reduce friction between moving parts which would increase power generation and reduce fuel consumption. Along with the utilization of James Watt’s idea of steam jacketing to reduce heat loss from cylinders he developed what came to be known as the compound steam engine, compound in the sense that the engine consisted of high pressure and low pressure cylinders. In modern parlance the use of these engines was a game changer for sea travel. Originally steam engines consumed around four to five pounds of coal per horsepower per hour. Elder’s compound engines brought coal consumption down to around two and a half pounds per horsepower per hour, an almost fifty percent reduction in fuel costs thereby significantly improving the economics of this form of travel and allowing longer sea journeys to be undertaken. The first vessel built by Randolph and Elder fitted with the compound engine was the ‘Brandon’ in 1854.
In ‘Memoir of John Elder’ by Professor Rankine of Glasgow University there is a list of fourteen patents taken out by Elder and Randolph individually or jointly, which detail the actual changes in engine concept and design. It’s perhaps worth remembering at this point that both Elder and Randolph had served apprenticeships with Robert Napier and had undergone their training directed by David Elder.
In 1857 John Elder married Isabella Ure, the daughter of Alexander Ure, writer, and Mary Ross. There were no children of the marriage. This partnership between John and Isabella subsequently benefited the people of Govan not only in terms of employment but in their enlightened outlook as to how their workforce and families should be treated and supported, more of which later.
The company continued to focus on engine development and manufacture until 1858 when in addition to their engine business they started to build iron ships in Govan. Their yard, known as the ‘ Old Yard’, had been previously owned by shipbuilders Macarthur and Alexander who had started building ships there in 1840. Two years later in 1842 Robert Napier commenced building iron ships in the yard staying there until 1858 when they moved to new premises.
The success of the partnership in both shipbuilding and engineering inevitably led them to seek larger and perhaps more appropriate premises for all their activity. Thus in 1863 sixty acres of the Fairfield estate were purchased, an added attraction to the site being the right to form a dock on the riverside. Sometime in 1864 the partnership began operating from their new premises.
Elder at various times had read various engineering papers to the British Association at Leeds, Aberdeen and Oxford. In 1868 he presented a paper to the United Services Institute entitled ‘Circular Ships of War’ which proposed steam powered warships with circular hulls.
The co-partnership between Randolph and Elder lasted until 1868 when Randolph and his original partner, his cousin Cunliffe, retired. By that time, the company had c.4000 employees and between 1852 and 1868 had built one hundred and eleven marine engines, one hundred and six of which were for their own shipbuilding activity. Additionally they built a number of sailing ships and three large floating docks for Java, Saigon and Callao (Peru). Customers for ships and/or engines included the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War who had five blockade runners built, the British Admiralty, Cunard and the Pacific Steam Navigation Company, all of whose ships were built by the company. One particular achievement was the trial in 1865 for the British Admiralty using HMS Constance which demonstrated the significant superiority of the company’s latest, fully jacketed compound engine over the then standard design of marine engines. However it seems the Admiralty, at least initially, considered the compound engine to be too ‘novel’ for them to use in their ships. Shades of Bell’s experience in 1803.
When he retired Randolph had still retained an interest in Clyde shipping particularly challenging the plans of the Navigation Trust for further development of the Clyde which he felt were insufficient. As a trustee he played an important part in the construction of the Queen’s Dock at Stobcross.
He died in Glasgow in 1878 leaving £60,000 to Glasgow University to complete the Bute Hall. Its ante chamber and the south staircase were named in his honour.
Subsequent to Randolph’s retiral the company was simply referred to as ‘John Elder’. He continued to expand the business building a new engine works, a boiler shop, a floating dock and repair slipway. During 1869 Elder built fourteen steamships and three sailing ships, total tonnage amounting to 25,235, thus maintaining the business‘s reputation as the most successful shipbuilding and engineering business on the Clyde with a world-wide reputation. To give some perspective to these numbers the next best yard on the Clyde produced ships totalling 13,425 tons. In April 1869 his peers recognized his pre-eminence in the industry by electing him president of the Institute of Engineers and Shipbuilders of Glasgow.
However at some time during the year Elder became seriously ill which initially caused him to go to Harrogate for the ‘benefit of its waters’. This provided no solution to the problem. He then travelled to London to get the best possible medical assistance. Unfortunately, this was to no avail as he died on the 17th September from liver disease. His body came back to Scotland and he was interred in the Glasgow Necropolis. Isabella was his executrix, his estate being valued at £188,000, and became the sole proprietor of the company.
She ran the company for around nine months before handing over the running of the business to a new partnership consisting of her brother John Francis Ure, John Jamieson and William Pearce.
From 1852 her brother John had worked for the Clyde Navigation Trust and was the thinking behind the creation of Mavis Bank Quay, the widening and deepening of sections of the river to accommodate the larger ships he foresaw, had designed a dredger for the work, and had planned the Finnieston Crane. His success with the Clyde improvements led to him being recruited in 1859 by the Tyne Conservancy Trust who were keen for the river Tyne to be improved in a similar manner. Again he was very successful. He removed the bars at the river mouth, removed shoals, widened and deepened the river as required and designed the Newcastle Swing Bridge which opened in 1876. He became senior partner in Isabella’s company in 1870, its name subsequently becoming John Elder and Co. in honour of her husband.
John Jamieson became the engineering partner having previously been general manager of the company, with William Pearce becoming the shipbuilding partner.
Pearce was born in Kent in 1833 and trained as a shipwright/naval architect at the Royal Navy Chatham Dockyard. Such was his ability in 1861 he supervised the building of HMS Achilles, the first iron clad warship to be built in a naval dockyard. He married in January of the same year Dinah Elizabeth Socoter (or Sowter). They had one son; William George Pearce born in Chatham in July 1861.
He moved to Glasgow in 1863 becoming Lloyd’s surveyor of ships built on the Clyde. Within the year he became general manager of Robert Napier’s, the role John Elder had prior to joining with Charles Randolph. He proved to be the most significant partner of the three taking the business forward both in terms of ship building and the associated engineering, ultimately leading to the creation of the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.
The new partnership had substantial markets to provide for and to grow. They did this by continuing to apply engineering innovation to their activity, and, in a sense, powerful advertising by claiming and proving their ships were ahead of the competition.
In 1874 A.C. Kirk of the company improved Elder’s compound engine further by developing the triple expansion engine which became the power source of choice for world shipping thereafter. Pearce also introduced a sense of competition between his ships and those of his competitors. He promoted the idea of the Blue Riband for transatlantic crossings, claiming his ships would complete the crossings quicker and would break all records, which they did. This led to a number of new orders from the likes of Cunard and Nord Deutscher Lloyd. Similarly the ships that were built for the cross channel route between Dover and Calais were guaranteed to cover the trip in one hour. The company also was concerned to grow its navy business, which they did as orders grew generally to counter the growth in the German navy fleet.
The partnership lasted until 1878 at which point Ure and Jamieson retired leaving Pearce in sole charge of the business. At that point John Elder & Co. occupied over seventy acres and employed around 5,000 workers. It was one of the most prominent ship builders in the world, building for the world’s largest shipping companies. Pearce was also a shareholder in some of these companies and was chairman of the Scottish Oriental Steamship Company and the Guion Steamship Company.
He had political ambitions and in April 1880 had stood as Conservative candidate for one of the three Glasgow seats. Although he polled over eleven thousand votes he came fourth in the list and was not elected. In May 1885 the Glasgow Herald reported that he was invited by the Lanarkshire Conservative Association to stand as their candidate for Govan in the parliamentary elections to be held later in the year. His response given on the 2nd July was to be pleased at the invitation but felt he could not accept it as Govan was essentially working class and he would have to have some evidence that his candidature would be acceptable to the working men of Govan before he did. It seems he was in demand to be a conservative candidate as on the 23rd July it was reported that the West Ham Association was going to ask him to be theirs. In the event the Herald reported on the 12th September that he formally accepted Govan’s invitation to stand in the election. Whether he got any of the assurances he referred to earlier is not clear.
The election took place on the 4th December, Pearce beating his Liberal opponent Bennet Burleigh by one hundred and fifty five votes. In July 1886 there was another election with Pearce winning Govan again this time with an increased majority of three hundred and sixty two.
The business had continued to be known as ‘John Elder & Co. however in 1886 Pearce converted it into a private limited liability company to be known as the ‘Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company’, the objective being to help ensure Navy work being placed in the yard, notwithstanding his new parliamentary position. Thus Fairfield’s was formally established.
Pearce’s time with Elder’s/Fairfield’s was very successful in terms of output, customer base, growth and innovation. The business’s reputation for excellence and the quality of its output was renowned throughout the shipping industry, with some shippers buying entire fleets from the company, one example being Nord Deutscher Lloyd’s Atlantic fleet.
During his eighteen years with the business over 450,000 tons of ships were built. He promoted the idea of a steamship capable of crossing the Atlantic in less than five days, a model of which was shown at the Glasgow Exhibition in 1888. Other notable achievements were the building of a 5,000 ton Atlantic liner in ninety eight working days, bringing the sea journeys to Australia and New Zealand to less than forty days with efficient, well designed ships, and for the military, building a dozen troop carriers, including a hospital ship, for use on the Nile at the end of the Sudan War, all built in less than thirty days. A number of modern warships were also built for the Royal Navy the last in Pearce’s time being HMS Marathon, launched in 1888.
An unusual commission was building the yacht Livadia for the Emperor of Russia to the design of a Russian Navy admiral which specified it to be capable of a specific speed. Despite it being described as an ungainly craft, which caused many shipbuilders to believe the specification could not be achieved, this objective was met.
Pearce also took part in the broader community activity being a Govan Burgh police commissioner; a captain in the 25th Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteer Corp from 1874 to 1878, becoming an honorary colonel of the Second Volunteer Battalion Highland Light Infantry; Provincial Grand Master of Glasgow; Justice of the Peace, and Deputy Lieutenant of the county of Lanark. He provided the funds for the building of a lodge for Glasgow University in University Avenue, the material coming from the gateway of the Old College in High Street which was being demolished to make way for a railway goods yard. The lodge, named the Pearce Lodge, built between 1885 and 1888, includes a stone panel bearing the date 1658 and another with the initials CR2, following the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.
He also served in a number of Royal Commissions dealing with shipping.
One rather unsavoury event occurred on the 12th August 1885. Two days after Elder Park was opened on 29th June Mrs Elder had a visitor by the name of Francis. He was an inspector of customs in Glasgow and wished to discuss a private matter with her. She was unable to do so at that time and arranged to see him the next day. She did not know him but was aware of a Miss Francis whom William Pearce had mentioned to her about two years before. When Francis appeared he was clearly upset and told a story of improper relations between Pearce and his daughter. He also asked Mrs Elder to see his wife to discuss the issue. She declined indicating that it was not something she could get involved with. Mrs Francis however came anyway and asked her to intercede in the matter and to persuade her husband not to assault Pearce which apparently he had intended to do at the opening of the park. Consequentially Mrs Elder did see Mr Francis again who reluctantly agreed not pursue Pearce.
That however was not the end of the matter. On the 11th August a letter arrived from Mrs Francis asking if she could see Mrs Elder in her London hotel. In the event Mrs Elder was unwell, had not travelled to London and therefore sent her card to Mrs Francis.
On the following day Pearce was assaulted by Francis who called him a scoundrel and seducer. The assault was reported in the Pall Mall Gazette initially without naming the individuals involved merely describing them as a customs official and a royal commissioner, Pearce had just been appointed to a commission on trade. The next day’s Gazette contained a full account of the assault with interviews of Pearce and Francis included.
The rest of the story is rather convoluted but oddly enough, unjustly, Mrs Elder got the blame for it going public, her card sent to Mrs Francis being described as several letters in the press. This led to Pearce’s wife cutting the ties she had with Mrs Elder and her charity activity.
Pearce continued to plead his innocence, however he eventually told Mrs Elder that for a number of years previous he had being paying Mrs and Miss Francis sums of money amounting to £1200. He also told her that he was willing to pay Miss Francis £200 per year and £5000 on her marrying and asked her if she would negotiate such a settlement and pay the money in her name as he did not want his name connected with the payment. When asked why, if he was innocent, he wanted to do this, he repeated his innocence and essentially said he wanted to help the young woman involved. Mrs Elder declined. Miss Francis, who had sent Pearce a number of love letters since around 1883, eventually married, the whole issue quietly subsiding, or if you prefer, hushed up.
In July of 1887, in Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee honours list, he was made a baronet, becoming Sir William Pearce of Cardell, in Renfrewshire.
His time as a baronet unfortunately was not long. He died in the December of the following year in London of heart disease, general opinion being that his heart problems had been the result of the stresses and strains of his business and public lives. He was interred Gillingham, Kent and a memorial by architects Honeyman and Keppie erected in Craigton Cemetery, Govan. He left over £1million, his son William George succeeding to the title and becoming chairman of Fairfield’s. He married Caroline Eva Coote in 1905, but died without issue two years later at the age of forty six, the baronetcy ending with him.
In the early 1890’s Lady Pearce gifted to the people of Govan a piece of land at the gushet between Burleigh Street and Govan Road the plan being to erect a statue there of Pearce funded by public subscription. In due course the statue, standing three metres tall and sculpted by Edward Onslow Ford, was unveiled on the 6th October 1894 by Lord Kelvin in the presence of Lady Pearce, her son Sir William George Pearce and various other dignitaries. The statute was and probably still is, referred to as the ‘black man’ and I used to wonder why it was called that. I think I was in my teens before I realised it was dirt on the statue from years of domestic coal fires and industrial pollution.
Around 1892 the idea of a memorial building was being considered but was not proceeded with. However in 1901 began the build of what became the Pearce Institute in Govan Road, opposite his statue. This was a gift to the working people of Govan from Lady Pearce to commemorate her husband. The architect was Robert Rowand Anderson who in the early 1880s had designed Govan Old Parish Church and in 1892 the first proposed building.
It was opened in 1906 offering a number of facilities for the men, woman and children of Govan including clubs, reading rooms, a library, gymnasium and much more. It included a theatre called the McLeod Hall named after the minister of the Old Parish Church which had a stage and an organ which became much used for dances and other social gatherings.
On entering the Institute is the following greeting:
“ This is a House of Friendship. This is a House of Service. For Families. For Lonely Folk. For the people of Govan. For the Strangers of the World. Welcome.”
In summary Fairfield’s owed its existence to four individuals David Elder, son John, Charles Randolph and William Pearce. They had a lot in common in terms of their engineering and shipbuilding skills. Additionally they all had the foresight to see the opportunities for building steam powered ships on the Clyde. However there is one other common factor that should be mentioned and that is at one time or another they all worked for Robert Napier’s.
John and Isabell Elder also brought significant social improvement to the burgh, not only through employment but by various other means.
John had very good relations with his workforce and had great concern about their well-being physically, morally and intellectually. One of the first actions he undertook was the establishment of an accident fund to which he contributed monthly, the amount being equal to what his employees raised themselves. The combined annual sum was in the region of £1,000, worth today in simple RPI terms £100,000.
He had plans to build five schools for his worker’s children and also had well advanced plans for the building of houses for his workers. His untimely death prevented any of these ideas being carried out.
Isabella was like minded both in terms of the people of Govan and in particularly the education of women. Her charitable activities are almost too numerous to mention but listed below are some of the major ones.
The creation of the John Elder Chair of Naval Architecture at Glasgow University – 1883
Bursaries for working boys to study marine engineering at the University.
Purchased North Park house and presented it to Queen Margaret College for Women rent free – 1883.
Bought 37 acres of land opposite her husband’s shipyard and created Elder Park. The architect John Honeyman designed it, and it was opened by the Earl of Rosebery, future Foreign Secretary and Prime Minister – 1885.
She funded the establishment of a school and paid its running costs, for domestic economy aimed at young women who were taught to cook and run a household – 1885.
When Queen Margaret College opened a medical school she funded its running expenses – 1890. First female graduates were in 1894. A key condition of the funding was that the standard of teaching would be the same as that for men. When in 1899 she came to the view that the condition was not being met she withheld her financial support until it was.
Funded the build of the Elder Cottage Hospital in memory of her husband. It was intended as a maternity hospital but on opening it became a general hospital instead. The architect was Sir J.J. Burnett. – 1902.
Gifted the Elder Park library to the people of Govan. It was designed by Sir J.J. Burnet and opened by Andrew Carnegie. She gave £10,000 for the build of the library and the purchase of books, and £17,000 for its upkeep. One condition was attached, that being that the library was to be open on Sundays – 1903.
In her will she set up the Ure Elder Fund for Indigent Widows of Govan and Glasgow in memory of her brother and her husband – 1906. The fund continues to exist in a more modern style and is known as the Ure Elder Trust. She also established the David Elder lectures in Astronomy at the Glasgow Technical College, now part of Strathclyde University. The lectures are now given at the Glasgow Science Centre in partnership with the university.
Isabella was awarded an honorary LL.D by Glasgow University in 1901 as a recognition of all her activity and generosity associated with the education of women. She died in 1905 at her home in Claremont Terrace, her death being certified by Dr. Marion Gilchrist, Glasgow’s first woman graduate. She is interred with her husband in the Necropolis.
Elder Park has statues of Isabella and John both funded by public subscription. His was erected in 1888 and was sculpted by Sir J.E. Boehm, Isabella’s was erected in 1906 and was sculpted by Archibald Macfarlane Shannon.
The gifts of the park, library and hospitals were certainly in keeping with both Elder’s social conscience. It’s perhaps difficult to convey today what they meant to the people of Govan, however hopefully my own experiences will give some idea of how beneficial these gifts were.
As a child I went to the park, played in the sandy hole, and on the swings and roundabout. I paddled in the pond, the ‘parkie’ giving me a telling off, and on another occasion I fell in, thus making me a true Govanite. I also watched the model yacht men sail their yachts in the pond. I played hide and seek in the shrubs and bushes with my friends. When older I played tennis in the courts there and putting on the putting green. I was a junior member of the library and in due course became a senior member. Sometimes I did my school homework in the reference library. I also remember visiting my mum when she was a patient in the Elder Cottage Hospital.
Brotchie, T.C.F. The History of Govan. Govan, 1905.
McAlpine, Joan The Lady of Claremont. Glendaruel, 1997.
Rankine, William J.M. A Memoir of John Elder. Glasgow, 1883.
Dalglish, Chris and Driscoll, Stephen T. Historic Govan. Glasgow, 2009.
Murphy, William S. Captains of Industry. Glasgow, 1901.
This is another departure from normally writing about individuals who have benefited Glasgow in some way although some of our benefactors used dubious and unacceptable means to do so, the tobacco lords being a clear example of that through their exploitation of slavery in the American Colonies, and in some cases, the ownership of enslaved Africans.
Organisations also brought benefit to the city, one such being the Glasgow Art Club which was founded in 1867, the founding members being William Dennistoun, Duncan McLaurin, Robert Munro, William Young, James Leslie, Peter S. Buchanan, Robert McEwan, David Murray, Robert Tennant, Hugh Breckenridge and James Cowan although it is generally accepted that the key individual in the club’s formation was William Dennistoun.
My objective in this post is give some biographical notes on William Dennistoun and to relate some of the club’s history.
Dennistoun is a surname, the origins of which, can be traced back to the 11th century. More recent Dennistouns have included those of Colgrain, Dennistoun and Golfhill, Alexander Dennistoun of that ilk being the founder of the suburb of Glasgow named after him.
I initially believed that William Dennistoun belonged to the Colgrain branch, however that proved to be an uncertain, probably false trail and I have not been able subsequently to establish which branch of the family he belonged to.
However this much is known. His paternal grandfather, also William, married Agnes Baird in 1780. She was the daughter of James Baird of Cadder and Margaret Henderson of Cumbernauld. William and Agnes had seven children, Agnes, Mary, Janet, James, John, Christian, and the last born, Ebenezer, in 1798 in the Barony parish, was the father of William.
His maternal grandfather was William Burns born in 1781, the son of John Burns, a weaver from Kilsyth, and Isabel Muir, the daughter of agricultural labourer George Muir of Barony parish. William Burns married Mary Adam in 1808 and had eight children, four girls and four boys. The eldest girl and their second child Elizabeth, born in 1811, was William’s mother.
Ebenezer Dennistoun married twice, his first wife, in 1828, being Jean McNicol, Ebenezer’s occupation given as clerk. They had two children, a boy named William, born in 1829, and a girl named Jean Galbraith. Sometime after daughter Jean’s birth in 1831, his wife died, when has not been established. It also seems that daughter Jean died as an infant although again no date of death has been found. As for son William he died in 1837, cause of death being given as “water in head”.
Ebenezer married Elizabeth Burns in 1834, his occupation being given as wright. They had eight children, James, Elizabeth, William, the subject of this report who was born in 1839, Agnes Baird, an unnamed female child who was still born in 1842, Jean Burns, Mary and Janet. Three of the girls, Agnes, Mary and Janet all died between two and five years of age, Mary dying on the same day as her mother Elizabeth in June 1851, pulmonary tuberculosis and tabes mesenterica (a form of tuberculosis affecting lymph nodes) being the respective causes of death.
The family in 1841 consisting of Ebenezer, Elizabeth and children James, Elizabeth, William and two month old Agnes, were living in North Portland Street in Glasgow, Ebenezer still working as a wright. In 1851 he was an employer of three men and described as a wood merchant, his place of business being 29 Jackson Street. What caused the transition from employee to employer? Perhaps the answer lies with the previous business that was located at 29 Jackson Street, John Bannerman and Sons.
John Bannerman started out as a joiner in the High Street around 1803, brought his sons into the business circa 1821, subsequently identifying themselves as trunk and packing case makers located at 53 Candleriggs. In 1838 the business moved to 29 Jackson Street, describing itself as wrights and timber merchants, continuing however to carry out trunk making in the Candleriggs. It seems possible therefore that Ebenezer was employed by them as a wright at least from that date, or perhaps just before. What gives that credence is that Bannerman’s last entry in the Glasgow Directory was in 1848-49, the following year the directory entry at that address was for Ebenezer as a timber merchant.
This change, presumably improving the family’s financial situation, did not result in the family moving from North Portland Street. There were three additional girls in the family by 1851, Jean, Mary and Janet, however as related above daughter Agnes had died in infancy in 1843 age two. Sister Janet died in 1854 at the age of five. Ebenezer continued as a timber merchant until 1856, the last year he appeared in the Glasgow Directory. In the 1861 census his occupation was given as ‘shipping clerk’.
Ebenezer died in 1863 at his then home 49 Duke Street, cause of death given as phthisis (pulmonary tuberculosis), which is what his wife Elizabeth had died from. The family clearly had a disposition for this particular illness, one which in due course would also cause William serious difficulty and eventually shorten his life.
It has not been established where William attended school however he began to attend classes at the Mechanics Institute given by A.D. Robertson, subsequently going to the Glasgow School of Art in Ingram Street, which had started life in 1845 as the Glasgow Government School of Design. He and his friends had the benefit of being tutored by Robert Greenlees, an artist of exceptional skill in both watercolour and oil. Greenlees became head of the school in 1863 and was a founder member of the Royal Society of Watercolourists.
The origins of the Art Club lie in Dennistoun’s desire to join with his like-minded friends to discuss, compare and share artistic skills and knowledge. The first manifestation of this was the forming of the George Street Literary and Artists Association in 1853 with James Cowan who was just over a year older, then shortly afterwards, including Cowan’s cousin Robert Cowan and William Watson. The association lasted until 1857, its membership never exceeding the four original members. Shortly afterwards Dennistoun had to quit Glasgow due to health issues which plagued him for the rest of his life, moving to Old Kilpatrick.
Around 1858/1859, he became apprenticed to architect James Salmon, in the 1861 census being described as an architectural draughtsman. Looking at his later church paintings his architectural training is clearly evident by his clear and precise representation of the interiors of church buildings.
In due course some of Denniston’s circle of friends began to meet at his home in Old Kilpatrick to discuss and share their artistic experiences and to sketch, in particular James Cowan and William Young. These gatherings grew, with some being held in Mrs Black’s coffee house at 35 Candleriggs in Glasgow. These meetings were the catalyst for the eventual formation of the Art Club.
James Cowan’s son, also James and known as ‘Peter Prowler’ of the Glasgow Evening Citizen, wrote in 1936 about the Art Club and its creation. In his article he related the story of the genesis of the club, identifying the founders, his father being one but refraining from mentioning that fact. It also included an image of Dennistoun’s residence in Stark’s Land in Old Kilpatrick, and indicating the room in which the seeds of the club germinated.
Although a frequent visitor to Old Kilpatrick James Cowan managed to miss the two meetings the first of which discussed the setting up of the club, the second during which it was agreed to established it. Apparently they coincided with his courting nights with his lady friend Miss Catherine Boyd, whom he subsequently married. Those who were present however considered that Cowan, and David Murray, who had also missed the meetings, were present and deemed them founder members. At the last of these meetings Dennistoun became the first president of the club, William Young being chosen as the secretary and treasurer.
The first formal monthly meeting took place on the 30th November 1867, held in the Waverley Temperance Hotel at 185 Buchanan Street. The initial cost of membership was two shillings and sixpence which defrayed the costs of tea and cake and the expenses involved in setting up the club. For some time after monthly costs per member amounted to four and a half pence with the room costs being two shillings per meeting.
Initially the members of the club would contribute drawings to a portfolio which would be circulated and critiqued at the monthly meetings, apparently with some vigour and no holds barred. Their first entry into the Glasgow Post Office Directory stated that the club’s objective was ‘the study of art, which is promoted by the circulation monthly among its members of a book of original sketches, and by criticism thereon, and by conversations and readings of essays on subjects connected with art.’ As membership grew that activity became impractical and was discontinued after seven years, at which time in 1873 the club held its first annual exhibition of members work in McClure’s gallery in Gordon Street. In 1876 the directory entry now stated that the club’s objective was ‘the study and advancement of art in Glasgow and the West of Scotland’. This was to be achieved through life and sketching classes and an annual exhibition of works by its members.
The club’s second exhibition in 1874 was held in John Fisher’s gallery in Renfield Street and according to an article in the Glasgow Herald of the 1st December the one hundred and thirty one paintings on display generally were an improvement on the previous year, the writer stating that ‘there is, on the whole, abundant evidence of the fine feeling and skilful handling of the true artist’. However, in a rather odd article in the Herald a few weeks before, (17th October) the writer, whilst reviewing an art exhibition held by the Liverpool Art Club, bemoaned the fact that there was no similar club in Glasgow to hold such exhibitions!
In the 1875 exhibition Dennistoun’s painting ‘The Choir, Antwerp Cathedral’ was described as being ‘remarkable for delicate colouring and the skilful combination of the graceful lines and curves of the interior’.Again in 1876, the exhibition this time being held in Annan’s gallery in Sauchiehall Street, Dennistoun’s watercolour of ‘Duomo, Genoa’ (Genoa Cathedral) was described as excellent. The sale of paintings at this exhibition amounted to £1,900, equivalent to an income of £1.5m today.
What of Dennistoun’s personal life during this time. I’m not entirely sure when his sister Elizabeth joined him in Old Kilpatrick, probably after their father’s death in 1863, but certainly he, and most likely Elizabeth, was there in 1865, occupying part of a house owned by cabinet maker Alexander Stark. His aspirations of being an architect were clearly set aside because of his health problems, possibly around 1861/62. In the 1871 census he and his sister were still living there at 17 Mount Pleasant Place, his occupation given as a landscape artist.
Despite moving away from Glasgow’s industrial pollution he continued to suffer ill health which was causing concern and necessitated a move to a more forgiving climate. In 1872 he made a will naming Elizabeth as executor  and late in 1874 as they were about to leave Scotland for Italy, the Art Club members raised a testimonial of £100 for him. By 1875 he and Elizabeth were living in Capri at the Villa Frederico.
Between 1867 and 1876 the club meetings had been held in a variety of premises, the second and third of which were the Waverley Hotel and the Windsor Hotel, both located in Sauchiehall Street. In 1877 they then held their meetings in the Royal George Hotel in George Square. This peripatetic existence was not deemed satisfactory by the membership and in 1878/79 they were able to lease premises from the Scottish Heritable Securities Company at 62 Bothwell Circus, which became their permanent club house for the next seven years, after which they moved to 151 Bath Street in 1886.
What of William, and Elizabeth in Capri? It’s clear he continued to paint, and travel particularly within Italy, painting church buildings both interior and exterior, as demonstrated by watercolours from Rome, Sienna, Genoa and Venice. After some time in Capri he and Elizabeth moved to the Dorsoduro quarter of Venice where they lived at Casa Borghi, 1393 Zattere, (which appropriately translates as rafts in Italian) the promenade which runs along the north side of the Giudecca Canal.
Dennistoun was in good artistic company as that area of Venice in the 19th century attracted a number of artists. John Ruskin was there on several occasions, the first in 1835, the last ‘working’ visit being in1876 when he spent his time revising and updating his three volume history of the architecture of Venice, ‘The Stones of Venice’ which had been published between 1851 and 1853. John Singer Sargent the portrait painter, as he was then, was in Venice in 1881 where he met James Whistler who had been there since late 1879 working on his commission from the Fine Art Society of London to produce etchings of Venice.
Like Ruskin, Sargent visited Venice on several occasions. In circa 1882 he produced an oil painting of Venetian glass workers, in 1904 a watercolour of San Maria Salute, a so called plague church located in Zattere, and in 1907 he painted another watercolour of ships on the Giudecca Canal.
Whilst the Dennistouns were in Venice the Art Club continued to grow despite which, balancing it finances became more and more difficult. Various ideas had been and were proposed to remedy this, the most significant one and perhaps the most controversial, was the proposal to admit lay members. It had first been mooted in 1881 when it got short shrift from the members. As time went on however and the financial situation became more precarious the membership was at last persuaded to admit non artists to their number circa 1885/86. It was not unanimous however with a sizable minority firmly against the idea, the general committee vote being seventeen in favour with nine against. One key founder member who was against lay membership was Dennistoun’s long standing friend James Cowan. He had been its third president in 1870 and was again elected as such in 1878 and at various other times been treasurer or secretary. He generally acted as club manager throughout his period of membership and latterly, when lay membership was agreed, he became honorary treasurer.
Initially it was intended that no more than fifty lay members would be admitted. That did not last long with the number rising to one hundred and then one hundred and fifty. Clearly a very successful change for the club which along with the production of a Souvenir Book of Sketches brought significant financial stability.
Regarding the Sketch Book, it was published in 1881 and contained forty eight sketches which included contributions from six of the founding members, those missing being Dennistoun, James Leslie, Robert Tennant and Hugh Breckinridge.
An interesting aside perhaps is that the club could have had its first lady artist member as early as 1869 when Jemima Blackburn sent in a letter applying for membership. She had signed the letter ‘JB’ and the absence of any further information (gender?) led to the matter being deferred, although it was noted that the letter was ‘in a feminine hand’. She was the wife of Hugh Blackburn, professor of mathematics at Glasgow University and the daughter of James Wedderburn, one time Solicitor General of Scotland, who had died six months before Jemima was born. She was a noted wild-life artist, particularly of birds and had friendships with John Ruskin, Landseer and Beatrix Potter. She had exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1848, had published her book of bird illustrations in 1868, a copy of which was presented to the Zoological Society of London. In other words a very talented artist who was recognised as such by her renowned male contemporaries. The club’s lack of response was to have disappointing consequences.
Two years after receiving her letter the club secretary replied asking her to give three examples of her work if she still wished to join the club. In the event she felt unable to do so at that time as she was not a frequent visitor to town and could not live up to membership obligations. The club’s lack of response was clearly to blame for this situation. Was this because it did not have a view of the broader artistic community and could not see beyond its own boundaries? Was there no member, all artists, who had ever heard of JB? Whatever the reason, it shows the club in a rather parochial light, however it was also in keeping with the male centric view of life that pervaded all organisations of the day, always assuming that they understood the applicant was a woman. A near miss, may very well have been the general view of the membership. One hundred years later in 1983 females were allowed to become members.
In 1886 another book of sketches by members, now numbering sixty four, entitled ‘The Glasgow Art Club Book,1885’, was produced, containing sixty two photo gravure images of the sketches taken by T & R Annan. Of the club’s founding members six of the seven who contributed to the 1881 volume did so again the non-contributor being Robert McEwan. The club’s stature continued to grow and in 1888 an album of watercolours by club members was presented by the Lord Provost of Glasgow Sir James King to the Prince and Princess of Wales when they opened the International Exhibition in the city on the 8th May of that year.
The years since the Dennistouns had moved to Italy had seen the club transform from what was essentially a rather inward looking sketching and art discussion group to one which had broadened its objectives, changed its demographic to include non-artists, gave annual exhibitions, the first two of which were held with Dennistoun still living in Old Kilpatrick. Generally it became more inclusive, apart from female membership, and looked beyond themselves to support and promote art in the wider community.
During this period of change for the club the Dennistouns continued to live in Venice with William producing paintings of Venetian scenes, probably of mainly ecclesiastical subjects, in which his training in architectural drawing would be well demonstrated.
Unfortunately, that was not to last. His health issues returned with a vengeance and after two months of illness William died on the 24th October 1884, ten years after he left Scotland. The Venetian Register of Daily Deaths recorded his death as follows; “Deceased twenty fourth October 1884, at twelve o’clock, Dorsoduro in the parish of San Trovaso, William Dennistoun – born Glasgow, age 45 years, of married parents, Protestant, professional artist, well to do, a bachelor, cause of death pulmonary tuberculosis, length of illness two months.”
William was buried on Isola San Michele, Venice’s cemetery island in the section reserved for Protestants and Evangelicals, Recinto Evangelico, which lies adjacent to those for Greek and Military burials. He is in good company in that Ezra Pound (poet), Stravinsky (composer), Brodsky (poet), Diaghilev (Ballet Russes) all, in a sense, lie beside him. There is one other more recent individual also buried there with no connection to the arts in any way. Some people might argue otherwise however. Football has often been described as ‘the beautiful game’, if so then Helenio Herrera the very successful Argentine manager of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona and latterly Inter Milan is in appropriate company, being buried there in 1977.
William Dennistoun’s headstone, rather broken and bruised was still in place in 2013, being sketched then by artist club member Richard Norman after cleaning arranged by fellow member Donald Macaskill. An inventory of his estate was undertaken on behalf of his sister Elizabeth and presented to Archibald Robertson J.P. in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on the 29th December 1884 by Thomas Young of the Bank of Scotland. It was valued at just over £835, in today’s terms worth somewhere between £88,000 and £1.5m, dependant on what measure is applied. Elizabeth was the executrix and sole beneficiary.
What of his presumably best and longest friends James Cowan and William Young?
James was born in 1838  and married Catherine Boyd in 1872. Unlike some of his co-founders he did not pursue an artistic career but was a drysalter from around 1867 for most of his working life. His place of business was initially at 72 Virginia Street then at 17 Virginia Street in partnership with James Drysdale from 1873 until 1898. He had sketched and painted from a very early age particularly flowers and landscapes, continuing to do so for the rest of his life and exhibiting at the club’s annual displays. A number of his paintings generally found their way to friends. In later life he typically used a palette knife or spatula when painting in oil rather than a brush. He died in 1906, Catherine having pre-deceased him in 1883, age thirty, leaving him with five children, the oldest ten, the youngest three months.
William Young was born in the village of Catrine, Ayrshire in 1845. The family moved to Glasgow in 1857 when his father took up a position with the Royal Bank in Exchange Square. He attended school in the Gallowgate and then John Street. In 1862 he started work as a clerk before joining the Royal Bank in Exchange Square, becoming in due course a teller. He also pursued studies in art learning from Robert Greenlees and A.D. Robertson at the same time as Dennistoun. He became a professional artist around 1878, his particular interest being the painting of Scottish landscapes. In 1880 he became a member of the RSW where he exhibited his work from time to time. He also exhibited at the Royal Academy, the Royal Scottish Academy and the Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts where, in 1894, he organised the Old Glasgow Exhibition. His other interests included Glasgow archaeology, photography and music. He died unmarried in 1916 at his home in Hillhead.
One other founder member worthy of a mention, although in a sense they all are, is David Murray. Some sources have him being born to shoemaker James Murray in January 1849, which I have been unable to verify exactly. In the 1851 census however he is listed, age two, as the son of shoemaker James, the family living in Thistle Street in the Gorbals.
In 1861 the family were living at Park Place in the parish of Govan, his father employing six men. David worked initially for two mercantile companies, at what is not clear, however in the 1871 census he is described as a book-keeper accountant. During this time he also attended the Glasgow School of Art night classes, studying under Robert Greenlees, in due course, in around 1875, becoming a full time artist his particular genre being landscapes. He was elected to the RSW in 1878 and became an Associate of the Royal Scottish Academy in 1881, moving to London the following year where he lived at 1 Langham Chambers in Portland Place for the rest of his life. He became an Associate of the RA in 1891 and a full member in 1905.
In 1916 he became president of the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours, a position he held until the end of his life. The following year he was knighted. In 1933 he exhibited six landscapes in the RA exhibition in May. That was to be his final public act as he died unmarried at Portland Place on the 14th November later that year and was interred at Putney Vale cemetery. His estate was valued at £58,815.
Elizabeth eventually returned to Scotland however at what date is not clear. There is an unmarried Elizabeth Dennistoun living on her own means at 108 North Hanover Street in Glasgow as recorded in the 1901 census, and again in the 1911 census. In both cases her age given indicates she was born c.1836/37 in Glasgow which matches Elizabeth’s birth date of the 11th March 1837, in Glasgow.
It’s circumstantial that this is William’s sister especially as she can’t be found in the Valuation Rolls for 1915 and 1920 at this address, nor can she be found at 17 Battlefield Gardens for those dates which is where she died in 1923.
It seems likely therefore that if the Elizabeth Dennistoun of North Hanover street was William’s sister she was lodging with someone, which appears to have been the case, her Trust Deed indicating that she was staying with a Mrs Marion Stewart at 17 Battlefield Gardens in 1916. Three codicils to the Deed dated 1918, 1922 and January 1923 confirm her continuing to live there until her death. Still circumstantial but perhaps moving from unlikely/maybe to becoming possible/probable.
She died on the 26th May 1923, cause of death recorded as senile debility. Her estate was valued at £2603, the main family beneficiary being her niece Agnes. Others were Mrs Stewart, her nephew Charles and her original executor William Davidson Main, who was left two paintings by her brother William: ‘Pisano’s Pulpit’, watercolour, and ‘Cathedral Interior’, oil, both of Sienna Cathedral.
Over time a number of Dennistoun ‘artefacts’ have been gifted to the club, including letters from Dennistoun to William Young presented to the club by Young, an album of thirty sketches by Dennistoun presented by Mr. Mitchell Smith, a volume of sketches by Dennistoun presented by Mr. Robert Wylie, and Dennistoun’s painting of Pisano’s Pulpit in Siena’s Cathedral presented by Mr. Anthony D. Brogan of the Glasgow Plate Glass Co.
Re the last named painting, was it the one that was bequeathed to Elizabeth’s executor William Davidson Main? If so how did come into Brogan’s possession? Questions which at the moment remain unanswered
There is another intriguing question to be considered with reference to this painting which is that it actually does not look like the pulpit in Sienna Cathedral. Was it simply misnamed at the time of its gift? I’m afraid it’s another question that remains unanswered.
The most obvious difference is that the photographed pulpit looks octagonal by comparison with that painted by Dennistoun. Regardless, it would be appropriate that all these gifts would have pride of place in the club today. Presumably, they have.
From Figure 4 the proprietor of the Waverly Temperance Hotel in Buchanan Street and those in London and Edinburgh is shown as R. Cranston. This was Robert Cranston, a cousin of Kate and Stuart Cranston’s father George. He was born in East Calder in 1815 and married Elizabeth Dalglish in 1838. He became an abstainer from alcohol after he and some friends decided to remain dry for three months, which they successfully did, deciding therafter to become heavily involved in the temperance movement. Interestingly his parents at one time kept the Bay Horse Inn in East Calder.
He and Elizabeth had two sons and two daughters, one son, Robert becoming the Lord Provost of Edinburgh in 1903. Recognising his daughter Mary’s business acumen he gave her the Washington Temperance Hotel in Sauchiehall Street on her marriage to photographer George Mason. He also financed the start of Kate Cranston’s tearoom business in Glasgow.
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 20 January 1934. MURRAY, Sir David. Collection: Scotland, National Probate Record Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. p. 126. http://www.ancestry.co.uk
To avoid confusion donor Alexander will always be in bold.
In 1877 Alexander Dennistoun donated to Glasgow Museums the painting View of Glasgow and Cathedral by the Scottish painter John Adam Houstoun. However, this was not the only ‘gift’ he gave to Glasgow as in 1861 he began to create the suburb of Dennistoun in the east of the city.
Alexander’s father was James Dennistoun who along with his brother Alexander established J & A Dennistoun, cotton merchants. It’s not clear when the company was set up but when their father, yet another Alexander, died in 1789 his will describes them as merchants in Glasgow.
Their father was farmer Alexander Dennistoun of Newmills Farm, Campsie whose wife was Margaret Brown. James was their third child, baptised in 1759,  Alexander, the fourth, baptised in 1764 . Their siblings were Jean, Ann and George, the two girls being the first children of the family.
It is not clear where James or Alexander were educated, what is certain however is that neither matriculated nor graduated from Glasgow University.
There is some evidence to suggest that by 1787 James was a merchant manufacturer in Glasgow. Whilst there are three James Dennistouns listed in that year’s city directory it’s clear that the first two are father and son Dennistouns of Colgrain. By 1799 J & A Dennistoun was listed as manufactures in Brunswick Street, neither brother being separately listed.
J & A Dennistoun continued in business until circa 1876 by which time James and Alexander were both dead. Over its eighty odd years it moved premises on a number of occasions, but it centred mainly on various addresses in Montrose Street until 1839, thereafter in George Square until it ceased trading. More on the business in due course.
James married Mary Finlay, daughter of William Finlay of the Moss, Killearn in 1786. They had eight children, donor Alexander being the eldest boy, born in 1790.
His siblings were:
Elisabeth, born in 1787 in Glasgow. She married Glasgow merchant John Wood in 1807  and had five children between 1808 and 1817. One of her daughters Anna, born in 1812, married William Cross in 1835.  She was the mother of John Walter Cross who married the novelist George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans) in 1879 and subsequently wrote her biography after her death in 1880.
James, born in Barony parish in 1799. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1813,  and married Marjory Gibson Gordon of Milrig. He died in June 1828 of consumption,  five days before his son James was born.
John, born in Glasgow in 1803, matriculated at Glasgow University in 1816. In due course he and his brother Alexander became the key players in the family business. He also had his own company, John Dennistoun & Co., cotton spinners, usually located at the same premises as J & A Dennistoun. He was elected as one of the two MPs for Glasgow in 1837, succeeding James Oswald. He remained an MP until 1847 when he lost his seat at the general election. He married Frances Anne Onslow, the daughter of Sir Henry Onslow at All Saints in Southampton in 1838. They had three children, all surviving into adulthood. At various times they lived in England and in Scotland, essentially as business and parliamentary life required. He died in 1870 at Rhu, Dumbarton. His estate was valued at over £130,000 with property in Scotland, England, Paris, Melbourne and New Orleans.
Mary Finlay died sometime around 1808 in Devon, unfortunately not confirmed by any primary source. James subsequently married widow Maria Ann Bennett in 1813. She had married John Cukit a merchant of Liverpool in 1802,  however he had died in 1809, the marriage apparently being childless.
James and Maria had three daughters all born in Glasgow as follows:
J & A Dennistoun flourished during this period, allowing James to purchase the estate of Goufhill, which later became known as Golfhill. The estate was part of the ecclesiastical lands of Wester Craigs which had come into the ownership of the Merchants House in 1650. Merchant John Anderson bought Golfhill from the House in 1756 his family trustees selling it to James Dennistoun in 1802. In the following year James had built Golfhill House, designed by architect David Hamilton.
How brother Alexander’s life was developing is not known as I’ve not been able to establish anything in that respect. As the business grew it had branches in Australia, France, England and the United States, the US being key to their cotton and manufacturing activities. I rather suspect therefore he moved to their New York premises at some point to manage that side of the business. The only evidence I have to support that contention is that an Alexander Dennistoun died there in 1846, the information given to, or by, a William Wood of Liverpool, where the company had offices. He also had a nephew of that name, the son of his sister Elisabeth and John Wood. Pure conjecture.
James became a member of the Glasgow Merchants House serving on various committees over a number of years and in 1806-07 became a bailie. He was a Burgess and Guild Brother (B and GB) of Glasgow although it’s not clear from what date. However, sons Alexander and John became the same in 1824 and 1845 respectively, by right of their father.
In 1809 he and sixteen others founded the Glasgow Banking Company, the last partnership bank to be formed in Glasgow. James was the lead and managing partner, having invested £50,000 in the venture amounting to one quarter of the capital raised. The bank’s original premises were located at 74 Ingram Street, moving to 12 Ingram Street in 1825.
In the meantime, the business was expanding from a cotton based one essentially trading with the US to one which was an export /import business serving worldwide markets. Subsidiary companies were set up in in various places including Dennistoun, Cross and Company, London (his niece Anna’s husband William Cross), Dennistoun, Wood and Company, New York (his brother-in-law John Wood and/or his nephew William Wood previously mentioned), A & J Dennistoun and Company, New Orleans and Dennistoun Brothers and Company, Melbourne.
His sons were all involved in the business, Alexander from c.1815 followed by James and then John, James’ involvement being cut short by his untimely death in 1828.
James retired from the family firm and the bank in 1829, continuing to live at Golfhill House until his death in October 1835. He left over £204,000 with various legacies to the children of his two marriages, his second wife Maria predeceasing him in February 1835. Currently that sum would equate to over £20 million in terms of purchasing power. By other measures it could worth just under £1bn. When his father Alexander died in 1789 his estate was valued at £29.
Like his brothers, James’ eldest son Alexander had matriculated at Glasgow University in 1803, attending William Richardson’s Humanitys class. In the following six years he studied Greek, Latin, Logic and Ethics. It’s not clear when he became active in the family business however by 1820 he was in New Orleans running the company’s cotton trade operation. Following his return to Britain he managed the company’s Liverpool branch for a time. It was during this period that he met Eleanor Jane Thomson, the daughter of John Thomson of Nassau, New Providence, then living in Liverpool. They married in St Anne’s in Liverpool in 1822, continuing to live there until his return to Glasgow around 1827 when he was first listed in the Post Office directory.
They had eight children, five sons and three daughters as follows:
James, born in Cathcart in 1823. Died circa 1838 from scarlet fever.
Robert, born in Cathcart in 1826. He joined the 11th Dragoons at the age of 14 and in 1847 he purchased his promotion from Cornet to Lieutenant  and transferred to the 6th Dragoons.  He seems to have left the army prior to 1851 as in that year’s census he is boarding in a hotel in Little Meolse, Chester being described as ‘late Lieutenant, army’. What he did subsequently has not been established however in 1867 he is recorded in the London Gazette as one of the partners in the multiple family partnerships as they were renewed, his father Alexander signing approval on his behalf. In a similar Gazette statement in 1870 he is not listed amongst the partners. It seems he never married as in his will, he died at Eastbourne in 1877, there is no mention of a wife or children. He left a number of legacies, one to a Lieutenant Colonel of the 54th Regiment, his estate being valued at just under £64,000 with assets in Scotland, England and Australia.
Alexander Horace, born in Scotland in 1827.  He matriculated at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1847 and graduated BA in 1852. In 1850 he was admitted to Lincolns Inn whilst still a student. What profession he followed after that, if any, is not clear however he gained an MA from Cambridge in 1872. At some point he joined the 1st Dumbartonshire Rifle Volunteers’, formed in 1860, as in 1870 he was promoted from Captain to Major. Further promotions followed in 1876 and 1892 when he became Lieutenant Colonel and finally Honorary Colonel.
He married Georgina Helena Oakeley, the daughter of Sir Charles Oakeley, in 1852 at St John the Baptist in Hillingdon. They had seven children, the first five of whom were girls born between 1855 and 1864. The first son and heir was Alexander Heldewier Oakeley who was born in 1867, to be followed by brother Charles Herbert Oakeley in 1870 in London, the only child not to be born in Scotland. Alexander joined the Black Watch and in 1891 had the rank of Captain. He went to France in 1916 and at the end of his military service had attained the rank of Major. Charles went to Eton and matriculated at Trinity in 1888.
In father Alexander’s Trust Settlement of 1866 son Alexander Horace was named as one of his father’s executors, with eldest son Robert not included in the list. It was clear however that once specific legacies had been paid, mainly to the daughters, then the estate residue would be shared equally between the brothers. A change was made in a codicil dated 1873 which essentially varied the daughters’ legacies but left the brothers’ inheritance as per 1866.
However, in 1874 a few months before he died Alexander, in a further codicil, essentially disinherited Robert by leaving him only 200 shares in the Union Bank of Scotland, the residue of the estate, both heritable and movable, being left to Alexander Horace. The estate inventory valued it at over £343,000. Why this change occurred is not known.
Alexander Horace died in 1893 whilst visiting Fort Augustus, his usual residence being Roselea, Row, Dumbartonshire.
Eleanor Mary was born in Havre de Grace, Normandy in 1829 and baptised later that year in Ingouville.Alexander at that time was running a branch of the family business in France, subsequently moving to Paris before returning home sometime before 1833. Eleanor married William Young Sellar, interim Professor of Humanity at Glasgow University in 1852. He was the son of Patrick Sellar of Sutherland and had a distinguished academic career. He matriculated at Baliol College Oxford in 1842, gained a BA in 1847, followed by a MA in 1850. He was a Fellow of Oriel College from 1848 to 1853. He subsequently held professorships at Glasgow, Edinburgh and St. Andrews Universities. They had 6 children, 3 sons and 3 daughters between 1853 and 1865. Eleanor wrote a family history in 1907 called Recollections andImpressions dedicated to her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, which I have referred to from time to time in this report. William died in 1890, Eleanor in 1918.
Walter Wood was born in Ingouville, Normandy in 1831 and baptised there in 1832. He died of consumption in 1847.
Elizabeth Anna was born in Scotland in 1833. She married insurance broker Seton Thomson, a maternal cousin, in 1862 and they had one son, Seton Murray Thomson born at Golfhill House in 1864. Seton senior had been born in the Bahamas and at the time of his marriage was living at Golfhill House. Elizabeth died intestate in London in 1885, her estate valued at just under £1,000. Seton died in 1918 at Linlithgow, his estate valued at £172,500, son Seton Murray being the major beneficiary.
Euphemia was born in Scotland circa 1835. She died in 1840. 
John Murray was born in Scotland circa 1837. He died in 1840. Both he and Euphemia would appear to have died from meningitis.
When Alexander and family returned from France in 1833 they lived at Germiston House. In January 1835 he was elected MP for Dunbartonshire, a position he held until 1837, having decided not to stand as a candidate for that year’s election. Despite not pursuing his political career Alexander remained a firm supporter of the Whig party as an advisor and benefactor. When his father James died in 1835, he and his family moved to Golfhill House where he lived for the rest of his life.
He and brother John continued to be involved with J & A Dennistoun and the various subsidiary companies with significant success. They also maintained their interest in the Glasgow Banking Company which in 1836 amalgamated with the Ship Bank. In 1843 the Union Bank of Scotland was formed when the Glasgow and Ship Bank joined with the Glasgow Union Bank. By 1847 however, as described above, four of his eight children had died before reaching adulthood. More tragedy was to follow with the death of his wife Eleanor from consumption in 1847, shortly after the death of his son Walter.
In 1857 a serious financial issue arose for Alexander and the family when the Borough Bank of Liverpool failed, the Dennistouns being major shareholders of the bank. The situation was exacerbated as the bank failure was coincident with the American financial crisis of the same year, the ‘Panic of 1857‘, which was caused by a declining international economy and the over expansion of the American economy. The effect on the business was that liabilities exceeded £3 milion resulting in the suspension of payment to creditors which would have ended in bankruptcy. Alexander, and John, dealt with it by asking their creditors for a period of grace to allow them to resolve the issue, which was agreed. Within a year confidence in the business was restored and the creditors paid their dues in full plus five per cent interest. The following few years took the business back to its pre-crisis financial condition. 
Before the financial problems of 1857 Alexander began to plan the founding of the suburb to Glasgow which would bear his name, Dennistoun. For some time he had been buying plots of land adjacent to Golfhill which included Craig Park, Whitehill, Meadow Park, Broom Park and parts of Wester Craigs. Some of these purchases came from merchant John Reid who had similar ideas but had died in 1851 before any significant action had been taken. In 1854 the architect James Salmon was commissioned by Alexander to design and produce a feuing plan for such a suburb.
By 1860 Alexander also owned Lagarie Villa on the Gareloch at Row (Rhu), sharing his time between there and Golfhill. Brother John also had a home in the parish called Armadale.
In 1861 the process of creating Dennistoun began however the eventual reality did not reflect the grand detail of Salmon’s design for a number of reasons. Nonetheless Dennistoun was eventually successfully established, much reduced from the original concept, with a mixed style of housing as opposed to the Garden Suburb with villas, cottages and terraces, aimed at the middle-class, envisaged by Alexander and James Salmon. The first street to be formed was Wester Craig street which ran from Duke Street northwards. It was on that street that the first house was built by James Dairon in 1861.
Also in 1861 the Glasgow Corporation acquired the Kennyhill estate and started to lay out what became Alexandra Park. Alexander donated five acres to the project which allowed the main entrance to the park to be from Alexandra Parade.
Alexander spent the rest of his life quietly at the Gareloch or Golfhill. He continued to be keenly interested in the development of Dennistoun and is said to have travelled round the district often to observe the changes made. His daughter Eleanor described him in her book as someone who had a great interest in finance and politics despite him having no formal business training and having eschewed a political career. He had a great interest in art and had a ‘very good collection, ancient and modern’  He was described by others as affable and courteous with a kindly disposition, and a willingness to help others when it was needed.
There is one possible sour note however. The University College London research on the Legacies of British Slavery identifies an Alexander Dennistoun who received £389 2s 4d compensation in 1837 for the release of 25 slaves from a plantation in the Bahamas. It states that it possibly could be Alexander Dennistoun of Golfhill but that it was not certain. It may be significant that his wife Eleanor was born in the Bahamas.
Alexander died on the 15th July 1874 at Lagarie, his son Alexander Horace, as described above, his heir.
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 6 August 1789. DENISTON, Alexander. Hamilton and Campsie Commissary Court. CC10/5/12. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
 Births (SR) England. London, Westminster. 23 February 1870. DENNISTOUN, Charles Herbert Oakeley. City of Westminster Archives Centre; London, England; Westminster Church of England Parish Registers; Reference: STA/PR/4/21https://search.ancestry.co.uk
 Hart’s Annual Army List 1908. DENNISTOUN, Alexander Heldewier Oakeley, and Army Medal Office (Great Britain). WW 1 Medal Index Card. DENNISTOUN, Alexander Heldewier Oakeley. Collection: British Army WW 1 Medal Roll Index Cards, 1914-1920. https://search.ancestry.co.uk