The Inverclyde Bequest

The Inverclyde Bequest Fund was established over one hundred and ten years ago. Its aim was to distribute annually the income of the fund to merchant seamen charities and aged and infirm seamen, specifically in the following manner:

  • Seamen and seamen charities in Scotland – 2/5 share
  • Seamen and seamen charities in Liverpool and Manchester – 1/5 share
  • Seamen and seamen charities in Belfast – 1/5 share
  • Seamen and seamen charities in New York and Boston – 1/5 share.

The bequest was made by the second Baron Inverclyde, George Arbuthnot Burns. The Burns family had long been associated with merchant shipping, the family firm being G and J Burns, established by the second Baron’s grandfather. They were also involved with the founding of the Cunard line and had a family connection to David Macbrayne, a co-founder of what eventually became Caledonian Macbrayne or Calmac as they are currently known.

The Burns Family

The Burns family can be traced back, at least, to Doctor John Burn of the school at Airth, who married Jennet Young on the 4th March 1741.[i] They had one child, a son John, who was born on the 19th February 1744.[ii]

Figure 1. The Reverend John Burns 1831.  © National Portrait Gallery.

John matriculated at Glasgow University in 1766[iii] and four years later became assistant minister to the Rev. Laurence Hill of Barony Church. On Hill’s death in 1773 he was chosen as his successor being ordained there on the 26th May 1774.[iv] He was awarded an D.D. degree by Aberdeen University in 1808[v] and remained minister at Barony until his death in 1839.[vi]

He married Elizabeth Stevenson in January 1775 and in due course they had nine children, seven sons and two girls (both named Elizabeth).[vii] Another source claims ten children, a third daughter also called Elizabeth being born in 1788 [viii] This last daughter’s birth however I have not been able to confirm. Four sons survived into adulthood, all of whom had distinguished careers. The last born Elizabeth reached adulthood and married David Macbrayne, more of which later.

It’s the youngest son George and his descendants that are of interest to this research however the other three sons are worthy of comment.

Figure 2. John Burns.

John Burns, the eldest child was born in 1775.[ix] In due course he was to become the first Regius Professor of Surgery at Glasgow University. He began his career in medicine when licensed by the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, becoming an apothecary and surgeon’s clerk at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1792.[x] In 1796 he became a member of the Faculty[xi] and in 1797 he began giving private lectures on anatomy, surgery and midwifery from rooms in Virginia Street. In 1799 he became Professor of Anatomy and Surgery at the newly established Anderson College’s medical school in addition to continuing his private classes.[xii] He was joined by his brother Allan in these classes who at the age of sixteen, was directing the use of the dissecting rooms involved with the anatomy lectures.[xiii]

He remained in that position until 1815 when he became Regius Professor, nominated for the position by the University Chancellor the Duke of Montrose. The University conferred on him the degrees of C.M. (surgery) and M.D. in 1817 and 1828 respectively. He remained in the Regius Chair and continued with his private work for the rest of his life although his anatomy activity had to cease as he had become involved in a body snatching controversy.[xiv] He wrote a number of medical text books perhaps the most well known being ‘Principles of Midwifery’, published in 1809, [xv] and in 1830 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (F.R.S.).[xvi]

He married Isabella Duncan in 1801 and they had four children, Isabella dying shortly after the birth of the fourth child Allan.[xvii]

Figure 3. The Orion.

He died on the 18th June 1850 when the paddle steamer the ‘Orion’ sank off Portpatrick on its way to Glasgow from Liverpool.[xviii] Ironically the ship belonged to G & J Burns Ltd, the shipping company established and owned by his brothers George and James.[xix]

Allan Burns, the fourth child was born in 1781[xx]. He was also the second boy to be called Allan although with a slightly different spelling. His career paralleled John’s to some extent in that he became a renowned anatomist and medical writer. He apparently began his medical career working with his brother from the age of fourteen. As indicated above he joined with his him in his private lectures and in due course took on the anatomy classes from him when he was prevented by the city authorities from carrying out anatomical activity (the body snatching issue).

In 1804 he went to London intending to join the Army Medical Service and in December of that year he obtained the necessary qualification for membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in London. However, he did not pursue his military objective but went instead to St Petersburg on the recommendation of a Dr Creighton, to set up an ‘English plan’ hospital at the request of Empress Catherine. After an initial trial period of six months he returned to Glasgow put of by the pomposity and barbarism of Russian culture.[xxi]

He re-joined his brother John in his lectures and it was during this period he took on the anatomy classes following his brother’s ‘grave robbing’ problems. Like John he wrote a number of medical text books and between them the brothers created a large collection of mummified body parts which in the fullness of time ended up in the University of Maryland.[xxii]

Unfortunately, he was not to enjoy a long life practising his medical skills. He died unmarried age thirty two, on the 29th June 1813.[xxiii]

Figure 4. James Burns.

James Burns was the eighth child born in 1789.[xxiv] Commerce and shipping, not medicine, along with his brother George, was to be his professional occupation. Initially they set up as general merchants in Glasgow in 1818.[xxv] By 1824 the business was located in Miller street, as general merchants at number 49, and as agents for Liverpool Traders at number 45, employing David Hutcheson there, whom we will meet again. At number 39 were the Liverpool Shipping offices, the brothers listed as agents. At the Liverpool end of this enterprisee the agents and owners of the business were Mathie and Theakstone, the partnership owning six sailing vessels, the Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Mersey and the Java.[xxvi]

He and brother George continued to expand their shipping interests, adding Northern Ireland destinations to their routes. In many respects they were like the Burrell brothers George and William although the prime mover in the Burns’ shipping business was George whilst James remained more of a merchant. By 1839 they had met Samuel Cunard which subsequently led to the formation of the Cunard Line in 1840. There is much to explore re the Burns brother’s shipping businesses which I’ll continue with when discussing George Burns.

Around 1839 James purchased the estate of Kilmahew in Dunbartonshire having previously bought the neighbouring estate of Bloomhill. As he got older he became more interested in estate improvement eventually retiring from business to devote his time to that activity.[xxvii]

He married Margaret Smith in 1825[xxviii] but the marriage was short lived as she died in 1830 of consumption[xxix]. His second wife was Margaret Shortridge whom he married in 1835[xxx], both marriages being performed by his father John. They had one child John William Burns born in 1837.[xxxi] Margaret Shortridge also pre deceased him dying in 1860[xxxii], James died at Kilmahew Castle in 1871.[xxxiii]

George Burns

Figure 5. Etching of Sir George Burns, 1889.

The grandfather of George Arbuthnot Burns, was born in the Barony parish on the 10th December 1795.[xxxiv] His schooling began privately with a Mr. Angus as his tutor in grammar, simultaneously attending a writing school, tutored by a Mr. Stevenson. Following this preparatory education, he then attended the Grammar School (which became the High School of Glasgow) leaving there, after circa seven years, in 1812.[xxxv]

His first employment was with the New Lanark Cotton Spinning Company which had been started by David Dale in 1784. His role in the main seems to have been as messenger to various banks including Robert Carrick’s Ship Bank. During this time, he also involved himself with ‘recreational’ studies, attending lectures on chemistry at Glasgow University.[xxxvi]

In 1816 his father John was admitted a Guild Brother and Burgess of Glasgow, George becoming a Burgess on the same day through his father.[xxxvii]

He left New Lanark in 1818 and for a short while worked unpaid as a clerk for Andrew Grant and Co. before joining with his brother James later that year to establish their general merchants business. George was the more vigorous and commercially minded of the brothers and travelled all over the UK, including Northern Ireland, in pursuit of business. These travels resulted in him meeting a number of individuals who in due course would result in the nature of the brother’s business activity moving towards shipping.[xxxviii]

One such individual was Hugh Matthie who along with Theakstone, as previously mentioned, ran six sailing vessels between Glasgow and Liverpool. Mathie and Theakstone’s agents in Glasgow had been John and Alexander Kidd. However, during 1824 both of these gentlemen died leaving Matthie looking for a new agency . George Burns pursued this opportunity with Matthie which led to G. and J. Burns becoming Matthie’s Glasgow agents. It was during this time that David Hutcheson, an employee of the Kidd brothers, joined the Burns company having been recommended by Matthie. Not long afterwards Theakstone decided to retire and George Burns bought his share of the six sailing vessels thereby gaining a 50% ownership of his first shipping line. Thereafter James generally ran the merchants business under the name J. and G. Burns whilst George ran the shipping business under G. and J. Burns.[xxxix]

George very early on was keen to use steamships rather than sailing smacks and it was shortly after his partnership with Matthie was established that they began their routes to Northern Ireland, initially to Belfast in 1824 then to Londonderry and Larne using wooden paddle steamers. The first was the 100hp, 296 ton ’Fingal’ which went into service in 1824, followed by the ‘Eclipse’, the ‘Belfast’ and the ‘Rapid’ in 1825.[xl]

He was also determined to employ steam ships on the other routes that G. and J. Burns had an interest in, either as agents or owners. To that end he devised a plan to use steam ships on the Glasgow to Liverpool route which was at that time serviced by a fleet of eighteen sailing smacks. Fundamentally his plan was to remove as many of these smacks as possible from the route replacing them with steam ships.

As indicated previously he owned six of these vessels along with Matthie, competitors James and Thomas Martin were agents for a company also owning six. After some haggling and persuasion, the Burns, Mattie, Martin ‘consortium’ won the day and became joint owners of the twelve smacks which they then sold off. A partnership was set up with the company being known in Liverpool as ‘Matthie and Martin’ and in Glasgow as ‘G. and J. Burns and J. Martin’.[xli]

The first steamship of the new company was the ‘Glasgow’ a 280 ton,100 hp wooden paddle steamer whose maiden voyage to Liverpool was on the 13th March 1829. It was followed very quickly by two other wooden paddle steamers, the ‘Ailsa Craig’ similar in size and power, and in 1830 by the larger ’Liverpool’ whose tonnage was 397 ton and was powered by a 150hp engine.[xlii]

Other routes which G. and J. Burns were involved with all eventually were serviced by steamers, including the Glasgow and Highland (1832) all paddle with one exception the ‘Loch Fine’ in 1847 which was screw driven, the Glasgow and Firth of Clyde (1846) all paddle, and the Mediterranean /Le Havre (1853) all screw driven.[xliii]

In 1851 the Highland shipping activity was taken over by David Hutcheson, their employee from the early days, and his brother Alexander. They were joined by the Burns’ nephew David Macbrayne,[xliv] the son of their sister Elizabeth and David Macbrayne who had married in 1810.[xlv] So began the journey to the Caledonia Macbrayne shipping line.

In the midst of this George’s greatest venture was to occur, namely his involvement with the founding of the Cunard Line. Before I deal with that it is perhaps appropriate at this juncture to say something about his family life.

On the 10th June 1822 he married Jane Cleland in the Barony Church, the ceremony being performed by his father[xlvi]. Jane was the daughter of James Cleland, the Superintendent of Public Works in Glasgow. Cleland was a well known chronicler of Glasgow inhabitants, including censuses of Glasgow in 1819, 1821 and 1831, and associated statistics[xlvii] and is responsible for the current layout of Glasgow Green which was established between 1816 and 1826.[xlviii] There is also a tenement building opposite the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall called the Cleland Testimonial which was designed by David Hamilton and built in 1836 by public subscription in recognition of his service to the city. Cleland lived in the building until he died in 1840.[xlix]

George and Jane had seven children, three boys and four girls, only three of whom survived into adulthood. They were, his heir John, and father of George Arbuthot Burns,  who was born on the 1st July 1829,[l] James who was born on the 28th of July 1832[li] and their first born Margaret who was born on the 10th August 1824.[lii]  Margaret died relatively young in 1854 having been married for five years, leaving her husband and three young children.[liii]

The Cunard Line

In 1838 the Admiralty were interested in establishing a steamship mail service between Britain, Canada and the United States. To that end invitations to tender to provide that service were sent to a  number of shipping organisations, including G and J Burns. It seems that initially George was disinclined to get involved in this Atlantic activity however that was to change.[liv]

Figure 6. Samuel Cunard.

Samuel Cunard, a Nova Scotian born in 1788, became aware of the desire to set up a steamship based mail service across the Atlantic and decided to apply . He travelled to Britain early in 1839 and by the 11th of February had submitted his tender to the Admiralty.

The essence of his tender was as follows:

“To provide steamboats of not less than 300hp to convey mail between Halifax (Nova Scotia) and England plus steamboats of not less than 150hp to distribute the mail locally.”

His tender also stated his ships would be ready by the 1st May 1840 and that the cost to the Admiralty of running the service was to be £55,000 per annum, the contract to run for ten years.

He then met the Scottish ship builder Robert Napier and agreed a contract with him, signed on the 18th March, for three ships, each of 960 tons and 375hp, to cost £32,000 per ship.

The Admiralty response was positive and the contract with them was signed on the 4th May 1839. It was to be for seven years, with two sailings per month beginning on the 4th June 1840, and each vessel would carry a naval officer. In addition, each ship should be ready at any time to carry four naval officers and ten ratings.

Whilst the contract negotiations had been going on Napier had come to the conclusion that for the service to be carried out all year round and in all weather conditions, larger and more powerful ships would be required, without which the venture would fail. When Cunard indicated that he had no more capital to invest Napier offered to put him in touch with other merchants who might support the venture.

One such individual was James Donaldson of the City of Glasgow Steam Packet Company which had merged with G. and J. Burns around 1830. The company had been set up by Donaldson and David MacIver to compete with Burns on a number of his routes but had not been particularly successful. The terms of the merger were that Burns would have three fifths of the revenue generated by the new company and control of the business, Donaldson and MacIver two fifths.

A meeting between Donaldson, Cunard, Burns and MacIver was held on the 10th May to discuss the possibility of additional capital being secured, with MacIver expressing his opposition. The next morning a further meeting took place, less Donaldson, during which agreement in principle seems to have been achieved. However, Burns stated the project was so large that other investors would be needed to raise the required capital and that would take time, he thought around a month.

In the event it took four days to raise the money and a contract was drawn up with Burns and MacIver having a half share in the mail contract and in the steam ships for an investment of £270,000. The name of the new business was the ’British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’, the precursor to the Cunard Line. A co-partnery, called ‘The Glasgow Proprietary in the British and North American Steam Packets’ was also established between Burns, MacIver and the eighteen other investors that had helped provide the funds. The Admiralty also agreed to increase what they would pay for the service to £60,000 per annum.[lv]

Four wooden paddle steamers were then built as per the Napier specification, each around 1200 tons and 440hp, the first of which was the ‘Britannia’ to be followed by the ‘Acadia’ the ‘Caledonia’ and the ‘Columbia’.[lvi]

Figure 7. The Paddle Steamer Britannia. From Bygone Liverpool by Henry S. and Harold E. Young. Liverpool: Henry Young and Sons.

The ‘Britannia’ was built by Robert Duncan of Port Glasgow and was launched on the 5th February 1840. She made her maiden voyage on the 4th July arriving in Boston on the 19th, her entry into service late by about a month.[lvii] The build of the other ships was also behind plan, the second of which being delivered late autumn, the third in November, with the fourth in January of the following year.

Consequentially further discussions with the Admiralty led to an agreement that the twice monthly sailings would be delayed until the autumn and that during the winter months there would only be one sailing per month, each sailing lost reducing the company’s fee by £1,000.[lviii]

As the business developed and grew Cunard based himself in London, Burns in Glasgow, commuting to London and Liverpool as required, and MacIver in Liverpool. The original shareholders in the Burns/MacIver co-partnery were gradually bought out until the business was fully in the hands of the families of Cunard, Burns, and MacIver, each holding one third of the shares. In 1845 David MacIver died, his share going to his brother Charles, whose sons in due course followed him. In 1865 Sir Samuel Cunard died, having been created a baronet in 1859,[lix]  and was succeeded by his son Edward, to be followed in 1869 by his brother William.

Burns however, was to live a very long life. He retired in 1858, his son John taking on his role in the business, and sharing his father’s holding in Cunard with his brother James.[lx] This was after a period of intense competition, from about 1850, on the Atlantic route from the Collins Line, an American company. Despite some early setbacks the British company eventually prevailed, Collins finally going out of business in 1858.[lxi]

On his retirement Burns bought the estate of Wemyss Bay on the south side of the Firth of Clyde. He built Wemyss House as the family home, the architect being James Salmon of Glasgow.[lxii]

Throughout his life he was a pious man, perhaps unsurprising as he was a son of the manse. What is unexpected is that in 1838 he became an Episcopalian, essentially a member of the Church of England, particularly drawn to the evangelicals of that church. He was to remain so for the rest of his life as was his wife Jane.[lxiii]  From their earliest days as Episcopalians they were active and supportive of their local congregation and minister and that was to continue when they moved to the Wemyss estate.

Jane died on the 1st July 1877 at Wemyss House. She was 83.[lxiv]  Almost from the day she died George determined to build an Episcopal church in memory of his wife. He engaged the architect John Burnet to design it and two years later it was complete. It was built in the Gothic style using local red sandstone, its first service, conducted by the Rev. John W. Bardsley of Liverpool, being held on the 15th June 1879[lxv]

Figure 8. Episcopal Church at Wemyss Bay from a post card.

George was made a baronet in June 1889[lxvi] and died the following year on the 2nd June, his son John succeeding to the baronetcy and the Wemyss estate. Throughout his life he was a vigorous man, a thinker, interested in doing things differently, and deeply religious. It’s therefore sad to note the cause of his death was given as ‘senile debility’ and that his death was registered by his head gardener.[lxvii]

John Burns/Sir John Burns/1st Baron Inverclyde.

Figure 9. Sir Jogn Burns. The Mitchell Library Glasgow Reference 920.04BAI

John Burns matriculated at Glasgow University in 1845, age 16.[lxviii] There is no record of him graduating, one source however has it that he took the general arts degree.[lxix] He subsequently joined the family business around 1850[lxx] and by 1858 he had taken on his father’s role in the business when he retired in that year.

By 1865 the policy making and planning essentially was in the hands of John and Charles MacIver. The Civil War in America had ended in that year and the Atlantic passenger trade particularly with immigrants, which had suffered greatly during the war, began to recover. As it did, so did the competition.[lxxi]

Burns and MacIver over the next few years took various steps to counter this, essentially by restructuring their business to make better use of their shipping assets and capital, particularly when it came to purchasing bigger and more modern ships made of iron then steel and screw driven.[lxxii]

In 1855 the British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company was formed servicing Mediterranean and Levant ports. Previously ships on these routes did so under the informal banner of Burns and MacIver however it was recognised that to ensure the best use of capital, maintain and improve profitability, and to ensure funds were properly allocated for the purchase of new ships, a more formal structure was required.

In 1866 further changes to company structure took place with the joining together of the British and Foreign Steam Navigation Company and the original 1840 company of Burns, Cunard and MacIver, the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. The new structure operated as the British and North American Steam Packet Company, the shareholders being John Burns, James Burns his brother, Charles MacIver, Sir Edward Cunard and his brother William, each family having one third of the shares.[lxxiii] In addition the Burns family continued to run their own shipping company G. and J. Burns.

In the midst of all this activity John married Emily Arbuthnot in 1860.[lxxiv] She was the daughter of George Clerk Arbuthnot and his first wife Agnes Rait. John and Emily had five children, two boys who in due course were heavily involved in the family shipping businesses, and three girls. The eldest boy was George Arbuthnot Burns born in 1861[lxxv], who was the eventual donor of the Inverclyde bequest, his brother was James Cleland Burns born in 1864.[lxxvi]

The business restructuring continued into the 1870’s culminating in 1878 with the creation of the Cunard Steam Ship Company Ltd., the company share value being £2 million, in today’s terms somewhere between £200 million and £3.6 billion[lxxvii], of which the Burns, Cunard and MacIver families took up £1,200,000. In 1880 the remaining shares were successfully offered for public subscription, following which John Burns became the first chairman of Cunard.[lxxviii]

John’s two sons started off in the family company and by the late 1880’s he was less involved in the daily operation of both the Cunard Line and the Burns company, with the deputy chairman of Cunard David Jardine taking on more of his chairman duties and son George running the Scottish and Irish mail services.[lxxix]

He led a full public life in addition to his business responsibilities. He was a Justice of the Peace in the county of Renfrew and honorary lieutenant in the RNVR.[lxxx] In 1890 he became a deputy lieutenant of the county of Renfrew[lxxxi] and in 1894 he became a deputy lieutenant of the county of the city of Glasgow.[lxxxii]

Figure 10. Steam Yacht Capercailzie 1892.

He was a keen yachtsman owning at least three: the ‘Matador’(1879), the ‘Jacamor’(1882) and the ‘Capercailzie’(1883), all iron hulls and screw driven.[lxxxiii] As might be expected he was a member of a number of yachting club’s including the Royal Yacht Squadron.

In 1878 he sailed to Reykjavik, Iceland on the yacht ‘Mastiff’ with his wife, his sons George Arbuthnot and James Cleland. On board were a number of guests including the author Anthony Trollope. On the passage out they went via the Faroes, returning via the Hebrides. A record of the trip was written by Trollope and Illustrated by Mrs Hugh Blackburn.[lxxxiv]

In keeping with his sailing enthusiasm and his role with the RNVR he played a significant part in the setting up a training ship scheme which was established on HMS Cumberland.

He was also something of a philanthropist in that he financially supported a number of charitable organisations including the Eastpark Children’s Home in Glasgow and the Training Home for Nurses, both being remembered in his will. He was an Episcopalian like his father and was fully supportive of his local church St Silas.[lxxxv]

In 1897, in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Honours list he was conferred with a peerage and became Baron Inverclyde of Castle Wemyss.[lxxxvi]

He died at Castle Weymss on the 12th February 1901, cause of death recorded as exhaustion resulting from spinal sclerosis[lxxxvii]. Sadly, the next entry the registrar made was to record the death of John Burn’s wife Emily who died at home two days later on the 14th February, cause of death being cardiac failure.[lxxxviii]

He was succeeded by his eldest son George Arbuthnot Burns who became the second Baron Inverclyde and inherited the Wemyss estate.

George Arbuthnot Burns, 2nd Baron Inverclyde.

Figure 11. 2nd Baron Inverclyde. National Portrait Galleryy.

I have not been able to establish where George attended school nor is there any obvious evidence that he went to university. However, the Times of London states that he had a liberal education and that he had subsequently toured India, China and Australia[lxxxix] before staring work in the family business of G. & J. Burns along with his brother James. That may have been as early as 1880 however by 1882 they are both recorded in the Post Office directory for that year as being with the family firm[xc]. The two brothers had been left equal shares in G & J Burns in their father’s will however as time went on George’s focus seems to have been directed more towards Cunard whilst James essentially ran the family shipping business.

In 1886 George married Mary Fergusson, the daughter of Hickson Fergusson who was a yarn merchant.[xci] They married in St Mary’s Episcopal Church; she was 20 years old and he was described as a steamship shareholder.[xcii] Unfortunately, the marriage was childless.

His father had all but relinquished his role as Cunard chairman to David Jardine and when he died in 1901 Jardine was elected chairman along with George as his deputy.[xciii] He however did not stay as such for very long, deciding to retire in 1902, at which time George  took on the role.[xciv]

His first AGM as Chairman was held on the 10th April 1902. It was not wholly an easy time for him as it took place during a period when Cunard’s business performance was questionable, resulting from low freight and passenger rates due to the competitive nature of the business. Whilst it was agreed to pay a dividend of 4% on the paid up capital a number of critical comments were made.

A Mr. Japp stated that the company was so badly run that the only remedy would be to dispose of it to a purchaser who would give shareholders the par value of the shares. A second shareholder, from Glasgow, said basically the same thing and encouraged the directors to put any purchase offers to the shareholders for their consideration. Another suggested that Lord Inverclyde should move to Liverpool from Glasgow as he could not see how “any business could be carried on with the pivot residing in Glasgow”[xcv]

Things however were to improve and by the time of the next AGM on the 8th April 1903 the chairman’s report, and leadership, was greeted on several occasions with cheers, apart from the same shareholder from Glasgow having a gripe about the cost of new ships.[xcvi] The Atlantic rates war, however, was to continue for some time.

Like his father, and indeed his brother James, he held a number of public and business appointments. He joined the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in 1887[xcvii] and was also a member of the Merchants House of Glasgow for a number of years becoming Lord Dean of Guild in 1903 and 1904.[xcviii] In 1902 he was appointed a deputy lieutenant of the county of the city of Glasgow[xcix] and was a Justice of the Peace for the county. He also served as a director of the Clydesdale Bank and the Glasgow and South Western Railway Company.[c]

His charitable and religious activities were no less extensive. Like his father he was a firm Episcopalian, supporting his church both personally and financially. Included in his charitable activities were the Charity Organisation Society[ci] and the Y.M.C.A., of which he became honorary president.[cii]

He was also an enthusiastic yachtsman, sailing whenever possible his father’s yacht ‘Capercailzie’ which he had inherited. He was Commodore of the Royal Northern Yacht Squadron and a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron.[ciii]

Unlike his direct ancestors George was not destined for a long life. In 1905 he had planned to sail his yacht to Stornoway with Lord Roseberry on board, who was to open the new municipal buildings there.[civ] However, in late August he contracted pleurisy and was unable to make the journey. (Lord Rosebery sailed on the Capercailzie and opened the buildings on the 7th September). It developed into pneumonia with other complications, which despite two operations, proved fatal.[cv]

He died at Castle Wemyss on the 8th October 1905, cause of death given as cardiac failure, pleurisy and phlebitis.[cvi]

He was laid to rest in the family vault in the church his grandfather George built at Wemyss Bay. In addition to close family members the large attendance at the service included, amongst others, peers of the realm, sailors and officers from the Cunard Line and G. & J. Burns, Members of Parliament, representatives from various charities, the Lord Provost of Glasgow, the staff from Castle Wemyss, and representatives from Cunard’s competition in the Atlantic trade, the White Star Line.[cvii]

As George had no children his brother James Cleland Burns became the 3rd Lord Inverclyde. His story however does not end there.

In his will dated 20th March 1901 he left his estate to his wife Mary. She subsequently discovered in his office in Jamaica Street a handbag belonging to her husband containing what looked like a second will dated the 9th November 1902 which left everything in trust to her, she being able to select the trustees. After her death the Glasgow Merchants House would become the beneficiaries of the estate, charged with creating a fund, to be known as the Inverclyde Bequest, and dispersing its annual income, as described in the opening paragraph of these notes, to seamen charities or institutions whose concerns were to support aged or infirm seamen or their families.

He defined seamen as all those who formed the crews of merchant ships, specifically stating that support should be given in particular to deserving seamen who had been in the service of Cunard and G. & J. Burns.

This document consisted of three separate sheets only one of which had been signed by her husband and initially there was doubts raised as to its legality. In the event Lady Inverclyde came to an agreement with the Merchants House whereby she would receive a single payment of £20,000 and the income from the trust for the rest of her life.[cviii]

This provided the means by which the second will could be made valid, with appropriate amendments to allow the above agreement to be implemented. To that end an application was made to the Secretary of State for Scotland for a Provisional Order to remove doubts about the validity of this second will and to give legal force to the changes agreed between the Merchants House and Lady Inverclyde.[cix]  On the 4th August 1906 the required Act of Parliament, the Inverclyde Bequest Order Confirmation Act, 1906, was given Royal Assent.[cx]

Lady Inverclyde married again in 1910 to General Sir Archibald Hunter, K.C.B., D.S.O., Governor of Gibralter [cxi] She died in 1924,[cxii] following which, in 1926, the bequest started to operate. Committees in England, Ireland and the United States were established to administer their share of the fund, which at that time was valued at £183,147, whilst the Scottish allocation was managed by the directors of the Merchants House.[cxiii]

The fund dispersals in the early part of this century include the Scottish Nautical Welfare Society, Sir Gabriel Wood’s Mariners Home in Greenock, The Mission to Sea Farers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Liverpool, Seafarer’s Friend Boston, The Northern Ireland Veteran Seamen’s Friend Belfast, and Seamen’s House Y.M.C.A. New York.[cxiv] In 2016 monies distributed were £50,848, the value of the fund standing at £1,634,372.[cxv]

The direct link between the Reverend John Burns of Barony church and the Lords Inverclyde ended in 1957 when the 4th Lord, John Alan Burns the son of the 3rd Lord, died without issue, the title becoming extinct.

[i] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. St. Ninians, Stirling. 4 March 1741. BURN, John and YOUNG, Jennet. 488/ 50 234.

[ii] Births (OPR) Scotland. Stirling. 19 February 1744. BURN, John. 490/ 20 608.

[iii] Addison, W. Innes. (1913). The Matriculation Albums of Glasgow University, from 1728 to 1858. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 81.

[iv] Hodder, Edwin (1890). Sir George Burns, Bart., his times and friends. 2nd ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton. p.24.

[v] Scott, Hew. (1920). Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae. The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. Vol. III. New Edition. Synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 394.

[vi] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 26 February 1839. BURNS, John. 644/1 550 160.

[vii] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Barony 1775 – 1795. BURNS. Search results for children born to John Burns and Elizabeth Stevenson.

[viii] Scott, Hew, op.cit. p. 394.

[ix] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 15 November 1775. BURNS, John. 622/ 20 485.

[x] The University of Glasgow Story. John Burns.

[xi] Duncan, Alexander (1896). Memorials of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. 1599-1850. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p.265.

[xii] Duncan, op.cit. p. 178.

[xiii] Lloyd, Campbell F. (2004) ‘Allan Burns (1781-1813).’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xiv] The University of Glasgow Story. John Burns.

[xv] Lloyd, Campbell F. (2004) ‘John Burns (1775-1850).’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xvi] The Royal Society. John Burns.

[xvii] Lloyd, Campbell F. (2004) ‘John Burns (1775-1850).’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xviii] Glasgow Herald. (1850) Wreck of the Orion Steamer. Glasgow Herald 18 June. p. 1 f, g, h.

[xix] Caledonian Maritime Research Trust. PS Orion.

[xx] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 23 September 1781 BURNS, Allan. 622/ 30 54.

[xxi] Lloyd, Campbell F. (2004) ‘Allan Burns (1781-1813).’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xxii] JPGM. Journal of Post Graduate Medicine.  The Allan Burns Mummies.;year=2017;volume=63;issue=4;spage=237;epage=241;aulast=Lee

[xxiii] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 29 June 1813. BURNS, Allan. 644/1 520 233.

[xxiv] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 29 June 1789 BURNS, James. 622/ 30 23.

[xxv] Henderson, T.F. (2004) ‘James Burns (1789-1871)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xxvi] Directories. Scotland. (1823-24). Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: G & J Burns. pp. 40, 109, and Appendix pp. 7, 24.

[xxvii] Henderson, T.F. (2004) ‘James Burns (1789-1871)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[xxviii] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 6 June 1825. BURNS, James and SMITH, Margaret. 644/1 400 342.

[xxix] Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 19 August 1830. BURNS, Margaret. 644/1 620 212.

[xxx] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 2 June 1835. BURNS, James and SHORTRIDGE, Margaret. 622/  170 254.

[xxxi] Births (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 27 April 1837. BURNS, John William. 622/  100 259.

[xxxii] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Blythswood, Glasgow. 6 March 1860. SHORTRIDGE, Margaret. 644/6 162.

[xxxiii] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Cardross, Dumbarton. 6 September 1871. BURNS, James. 494/  65.

[xxxiv] Births (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 10 December 1795. BURNS, George. 622/   30 473.

[xxxv] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 35, 44. 49.

[xxxvi] Hodder, op. cit. pp. 65 to 68.

[xxxvii] Hodder, op. cit. p.120.

[xxxviii] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 122, 123.

[xxxix] Hodder, op. cit. pp. 145 to 149.

[xl] The Steam Fleet Since The Firm Of G & J Burns Was Established in 1824. Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Reference: TD145/2

[xli] Hodder, op.cit. p. 157.

[xlii] The Steam Fleet Since The Firm Of G & J Burns Was Established in 1824. Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Reference: TD145/2

[xliii] ibid

[xliv] Hodder, op.cit. p. 282.

[xlv] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 5 June 1810. MCBRAYNE, David and BURNS, Elisabeth. 622/ 70 336.

[xlvi] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. 10 June 1822. BURNS, George and CLELAND, Jane. 644/1 400 139.

[xlvii] Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Reference: AGN 2049A.

[xlviii] Glasgow City Council. Glasgow Green Management Plan 2016-2019.

[xlix] Walking Heads. The Cleland Testimonial Building 249 Buchanan Street.

[l] Births (OPR) Scotland. Barony. 1 July 1829. BURNS, John. 622/ 80 450.

[li] Births (OPR) Scotland. Greenock Old or West. 28 July 1832. BURNS, James. 564/3 50 478.

[lii] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 10 August 1824. BURNS, Margaret Cleland. 644/1 310 432.

[liii] Hodder, op.cit. p. 288.

[liv] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 191-193.

[lv] Hughes, T. E. (1965). ‘The Cunard Story: Part 1 – The Founders’ In: Sea Breezes, Vol. 39, No 235 (July). Liverpool. pp. 503 – 519.  Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

[lvi] The Steam Fleet Since The Firm Of G & J Burns Was Established in 1824. Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Reference: TD145/2

[lvii] Young, Henry S. and Harold E. (1913). Bygone Liverpool. Liverpool: Henry Young and Sons. p.108, plate XXXIX.

[lviii] Hughes, T. E. (1965). ‘The Cunard Story: Part 1 – The Founders’ In: Sea Breezes, Vol. 39, No 235 (July). Liverpool. pp. 503 – 519.  Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

[lix] London Gazette (1859) 1 March 1859. Issue 22235, p. 953.

[lx] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 301,302.

[lxi] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 293-296.

[lxii]  Wemyss House.

[lxiii] Hodder, op.cit. pp. 177- 180.

[lxiv] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 1 July 1877. BURNS, Jane. 567/1 7.

[lxv] Glasgow Herald. (1879). English Episcopal Church at Wemyss Bay. Glasgow Herald. 16 June 1879. p.4i.

[lxvi] London Gazette (1899) 22 June 1889. Issue 25948, p.3407.

[lxvii] Deaths. (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 2 June 1890. BURNS, George Sir. 567/1 11.

[lxviii] Addison, W. Innes (1913) The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow 1728 -1858. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p.461.

[lxix] Slaven, Anthony (2006) ‘John Burns , 1st Baron Inverclyde. (1828-1901)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[lxx] Ibid.

[lxxi] Hughes, T. E. (1965). ‘The Cunard Story: Part 2 – The First Sixty Years’ In: Sea Breezes, Vol. 39, No 236 (August). Liverpool. pp. 584 – 600. Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

[lxxii] Slaven, Anthony (2006) ‘John Burns’ , 1st Baron Inverclyde. (1828-1901)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[lxxiii] Hyde, Francis E. (1975) Cunard and the North Atlantic 1840-1973. London: MacMillan Press Ltd. pp.17-26.

[lxxiv] Marriages (SR) Scotland. Lasswade, Edinburgh. 27 November 1860. BURNS, John and ARBUTHNOT, Emily. 691/ 30.

[lxxv] Births (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 17 September 1861. BURNS, George Arbuthnot. 567/01 0033.

[lxxvi] Births (SR) Scotland. Anderston, Glasgow. 14 February 1864. BURNS, James Cleland. 644/8 342.

[lxxvii] Measuring Worth (2019).

[lxxviii] Hyde, op.cit

[lxxix] Slaven, Anthony (2006) ‘John Burns‘, 1st Baron Inverclyde. (1828-1901)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[lxxx] Ibid

[lxxxi] London Gazette (1890) 20 August 1890. Issue 26082, p. 4670.

[lxxxii] Edinburgh Gazette (1894) 6 February 1894. Issue 10542, p. 169.

[lxxxiii] Hodder, op. cit. p. 517.

[lxxxiv] Trollope, Anthony (1878) How the “Mastiffs” went to Iceland. London: Virtue and Co. Ltd.

[lxxxv] Slaven, Anthony (2006) ‘John Burns‘, 1st Baron Inverclyde. (1828-1901)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: University Press.

[lxxxvi] London Gazette (1897) 30 July 1897. Issue 26878, p. 4270.

[lxxxvii] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 12 February 1901. BURNS, John Lord. 567/ 1 1

[lxxxviii] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 14 February 1901. BURNS, Emily Lady. 567/1 1

[lxxxix] Obituaries (1905) The Times 9 October Inverclyde, Lord (George Arbuthnot Burns). p. 6c.

[xc] Directories Scotland. (1882-1883). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: George A. Burns. p. 139.

[xci] Directories Scotland. (1874-1875). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Hickson Fergusson. p. 174,175.

[xcii] Marriages (SR) Scotland. Kelvin, Glasgow. 6 April 1886. BURNS, George Arbuthnot and FERGUSSON, Mary. 644/09 0152.

[xciii] The Times (1901) The Money Market. The Times 28 February. p. 3f.

[xciv] Obituaries (1905) The Times 9 October Inverclyde, Lord (George Arbuthnot Burns). p. 6c.

[xcv] The Times (1902) The Cunard Steamship Company (Limited) The Times 11 April. p. 8c.

[xcvi] The Times (1903) The Cunard Company and the Government. The Times 8 April. p. 7e.

[xcvii] The Scotsman (1905) The Late Lord Inverclyde. The Scotsman 8 October. p. 4h.

[xcviii] Milligan, Susan (2004). The Merchants House of Glasgow 1606 – 2005. Glasgow: The Merchants House of Glasgow. p. 207.

[xcix] London Gazette (1902) 1 July 1902. Issue 27450, p. 4240.

[c] The Scotsman (1905) Death of Lord Inverclyde. The Scotsman 9 October. p. 7a,b.

[ci] The Scotsman (1905) The Late Lord Inverclyde. The Scotsman 8 October. p. 4h.

[cii] The Scotsman (1905) Death of Lord Inverclyde. The Scotsman 9 October. p. 7a,b.

[ciii] Obituaries (1905) The Times 9 October Inverclyde, Lord (George Arbuthnot Burns). p. 6c.

[civ] The Scotsman (1905) Lord Rosebery at Stornoway: Opening of Municipal Buildings. The Scotsman 8 September. p.6d.

[cv] Obituaries (1905) The Times 9 October Inverclyde, Lord (George Arbuthnot Burns). p. 6c.

[cvi] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Inverkip, Renfrew. 8 October 1905. BURNS, George Arbuthnot. 567/01 0013.

[cvii] The Scotsman (1905) Funeral of Lord Inverclyde. The Scotsman 12 October. p. 4h.

[cviii] Milligan, op.cit. p. 147-149. AND Inverclyde Bequest- Scottish Office April 1906. Mitchell Library, Glasgow. Reference: T-MH 61/2.

[cix] London Gazette (1906). 27 March 1906. Issue 27898, p. 2176.

[cx] London Gazette (1906). 7 August 1906. Issue 27938, p. 5453.

[cxi] The Scotsman (1910) Interesting Wedding: General Sir Archibald Hunter and Mary, Lady Inverclyde. The Scotsman 2 November. p.10g.

[cxii] The Scotsman (1924) Classified Ad – No Title (Deaths). The Scotsman 2 December. p.12f.

[cxiii] Milligan, op. cit. pp. 148, 168.

[cxiv] Milligan, op. cit. pp. 190, 191.

[cxv] The Merchants House of Glasgow. Report and Consolidated Financial Statements for the Year Ended 31 December 2016. Pp.28,30.


Charles Rennie Mackintosh – A Different Perspective

This is an unusual post for me although it fits my general aim of writing about people who have brought great benefit to Glasgow, Charles Rennie Mackintosh being one such individual. I wrote about him briefly in my Keppie post and intend to add a bit more about my personal view of his character compared to what is generally accepted about him.

I have been able to discuss informally my views with a couple of academics over the last couple of years and whilst they have not agreed with me, in one case almost entirely however the need for further exploration of the subject was accepted, and in the other some common ground was established. What does seem more difficult is objective discussion with folk who revere Mackintosh, who think, it seems to me, he came out of ‘the egg’ fully formed, prepared for artistic life with no formative experiences necessary, consequentially with none requiring acknowledgement. Also that the troubles he encountered were not of his doing but the result of other people not understanding him and his abilities, that he was hard-done by. He seems also to be viewed as an ‘innocent abroad’ by some people; the ‘artist in the garret’ syndrome.

As may be expected in 2018 the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mackintosh was celebrated by exhibitions, tours, publications, the creation of the Oak Room in the V & A in Dundee and many other events in Glasgow. It was also the year in which a second disastrous fire all but destroyed the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), which building is considered to be his masterpiece.

When most people are asked ‘what do you know about Charles Rennie Mackintosh’ I believe the most frequent casual answers given would be that he was an architect, or the GSA would be mentioned. More considered answers would include references to other specific buildings, tearooms, and high back chairs.

I’m not saying these are the views of academics or aficionados of Mackintosh but if the above is true, if this is the man in the street view, then is it not the case that his fame is more narrowly based than it should be and that perhaps his reputation as an architect is overstated as a consequence?

This is heresy no doubt to a large number of people and I must admit I felt a touch uncomfortable writing it. However, in my non-academic, but instinctive view it is as a designer and artist that Mackintosh’s fame and reputation is best based on.

His paintings are exquisite, but not very much is made of them. His designs are exceptional and wide ranging and are capable of being translated in a number of materials including stone.

Trying to understand Mackintosh and his work better than I do I have read a number of books over the past two years all of which have added to my knowledge of the man, particularly with reference to his paintings and furniture design. They have enhanced my opinion of his broad artistic abilities, in which I include his architecture.

However little objective effort is made to fully understand his behaviour from his weekends with Keppie at Prestwick to his inability to complete work in his final years as Keppie’s partner. Nor is proper heed paid to the broader influences he experienced from Honeyman and Keppie, his wife Margaret and her sister Frances, Herbert McNair, and perhaps even fellow designers such as George Walton.

The following hopefully will illustrate what I mean. I make it clear that it is pure conjecture on my part, not to do Mackintosh down but to provide a different story that will, if possible cause a more objective understanding of the man and his motivations to be established.

When he joined Honeyman and Keppie in 1889 it was as a draughtsman/assistant. It wasn’t long after that Keppie began the working weekends at his house in Prestwick with Mackintosh and Herbert MacNair. On occasion they would be joined by the Macdonald sisters, Keppie’s sister Jessie, and others who would stay at accommodation in Dunure. This group of young men and women in due course became ‘the Immortals’.

The purpose of these weekends was primarily, at least initially, to discuss and work on architectural projects. Perhaps in time they became more like social events, they probably were when the ladies stayed at Dunure. During this time Mackintosh became attached to Jessie Keppie, which attachment lasted a number of years.

What did Keppie get out these weekends? I believe for him it was, in modern parlance, a team building process involving perhaps two of the brightest stars of the architectural practise, the three of them having common artistic skills in varying degrees. If so, such a process involves coaching, teaching, influencing, exchanging ideas, free discussion on aspects of any project in hand, the objective being two fold. Firstly, in the short term in the context of a specific project. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, in the long term establishing a critical modus operandi that would serve the business well in the future.

Why did Mackintosh in particular attend these weekends? By comparison with the others he did not come from a particularly well to do family. The Keppies had money, the Macdonald sisters had money and MacNair came from a well to do military family.

Put cynically, did he see the weekends as a means to mix with people who were financially better off, to keep close to his boss directly and also through his sister Jessie, and to be in the company of a number of young attractive women, all for his own personal advancement? If the foregoing has little or no truth, what did he get out of it in terms of his professional artistic and architectural life, what ‘seed corn’ was planted in his mind by these weekends? There does not seem to be any narrative that discusses this, in particular with reference to Keppie. In fact, their entire relationship until the end of the partnership, as indicated by the more subjective, in my view, of Mackintosh supporters, can perhaps be described in simple Donald Trumpesque as CRM – good, JK – bad.

In the event he did not marry Jessie but married Margaret Macdonald in 1900, her family however being very unhappy about her marrying beneath her financial status.

When Mackintosh was nearing the end of his partnership with Keppie he was not bringing in significant work to the practise; he was taking out more money than he was bringing in, he drank, he was vague in respect of leading his team, did not complete work, his mood swings affected those he worked with and generally he would/could not listen to suggestions and advice.

All sorts of reasons have been put forward for this and indeed for his behaviour during his life. One which I read about recently. and is the more believable to me, is that he may have suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome. The author John McKean’s view was that this explanation would cover his physical and psychological/mental issues, which is probably why he drank. I found this really intriguing, not least because it was the first time I had read any serious attempt to explain Mackintosh and his behaviour.

However, perverse as ever, I had some difficulty squaring that entirely with how I believe he behaved when younger, particularly between c.1889 and 1900 when he associated with the Immortals and was photographed frequently in the company of the young women of the group. Therefore, maybe he was just a typical young man, a bit of a lad, liked the ladies and the booze, and enjoyed socialising/partying. Maybe therefore his drinking was the cause of his problems and not as a result of them.

I should say I don’t necessarily believe what I have written above but what I genuinely believe is that if an individual such as Mackintosh is fully understood in all aspects, if that is possible, then his works get put into a fuller, broader context which can only improve our appreciation of them.

I have hesitated to publish this post because I’m not trained in architecture and know only a little about art. My views whilst striving to be objective are probably tainted with more (total?) conjecture/subjectivity than I would like. They are not meant to do anything else other than tell what I think could possibly explain Mackintosh. Whether they are sound to any degree by any academic test or any other, is secondary to me. In a sense I’m getting Mackintosh off my chest! However, a lot has been written about Mackintosh the genius, what about Mackintosh the man?


Beneficent Glasgow Clergymen 16th/17th Century.

Beneficent Glasgow Clergymen.

The Glasgow Merchants House has over its 400 odd years received a large number of benefactions to bring help and support to whomsoever the benefactor deemed in need of it. It may be for educational purposes by providing bursaries, for the poor of a given area, or to help distressed sailors or merchants. In fact, the range of causes and purposes of these benefactions is extensive.

The first was given by John Mure, a skipper and Burgess of Glasgow in 1602, the amount being £2 Scots, about 3s 4d sterling.[i] A paltry sum perhaps but the economic power of that amount is equivalent to c. £1,000 today.[ii] Among those donating funds to the House, and elsewhere, were a number of clergymen. The purpose of this post, and others to come, is to give some information on their lives and their charity.

Zachary Boyd.

Figure 1 Zachary Boyd. From ” A History of the University of Glagow 1451-1909.” James Coutts 1909

According to most biographical notes on Zachary or Zacharias Boyd he was born around 1585 in Ayrshire, a descendent of the Boyd family of Pinkhill and Trochrig. He was educated at Kilmarnock School and matriculated at Glasgow University in 1601.He gained an MA from St Andrews University in 1607 and then went to the protestant college at Saumer in France (where his cousin Robert Boyd had a professorship) subsequently becoming Regent Professor there in 1611. He eventually returned to Scotland and in 1623 was appointed minister of Barony Parish Church in which position he remained for the rest of his life.[iii]

He had a strong connection with Glasgow University possibly because of his cousin Robert Boyd who had become Principal of the University in 1615. He remained so until 1621 resigning because he could not support the idea of bishops in the Church of Scotland.[iv]

Boyd held several University positions from 1634 until c.1651. He was elected rector in 1634 and again in 1645.[v] He was also Dean of Faculty in 1631, 1633, and 1636. Finally, he became Vice Chancellor in 1651.[vi]

In 1650 following the execution of Charles I and the defeat of the Scots at Dunbar in September of that year by the English New Model Army, Oliver Cromwell came to Glasgow. Such was the apprehension of the city’s magistrates and other leading inhabitants that they fled the city, leaving it to the mercy of Cromwell’s army. In the event they had nothing to fear in that respect. Cromwell himself however did not escape censure. On Sunday the 26th October, two days after he entered the city he and his officers attended a church service at the Cathedral, where the preacher of the day was Zachary Boyd. During his sermon Boyd was highly critical of Cromwell, so much so that his secretary Thurlow offered to “pistol the scoundrel”. Fortunately, Cromwell did not agree and instead invited Boyd to supper, which he accepted, with the subsequent discussion and prayers lasting until the early hours of the morning.[vii]

Most sources say Boyd married twice, one has it that he married three times, his first wife’s name being unknown, but that they had a son called James. There is general agreement that his ‘second’ wife was Elspet or Elizabeth Fleming whom he married on the 16 May 1624[viii] and that he married Margaret Mure in 1639 after Elizabeth’s death.[ix]

Margaret Mure married James Durham after Boyd’s death and it has been said that as he was dying his wife requested that he leave something to Durham. His reply apparently was “I’ll lea him naething but thy bonnie sel’” [x] Another version has him say “I’ll lea him what I cannot keep frae him”[xi]

Although this post relates to donations to the Merchants, it is perhaps unsurprising that most of his charitable works were all aimed at University life. His initial charitable activity was in 1650 to donate 500 marks (£333 6s 8d Scots) to a fund to improve the University buildings.[xii] He then in 1635 mortified (to be used in perpetuity) £1000 Scots to be used for the education of one poor theological student to be selected by the Merchants House.[xiii] This was his sole contribution to the House.

Figure 2 Boyd’s mortification Board in the Merchants House Grand Hall. G. Manzor

His largesse to the University however did not end with the 500 marks. He was a person of great wealth and on his death in 1653 it was split between his wife Margaret and the University. He bequeathed £20,000 Scots, his library and his writings to the University with one condition attached, that some of the money be used to publish his many manuscripts of poems and religious tracts. In the event his works were not published, all of the money being used on University buildings.[xiv]

The money bequeathed is an astonishing amount for a clergyman, in fact for anyone of the time. It equates to just under £1670 sterling. Today’s equivalent lies somewhere between £250k and £57m dependent on whether you use simple RPI changes or more complex measures. Probably the most appropriate would be to use an income comparison which would make the bequest worth around £5.9m.[xv]

In 1655 a marble bust of Boyd was ordained by the University with an inscription detailing his bequest.[xvi] The bust, by sculptor Robert Erskine, was on display in 1658 in the old University buildings. When it was relocated to Gilmorehill, the bust was removed to the Hunterian Museum following restoration by John Mossman.[xvii]

It should be noted that the Merchants House as we know it today came into being in 1605 when an agreed Letter of Guildry was established. Prior to that date there had been some form of Merchants and Trades Guilds in place.

John Howieson

According to volume III of Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae, Howieson (lots of different spellings) was born in 1530. He was educated at Glasgow University, his first recorded ministry being at Kelso in 1576, becoming minister at Cambuslang around 1579. Like Boyd he had a strong antithesis to bishops in the Church of Scotland, a view that had him imprisoned on several occasions and, on one, assaulted in the Cathedral by the Lord Provost of Glasgow and his fellow bailies! In 1581 he became a member of the Glasgow Presbytery and by 1582 he was its Moderator.[xviii]

In was in 1582 that his opposition to bishops resulted in him being assaulted. Archbishop Boyd of Glasgow had died in 1581 and despite the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland forbidding bishops the Earl of Lennox was empowered by King James VI to appoint a replacement. He was Robert Montgomery, minister of Stirling. He was prohibited by the Church courts and initially promised not to take up the role, probably because he was threatened by excommunication and by being deposed from his ministry. However, he changed his mind, probably at the urging of Lennox.

Howieson and the Presbytery met in the Cathedral to consider the matter in March of 1582 during which Montgomery appeared with the Lord Provost Sir Matthew Stewart the Laird of Minto, his Bailies and other citizens. Stewart ordered Howieson to leave, which he refused to do along with the rest of the Assembly. At that point he was attacked by the Provost and his Bailies and had a tooth knocked out, his beard pulled and was given a number of blows to his face. He was then jailed in the Tolbooth.[xix]

In the following years he was continually in trouble because of his anti-bishop views, marriage to Agnes Columnes in 1586 being no deterrent to his activities. At various times he was held in the Spey Tower of St Johnstone (Perth), then Falkland Palace, eventually being removed as minister of Cambuslang in 1587. In 1595 he was held in Edinburgh Castle for allegedly having had printed a false version of an Act of Parliament. On his release he again became minister at Cambuslang confining himself to parish duties for the remainder of his life.[xx]

Like Boyd his beneficence was to both the Merchants House and the University. In 1612 he donated 500 marks to the House for charitable purposes[xxi] and in 1613 he mortified 1000 marks to fund a bursary at the University.[xxii] In 1615 he donated 2000 marks for the upkeep of two old men from Cambuslang at the hospital in Hamilton.[xxiii] He died in 1618 and in his will dated 14th October 1618 he bequeathed to the University his library of one hundred and thirty books.[xxiv]

[i] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others. (1866) The Merchants House of Glasgow. 2nd ed. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p. 567.

[ii] Measuring Worth (2018).

[iii] Scott, Hew. (1920). Fast Ecclesiae Scoticanae. The Succession of Ministers in the Church of Scotland since the Reformation. Vol. III. New Edition. Synod of Glasgow and Ayr. Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd. p. 392.

[iv] The University of Glasgow Story. Robert Boyd of Trochrig.

[v] Innes,, ed. (1854). Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727. Vol’ of Preface and Index. Edinburgh: T. Constable. pp. lviii, lvix, lxxiv.

[vi] Innes, ed. (1854). Munimenta Alme Universitatis Glasguensis. Records of the University of Glasgow, from its foundation till 1727. Vol. II Statutes and Annals. Edinburgh: T. Constable. p. 321.

[vii] MacGregor, George (1881). The History of Glasgow. Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison. p. 226.

[viii] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 16 May 1624. BOYD, Zacharie and FLEMINGE, Elspet. Source Film Number 0102924, 0919484. Family Search Transcription. Collection: Scotland Marriages, 1561-1910.

[ix] Scott, Hew, op. cit.

[x] Lang, John Marshall. (1895). Glasgow and the Barony Thereof: A Review of 300 Hundred Years and More. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. p.53.

[xi] Electricscotland. The Scottish Nation: Boyd.

[xii] Coutts, James. (1909). A History of the University of Glasgow. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 113.

[xiii] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others, op.cit. p. 591.

[xiv] Milligan, Susan (2004) The Merchants House of Glasgow, 1606-2005. Glasgow: The Merchants House of Glasgow. p. 26.

[xv] Measuring Worth (2018).

[xvi] Coutts, James, op.cit. p.133.

[xvii] The University of Glasgow Story. Zachary Boyd.

[xviii] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 234.

[xix] Coutts, James, op.cit. pp. 76,77 AND Marwick, Sir James D. Early Glasgow. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. pp. 194, 195.

[xx] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 235. 5

[xxi] Ewing, Archibald Orr and others. (1866) The Merchants House of Glasgow. 2nd ed. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p. 568.

[xxii] The University of Glasgow Story. John Howieson.

[xxiii] Scott, Hew, op. cit. p. 235. 5

[xxiv] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 14 October 1618. HOWESOUNE, John. Testament and Inventory. Glasgow Commissary Court. CC9/7/15.




John Glassford – Tobacco Lord (1715-1783) Part 2

Part 1 of this post discussed Glassford’s family background and marriages and the general performance of the Glasgow tobacco industry. This final part looks at Glassford’s specific business structure, his partnerships and some of the personalities involved. It also covers his final years, how some of his children fared, and the impact on the tobacco business, his and others, of the American War of Independence.

Business continued.

The diagram below is a representation of John Glassford’s overall business activities and how they were interlinked in some cases by common partners consisting of kinsmen and friends. It also indicates the number of diverse commercial enterprises he was involved with. The other interesting point is the relatively small number of people he partnered.

Figure 1. John Glassford’s Business ‘Compass’ George Manzor

He was involved in ten tobacco companies with a total of thirty five partnerships consisting of sixteen individuals, the main names being James Gordon – son in law – (6), Henry Riddell – son in law – (5), Archibald Henderson (3), John Campbell senior and junior – Caribbean sugar traders – (3), Arthur Connell – Lord Provost of Glasgow 1772/73 – (2), Neil Jamieson – also his factor in Chesapeake – (2) and Archibald Ingram – brother in law – (1).

These companies had a significant number of trading posts in Virginia and Maryland including Bladensburg, Lower Marlboro, Upper Marlboro, Chaptico, Leonardstown, Newport, Piscataway, Port Tobacco, Quantico in Maryland, and Alexandria, Boyd’s Hole, Cabin Point, Colchester, Norfolk in Virginia.

A similar partnership arrangement is evident in the thirteen non tobacco companies he had an interest in. They included banks, textiles, brewing, acid manufacture, and mining as follows:

Glasgow Arms Bank – along with Archibald Ingram (brother in law, married Glassford’s sister in 1743[1]), John Coates Campbell of Clathic (brother in law, brother of Anne Coats), Thomas Hopkirk (father of Glassford’s future son in law James Hopkirk) and twenty two others, seven of whom were successively Lord Provosts of Glasgow, founded the bank in 1750. Thistle Bank – founded the bank in 1761 along with John Coates Campbell and others.

His textile interests were Pollokshaws Dyers, Pollokshaws Printfield (bleaching), Glasgow Inkle Factory (manufacture of linen tape), Glasgow Tanners, Glasgow Cudbear Co. (dyers), Graham Liddell and Co. (stocking manufacturers) and James McGregor and Co. (bleachers and linen dealers), key partners in most of these businesses being Adam Ingram and John Coates Campbell

His other activities included Banton Ironstone Mines, which he leased from the Carron Company, the Anderston Brewery, the Prestonpans Vitriol Company, and the Borrowstouness Coal Company which again involved the Carron Company.

Another venture he became involved with was the Forth and Clyde Canal. In 1767 the cost of the canal was put at £50,000. The men of commerce in Glasgow decided to raise £40,000 in £100 shares. This was done with Glassford and another tobacco merchant John Ritchie raising between them £24,000.[2]

He, Adam Ingram and John Coates Campbell also supported financially the Foulis Art Academy founded in 1753/54 by Robert and Andrew Foulis, the University’s printers. Students were taught painting, drawing, engraving and modelling and were accommodated in rooms freely given by the University with exhibitions of their work being occasionally held in the faculty hall.[3]

Figure 2 The Foulis Academy of Art. From Old Glasgow: The place and the People by Andrew MacGeorge 1880.

The academy lasted until 1776 when it experienced serious financial difficulties. A number of the academy paintings were sold at auction in London for very low prices, with Robert Foulis dying on the return journey from London, his brother predeceasing him in 1775.[4]

Perhaps unexpectedly, this support of the academy by Glassford seems to have fostered in him an interest in art to the extent that he began collecting. At the time of his death in 1783 he had a sizable collection of Dutch, British, Italian, Flemish and French paintings. They were sold at auction at Christies in London on the 23rd December 1786, as his executers tried to deal with his rather messy finances. The Getty Provenance Index Database lists twenty six, which generated a total sale of just under £80. Included were paintings by Canaletto, Hobbema, and Griffier, the most expensive being by Barend Gael which raised £8 10s.[5]

As trade increased competition between the Glasgow merchants’ factors also increased as they tried to obtain the largest share of the crop for their company. They loaned cash to planters and gave unlimited credit such that the trade, as time went on, became more speculative rather than a normal and sustainable branch of business. In the meantime, all seemed well, with Glassford owning around twenty five ships and becoming extremely wealthy.

However, more and more complaints about the quality of goods from Glasgow were made in letters home from the factors. In a letter dated the 13th July 1758 Alexander Henderson, factor and partner, wrote that the price of tobacco was increasing and that there had been a number of complaints about the quality of china and gloves from Glasgow.[6]

The debt situation began to cause planters to move between agents to get credit regardless of their level of debt elsewhere. However, they also began to feel trapped by the level of debt they had.

By 1775 John Glassford is testifying to a parliamentary committee in London that debt age could be as much as four years and that the total debt to Glasgow merchants was £500,000 (between £65m and £5.5b today [7]), some of it in large amounts but much of it in small sums as low as £30, Glassford’s share being £50,000.[8] As indicated in Part 1 the level of debt was a significant proportion of the capital in the business and by 1775 had probably become unsustainable. To protect themselves to some extent against the effects of this situation the tobacco companies had for some time wrote down the value of a significant portion of their debt and controlled the level of profit claimed.[9] However this was a not a good position for the business nor the individual who owed the money.

When the War of Independence broke out in 1775 it signalled the end of the trade as it had been. As the war progressed the French market collapsed due to French sympathies lying with the revolutionaries, import volumes dropped, and debts were not being paid as settlers probably saw a way out of what they had come to believe as their entrapment by British plutocrats.

If the war had not occurred would the business have survived?

Probably, but not operating in the way that it had prior to the war. Without tackling the ever-ballooning level of debt and its increasing longevity (agents at one point had been instructed not to chase debt repayment aggressively), working capital would have reduced and cash flow problems would have occurred threatening the existence of some companies.

Possible solutions could have included amalgamation of the growers into larger plantations, varying the procurement of the product between direct purchase and consignment dependant on the circumstances of the individual planter thereby varying the business risk and reducing debt, creating joint stock companies to increase investment in the business and change the nature of the business risk, and perhaps the combining of some of the Glasgow companies into larger units.

The war however did take place and that fundamentally was that!

What of Glassford’s fortune? Well, it really did not survive the war either. Letters from Neil Jamieson late in 1775 spoke of the confusion that existed, about the arrival of British troops, residents declaring for the crown or being prevented from doing so, others leaving the area, still talking however about cargoes, asking Glassford to send sailcloth and twine, potatoes and porter. One letter finishes with “send no strong beer”. However it’s probable that these letters were never received by Glassford as they are annotated as follows; “intercepted letter transmitted to Congress by General Washington, with his letter dated December 18, 1775” [10].

In fact, Glassford’s financial difficulties actually began before the war. He was by nature a gambler both in business and in gaming. In particular a number of disastrous business speculations between 1774 and 1778 fundamentally laid the foundations for the loss of his fortune. He had a ‘gambling room’ built in an outhouse on his estate where he would indulge his passion for games of chance.

He was also described as a thrawn, stubborn individual. He believed the War of Independence was essentially an English conflict which should not have involved Scotland. He sided with the revolutionaries, unlike his peers, even to the point of refusing to sell his ships to the government to aid the war effort, leaving them berthed in Port Glasgow harbour. This at a time when he was already in deep financial trouble and could have done with the funds that these sales would have brought.[11]

As 1783 approached Glassford’s financial affairs continued to be problematic and he was in poor health. On the 6th August 1783 he created a tailzie (entail) of his Dougalston estate in favour of his son Henry and his heirs thus protecting it from his creditors. On the 14th August he established a trust covering the rest of his property, real and personal, the purpose of which was the winding up of his financial affairs and to protect the entailed Dougalston estate.[12]

Glassford died on the 27th August 1783, cause of death was given as ’growth in stomach.’[13] He was buried in the Ramshorn Churchyard, where also lies several members of his family.[14]

In his will, dated the 15th August and recorded on the 5th September, son Henry, John Coates Campbell, William Coates, Archibald Henderson, and sons-in- law James Gordon and Henry Riddell were named as trustees and executors.[15]

It seems that it took a further ten years sort out Glassford’s finances, his personal debt amounting £93,1430.[16]

In 1790 son-in-law Henry Riddell swore an affidavit to the Lord Provost of Glasgow John Campbell in an endeavour to claim compensation for the losses suffered by John Glassford and Co. as a result of the War of Independence. In it he stated that the claims were for property confiscated in Maryland consisting of land, houses, granaries and other effects. He also stated that the company was specifically mentioned in an Act of Parliament dealing with such claims, but the time limits imposed by the Act could not be met.

They authorised Robert Ferguson to act on the company’s behalf in Maryland who had been successful in saving a great deal of company property. The claim now being made was for the residue not secured by Ferguson. Riddell also state that he had been resident in Maryland at the outbreak of the war but as the situation became more and more difficult had moved back to Britain in 1778.

The losses amounted to £1915 14s (equivalent today in simple RPI change terms to £240,000) which is a relatively small amount considering the size of Glassford’s business, and that of a similar claim made on behalf of Spiers, French and Co. was for c. £1,000,000 at current values. Having said that the value of the property saved by Ferguson is not known. Interestingly the person making the claim on behalf of Spiers was another son-in-law of Glassford, namely James Hopkirk.[17] What the outcome was of both claims I have not ascertained.

Glassford’s children.

Nine children survived into adulthood, four of whom remained unmarried. Of the five who did marry only three of them produced offspring – surprisingly perhaps, none of Glassford’s sons produced any children.

  • Jean married James Gordon on the 18th August 1768.[18] They had seven children, their eldest son James inheriting Glassford’s estate of Dougalston in 1845 from his uncle James who died without children. He took the name Gordon Glassford in accordance with the requirements of the tailzie which detailed the succession. He was in turn succeeded by his brother Henry Gordon Glassford in 1847. Henry’s son James Glassford Gordon Glassford inherited the estate in 1860 which he eventually sold.
  • Ann married Henry Riddell some time between 1779 and 1781. Their first child Ann was born in August 1782.[19] They had seven others. He was also Glassford’s nephew by marriage, his mother, Christian, being the sister of Ann Nisbet.[20]
  • Catherine died unmarried on the 23rd November 1825, cause of death recorded as ‘decline’.[21] The inscription on the family tomb in the Ramshorn Churchyard records her death as being on the 13th[22]
  • Christian married James Hopkirk on the 28th March 1784.[23] They had ten children, their son Thomas becoming a famous botanist.[24] The Hopkirk Building in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens is named in his honour.[25]
  • Rebecca died unmarried on the 8th January 1780.[26] She was buried in the Ramshorn tomb.
  • Henry inherited Dougalston on his father’s death in 1783. He matriculated to the University in 1775 and was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1785. In 1805 he became Rector of the University serving until 1807[27]. He served in local Militia companies, in 1798 he was a captain in the Baldernock Yeomanry, becoming a major the following year and in 1804 was a lieutenant colonel in the West Stirling Volunteers. He became MP for Dunbartonshire from 1806 to 1810.[28] He died on the 26th May 1819[29] having never been married. Brother James inherited Dougalston on his death the estate eventually going to his nephew James in 1845 as indicated above.
  • Isabella married William Simpson on the 24th November 1804.[30] He was cashier to the Royal Bank of Scotland at the time of their marriage. They had no children.
  • James married Isabella Murray, the daughter of Sir William Murray of Auchtertyre, on the 24th September 1808.[31] He married for the second time Jane MacKay on the 8th May 1812. Both marriages were childless.[32] He was an advocate and legal writer. In 1820 he published ‘An Essay on the Principles of Evidence’ in which he treated evidence as a distinct subject, which changed the approach to testimony and evidence.[33]
  • Euphemia; according to the Ramshorn tomb inscription she died in 1850.[34] She was unmarried as far as I can tell.

Without the entailment specifying that the name Glassford should be taken if the succession passed through the female line, the surname would have been lost to Glassford’s direct descendants.

In due course the three families all went their separate ways.

The Gordon Glassfords branch ended up in New Zealand, the Hopkirks in Canada (James Hopkirk) and Northern Ireland (Thomas Hopkirk), whilst the Riddells essentially remained in Scotland or England.

In 1978 Glassford’s great great great great grandson Gordon Glassford Leask published a history of the Gordon Glassfords in New Zealand.[35]

In a short biography of Glassford in ‘Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship’ written in 1881 the writer observed that ‘Glassford tried to found a family to keep his name alive but it all came to nothing. The Glassfords are gone, their heirs are seeking to found a fortune on the other side of the globe…Glassford now almost forgotten, the very stone (in the Ramshorn Churchyard) tells the story of neglect, decay and desolation.[36]


The Tobacco Lords, Tom Devine, 1975, John Donald Ltd Edinburgh.

The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson, 2009, Penguin Books.

Scotland’s Empire 1600 – 1815, Tom Devine, 2003, Penguin Group.

The Union – England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707, Michael Fry, 2007, Birlinn Ltd.

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)

Glasgow Past and Present-3 Volumes – 1884, David Robertson and Co.


[1] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 27 February 1743. INGRAM, Archibald and GLASSFORD, Rebecca. 644/01 0250 0080.

[2] Daiches, David. (1977). Glasgow. Glasgow: Andre Deutsch. p. 70.

[3] Coutts, James. (1909). History of the University of Glasgow. From its Foundation in 1451 to 1909. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. pp. 258 – 260.

[4] MacGeorge, Andrew. (1880). Old Glasgow: The place and the People. Glasgow: Blackie and Son. pp. 302-304.

[5] The Getty Research Institute. The Getty Provenance Index Databases.

[6] TD 168, Mitchell Library. Letter book of Alexander Henderson 1760 – 1764.

[7] Measuring Worth (2016).

[8] TD 88/2, Mitchell Library. Xerox copy of BM Add MS33030 in the British Library.

[9] Price, Jacob M.  (1980). Capital and Credit in British Overseas Trade, The View from the Chesapeake 1700 – 1776. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. p. 26.

[10] Northern Illinois University. Digital Records: American Archives. Letters from Neil Jamieson to Glassford, Gordon and Co. and

[11] Castle, Colin M. (1989). John Glassford of Dougalston. Milngavie and Bearsden Historical Society. p. 22,23 and Oakley, Charles A. (1975). The Second City. Glasgow: Blackie. p. 7,8.

[12] Shaw, Patrick and Dunlop, Alexander. (1834) Cases Decided in the Court of Session 1822-1824. Vol II. Edinburgh: Thomas Clark. p.432.

[13]Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 27 August 1783. GLASSFORD, John. 644/01 0590 0131.

[14] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.2. Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 295.

[15] Maryland State Archives. Maryland Indexes, Charles County Maryland Will Book AH-9, 1785-1788; p. 361, 367, 369.

[16] Castle, op.cit. p.24.

[17] AO/12/9 in TD 88, Mitchell Library. Glasgow Tobacco Merchants – Claims of American Loyalists to the British Government after the American Revolution.

[18] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 18 August 1768. GORDON, James and GLASSFORD, Jean. 644/01 0260 0056.

[19] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 6 August 1782. RIDDELL, Ann. 644/01 0170 0214.

[20] Births (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 26 December 1744. RIDDELL, Henry. 685/01 0240 0294.

[21] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 23 August 1825. GLASSFORD, Catherine. 644/01 0610 0228.

[22] Senex etc op.cit.

[23] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 28 March 1784. HOPKIRK, James and GLASSFORD, Christian. 644/01 0260 0319.

[24] Hopkirk Family Worldwide.

[25] Glasgow City Council. Glasgow Botanic Gardens Heritage Trail (PDF).

[26] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 8 January 1780. GLASSFORD, Rebecca. 644/01 0590 0057.

[27] University of Glasgow. The University of Glasgow Story: Henry Glassford of Dougalston.

[28] The History of Parliament: Members 1790-1820. Henry Glassford (1764-1819).

[29] Deaths. Scotland (OPR) Glasgow. 26 May 1819. GLASSFORD, Henry. 644/01 0610 0228.

[30] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 24 November 1804. SIMPSON, William and GLASSFORD, Isabella. 685/01 0530 0164 .

[31] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 24 September 1808. GLASSFORD, James and MURRAY, Isabella. 685/01 0530 0292

[32] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 8 May 1812. GLASSFORD, James and MACKAY, Jane. 685/02 0180 0429

[33] Wentworth-Shields, W.F. and Harris, Jonathan. (2004) Glassford, James (1771-1845). In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[34] Deaths. Find a Grave 1850. GLASSFORD, Euphemia

[35]  National Library of Australia.

[36] Stewart, George (1881) Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship. Short biographical notices of the principal merchants, manufacturers etc of Glasgow in 1783: John Glassford. Glasgow: James Maclehose.


John Glassford – Tobacco Lord (1715-1783) Part 1.

The three most prominent Glasgow ‘Tobacco Lords’ were William Cunningham, Alexander Speirs and John Glassford. Much has been written about all three, in particular detailing how they and others, developed the trade, ran their businesses and with whom. In more recent times the issue of Glasgow’s involvement with slavery in the American Colonies and the Caribbean has been more vigorously explored than previously. It’s clear that the success of the Colonial tobacco trade owes much to the use of slaves in Virginia and Maryland.

The purpose of this post is not to look at this aspect of the trade* but to comment on John Glassford’s family background and his immediate family life, identify his business structure, activities and partnerships, and give some detail to a few of the men he partnered.

There will be one comment on what may be a direct contact Glassford had with slavery but more of that later.

*Those with an interest in this subject should, at least, read ‘It Wisnae Us’ by Stephen Mullen and ‘Recovering Scotland’s Slavery Past’ edited by Tom Devine.


John Glassford’s father James was a merchant in Paisley. He married Eupham Smelie (various spellings) in Edinburgh on the 27th April 1710.[1] Her father was Thomas Smelie, an Edinburgh merchant and also a burgess and guild brother of the city. As was the custom, the daughter of a burgess could transfer to her husband her right of admission as a burgess, which she got through her father. This duly occurred and in July of 1710 James became a burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh.[2]

It seems they had six children, born in Abbey parish, Paisley: one son John, and five daughters, Jannet, Euphame, Catharine, Rebecca and Helen.[3] However, there are other sources which say that John was the third of three sons, the others being William and James, and that there was another daughter Elizabeth.

If he did indeed have other children he must have been married before. One strong candidate would be Agnes Gemmill who married a James Glassford in 1690.[4] They had children named William, Elizabeth, James, and Agnes, all born in Abbey parish, Paisley, the father being described as a bailiff or merchant there.[5]

Pure conjecture of course, and just to confuse matters further a William Glassford, described as ‘James Glassford’s’ first son was made a burgess and guild brother of Glasgow in 1723 by right of his father,[6] additionally a James Glassford, described as ‘James Glassford’s’ second son was made a burgess and guild brother of Edinburgh in 1733 by right of his father[7] and also a burgess and guild brother of Glasgow in 1734 by right of his father.[8]

One thing is certain, when James Glassford senior died in 1730, age 63, his wife Euphame survived him and in his will he mentions he had four living children all in their minority; John, Rebecca, Katharine and Helen.[9] He died in Edinburgh on the 6th November, reportedly murdered on the way home to his chambers.[10] He was buried in Edinburgh in the Smelie family lair on the 9th November.[11]

John Glassford was born on the 11th December 1715 and baptised on the 15th of that month.[12] He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1728, age 13.[13] I

It’s not clear when he became involved in the tobacco trade however his initial business activity was as a manufacturer of textiles.[14]  In 1739 he, along with fellow merchant Andrew Thomson, is said to have undertaken a trip on horseback to London. For what business reason has not been established however it must have been a long and arduous journey with “no turnpike road until they came to Grantham, within 110 miles of London.” [15]

This journey may well have been the precursor to his involvement with tobacco as around 1745 he has purchased Whitehill House[16] and by 1750 he is a founder member of the Glasgow Arms Bank.[17]

Figure 1. Whitehill House from The old country houses of the old Glasgow gentry. John Guthrie Smith and John Oswald Mitchell, 1878. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons.

John Glassford married three times, the first of whom was Anne Coats, who he married on the 24th April 1743 in Glasgow.[18] Her father was the Glasgow merchant Archibald Coats who, along with Baillie George Carmichael, was ‘taken hostage’ in 1745 by Bonnie Prince Charlie and his army to ensure that the terms they had forced on Glasgow were duly implemented.[19] These demands included “six thowsand shirt cloath coats, twelve thowsand linnen shirts, six thowsand pairs of shoes and the like number of pairs of tartan hose and blue bonnets.”[20]

Anne’s mother was Jean Campbell who was the heir to the Clathick estate in Perthshire. On her death in 1729[21] her eldest son John became heir and in due course became known as John Coats Campbell of Clathick.

John and Anne had five children, all but one dying in infancy.

  • Anne – born 1744, died the same year.[22]
  • Jean – born 1746.[23]
  • James – born 1748, died in 1751[24].
  • Archibald – born 1750, died the same year.[25]
  • Euphan – born 1751, died 1752.[26]

In each case the registration documents record the witnesses to be Anne’s father Archibald and Archibald Ingram, who had married John’s sister Rebecca in 1743[27]. More of Ingram and Campbell of Clathick later.

A few weeks after giving birth to Euphan, Anne died on the 18th December.[28]

Less than a year later in November of 1752 John married Ann Nisbet the daughter of Sir John Nisbet of Dean in Edinburgh.[29]

They had six children all of whom, with the exception of John, survived into adulthood.

  • Ann – born 1754.[30]
  • Catherine – born 1755.[31]
  • Christian – born 1757.[32]
  • Rebecca – born 1758.[33]
  • John – born 1762, died 1777.[34]
  • Henry – born 1764.[35]

An interesting point again arises from the parish registration documents in that James Glassford is recorded as a witness in five of the births. Was this John’s brother from his father’s first marriage to Agnes Gemmill? If so why was he not mentioned in his father’s will?

Ann Nisbet died on the 11th April 1766 in Glasgow, cause of death was child bed fever.[36]

In 1768 there were two Glassford family marriages. The first was that of daughter Jean to James Gordon on the 18th August.[37] The second was when John married his third wife Lady Margaret McKenzie, daughter of the Earl of Cromarty on the 7th December.[38]

This marriage produced a further three children.

  • Isabella – born 1770.[39]
  • James – born 1771.[40]
  • Euphemia – 1773.[41]

Euphemia was born on the 21st February. Unfortunately, just over five weeks later on the 29th March, Lady Margaret died.[42]

Throughout the period of his three marriages Glassford’s business empire, in common with the other leading tobacco merchants increased almost exponentially. His local prestige and involvement with the city’s governing bodies both commercial and civic grew apace.

He became a burgess and guild brother of Glasgow in 1737 by right of his father James,[43] played his part in the activity of the Merchants House, was a partner in two Glasgow banks (see business section) and finally in 1783, the year of his death, was a founder member of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, created by Royal Charter on the 9th June.[44]

He sold Whitehill House in 1759[45] and purchased Shawfield Mansion the following year from William McDowall for 1700 guineas.[46] In 1767 he bought the Dougalston estate from the Grahame family.[47]

Figure 2. Shawfield Mansion © Glasgow City Libraries

The Glassford family portrait referred to earlier demonstrates how wealthy John had become with the fine clothing on display and the room’s fine furnishings. Much has recently been written about it particularly around the time (2007) when conservation work on the painting was being undertaken.

The painting contains the surviving children from his first two marriages and his third wife Lady Margaret McKenzie. The conservation work led by conservator Polly Smith established that his second wife Ann Nisbet had been painted out following her death in 1766 suggesting that it was in progress prior to that date or possibly had been completed, with Lady Margaret being added when he remarried in 1768.

Figure 3. John Glassford (1715-1783), and His Family. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

I believe the children in the painting to be Jean at the rear to the right of her father, the middle row left to right being Rebecca, Christian, Anne, Catherine and on Lady Margaret’s lap Henry, and standing at the front, John.

Another figure was also established behind John Glassford’s chair, that of a negro manservant. It had been believed previously that he had been painted out to avoid any family connection to slavery, however it seems that the figure simply faded over time.

Who was he, by what means did he come to Glassford’s household? Perhaps the answer lies in the following extracts from Frederick County, Maryland Land Records[48] and the Maryland Genealogical Society Records.[49]

Robert Peter or Peters was a Scottish tobacco factor working for John Glassford and Company in Maryland. He began in Bladensburgh circa 1746, moving to Georgetown in 1755. (In 1790 he became the first mayor of Georgetown). He was also John Glassford & Company’s attorney in Maryland. On the 27th September 1756 he bought a negro boy named Jim for 4,000 lbs of tobacco and £2 5s. I think it probable that this purchase was in the name of the company. Why else record that it was made by the attorney of John Glassford?

Robert Peter bought other slaves but those records I have seen clearly state that the purchases were on his own or his family’s behalf, and they never involved a single slave purchase.

Was ‘Jim’ purchased for Glassford personally? Is he the manservant in the painting? In truth who knows but intriguing none the less.


It’s probably worth looking, first of all, at how the tobacco industry in Glasgow began and developed.

Before the Union of Parliaments minor trade in tobacco took place between Glasgow merchants and the American colonies during the 17th Century. This included having an embryonic stores system on the Potomac River manned by Scottish agents towards the end of the century.

The English Navigation Acts of 1660 to 1664 in particular treated Scotland as a foreign nation thereby legally excluding them from colonial commerce.

Some circumvention of these Acts occurred aided and abetted by Scottish settlers in the Chesapeake colonies and by speculative purchase of tobacco from traders in Whitehaven and Liverpool for resale to the European markets, particularly in Holland and Sweden.

The Act of Union of 1707 resulted in changes to the Navigation Acts which allowed ‘Freedom and Intercourse of Trade and Navigation’ with England and her colonies.

The pre-union trading in tobacco helped establish commercial knowledge and trade contacts which made Glasgow ready to develop and exploit the activity.

English tobacco trading was mainly commission based which involved taking crops on consignment and selling them on in domestic and European markets on behalf of the planters thereby earning a commission on the sale. Ownership of the tobacco remained with the planter until the sale. Fundamentally the English traders were ‘middle men’ with business risks mainly with the planter.

The Glasgow trade involved direct purchase of tobacco from the planters, but as other ports including English ones gradually moved to this system, this was only one factor which distinguished the Glasgow businesses from those in England and made it eventually very successful and pre-eminent in Britain.

Not everyone welcomed this success. The near monopoly of the English ports had been removed by the Act of Union; therefore, the challenge from the Glasgow merchants was not welcomed by them. When that challenge began to erode the English ports activity in tobacco, the reaction from London and Bristol merchants in particular was to attribute this to illicit activity on the part of the Glasgow merchants.

Specifically, they formed the view that ‘North British’ customs officers were corrupt and lazy thereby impairing the collection of taxes to the benefit of the Glasgow trade, and to the disadvantage of the Treasury. Lack of familiarity with correct English customs procedures was also blamed.

In due course this view prevailed and in 1722-1723 Parliament and the Treasury upheld the complaints resulting in significant changes to customs collections in Scotland.

Key changes were: more stringent regulations for the collection of dues, abolition of the separate Board of Customs for Scotland and replacing it with a rotating subcommittee of the London Board located in Edinburgh, and the sacking of native Scottish customs officers and their replacement by experienced English officers.

Despite these actions the Glasgow trade continued to flourish resulting in further complaint from the main English ports which gave rise to the Tobacco Act of 1751.

This Act put in place a series of controls which were intended to govern the internal movement of tobacco. In essence unmanufactured tobacco could not be moved or traded without a permit. A central accounting system was established, operated by special officers in London and Edinburgh, to ensure that every pound of tobacco was tracked from importer to retailer.

Contrary to expectations perhaps, Glasgow activity continued to grow to such an extent that by 1758 it surpassed London as the first tobacco port of the realm.  In 1762 tobacco accounted for 81% of Scottish re-exports of foreign produce and 52% of all Scottish exports. By 1775 the Scottish share of imports to Britain from the American colonies was 45%.

The ‘business compass’ below shows what I believe became the generic arrangement of the businesses of the major tobacco lords. The core business may have been tobacco but their diversification into other industries and the selling of their other products to the tobacco producers, their use of several co-partneries, the fundamentally tight communities internally and externally within the broader Glasgow merchant class where they set up institutions (banks) to help finance their ventures, all created a very successful business model.

Figure 4. Tobacco Lords Business ‘Compass’ George Manzor

The statistics quoted earlier are no doubt impressive however they do not convey the rapid growth in the Scottish (mainly Glasgow) tobacco industry from 1707 until the American War of Independence. To have a full understanding of the change of activity during these years it’s necessary to look at import levels at key points during this period.

Immediately post 1707 imports averaged 1,450,000 lbs per annum

Post 1710 pre-1720 imports averaged 2,500,000 lbs per annum

1722     6,000,000 lbs.

1741     8,000,000 lbs

1745     13,000,000 lbs

1752      21,000,000 lbs

1753      24,000,000 lbs

1760      32,000,000 lbs

1771      47,000,000 lbs.

Some stagnation occurred after 1722 when the initial custom changes were applied. However, it’s clear that in the long term the changes in law, regulation and customs procedures did not hinder Glasgow’s implacable growth in tobacco trading.

There were a number of advantages Glasgow had over the English ports, one natural, the others as a result of astute business methods and structures. It can be argued however that in due course, in one of their methods of operation, namely advancing credit to the colonial planters lay the seeds of the ultimate demise of the Glasgow tobacco trade.

The shortest route to the American colonies from Britain was north of Ireland. As a consequence, a ship sailing from the Clyde to Virginia could arrive there two to three weeks earlier than one sailing from London. Ships from the Clyde could achieve two journeys per year compared to those from London. Shorter sailing times meant commercial intelligence could pass between Glasgow and the colonies much more quickly. Control of the operation in the colonies by the principals in Glasgow would be tighter ensuring a more rapid response to changing circumstances than their competitors could achieve. Coupled with the organisational structure of the Glasgow companies, namely, partner (Glasgow), managing partner or factor (colonies), and storekeeper (colonies), this was an important feature of Glasgow’s success.

However probably the most significant and influential aspect of the Glasgow tobacco trade was the combination of information pooling between agents and employees (referred to as ‘network externalities’), reduced operating costs, the factoring system, and economies of scale.

Operating costs fundamentally were driven by freight costs. At a time when tobacco could be purchased for one penny to three halfpennies per pound, the cost of freight was one halfpenny per pound.

The size of ship was important, however unit shipping costs varied directly with the length of the voyage. The principal variant in the length of the voyage was the duration of the stay in the colonies, which could be between three and six months as a full ship load for the return journey was procured.

In terms of ship procurement, a considerable number were built in the colonies due to the cheaper cost of labour, sometimes built with Glasgow capital.

Ships crewing, and victualling costs were significantly lower due to the shorter journeys. Dwell time in port was considerably reduced by advance purchasing of tobacco (turn time in port could be as little as fifteen days), which was more expensive, but more than compensated for by the much-reduced freight costs. This also drove up the price of tobacco which obviously benefited the planter but disadvantaged the consignment competition with their higher operating costs.

The factor system with its network of stores and agents scattered throughout Maryland and Virginia was the means by which tobacco could be purchased directly from the planter. The consignment system had been best suited to large scale planters but as planting of tobacco expanded westward into the ‘back’ country this resulted in a large number of smaller individual operations which were not attractive or viable to the commission businesses.

A key aspect of direct purchase was that the business risk shifted from the planter to the merchants. Inevitably such small operations required financial support which was provided by the Glasgow merchants through extended credit, primarily to buy goods shipped from Glasgow, which were necessary to everyday life.

As the merchants owned a number of manufactories where goods and supplies were produced this was another significant income stream where ownership of production would lead to lower operating costs.

Liquidity however of this process was not ideal as continuing extension of credit for a number of reasons, including rivalry between the merchants, merely increased the indebtedness of the planters. A goods pricing structure evolved where cash purchases or purchases made using tobacco as currency were cheaper than if a purchase was made on credit.

Whilst this would appear as a reasonable long-term investment in the trade, particularly as the shipped tobacco was very quickly sold on domestically and into Europe, there was an incipient threat in that a growing and significant proportion of the capital in the business was debt. A further consequence was that eventually accessible credit became the life blood of the trade without which, it would not have existed in the way that it did.

Another significant advantage of the Glasgow tobacco trade was its access to capital in Scotland. There was a lack of competing areas of investment therefore the industry had little difficulty in attracting investment from the landed gentry and others who had capital to spare. Most of these investors had no connection to the industry other than what they had invested.

Additionally, the three major banks (Ship, Arms and Thistle) formed between 1750 and 1761 were co-partnerships dominated by the tobacco lords. This situation would have facilitated financial support of the industry.

There was another major change in the tobacco trade which significantly contributed to Glasgow’s success. The size of the market increased. Originally the most important market for tobacco was centred on Amsterdam. The nature of that trade meant that supplies of tobacco came from a multitude of ports in Britain. Small businesses therefore flourished.

The emerging French and German markets changed that situation. As they grew in significance, particularly the French, major companies prospered driving out the smaller ones. French and German buyers were in place in Glasgow and London making sure they were able to satisfy their own domestic demands for tobacco.

In Glasgow between 1728-1731 there had been 91 companies involved in the tobacco trade. By 1773 that number had reduced to 38, many with common partners and more closely associated by joint interest and kinship. This in turn provided another edge for Glasgow in that London merchants tended to act alone or in smaller partnerships of two or three.

French purchase of tobacco was not carried out by individual merchants or companies but through a state monopoly run by private interests.

As an aside around 1717-1720 that monopoly was run by a Scottish economist called John Law (a convicted murderer) through an organisation called ‘The Mississippi Company’ who had the monopoly on the importing and reselling of tobacco. He created a joint stock company which unfortunately became the first casualty in 1721 of a share price bubble which starts with share prices inflating rapidly followed by a total collapse of the price. The company became known as ‘the Mississippi Bubble’.  Its effect on the French economy was disastrous far outweighing the impact of the ‘South Sea Bubble’ in Britain.

The French purchases from Britain were initially small but as the 18th century progressed they began to buy more and more from Britain; significantly greater domestic demand, reduced British taxation impositions and the quality of the product driving them to do so. By the 1760’s over 50% of the French requirement was being purchased through Glasgow.

The Glasgow tobacco trade was by this time a resounding success with the main players such Glassford, Spiers and Cunninghame becoming fabulously wealthy.

Part 2 will look at Glassford’s business structure, partners, children and how the American War of Independence effected the tobacco industry generally.


The Tobacco Lords, Tom Devine, 1975, John Donald Ltd Edinburgh.

The Ascent of Money, Niall Ferguson, 2009, Penguin Books.

Scotland’s Empire 1600 – 1815, Tom Devine, 2003, Penguin Group.

The Union – England, Scotland and the Treaty of 1707, Michael Fry, 2007, Birlinn Ltd.

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)

Glasgow Past and Present-3 Volumes – 1884, David Robertson and Co.


[1] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 27 April 1710. GLASSFORD, James and SMELIE, Eupham. 685/01 0460 0089.

[2] Watson, Charles B. Boog, ed. (1930) Roll of Burgesses and Guild Brethren 1701-1760. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p. 79.

[3] Births (OPR) Scotland, Abbey, Renfrewshire. 1712-1725. GLASSFORD. 559/ 20 29; 559/ 20 39; 559/ 20 65; 559/ 20/81; 559/ 20 114.

[4] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Renfrewshire. 14 November 1690. GLASSFORD, James and GEMMILL, Agnes. 559/ 10 336

[5] Births (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Renfrewshire. 1695-1702. Glassford. 559/ 10 164; 559/ 10 196; 559/ 10 204; 559/ 10 215.

[6] Anderson, James R., ed. (1925) The Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1573-1750. William Glassford 1723. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p 367.

[7] Watson, Charles B. Boog, ed. (1930) Roll of Edinburgh Burgesses and Guild Brethren 1701-1760. James Glassford 1733. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p. 79.

[8] Anderson, James R., ed. (1925) The Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1573-1750. James Glassford 1734. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p 414.

[9] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 6 November 1733. Testament, Testamentar and Inventory. GLASSFORD, James. Glasgow Commissary Court. CC9/7/54.

[10] Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 6 November 1730. GLASSFORD, James. 685/1 890 301.

[11] Burials. (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 9 November 1730 GLASSFORD, James. 685/1 900 103.

[12] Births (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Renfrewshire. 11 December 1715. GLASSFORD, John. 559/ 20 52.

[13] Addison, W. Innes. (1913) The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow 1728 to 1858. Glasgow: James Maclehose & Sons. p. 1.

[14] Devine, T. M. (1990) The Tobacco Lords. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 181.

[15] Cleland, James (1832) Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the City of Glasgow ….1831. Glasgow: John Smith & Son. p. 156.

[16] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.2. Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 499

[17] Ewing, Archibald Orr, ed. (1866) View of the Merchants House of Glasgow etc. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p. 530

[18] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 24 April 1743. GLASSFORD, John and COATS, Anne. 644/01 0250 0082.

[19] Stewart, George (1881) Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship. Glasgow: James Maclehose. p. 138.

[20] Ewing, op.cit. p. 166

[21] Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 30 December 1729. COATS, Jean (Campbell). 644/01 0460 0080.

[22] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 1 November 1744. GLASSFORD, Anna. 644/01 0470 0068.

[23] Births.

[24] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 31 January 1751. GLASSFORD, James. 644/01 0470 0151.

[25] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 9 October 1750. GLASSFORD, Archibald. 644/01 0470 0147.

[26] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 30 January 1752. GLASSFORD, Euphan. 644/01 0470 0168.

[27] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 27 February 1743. INGRAM, Archibald and GLASSFORD, Rebecca. 644/01 0250 0080.

[28] Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 18 December 1751. COATS, Anne. 644/1 470 166.

[29] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 5 November 1752. GLASSFORD, John and NISBET, Anne. 685/1 480 196

[30] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 7 March 1754. GLASSFORD, Ann. 644/01 012A 0090.

[31] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 23 September 1755. GLASSFORD, Catharine. 644/01 012A 0158.

[32] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 29 June 1757. GLASSFORD, Christian. 644/01 0130 0034.

[33] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 4 January 1759. GLASSFORD, Rebecca. 644/01 0130 0161.

[34] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 3 January 1777. GLASSFORD, John. 644/01 0590 0005.

[35] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 15 November 1764. GLASSFORD, Henry. 644/01 0140 0223.

[36] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 11 April 1766. GLASSFORD, Anne. 644/01 0480 0174.

[37] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. 18 August 1768. GORDON, James and GLASSFORD, Jean. 644/01 0260 0056.

[38] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. St Cuthbert’s, Edinburgh. 24 November 1768. GLASSFORD, John and MACKENZIE, Margaret. 685/02 0160 0212.

[39] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 14 January 1770. GLASSFORD, Isabella. 644/01 0150 0173.

[40] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 19 February 1771. GLASSFORD. James. 644/01 0150 0248.

[41] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 21 February 1773. GLASSFORD, Euphemia. 644/01 0160 0007.

[42] Deaths. Scotland. Glasgow. 29 March 1773. McKENZIE, (Glassford) Lady Margaret.

[43] Anderson, James R., ed. (1925) The Burgesses and Guild Brethren of Glasgow 1573-1750. John Glassford 1737. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p 425.

[44] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.2. Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 50

[45] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.2. Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 499.

[46] Goodfellow, G. L. M. “Colin Campbell’s Shawfield Mansion in Glasgow.” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 23, no. 3, 1964, pp. 123–128. JSTOR, JSTOR,

[47] Devine, op. cit. p. 181.

[48] Maryland State Archives. Maryland Indexes, (Chancery Papers, Index), 1788-1790, MSA S 1432. 1790/12/013990: Robert Peter vs. William Deakins, Jr., Bernard O’Neal, Edward Burgess, Richard Thompson, John Peters, and Thomas Beall. MO. Contract to serve as securities. Accession No: 17,898-3990. MSA S512-4108   1/36

[49] Maryland Genealogical Society. Bulletin Vol. 36, No.2, Spring 1995.


Glasgow’s George Square until 1900


As my home page states my blog is generally about people who have benefitted Glasgow in some way. This post however is about an area of Glasgow which in my view became central to Glasgow’s growth and success since the beginnng of the nineteenth century. It has contained some of Glasgow’s most important buildings and people and particularly for commerce, considered to be, arguably, the most prestigious address in the city.

According to the late Glasgow journalist Jack House, George Square is the heart of Glasgow.[1] It’s not its geographical centre, that honour, according to the Guardian newspaper, goes to somewhere in Argyle Street, east of Central Station.[2] Nor is it located where the original religious settlement was established by St Mungo around 560 A.D.,[3] that occurred to the east of George Square on the banks of the Molendiner burn, roughly where the present Cathedral is sited.[4]

It was built on the lands of Ramshorn[5] which although originally owned by the church and part of the Glasgow See, were outside the burgh boundaries until the late 18th century.[6]

Figure I.  Map of Glasgow 1560. From Early Glasgow by James Marwick 1911

In the Beginning.

The derivation of the name Ramshorn is obscure. In fact, it’s possible its original name was Ramsholm, meaning a flat piece of land near a river. However, ‘Ramshorn’ provides for the better, if less factual, story. It involves a stolen, then beheaded sheep, the head turning to stone and sticking to the thief’s hand, St Mungo forgiving the thief and miraculously relieving him of his extra appendage. The lands on which this event took place were thereafter known as the lands of Ramishorne.[7]

St Mungo is said to have died around 601. The history of the See is for some time after, obscure, although there appears to have been a series of wars involving Picts, Scots, Danes and others which destroyed all traces of the church and had ‘reduced them (the inhabitants) to that state of barbarity which we find them living in at the time that David, prince of Cumbria re-founded the See, A.D.1115.’[8]

David was the son of King Malcolm III of Scotland and his second wife Margaret. He was made Prince of Cumbria by his brother Edgar and became king of Scotland in 1124 on the death of his brother Alexander I.[9]

Figure 2. King David I of Scotland.

He was very keen to re-establish ecclesiastical jurisdictions and in 1115 he re-constituted the See of Glasgow, appointing John Achaius as bishop.[10] Between 1116 and 1121 he held an inquest into the Church’s ancient temporal possessions and restored them.[11] Ramshorn is not listed in the Notitia,[12] possibly meaning that it was a sub division of a possession, or that it was never within the original See.


Figure 3. King Alexander II of Scotland.

In 1241 King Alexander II issued a charter to the Bishop of Glasgow, William de Bondington[13] granting to him and his successors, lands around Glasgow which included Rammishoren. The lands were to be ‘held forever in free forest, forbidding anyone to cut wood or hunt therein without their license’. Perhaps Alexander was clarifying a situation because of the pressure being exerted by the burghs of Rutherglen and Dumbarton on Glasgow with respect to collecting tolls and trade;[14] or this could have been the first formal grant of Ramshorn to the church.

In a King James IV charter of 1494, the lands of Ramshorn are described as ‘terras domini epicopi Glasguensis que appellantur Rammyshorne’ (land of the Bishop of Glasgow and called Ramshorn).[15] Thereafter Ramshorn remained part of the Glasgow See until post Reformation times.

The 16th Century.

In the 16th century the Heriot family of Midlothian became rentallers of the Archbishop of Glasgow. In 1518 Allan Heryot is recorded as rentaller of the ‘33s.4d lands of Ramys Horne and Medwflat,’[16] the latter being situated to the west of Ramshorn, the two areas being divided by Cow Loan, which is today’s Queen Street.[17] By 1545 he had been succeeded by his brother Robert of Lumphoy, of the parish of Currie near Riccarton.[18] Robert married Helen Swinton and had two daughters the eldest of whom, and his heir, was Agnes.[19] He in turn rented out the property to Arthur Sinclair and then to M. Hendry Sinclair in 1555.[20]  After Robert’s death his widow married Edward Henryson[21] both becoming rentallers of the property in 1558, to be followed by Agnes Heriot and her husband James Foulis of Colinton, Sheriff of Lothian, in 1566.[22] [23]

In 1587 the temporal lands, offices, and regalities of Scotland’s prelacies and benefices were annexed to the crown by King James VI. Following that the King granted in feu to William Stuart, Commendator of Blantyre, all the ‘lands and Barony of Glasgow, city and burgh of regality which … anytime passed belonged to the Archbishops of Glasgow’, included in which was ‘Rammishorne’.[24] During 1588 Walter feud Ramshorn and Meadowflat to James Foulis (d. 1610)[25] and his wife Agnes (d.1595)[26].

The background to these changes was the Scottish Reformation. There was both religious and political upheaval in Scotland during most of the 16th century which challenged the established religion and the long-standing relationship Scotland had with France.[27] One of the consequences of these issues was the removal of lands from the church’s control, although it was not until 1688, when Episcopalian authority was finally abolished,[28] that the church had no further say in the disposition of land.

Ramshorn changed hands several times in the next twenty years with James Foulis disposing of it in 1597 to the Laird of Blair; he then sold it to Sir David Cunningham of Robertland in 1606, with his successor, Sir Frederick Cunningham, selling it to George Hutcheson of Lambhill in 1609.[29]

The Hutcheson family and their in-laws, the Hills, were to retain the property for the next eighty five years.[30]

The Hutcheson and Hill Families.

Figure 5. Thomas Hutcheson Statue on the frontage of the Hutcheson’s Hospital building in Ingram Street. George Manzor.
Figure 4. George Hutcheson Statue on the frontage of the Hutcheson’s Hospital building in Ingram Street. George Manzor.

George Hutcheson was the  son of Thomas Hutcheson of Lambhill and Gairbraid, and his wife Helen Herbertson. He was a public notary and along with his brother Thomas, who was clerk to the Register of Sasines of the Regality of Glasgow, established funds in 1639/1640 for the building of Hutcheson’s Hospital for destitute old men[31]. Thomas, after his brother’s death on 31 December 1639 continued to support the hospital and on 16th March 1641 laid its foundation stone.

In the same year he provided funds for the ‘maintenance and education of twelve indigent male orphans’[32], the school that he set up being in existence today as Hutchesons’ Grammar.[33] Both brothers died without issue, (Thomas on 1st September 1641), resulting in their estates going to their three sisters’ male offspring[34] the most well known being those of their youngest sister Helen.

She married Ninian Hill of Garioch, (c.1593-1623), a merchant burgess of Glasgow, about 1609 and had several children a number of whom were legatees of George Hutcheson, including a son, also called Ninian who was his father’s heir as the only surviving son of five.[35] He was baptised on 10th July 1621, one of his godfathers being George Hutcheson. He married twice, firstly to Margaret Craufurd, a marriage contract being signed on 31st March 1654, who died without offspring. He then married Jean Caldwell (about 1659) with whom he had 5 children including a son also called Ninian.[36]

On Thomas Hutcheson’s death the lands of Ramshorn and Meadowflat passed to Ninian (the second), through his mother Helen Hutcheson. The area of the Ramshorn Croft at that time was given as 20 acres two roods.[37] He died around 1683 at which time his son Ninian (the third) succeeded to Ramshorn and Meadowflat although it took until 1686 for title to be legally established.[38]

He married Mary Crauford in 1685, a marriage contract being signed on 31st July 1685.[39]

Figure 6. Contract of Marriage between Ninian Hill and Mary Crauford 1685. From The Early Records of an Old Glasgow Family by William Henry 1902.

They had ten children, and he was the last of the Hill family to own Ramshorn and Meadowflat, selling it on 14th May 1694 to the ‘Magistrates of Glasgow behoof of Hutchesons’ Hospital for the price of 20,300 merks.’ (£13,533 6s 8d Scots or £1127 15s 6d stg.).[40]

The purchase however was not straight forward, nor did the magistrates actually purchase the lands at this time. Provost Napier and his Baillies supported the purchase (mainly because they did not want Ninian Hill to sell to anyone else)[41] which was to be equally funded by the Hutcheson hospital patrons, and the Merchants and Trades Houses. There were however conditions laid down by the magistrates attached to that support, a key one being that no improvement could be made to the land which would prejudice the Burgh of Glasgow. Additionally, if permission was granted any buildings should be possessed only by burgesses and freeman of Glasgow.[42]

The Merchants and Trades Houses did not accept these conditions, withdrew from the purchase, and were reimbursed by the hospital patrons who, by order of the magistrates, became liable for all costs and duties attached to the transaction.[43]

New Town.

The Ramshorn lands had for hundreds of years been used for agricultural purposes. In the 17th century it had been let out to crofters and gardeners by Hutchesons however it appears not to have been very productive as its tenants in 1703 petitioned the owners for a reduction in their rent.[44] Around 1740, the George Square area was described as a marsh[45] and later on, as a large ‘howe’ or hollow filled with green water.[46]

That was to change. On 12th May 1772 the civic leaders decided to buy Ramshorn and Meadowflat from Hutchesons. A price of £2020 was agreed and on 27th December 1772 the contract of sale concluded.[47] The council also decided to procure an Act of Parliament to annex the lands within the burgh boundaries,[48] which was passed in 1800.[49] There seems no doubt that for some considerable time the leaders of Glasgow had the purchase of these lands in mind to make the burgh a more cohesive unit and to permit its expansion westwards.

The square was laid out in 1781 with little initial activity.[50] By 1804 it had buildings on each side which were being described as ‘elegant, particularly those on the north (side).[51]  An influential figure in this development was Dugald Bannatyne, a stocking weaver, who along with Robert Smith Jr. and John Thomson formed the Glasgow Building Company,[52] which although their operation was speculative, was able to attract through Bannatyne and his relationship with Thomson’s brother in law, an English stocking weaver called Johnston, English capital to fund their venture.[53]

Bannatyne had his warehouse in Ingram Street, was appointed Post Master General in 1806 and became secretary to the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce from 1809 to 1830.[54]

Figure 7. Map of Glasgow showing Development of George Square. By kind permission of the publishers. Kellet, John R. (2002) ‘Property Speculators and the Building of Glasgow, 1780-1830.’ In: Pacione, Michael, ed. The City: The City in Global Context. London: Routledge. p.77.

The sum raised was £120,000, including £20,000 from John Thomson’s father. Between January and November 1787 Robert Smith Jr. agreed feu contracts with the Burgh which included all of the north, east, and west sides of the square, total area being c.16147 square yards costing £1063 plus annual feus totalling c.£45.[55] Building costs between 1786 and 1796 took up the rest of the capital, the development being referred to as the New Town.[56] The south side of the square, approximately 2300 square yards, was purchased by William Shortridge for £347 11s and an annual feu of £7 7s 6d.[57]

Figure 8. Copy of 1788 Feu map made in 1913. By Permission of Glasgow City Archives. Reference LK1/9.

By 1824 the Square was surrounded by buildings that were a mixture of residences and business premises, as can be seen from the following small sample taken from ‘George Square, Glasgow’ by Thomas Somerville.[58]

  • 62: William Dunn’s Counting House.
  • North East corner: The Misses Alexander of Ballochmyle
  • South East Corner: The George Hotel
  • 36: James Ewing and Co., sugar traders.
  • 34: William Forlong, wine merchant.

The most well known of the above is James Ewing. He was born in 1775, went to Glasgow University with the expectation that he would become a lawyer. However, he become an agent for sugar plantations in Jamaica establishing James Ewing and Co. which grew rapidly and was extremely successful. Along with others he founded the Glasgow Bank in 1809 and in 1815 established the first Savings bank in Glasgow, its purpose being to encourage saving amongst the working class. He became Dean of Guild of the Merchants House in 1816 and again in 1831, was Chairman in 1818/19 of the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and in 1832 became the city’s Lord Provost.  He also became one of Glasgow’s two MPs in the same year remaining so until 1835.

In 1820 James Wilson, a weaver from Strathaven was charged with high treason following several riots in the city (the so called Radical War of 1820). Ewing was on the jury and was appointed Chancellor (foreman). Wilson was found guilty which verdict Ewing had to deliver to the court. He also recommended the prisoner to the mercy of the Crown; to no avail as he was hung and beheaded.[59]

Ewing died in 1853, bequeathing £31,000 to the Merchants House,[60] in today’s terms equating to over £3m based on RPI changes. When considering relative income values that figure increases to just under £33m.[61]

In 1842 the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company opened a rail link between Queen Street and Haymarket in Edinburgh, which was the catalyst for hotels being established and the Square becoming known as the hotel centre of Glasgow.[62]

In 1804 there was one inn, the George, located at 18 George Square.[63] By 1852 the number of hotels in the Square had increased to 10 reflecting Glasgow’s growing commercial and business activity, and improving transport links.[64] At number 39 was Cranston’s Hotel, owned by George Cranston,[65] father of Kate and Stewart Cranston, pioneers of Glasgow tearooms.[66]

Figure 9. Advertisement for George Cranston’s Hotel from PO Directory 1852-53.

By 1900 that number had reduced to two, the North British Station Hotel at no.40, which was an amalgam of the old Queens, Wellington and Globe hotels, and the Royal at no. 50/51.[67]

The hotels in the square in 1852 were as follows:[68]

Figure 10. Hotels in George Square 1852. From Glasgow’s Treasure Chest by James Cowan. 1951. Glasgow: Craig & Wilson Ltd.
  • 25 George Square: The Crow Hotel, proprietor James Dickson
  • 33 George Square: The Waverly Hotel, proprietor Mrs. Crawford.
  • 39 George Square: The Edinburgh and Glasgow Hotel, proprietor George Cranston.
  • 45 George Square: The Globe Hotel, proprietor William Stimpson.
  • 76 George Square: The Star Hotel, proprietor, Peter McDonald.
  • 70 George Square: The Queens Hotel, proprietor, James McGregor.
  • 66 George Square: The Royal Hotel, proprietor William Carrick.
  • 26 George Square: The George Hotel, proprietor Robert McNaughton.
  • 1 North Queen Street: The New Royal Hotel, proprietor George Comrie.
  • 7 North Queens Street: The North British Hotel, proprietor Francis Josez.

By 1881/82 William Burrell and Sons had their offices at 54 George Square and Young’s Paraffin Oil Company was located at 30 George Square.[69]

Burrell’s activity needs no explanation here but the latter company, perhaps lesser well known, was responsible for establishing the world’s first oil refinery in 1865 which was located near Bathgate.

The company was set up by chemist James Young, one time assistant to Thomas Graham at Anderson’s Institute in Glasgow. Around 1848 at a Derbyshire coal mine he realized that oil could be extracted from coal by heating it. In due course he developed distillation processes which produced paraffin oil, naptha, lamp oil and lubricating oil.

This was the beginning of oil refinery earning him the nickname of ‘Paraffin’ Young and being described as the father of the oil industry. It’s interesting to note that some years before oil was being extracted from wells in Texas, Young’s process was producing ‘refined’ oil from coal or shale to a world-wide customer base.

He was a friend of the missionary David Livingstone whom he met whilst studying at Anderson’s and supported financially many of Livingstone’s African expeditions. He also supported the anti-slavery movement financially and was responsible for the erection of the statues of his great friends David Livingstone and Thomas Graham, in George Square. He died age 72 in 1883.[70]

The City Chambers et al.

Between 1865 and 1888 three sides of the square were to be transformed with the building of the City Chambers (east), the Bank of Scotland and the Merchant’s House (west) and the General Post Office (south).

Figure 11. The City Chambers c.1890. From George Square, Glasgow by Thomas Somerville. 1891.
Figure 12.© All rights reserved. Building News 3 January 1890.

Arguably the most important of these was the City Chambers. In 1877 Glasgow decided to build new municipal buildings, the site required being compulsory purchased for £173,000.[71] A competition was held in 1882, the winning design chosen from over 150 applicants was that of William Young of London who had been born in Paisley in 1843.[72] Young had early in his career worked with the architect W.N. Tait of 22 Hope Street, Glasgow before moving to Manchester then to London in 1865.[73]

The cost of build was not to exceed £250,000, in the event £552,028[74] was spent. The foundation stone was laid on 6th October 1883 by Provost John Ure[75]  and in August 1888, Queen Victoria performed the formal opening.[76]

The Bank of Scotland building was designed by John Thomas Rochead in the Italian Renaissance palazzo style in 1867. The building was completed in 1870, not by Rochead who had become ill, but by David Bryce, who had designed the bank’s head office in Edinburgh. Rochead retired from business at this time, his practise being taken on by John Honeyman.[77]

Figure 13. The Bank of Scotland and The Merchants House Buildings c.1885. From George Square, Glasgow by Thomas Somerville. 1891.

The adjacent Merchants House was designed by John Burnet in 1874 and completed in 1877. By prior agreement both the bank and the new Merchants building conformed to a similar style despite being built at different times and designed by different architects. It originally consisted of three stories, however that was changed in 1907/08 when a further two stories were added, the architect this time being Sir John James Burnet the son of the original architect.[78]

Postal Services in Glasgow had been problematic for some mainly due to capacity issues. This led to the first GPO being built in the Square in 1856. It had been planned in 1852 but took four years to be built and opened. In the meantime, the Merchants House in 1853 bought property adjacent to the proposed site, anticipating that at some future time the GPO would be expanded as commerce and demand grew.

That is exactly what happened. In 1871 the postal authorities were ready to extend the existing building which resulted in them buying the Merchants House property for £27,000.

Figure 14. The GPO c. 1885. From George Square, Glasgow by Thomas Somerville. 1891.

The extension was begun in 1876 and completed by 1879.[79] This involved some demolition of the existing structure it would appear, which had been designed by architect William Burn, the new build activity architect being Robert Matheson of H.M. Office of Works architectural practice.[80]

All these buildings, which are ‘A’ listed, exist today, two have changed purpose, the GPO building being converted to flats and the Bank of Scotland now a J.D Weatherspoon establishment called The Counting House.

The Statues.[81]

Any self-respecting civic Square has statues and George Square has an abundance. By 1900 there were twelve, commemorating an eclectic range of individuals which included the hero of a war, two poets, an engineer and equestrian royalty. The first was erected in 1819 and is of Sir John Moore, the last was of David Livingstone and was erected in 1879.[82] The statues were as follows:[83]

  • Sir John Moore, soldier. Hero of Corunna died in battle 1808. Statue by John Flaxman (1755-1826), erected in Square on 16th August 1819.
  • James Watt, Statue by Sir Francis Leggat Chantrey (1781-1841) and erected in 1832.
  • Sir Walter Scott, Statue designed by John Greenshield and made by Handyside and Ritchie. Erected 1837.
  • Sir Robert Peel, politician. Statue by John Mossman (1817-1890), erected 28th June 1859.
  • Queen Victoria. Her statue was sculpted by Carlo Marochetti (1805-1867) and was originally erected in St Vincent Place in 1854. It was removed to George Square 2nd March 1865.
  • Prince Albert. His statue was also by Marochetti and was erected in the Square on 18th October 1866.
  • Lord Clyde, soldier. Statue by John Henry Foley (1818-1874), erected on 5th August 1868.
  • Thomas Graham, chemist. Statue by William Brodie (1815-1881), erected on 6th June 1872.
  • James Oswald, politician. Statue by Marochetti which was originally erected in Sandyford Place. Erected in George Square on 26th July 1875.
  • Robert Burns, Statue by George Edwin Ewing (1828-1884). Erected on 25th 1877.
  • Thomas Campbell, Statue by John Mossman erected on 29th December 1877.
  • David Livingstone, missionary. Statue by John Mossman erected on 29th December 1877. In 1960 the statue was moved to Cathedral Square, then again in 1990 to an adjacent site within Cathedral Square.


From a swamp to the centre of the second city of an empire, such was the transformation of George Square. The change from Church and feudal landowner governance to Presbyterianism which resulted in a different, more democratic form of church and civic government; the American colonies opening to Scotland after the Act of Union in 1707, and the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, all presented opportunities which Glasgow exploited to the full. George Square became a manifestation of Glasgow’s successful leadership and participation in these changes. 

[1] House, Jack (1972) The Heart of Glasgow. 2nd ed. London: Hutchinson. p.141.

[2] The Guardian. (2018) Think you know where your city centre is? Guess again. 23 February 2018.

[3] Gibson, John (1777) The History of Glasgow: From the Earliest Accounts to the Present Time. Glasgow: Robert Chapman and Alex. Duncan. p.1.

[4] Marwick, Sir James D., and Renwick, Robert ed. (1911) Early Glasgow: A History of the City of Glasgow from the Earliest Times to the Year 1611. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p.7

[5] Hill, William Henry (1902) The Early Records of an Old Glasgow Family. Glasgow: Glasgow University Press. p.92.

[6] MacGregor, George (1881) The History of Glasgow: from the Earliest Period to the Present Time. Glasgow: Thomas D. Morison. p.73, 276

[7] MacGregor, op. cit. p.16.

[8] Gibson, op.cit. pp. 7-9.

[9] Royal Family History. King David I of Scotland (1124 – 1153).

[10] Gibson, op.cit. pp.7-9.

[11] Gibson, op.cit. pp.261-265.

[12] Gibson, op. cit. pp. 15, 16

[13] Marwick, Sir James D. Marwick. ed. (1897) Charters and other Documents relating to the City of Glasgow A.D. 1175-1649-Part 1: Abstract of Charters and Documents relating to the City of Glasgow. Glasgow: Scottish Record Society. p.5.

[14] Marwick, op.cit. pp. 12-14.

[15] MacGeorge, Andrews (1880) Old Glasgow; The Place and the People. From the Roman Occupation to the Eighteenth Century. Glasgow: Blackie and Son. pps. 157,158.

[16] The Regality Club. (1889) The Regality Club 1st Series. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p109, 110. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK5/2018.

[17] Ibid. pps. 109,113.

[18] Paul, George M. (1896) ‘Fragment of the Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston’. In: Paul, George M., Howden, Charles R. A., Erskine, Stuart, and Mcphail, J. R. N. eds. The Diary of Sir Archibald Johnston, Lord Wariston.1639. Edinburgh: Scottish History Society. p.4 notes.

[19] Ibid

[20] The Regality Club. (1889) The Regality Club 1st Series. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p109. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK5/2018.

[21] Paul, op.cit. p.4.

[22] The Regality Club. (1889) The Regality Club 1st Series. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p110. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK5/2018.

[23] Testamentary Records, Scotland. 18 December 1612. FOULIS, James, of Colinton. Testament Testamentar and Inventory. Edinburgh Commissary Court. CC8/8/46.

[24] Marwick, Sir James D. Marwick. ed. (1894) Charters and other Documents relating to the City of Glasgow. A.D. 1175-1707 Part 2. Glasgow: Scottish Record Society. p.216.

[25] Testamentary Records, Scotland. 18 December 1612. FOULIS, James, of Colinton. Testament Testamentar and Inventory. Edinburgh Commissary Court. CC8/8/46.

[26] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 26 February 1595. HERIOT, Agnes. Testament Dative and Inventory. Edinburgh Commissary Court.

[27] Scottish History Society. The Scottish Reformation 1525-1560. http:/www./

[28] Keith, Robert. A Historical Catalogue of the Scottish Bishops down to the year 1688. Edinburgh: Bell and Bradfute. p.310.

[29] Grant, Francis J. The Commissariat Record of Glasgow: Register of Testaments 1547-1800. Edinburgh: James Skinner and Co.

[30] The Regality Club. (1889) The Regality Club 1st Series. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p110, 111. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK5/2018.

[31]MacGregor, op.cit. pp.212-214.

[32] Ibid

[33] Hutcheson Grammar School. History.

[34] MacGregor, op.cit. pp.212-214.

[35] Hill, William Henry (1902) The Early Records of an Old Glasgow Family. Glasgow: Glasgow University Press. pp.36-38. National Library of Scotland. License: CC-BY-NC-SA.

[36] Hill, op.cit. pp.67-72

[37] Hill, op.cit. p.91

[38] Hill, op.cit. p.106

[39] Hill, op.cit. p. 111

[40] Hill, op.cit. pp. 105,127

[41] Records of the Burgh of Glasgow. (1908) Extracts from Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, A.D.1691-1717. Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Records Society. pps. 213,214. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/5.

[42] The Regality Club. (1889) The Regality Club 1st Series. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p110-113. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK5/2018.

[43] Records of the Burgh of Glasgow. (1908) Extracts from Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, A.D.1691-1717. Glasgow: Scottish Burgh Records Society. pps. 213,214. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/5.

[44] Somerville, Thomas. (1891) George Square, Glasgow and the lives of those whom its statues commemorate. Glasgow: John M. MacKinlay. p.11.

[45] House, op.cit. p.148.

[46] Senex, Aliquis, J.B. etc. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol.1 Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 523.

[47] Renwick, Robert. ed. (1907) Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, with Charters and other Documents. A.D. 1760-1780. Vol. VII. Glasgow: Corporation of Glasgow. p. 378, 391,392,650. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/8.

[48] Renwick, op.cit. p. 393.

[49] Renwick, Robert. ed. (1907) Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, with Charters and other Documents. A.D. 1796-1808. Vol. IX. Glasgow: Corporation of Glasgow. p. 686. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/10

[50] Foreman, Carol. (2007) Glasgow Street Names. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd. p.77.

[51] House, op.cit. p.148.

[52] Kellet, John R. (2002)’ Property Speculators and the Building of Glasgow, 1780-1830.’ In: Pacione, Michael, ed. The City: The City in Global Context. London: Routledge. p.79.

[53] Ibid

[54] Stewart, George (1881) Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship. Glasgow: James Maclehose. p175.

[55] Renwick, Robert. ed. (1913) Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, with Charters and other Documents. A.D. 1796-1808. Vol. VIII. Glasgow: Corporation of Glasgow. pp. 644,652,653,665. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/9

[56] Kellet, op.cit. p.79.

[57] Renwick, Robert. ed. (1913) Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, with Charters and other Documents. A.D. 1796-1808. Vol. VIII. Glasgow: Corporation of Glasgow. pps. 645,646. Glasgow: Mitchell Library, reference LK1/9

[58] Somerville, op.cit. pp. 22-26.

[59] The Friends of Glasgow Necropolis. James Ewing of Strathleven.

[60] 1866. Merchant’s House of Glasgow. Glasgow: Bell & Bain. p.590.

[61] Measuring Worth (2016).

[62] Foreman, op.cit.

[63] Directories. Scotland. (1804) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow. p.48.

[64] Directories. Scotland (1852) Post Office annual Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. pps. 375, 526. accessed 25 November 2014.

[65] Ibid.

[66] Kinchin, Perilla (2004) ‘Catherine Cranston (1849-1934).’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press. accessed 28 November 2014.

[67] Directories. Scotland. (1900). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.760.

[68] Directories. Scotland (1852) Post Office annual Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. pps. 375, 526.

[69] Directories. Scotland. (1881). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory

[70] Terry Stewart. James ‘Paraffin’ Young.

[71] Somerville, op. cit. pp. 50-52.

[72] Dictionary of Scottish Architects. William Young.

[73] Ibid

[74] Urban Glasgow. Archives: Glasgow City Chambers.

[75] Somerville, op.cit. pp. 50-52.

[76] Foreman, op.cit. p.2.

[77] Dictionary of Scottish Architects. John Thomas Rochead and David Bryce.

[78] Milligan, Susan (2004) The Merchants House of Glasgow. Glasgow: The Merchants House of Glasgow..p.133

[79] Milligan, op.cit. pp.114,115.

[80] Dictionary of Scottish Architects. Glasgow General Post Office.

[81] Somerville, op.cit. pp. 63-295.

[82] Somerville, op.cit. pp. 63-247.

[83] Glasgow City of Sculpture. Biographical Searches




Alexander Blair Clements (1884-1966)

Mrs. A.B. Clements donated two paintings by George Leslie Hunter in September 1940.

Figure 1 Hunter, George Leslie; On the Shore. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (
Figure 2 Hunter, George Leslie; The Red Jacket. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

Her address was given as 186 Woodville Street, Govan, Glasgow. This was the address of the Scottish Machine Tool Corporation at the time of the donation. That, plus the lack of a residential address and first names for the lady meant that initial research focused on the history of the company. As my researches progressed it became clear that Mrs. Clements husband was the originator of the donation (he gave 7 paintings in total between 1940 and 1945) which he chose to make in his wife’s name. For that reason, whilst I have biographies of them both Mr. Clements is more detailed and extensive.

The late Mrs. Jane Pelosi (granddaughter) provided me with a good deal of information about her grandfather and allowed me to take photographs of the several family items which illustrate this report.

Albion Works at 186 Woodville Street was the place of business of G. and A. Harvey who were engineers and machine tool makers. The company was founded in 1857 (Woodville Street being its original place of business) and remained independent until 1937 when along with four other Scottish engineering and machine tool makers (James Allan Senior & Sons, Loudon Bros., James Bennie & Sons, Craig & Donald) it became part of the Scottish Machine Tool Corporation.[1] The new company prospectus dated 18 March 1937 identified Alexander Blair Clements as joint managing director of Harvey’s.[2]

His wife Margaret was the ostensible donor of the George Leslie Hunter paintings.

Figure 3 Alexander Blair Clements.

Alexander Blair Clements was born in Shanghai China on 3rd March 1884.[3] His father Ebenezer Wyse Clements (1850 – 1928)[4] worked as a ship’s engineer with Alan C. Gow and Company (known informally as the Glen Line at that time), sailing on the company’s Far East routes. At the time of his marriage in 1877 to Jeanie Ramsey Blair (1848 – 1919)[5] he was an engineer on board the SS Glenroy sailing to Penang, Singapore and China.[6] His first  son (also Ebenezer Wyse Clements) was born in Glasgow on 10th June 1878[7] and the 1881 census shows that Jeanie and her son were staying with her mother in Glasgow.[8] It’s safe to assume therefore that sometime between 1881 and Alexander’s birth the family moved to Shanghai where Ebenezer presumably pursued an on-shore engineering career possibly with the Shanghai Dock and Engineering Company. Alexander’s younger brother Edward Joshua Wyse Clements (1886 – 1958) was also born in Shanghai.[9]

Figure 4 Biographical notes written by Alexander Blair Clements

Alexander’s schooling was initially in China where he attended the Shanghai Public school. His secondary education was completed back in Glasgow where he was a pupil at Allan Glen’s Grammar school.

On his return to China he served an engineering apprenticeship with the Shanghai Dock and Engineering Company. During his apprenticeship he attended evening classes and in 1905 distinguished himself by winning the prize for ‘Best Paper Submitted by a Student at the Evening Classes’ presented by the Shanghai Society of Engineers and Architects.

Figure 5 Shanghai Prize

The prize consisted of three technical publications: ‘The Construction of Locomotives’, ‘Marine Propellers’, and ‘Petrol Motors and Motor Cars’. He also subsequently gained an Extra First-Class Board of Trade certificate. He was subsequently employed as a third, then a second engineer with the China Merchants Shipping Company from 1906 to 1908.[10]

What he did in the years immediately after 1908 is not particularly clear however he and other members of his family travelled to the USA and Australia, New South Wales. In 1908 Alexander sailed from Yokohama to Seattle on the SS Minnesota arriving on 13th May. The passenger list details his destination as London and his next of kin as his father at Nayside Road, Shanghai.[11] What he did there and when he returned to China has not been established. In 1910 his brother Edward and his father and mother travelled from Sydney, Australia to St. Albans, Vermont via Canada on the SS Manuka. The passenger list indicates that both men had no employment and that Alexander had remained in Shanghai.[12] Alexander was again travelling in May 1911 when he sailed from Kobe to Sydney on the SS Empire.[13] He subsequently ended up in New Zealand but returned to New South Wales that year on board the SS Maheno sailing from Auckland to Sydney arriving on 4th August.[14] It’s difficult not to conclude that the family were looking to leave China maybe to improve their situation or simply to seek employment. Another consideration perhaps was the fact that China was in turmoil at the time which resulted in the overthrow of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912, headed by Sun Yet Sen.

What Alexander did in New South Wales is not known but in due course he met his wife to be Margaret Fraser Harvey of Blackburn, Yass.

Figure 6 Record of Margaret Harvey’s birth in family Bible

Margaret was the daughter of Robert Harvey (1853 – 1921)[15] and Margaret Adair (1852 – 1931)[16] both originally born in Scotland and married there in 1884.[17] Margaret was born in Shelby Springs, Birmingham, Alabama on the 2nd August 1890.[18] Why she was born there is not known but it may have something to do with her grandfather Thomas Harvey who was a ship’s master. It’s possible that her parents sailed with Robert’s father hence her birth place.

She was the third of four children, one (a son) was stillborn in Cumberland in 1885,[19] the second (a girl) also born in Alabama died at one year in 1889[20].

Figure 7 Record of death of Thomas Harvey in Palestine 1917 in family Bible.

The youngest, Thomas, (born 1893 in Alabama)[21] reached adulthood only to be killed in action in Gaza, Palestine in 1917. At some point the family ended up in Yass, New South Wales where Robert became a sheep farmer.

The family had a connection with Yass through Margaret Adair’s mother Jane Kirkland Blair (1830[22] – 1914[23]) who married George Weir[24] (1833 – 1909)[25] after her first husband George Frederick Adolphus Augustus Adair died in Calcutta in 1856.[26] Sometime after 1895 the Weirs moved to Yass where they lived until their deaths.

An interesting aside is that George along with his brother James (1843 – 1920) formed in 1872 the engineering company G & J Weirs (Weirs of Cathcart).  In 1887 or thereabouts Weir’s design for a horizontal boring mill was built by G and A Harvey. After the business became a limited company in 1895 James bought out his brother (he was apparently annoyed at George casting church bells in the company forge for free) who shortly afterwards moved to Australia with his wife.[27]

The Weir’s mother Jane Bishop (1811 – 1899) was a granddaughter of Robert Burns. Her mother was Elizabeth Burns (1785 – 1817) the illegitimate daughter of Burns and Elizabeth Paton (b.1760).[28]

Alexander married Margaret on the 4th June 1912 at St Andrews Church, Yass with both sets of parents present.[29] Shortly afterwards Alexander, Margaret, and his parents set sail for London on the T.S.S. Themistocles arriving there on the 15th August.[30] As a point of interest, a small painting of the ship executed by Alexander during the voyage was autographed by several passengers and crew. One of the signatories was Robert Baden Powell.[31]

Figure 8 ‘Themistocles’ painted by Alexander Blair Clements. Baden Powell signature on left hand side just above the ‘Massey’ signature.

By 1913 Alexander and Margaret were living in Glasgow at 79 Fotheringay Road, with Alexander being employed by G and A Harvey, as was his father and his brother Edward who lived at 12 Kelbourne Street.[32] How this came about is not known; were Margaret’s family connected to G and A Harvey in some way? Did the Weir connection play a part? At any rate all three were to remain in employment there for some time.

In 1913[33] and 1918[34] respectively their daughter Margaret Jean and their son Eben Harvey were born in Glasgow. By this time, they were living at 6 Larch Road Dumbreck.[35] Around 1923 Ebenezer moved in with the family subsequently dying there in 1928.[36]

Alexander and Edward remained with Harvey’s until 1947[37] by which time it had become part of the Scottish Machine Tool Corporation. In the new company’s 1937 prospectus it was stated that Harvey’s held 50% of the new company equity. As joint managing director Alexander was clearly a senior employee and probably had shares in the new company.[38] Additionally, he jointly with the company in 1943 and 1944 was granted patents in the UK and Canada, relating to the manufacture of briquetting machines[39] and lathes respectively.[40] The new company traded from 1937 (having become an associate of a forge equipment manufacturer in the 1960s) until 1982 when it went into liquidation.[41]

For a period after 1947 Alexander was chairman of C. and A. Stewart Ltd, located at Spiersbridge Industrial Estate Glasgow.[42]

Figure 9 Glasgow Art Club Membership 1941.

Alexander had a number of interests and it has been established that he was a reasonably serious collector of paintings albeit with no obvious theme in mind. At some point he became friends with Tom Honeyman (prior to Honeyman’s appointment to Kelvingrove) and was proposed as a member of the Glasgow Art Club by him in 1941. He was seconded by the famous Glasgow photographer James Craig Annan. He remained a member of the club until resigning in October 1948.[43]

Amongst his collection were works by J. Pettie (‘The Step’), S.J. Peploe (‘Roses’), D.Y. Cameron (various), Leon L’Hermitte (‘Figures in Field’) and George Leslie Hunter. He donated a total of seven paintings to Kelvingrove from 1940 to 1945. This was confirmed in a letter to his son in 1990 from Anne Donald who was Keeper of the Fine Art Department of Kelvingrove at that time. As it happens one of these paintings (a Leslie Hunter) was gifted to the Brest Museum in France, which had been destroyed during the war.[44]  The letter is shown below – Figure 10.

It may be his donations (and his purchases) were inspired by Tom Honeyman, that would certainly fit with Honeyman’s  modus operandi of seeking to influence industrialists of the day towards purchasing paintings. Where and when he bought is generally not known however he did buy the Pettie in 1947 for £150 from W.B. Simpson of St. Vincent Street and gave it to his son Eben.[45]

Figure 11 Notes on the step by Eben Clements.

He was also something of an amateur artist, his favourite subject being ships. Some of these drawings are in a sketch book in the possession of his granddaughter Mrs. Jane Cossar Pelosi.[46]

Figure 12 Painting by Alexander Blair Clements

He had a keen interest in music and the theatre. He had an eclectic taste in music ranging from classical (Aida, La Boheme) through cinema (Dianna Durban, Paul Robeson) to music hall (Will Fyfe, Harry Lauder). His record collection was large and meticulously recorded in a notebook currently in Mrs. Pelosi’s possession. He was a life member of the Glasgow Citizens Theatre society – possibly another Honeymoon influence at work?[47]

Figure 13 Caledonian Philatelic      Society President 1956.

He was also a keen stamp collector being President of the Caledonian Philatelic Society in 1920-21 and again in 1956, its golden jubilee year. Incidentally an exhibition of the society’s collections was held in Kelvingrove from the 27th February to the 11th March of that year to celebrate the occasion.[48]

Alexander and his wife Margaret lived at a number of addresses in Glasgow finally resident at 69 St. Andrews Drive where he died on the 20th April 1966 from cancer of the oesophagus.[49] His wife died on the 21st October 1980.[50]

Alexander’s collection of paintings in due course passed to his son Eben and daughter Margaret. Margaret married Douglas Alexander Wright in 1939[51] and had two sons who inherited their mothers share of the collection on her death in 1994.  I understand these paintings remain in the family.[52]

Figure 14 Tom Honeyman Evaluation    1969

Eben married Jane Brown Cossar of the Cossar publishing family in 1941[53]and had a daughter Jane (Mrs. Jane Cossar Pelosi).  In 1969 he had his paintings assessed for insurance purposes by Tom Honeyman who valued them at £5615.[54]

On his death in 1982 his paintings passed to his wife who subsequently bequeathed them to the National Trust for    Scotland on her death in 2004.[55]

‘The Step’ by Pettie has recently been seen by the author on display in ‘Greek’ Thomson’s Holmwood House in Cathcart.

[1] Glasgow University Archives Services. Records of Scottish Machine Tool Corporation. GB 248 UGD 175/1

[2] TD 482/21 (no.93), page 294. Mitchell Library, Glasgow.

[3] Birth Certificate in the possession of Mrs. Jane Pelosi. ‘Births within the District of the British Consulate General at Shanghai. Registration No. 335, dated 21 July 1884.’

[4] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 15 April 1928. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/18 0182.

[5] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 26 July 1919. CLEMENTS, Jeanie Ramsay. 644/18 0305.

[6] Marriages (CR) Scotland. Kinning Park, Lanark. 27 April 1877. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse and BLAIR, Jeanie Ramsay. 644/14 0063.

[7] Births (CR) Scotland. Kinning Park, Lanark. 10 June 1878. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/14 0637.

[8] Census. 1881. Scotland. Govan, Glasgow. 644/14 012/00 0271.

[9] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Govan, Glasgow. 02 December 1958. CLEMENTS, Edward Joshua Wyse. 644/10 1312.  Place of birth confirmed by Mrs Jane Pelosi.

[10] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[11] Passenger List for S.S. Minnesota departing Yokohama. CLEMENTS, Alexander Blair. 1 May 1908. Collection: Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1965.

[12] Passenger List for S.S. Manuka departing Sydney. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse, wife Jeanie and son Edward Joshua. 9 May 1910. Collection: Washington, Passenger and Crew Lists, 1882-1965.

[13] Passenger List for S.S. Empire departing Kobe. CLEMENTS, Alexander Blair. 24 May 1911. Collection: New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922.

[14] Passenger List for S.S. Maheno departing Auckland. CLEMENTS, Alexander Blair. August 1911.

Collection: New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922.

[15] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Aberfoyle, Perth. HARVEY, Robert. 21 August 1921. 325/00 0010.

[16] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 7 March 1931. HARVEY, Margaret. 644/18 0110.

[17] Marriages (CR) Scotland. Cathcart, Renfrew. 11June 1884. HARVEY, Robert and ADAIR, Margaret. 560/00 0043.

[18] Mrs. Jane Pelosi. Recorded in family Bible originally owned by Thomas Harvey.

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid

[22] Births (OPR) Scotland. Kilmarnock, Ayr. 16 December 1830. BLAIR, Jane Kirkland. 597/00 00

[23] Deaths. Australia. Yass, New South Wales. 1914. WEIR, Jane Kirkland. Registration Number 3109/1914.

[24] Census 1881 Scotland. Cathcart, Renfrew. 560/ 6/14.

There is a date of 1864 for the marriage but have not been able to identify a reliable source.

[25]  Deaths Australia. Yass, New South Wales. 1909. WEIR, George. Registration Number 15829/1909

[26] I have not been able to identify an acceptable source for this death. It comes from an Ancestry family tree.

[27] Weir, William (3rd Viscount) (2008) The Weir Group: The History of a Scottish engineering legend 1871-2008. London: Profile Books.

[28] Burness Genealogy and Family History. Person pages 99, 145, and 2431.

[29] Marriages Australia. Yass, New South Wales. 4 June 1912. CLEMENTS, Alexander Blair and HARVEY, Margaret Fraser. Certificate of Marriage in the possession of Mrs. Jane Pelosi. Minister’s register number 31, registration number 55883.

[30] Passenger List for T.S.S. Themistocles departing Sydney. CLEMENTS, Alexander Blair.1912.

Collection: UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960.

[31] Painting of the Themistocles by Alexander Blair Clements in the possession of Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[32] Directories Scotland. (1913-1914). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Clements. p. 170/171.

[33] Births. (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 14 March 1913. CLEMENTS, Margaret Jean. 644/18 180.

[34] Births. (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 1918. CLEMENTS, Eben Harvey. 644/18 332.

[35] Directories Scotland. (1916-1917). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Clements. p. 166.

[36] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 15 April 1928. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/18 0182.

[37] 1947 left SMTC

[38] TD 482/21 (no.93), page 294. Mitchell Library, Glasgow

[39] Espacenet. Improvements in or relating to Briquetting Machines. No. GB55505. 25 August 1943. Scottish Machine Tool Corporation, Alexander Blair Clements.

[40] Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Lathe Driver Device. No CA423996. 21 November 1944. Scottish Machine Tool Corporation, Alexander Blair Clements.

[41] Glasgow University Archives Services. Records of Scottish Machine Tool Corporation. GB 248 UGD 175/1

[42] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[43] Glasgow Art Club Archives.

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid


[49] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Glasgow. 20 April 1966. CLEMENTS, Alexander, Blair. 644/4 397

[50] Deaths (CR) Glasgow. 21 October 1980. CLEMENTS, Margaret Fraser. 617/00 0779.

[51] Marriages. (CR) Scotland. Pollok, Glasgow. 1939. WRIGHT, Douglas Alexander and CLEMENTS, Margaret Jean. 644/18 0448.

[52] Mrs. Jane Pelosi

[53] Marriages (CR) Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow. 1941. CLEMENTS, Eben Harvey and COSSAR, Jane Brown. 644/16 0726.

[54] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[55] Ibid.

A Victorian Spinster – Amy Esther Coultate (1852 – 1930)

How does it come about that an English spinster lady, of no note whatsoever as was typical of most of her class at the time, donate a painting to Glasgow? The answer lies not with her father William Miller Coultate who was born in England but with her maternal great uncle James  whose life, friendships and achievements were typical of the men who made the Industrial Revolution.

Figure 1 Letter to James Paton © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

On the 13th November 1912 Miss Amy Esther Coultate of Colwyn Bay wrote to James Paton the Superintendent of Glasgow Corporation Art Galleries offering to Glasgow a portrait of the Scottish poet Thomas Campbell by the artist James Lonsdale.[1] In a second letter to James Paton Miss Coultate stated that she had always understood the portrait had been painted at the request of her maternal great uncle James Thomson who paid the artist 500 guineas, and had been done at Primrose House, Clitheroe, the home of her great uncle, where the poet sometime stayed.[2]

Figure 2 Thomas Campbell (1777-1844), Poet by Jamesonsdale (1777-1839). © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

Miss Coultate was the middle child of three and was born in 1852 to William Miller Coultate and Eliza Jane Thomson, James Thomson’s niece, and was baptized at Holy Trinity Church in Habergham Eaves, a suburb of Burnley in Lancashire.[3] Her elder sister Marion Elizabeth and younger brother Arthur William were born in 1850[4] and 1856 respectively.[5]

Her father, born in Clitheroe, Lancashire in 1813, was a surgeon and a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in England. He had been in practice in Burnley since 1836 after completing his studies in Dublin. He was also vice president of the British Medical Association in Lancashire and Cheshire and had at one time been surgeon of the Fifth Royal Lancashire Militia.[6]

His wife Eliza Jane Thomson was born in 1821[7], the daughter of William Thomson, the brother of James, both of whom were calico printers. They married in 1849[8] and lived at 1 to 3 Yorke Street in Burnley for most of their married life and where William also had his practice.[9]

Amy’s mother died at a relatively young age in 1871.[10] As was typical for wives of the time perhaps she left very little, her ‘effects’ being valued at less than £20.

The family continued to live in Yorke Street and in the 1881 census, no occupation for any of the children is given despite them being well into their twenties.[11] In subsequent censuses the sisters are recorded as living on private means, Arthur is described as a gentleman when he married in 1883.[12]

Amy’s father died in 1882 from an apoplectic seizure. He left an estate valued at £4583 11s 11d, probate being granted to a fellow surgeon, Joseph Anningson, and Amy’s sister Marion Elizabeth.[13]

The two sisters, who never married, by 1901 were living together at Cae Gwyn,[14] Colwyn Bay. Marion died in 1902, leaving an estate valued at £3757 17s 2d, probate being granted to Amy.[15]

Both sisters clearly led very uneventful, unremarkable lives essentially living on their inheritances from their father. Amy’s one departure from the ordinary appears to have been a trip she made on the SS Hildebrand in 1920. Its departure port was Manaos, Brazil. Her port of embarkation was Lisbon, arriving in Liverpool on 25th March. At this time she was living in Southport.[16] She died on 29th October 1930 at the Barna Private Hotel, Hindhead, Surrey, leaving  an estate valued at £4155 0s 6d.[17]

If Amy’s life was that of a typical Victorian spinster, her great uncle James’s life was that of an educated, entrepreneurial, enlightened male of the Industrial Revolution. He was born in 1779 in Blackburn to John Thomson, (a “Scotch” gentleman), and his wife Elizabeth. His father was an iron-liquor merchant, a fixing chemical used in the calico dyeing industry.

In 1793 he attended Glasgow University befriending Gregory Watt, the son of James Watt and the poet Thomas Campbell. At the age of sixteen he joined the calico printing company of Joseph Peel & Co in London remaining there for six years developing his knowledge and understanding of the chemical technology involved in the industry through study and friendships with scientists including Sir Humphrey Davy and William Hyde Wollaston.

Joseph Peel was an uncle of Sir Robert Peel, 1st Baronet, and there is a suggestion, not proven, that James Thomson’s mother Elizabeth was a sister of Sir Robert. If true, that plus the fact of his father’s involvement in the calico industry would certainly have aided his employment with Joseph Peel.

He subsequently managed the company’s works near Accrington until 1810 at which time he set up his own calico printing company in partnership with John Chippendale of Blackburn, the new company eventually being established at Primrose near Clitheroe. He travelled extensively in Europe to further his business, his fundamental drive being to identify and implement scientific improvement to his printing processes. In 1821 he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. He supported schools of design and the extension of copyright periods for dress patterns as he believed this would establish and enhance standards for the industry as a whole. His skill as a chemist and his process improvements in design and printing led to him being referred to as the ‘Duke of Wellington’ of calico printing.[18]

He married Cecilia Starkie in 1806[19] and had four sons and three daughters[20], which raises the question of how the painting came into Miss Coultate’s possession. With so many children the expectation would have been that one of his offspring would inherit. Unfortunately, this research has not established how it came to her; via her mother seeming the most likely route.

Figure 3 James Thomson, FRS (1779-1850) by JamesLonsdale © Salford Museum and Art Gallery; (

James was mayor of Clitheroe in 1836-1837 and became a JP in 1840. He died at home on 17 September 1850 whilst preparing for the Great Exhibition of 1851. He is buried in the graveyard of St Mary’s Church, Clitheroe.[21]

The artist James Lonsdale was a friend of Thomson’s and was a frequent visitor to his home. He was a popular portrait painter of the day and painted many eminent individuals including British and foreign royalty. His portrait of Thomson is in the Salford Museum and Art Gallery.[22]

[1] Object Files at Glasgow Museum Resource Centre (GMRC), Nitshill.

[2] Ibid

[3] Baptisms (PR) England. Habergham Eaves, Burnley, Lancashire. 25 May 1852. COULTATE, Amy Esther. Register; Baptisms 1837-1863, Page 139, Entry 1108. LDS Film 1526142. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[4] Baptisms (PR) England. Habergham Eaves, Burnley, Lancashire. 29 March 1850. COULTATE, Marion Elizabeth. Register; Baptisms 1837-1863, Page 114, Entry 911. LDS Film 1526142. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[5] Baptisms (PR) England. Habergham Eaves, Burnley, Lancashire. 27 September 1856. COULTATE, Arthur William. Register; Baptisms 1837-1863, Page 202, Entry 1613. LDS Film 1526142. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[6] 1882 ‘The British Medical Journal’. Obituaries. 18 March 1882, p. 407.

[7] Baptisms (PR) England. Clitheroe, Lancashire. 8 August 1821. THOMSON, Eliza Jane. Register; Baptisms 1813-1829, Page 93, Entry 741. LDS Film 1278857. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[8] Marriages (PR) England. Habergham Eaves, Burnley, Lancashire. 20 February 1849. COULTATE, William Miller and THOMSON, Eliza Jane. Collection: Lancashire, England Marriages and Banns 1754-1936. Reference Pr 3098/1/13.

[9] Census. 1861. England. Burnley, Lancashire. RG9, Piece: 3065; Folio: 12; Page: 18; GSU roll: 543073.

[10] Testamentary records. England. 8 February 1872. COULTATE, Eliza Jane. Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate. p. 293. Collection: England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1966.

[11] Census. 1881. England. Burnley, Lancashire. RG11; Piece: 4146; Page: 11; GSU roll: 1341993.

[12] Marriages (PR) England. Burnley, Lancashire. 6 January 1883. COULTATE, Arthur William and BRIDGES, Mary Jane. Lancashire, England Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1936

[13] Testamentary records. England. 20 May 1882. COULTATE, William Miller. Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate. p. 338. Collection: England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1966.

[14] Census. 1901. Wales. Llandrillo yn Rhos, Colwyn Bay, Caernarvonshire. RG13, Piece:5290; Folio:10; Page:11.

[15] Testamentary records. England. 19 December 1902. COULTATE, Marian, Elizabeth. Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate. p. 169. Collection: England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1966.

[16] Passenger List for S.S. Hildebrand arriving Liverpool. COULTATE, Amy Esther. 25 March 1920. Collection: UK Incoming Passenger Lists, 1870-1960.

[17] Testamentary records. England. 3 January 1931. COULTATE, Amy Esther. Principal Probate Registry, Calendar of the Grants of Probate. p.791. Collection: England and Wales National Probate Calendar 1858-1966.

[18] Aspin, Christopher. (2004) Thomson, James (1779-1850). In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[19] Marriages (PR) England. Blackburn, Lancashire. 18 March 1806. THOMSON, James and STARKIE, Cecilia. Register; Marriages 1801-1809, Page 357, Entry 1419. LDS Film 1278807. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[20] Thomson baptisms Lancashire 1808 to 1820, parishes of Church Bridge and Clitheroe. Lancashire Online Parish Clerk Project.

[21] Aspin, Christopher. (2004) Thomson, James (1779-1850). In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[22] Cust, L.H. (2008) Lonsdale, James (1778-1839) In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.




Swedish Donation 1911 Erik Eriksson Etzel

In 1911, from the 2nd May to the 4th November, the Scottish Exhibition of History, Art and Industry was held in Kelvingrove, Glasgow. The exhibition was formally opened on the 3rd May by the Duke of Connaught (brother of the late King Edward VII) and his wife.[1] It was not on the same scale as the exhibitions of 1888 and 1901 however over its course it attracted 9.4 million visitors. Its central point was the Stuart Memorial in Kelvingrove Park surrounded by a number of palaces, the principal one being the Palace of History which was modelled on Falkland Palace. It divided into four galleries, one of which, the West Gallery, dealt with the historical ties between Sweden and Scotland.

Figure 1. Site Plan 1911 Exhibition – from Study Group website.

One of the exhibition’s key objectives was to fund the creation of a Chair of Scottish History and Literature at Glasgow University, which was achieved, the Chair being founded in 1913. [2], [3]

Between 1909 and 1911 a number of visits between the two countries had been made to determine what the Swedish/Scottish exhibition should contain. The Swedish committees were led by Professor Oscar Montelius, of Uppsala University, a noted pre-historian and archeologist, and Dr. E.E. Etzel of Stockholm and Uppsala University. The convener of the Scottish committee was John S. Samuel. [4], [5]

The agreed Swedish exhibits included the following items:

  • from Professor Montelius, prehistoric artefacts from graves and tombs in Sweden, similar to objects found in Scotland
  • a collection of medals struck in honour of celebrated Scotsmen, from the Swedish Academy of Science
  • pistols, guns and daggers made in Scotland and taken to Sweden by Scottish soldiers of fortune, loaned by the Royal Armoury in Stockholm
  • heraldic shields of Swedish Nobles of Scottish extraction. These were replicas of the originals and they were to be used again at the ‘Scots in Sweden ‘exhibition held in the Royal Scottish Museum in Edinburgh in 1962.[6]
  • genealogical documentation of Scots who had lived and stayed in Sweden. This information was eventually published in The Scottish Historical Review in 1912, taken from work carried out by Dr. Etzel and given to the magazine by John Samuel.[7]
  • portraits of Swedish and Scottish Royalty which included two copies of portraits from the Royal Gallery in Gripsholm Castle, being the work of Swedish artist John Osterlund (1875-1953), completed between 1900 and 1910. These were the paintings eventually gifted to Glasgow at the end of the exhibition by Dr. Etzel.[8]

The first portrait was that of ‘Mary Queen of Scots as a Child’, which had been discovered during a Scottish deputation to Sweden in 1909. The catalogue of the exhibition described it as ‘a unique and valuable portrait of Mary Stuart… its existence had not previously been recorded by any historian of the period of history to which it belongs.’ The original artist was unknown and the date attributed to the painting was 1577.[9]

The other was a portrait of King Gustavus Adolphus II. Again the original artist was unknown although it had been annotated with the initials ‘G.T.’ and dated 1630.

The entry in the exhibition catalogue regarding Gustavus Adolphus is interesting in that he is described as the ‘Lion of the North and Bulwark of the Protestant religion, the hero of the 30 years war, that awful period of bloodshed, rapine and robbery that devastated Germany in the early part of the 17th century.’ It also added that his victorious armies included 13,106 Scotsmen.[10]

Figure 2. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

In an attempt to find out more about the original paintings I contacted the National Museum of Sweden. The initial response from the museum confirmed there was a painting of ‘Maria Stuart’ in the Royal Gallery collection; inventory number NMGrh 1142, artist unknown. In a very comprehensive second reply I was informed that the museum did not now consider it to be a portrait of Mary Stuart and that it depicted an unknown girl. The inscription on the painting they believe to be later, the date of 1577 questionable and that the girl does not resemble Mary. They now list the painting as ‘possibly 16th century, or a later copy after a painting from the 16th century – Unknown child’.[11]

With reference to the painting of Gustavus Adolphus, there are a number of such paintings in museum collections in Sweden, none of which seemed to be the original we were looking for. It was suggested that as Osterlund had spent most of his life in Uppsala it may be that the original lay there, possibly within the University. I contacted Uppsala University who were able to confirm that they had a portrait, very similar to the Osterlund copy, which had been painted in the 17th century. It did not however give an exact date, and the artist is recorded as ‘The Monogramist P.G.’ who, it was thought, may be Pieter de Grebber.

Figure 3. King Gustav Adolphus II © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

In appearance this painting fits the bill very well, and it’s possible, maybe probable that it is the one Osterlund copied, although the copy is darker in some areas.[12], [13]

In a letter to the Lord Provost of Glasgow, Sir Archibald McInnes Shaw, dated 20th November 1911 Dr. Erik Erikson Etzel formally gifted the two Osterlund copies to Glasgow.

Little is known about Dr. Etzel except that he was a D.Ph. probably from Uppsala University. He was born in 1868 in Karlskoga, Sweden. In 1902 he lived in Stockholm which is where died in 1964. [14], [15]

John Smith Samuel was the private secretary to Lord Provost McInnes Shaw, and had held that position for 10 years serving others in that office. He was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1902, held various other civic positions and was a member of the Glasgow Art Club. He was appointed Knight of the Royal Order of Vasa by Professor Montelius on behalf of King Gustav V of Sweden in 1910.[16], [17]

Professor Oscar Montelius, was born in Stockholm in 1843. He studied history and Scandinavian languages at Uppsala University between 1861 and 1869. He was attached to the Museum of National Antiquities, Stockholm, from 1863 and was appointed professor in 1888. He was the museum’s director from 1907 to 1913. Still controversial is his theory, the “Swedish typology,” suggesting that material culture and biological life develop through essentially the same kind of evolutionary process. In 1911 he was Director General of the Swedish Board of National Antiquities. He died in Stockholm in 1921.[18], [19]

John Osterlund was born in 1875 in Stockholm and was mainly known as a landscape artist and conservator of paintings, particularly church paintings. He died in 1953. [20]

[1] Glasgow Herald (1911) Glasgow, Exhibition Opened. Glasgow Herald. 4th May pp 9, 10. Mitchell Library, Glasgow

[2] The Scottish Exhibition of  History, Art and Industry:

[3] Glasgow University:

[4] Glasgow Herald (1910) Swedish Visitors in Glasgow. Glasgow Herald. 31st August p. 7b, c. Mitchell Library.

[5] Glasgow Herald (1911) Scottish Flints at the Glasgow Exhibition. Glasgow Herald. 17th April p.11c. Mitchell Library.

[6] Glasgow Herald (1962) Scots in Sweden Exhibition. Glasgow Herald. 10th August p.14d, e. Mitchell Library

[7] The Scottish Historical Review. (1912) Vol. 9, Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 268.;

[8] Palace of History Exhibition Catalogue. Mitchell Library reference 272126 GC 606.4 (1911).

[9] Ibid

[10] Ibid

[11] Karlsson, Eva Lena (2012) Gustavus Adolphus II. E-mail to author.

[12] Thornlund, Asa (2012) Gustavus Adolphus II. E-mail to author.

[13] Thornlund, Asa (2012) Gustavus Adolphus II. E-mail to author.

[14] Forsberg Family Tree.

[15] The Scottish Historical Review. (1912) Vol. 9, Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p. 268.

[16] Eyre Todd, George (1909) Who’s Who in Glasgow 1909. Glasgow: Gowans and Grey Ltd. Glasgow Digital Library.

[17] Glasgow Herald (1910) Swedish Visitors in Glasgow. Glasgow Herald. 31st August p. 7b, c. Mitchell Library

[18] Encyclopaedia Britannica:

[19] Karlsson, Eva Lena (2012) Gustavus Adolphus II. E-mail to author.

[20] Ibid.

Mrs Anne D. Houstoun of Johnstone Castle (1865-1950)

Figure 1 Arthur Connell Lord Provost of Glasgow 1772 – 1774. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

On the 17th May 1947 Mrs. Houstoun, through her solicitors, donated to Glasgow Museums two oil paintings by the artist Robert Harvie. The subjects were Lord Provost Arthur Connell of Glasgow (1772-1774) and his wife Magdalen.

Note: to avoid confusion Mrs Houstoun and her birth name Anne Douglas Stirling will always be in bold.

These notes discuss her and her husband’s family background, and hopefully, will show how these paintings came into her possession.

Figure 2 Mrs Magdalene Connell. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

Both she and her husband came from long established landed and titled families whose histories can be traced back to, at least, the 16th Century. She descended from the Stirlings* of Drumpellier through her father and also from the Kippendavie branch through her mother, he from the Lairds of Johnstone. She was not the only daughter of the Stirling family who married a Houstoun, but more of that later.

*Spelling of this surname can also be Sterling.


The Drumpellier Stirlings.

The Drumpellier Stirlings ancestor appears to have been Robert Stirling (d.1537) of Bankeyr and Lettyr. A further seven generations between 1537 and 1777 inherited these estates[1], this line producing a number of notable individuals including a Lord Provost of Glasgow, John Stirling (1728-1730), who when a Baillie in 1725 was arrested along with other magistrates and the Lord Provost because of the Shawfield riot in Glasgow caused by the imposition of a malt tax[2], and Walter Stirling, his nephew, (1723-1791) who, on his death in 1791, bequeathed his house in Miller Street, his books, and £1,000 to establish Stirling’s Library, the first free public library in Scotland.[3]

John Stirling’s son William was born in Glasgow on the 29th July 1717[4]. He was a Glasgow merchant, founding the cloth printing company of William Stirling and Sons c.1750, being the first to import Indian cotton printed in London, to Glasgow.[5] By the mid 19thCentury it was the largest of its kind in Scotland.[6] He married Mary Buchanan in 1747,[7] the daughter of Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier.[8] The Drumpellier estate came into the Stirling’s hands when William’s son Andrew bought it from his mother’s brother James Buchanan in 1777 when the American War of Independence ruined the Buchanan business (Buchanan Hastie and Co.) in the American colonies.[9]

Figure 3 Andrew Stirling. © Mrs Stirling-Aird

Andrew was born on the 14th February 1751 in Glasgow.[10] He attended the Grammar School of Glasgow between 1760 and 1764.[11] On the 26th May 1778 he married Anna Stirling, daughter of Sir Walter Stirling of Faskine and Dorothy Willing (born in Philadelphia in 1735[12]), in St. George the Martyr, Queen Square, Camden.[13] According to the record of marriage Andrew was already living in the parish.

Figure 4 Anna Stirling. © Mrs Stirling-Aird

He and Anna had sixteen children, eight boys and eight girls born between 1779 and 1798. His sons included an admiral of the Royal Navy who became the first Governor of Western Australia.[14]

Initially he was partner in the family business William Stirling and Sons, however in 1792 he left the partnership having set up his own commission house, Stirling, Hunter and Co. in London.[15] The venture was successful for a while however in 1808 he ran into financial difficulties and sold Drumpellier back to the Buchanan family.[16] He and his brother John were also shareholders in the company building the Monkland Canal. Initially James Watt had been involved in supervising the necessary work however it was not completed as planned and the company ran out of money.

In 1782 the company was auctioned off and with others the brothers bought it, the Stirlings owning just under 50%. By 1789 Andrew owned over two thirds. From that date, and as a result of his energy and foresight, the canal was extended eastwards to Calderbank and westwards to Port Dundas.[17] He was also a significant user of the canal, exporting coal mined from his land and bringing in dung and lime by return to support his agricultural activity.[18]

Andrew died at Pirbright Lodge in Surrey and was buried in St. Michaels and All Angels Churchyard in Pirbright on the 5th April 1823.[19] Anna also died at Pirbright and was buried on the 11th June 1830.[20]

His fourth son was Charles Stirling whose granddaughter Anne Douglas Stirling, the donor of the paintings, was in due course to marry into the Houstoun family. He was born on the 16th June 1788 at Drumpellier,[21]  and educated at Westminster[22]. He married his cousin Charlotte Dorothea Stirling, the daughter of Admiral Charles Stirling of Woburn in Surrey[23] in 1827[24]. They had seven children the third of whom was General Sir William Stirling. In 1835 Charles bought the estate of Muiravonside in Stirlingshire and developed the agriculture of the estate.[25] In 1826 he was also a partner in the Thistle Bank.[26] He died at Muiravonside House on the 25th August 1867 from heart disease.[27]

Charles’s son William was born on the 4th August 1835.[28] He attended Edinburgh Academy and then the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.[29] He was appointed to Woolwich in November 1849, age 14 years and three months, passing his probationary examination in December 1850. He progressed through the academy satisfactorily finally being promoted second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on the 22 June 1853.[30]

Figure 5 Sir William Stirling. Courtesy of Clan Stirling Online.,_KCB.,_R.A.

He married twice, his first wife being Anne Douglas Sylvester Stirling whom he married in 1864.[31] Her father was Sylvester Douglas Stirling of Glenbervie, and of the Kippendavie Stirling family.[32]

The Kippendavie Stirlings.

The Kippendavie branch of the family was established in 1594 when Archibald Stirling was given the estate of Kippendavie by his father, Sir Archibald Stirling of Keir and Cadder.[33] From this branch of the family came a number of individuals who, along with their Keir cousins were heavily involved in the sugar trade in the West Indies. Patrick and John Stirling, great, great grandsons of Archibald Stirling,[34] in turn, owned a sugar plantation in Jamaica called Content. Patrick had succeeded his father to Kippendavie and lived in Jamaica from about 1753 where he managed the plantation. He died however with no heirs in 1775 and is buried there, his brother John succeeding him to Kippendavie and Content.[35]

John, the father of Sylvester Douglas Stirling,[36] became a senior partner in Stirling Gordon & Co. This company was formed c.1750 by Arthur Connell and James Somervill and was known as Somervill Connell & Co. In 1780, five years after Connell died, it became Somervill Gordon & Co, finally in 1795, Stirling Gordon & Co.[37] It’s clear therefore that there was a business connection between Arthur Connell and the Stirlings of Kippendavie. Later that connection was strengthened through a marriage between the two families.

Between 1835 and 1837 the partners of Stirling Gordon & Co., (including two other sons of John Stirling, Charles and William) were awarded £15,616 as compensation for the loss of their slave labour when slavery was abolished in 1833. The company had four estates or plantations, including Content, with a total of 665 enslaved individuals.[38] At current values the amount awarded would be worth between £1.4m and £57m dependant on the measure used.[39]

Sylvester Douglas Stirling married Anne Craigie Connell in 1830.[40] She was the daughter of David Connell, the son of Arthur and Magdalen Connell, born in 1759[41] . He died in 1819, his death registration stating that he was buried in “Provost Connell’s lair”.[42] This marriage is the means by which the Connell paintings came into the possession of the Stirlings and ultimately Anne Douglas Stirling.

Sir William and Anne Douglas had two children the eldest of whom was Anne Douglas Stirling, born in Edinburgh in 1865[43]. She was in due course the sole executor and beneficiary of her maternal grandmother’s (Anne Craigie Connell) estate when she died in 1899, which I believe brought the Connell paintings into her ownership.[44] Further evidence of the Stirling/Connell familial ties is given by the 1901 census where Anne Douglas Stirling is registered as living (not visiting) with her cousin Arthur K Connell in Brockenhurst, Hampshire.[45]

Sir William’s military career spanned 52 years during which he saw action in the Crimea, India, China and Afghanistan.[46] Following the Afghan campaign in 1879 he was awarded Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB),[47] and in 1893, whilst Governor and Commandant of the Royal Military Academy he was made a Knight Commander of the Order, (KCB).[48]

He became Lieutenant of the Tower of London in 1900,[49] retiring from that position and the army on half pay in 1902.[50] He died on the 11th April 1906 at Ochiltree, Folkstone[51] and is buried in Cheriton Road Cemetery, Folkstone.[52]

The Houstouns of Johnstone.

Anne Douglas Stirling married the sixth Laird of Johnstone George Ludovic Houstoun at St Peter’s, Eaton Square, London on the 10th November 1903.[53] His family ancestry can be traced back to Sir Ludovic Houstoun of that ilk, whose great-great-great grandfather, Sir Peter Houstoun was killed at Flodden. Sir Ludovic had two sons, the eldest and heir being Patrick, who was created a baronet in 1668. His second son was George, who became the first Laird of Johnstone.[54] It is from George that Anne Douglas Stirling’s husband is descended.

The fourth Laird of Johnstone was another George Houstoun who succeeded his father Ludovic who had succeeded his father, also Ludovic.[55] He was born on the 8th September 1744, his mother being Jane Rankine.[56] He succeeded his father at the age of 14 in 1757 and in 1779 he married Mary McDowall,[57] daughter of William McDowall, M.P. of Garthland. They had two sons, Ludovic and William born in 1780 and 1781 respectively.[58]

During his time as Laird George extended Johnstone Castle, was involved in coal mining at Quarrelton, had lime works at Floor Craig and cotton mills on his estate.[59] He was also a founding partner of the Paisley Union Bank in 1788 along with nine others.[60] In 1838 the bank was taken over by the Union Bank of Scotland.[61] He died on the 31st December 1815[62] and was succeeded by his son Ludovic. He left estate valued at £29,750, in economic power terms worth over £155 million today.[63]

Ludovic married Ann Stirling, daughter of John Stirling of Kippendavie and Kippenross in 1809.[64] They had one son, another George, more of which later. He carried on with the businesses his father had established and in the 1861 census, when he was 80 years old it was recorded that he farmed 120 acres, employed 55 miners and 12 labourers in his coal works, 14 miners, 14 labourers, 2 joiners and 2 blacksmiths in the lime works and in his three mills 156 males and 276 females. Clearly a major employer in the area.[65]

He was a J.P. for the Abbey Parish in Johnstone and in 1831 he was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Renfrewshire.[66]

His wife Ann’s sister Jane Stirling was a pupil of the pianist Frederic Chopin. She had met him around 1827 in Paris, which she visited annually with another sister Kathrine. She became a close friend of the pianist and in 1844 he dedicated his two Nocturnes Opus 55 to her. In 1848 she and Katherine were instrumental in bringing him to London for a series of concerts. He was subsequently invited to Scotland arriving in Edinburgh in early August, eventually staying in Johnstone Castle as a guest of the Houstoun’s for a couple of days in September.[67]

Figure 6. by Richard James Lane. 1830s-1840s NPG D3275 © National Portrait Gallery London.

Ludovic and Ann’s son George was born on the 31st July 1810.[68] He attended Eton[69] and in 1828 matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford.[70] He was an officer in the Renfrew Yeomanry Cavalry and in 1831 was commissioned as Captain[71]. He was a Conservative candidate in the Parliamentary elections in 1835 for the County of Renfrew but lost by 68 votes to Sir Michael Shaw Stewart. Sir Michael died early in 1837 and George won the subsequent by election by 170 votes. Later that year there was a general election and he again won the seat. He remained an M.P. until 1841 when he decided not to stand again in the coming election.

George was the heir apparent to the Lairdship however in 1843 he collapsed and died whilst on a shoot at Invercauld in Aberdeenshire.[72] In the transept of Paisley Abbey there is a plain stone tablet, executed by Mossman, over his grave surmounted by a sand glass which is inscribed “George Houstoun, only child of Ludovic Houston and Ann Stirling of Kippendavie – born 31st July 1810, died 14th September 1843.” [73]

In addition to his personal business activity Ludovic, as might be expected, was involved in a number of enterprises at various times. He was a director of the West of Scotland, Fire Insurance Company, a director of the Johnstone Coffee and News Room, within the Black Bull Inn, on the management committee of the Glasgow, Paisley and Ardrossan Canal and a founder member of the Flax Growers Society of Scotland.[74] He died on the 3rd October 1862 at Johnstone Castle.[75]

As he had no surviving offspring and as his brother William had died in 1856[76], his nephew George Ludovic Houstoun became the sixth and last Laird of Johnstone.

William had married Marion Douglas Russell in 1845 at Gargunnock.[77] Her mother was yet another Stirling, Mary Stirling, daughter of John Stirling of Kippendavie and sister of Ludovic’s wife Ann.[78]  William was 64 years old at the time of the marriage which was probably prompted by the death of his nephew George in 1843. With no prospect apparently of his brother Ludovic and his wife having more children he was the only option for the continuation of the title. Sadly it was doomed to fail.

His bride, his niece, was c. 23 and they had four children, George Ludovic, born on the 15th October 1846,[79] William James b. 1848[80] Mary Erskine b. 1850 [81] and Ann Margaret b. 1852.[82] In 1851 the family was living in Cartside House in Johnstone, William described as a cotton spinner employing 532 men and women in his mills and a J.P.[83]

The Last Laird.

George Ludovic Houstoun entered Rugby School on the 31st August 1860. His house was ‘Mayor’ so named after the house master R.B. Mayor. He remained there until 1863,[84] having become Laird the previous October at the age of 16 on the death of his uncle. He matriculated at Queens College, Cambridge in 1866, in due course graduating M.A.[85]

He joined the Renfrewshire Militia also in 1866 as a lieutenant, retaining a military connection until c. 1911 when he joined the Veteran Reserve (Territorial Force Association of Renfrew) having attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel and being associated with the 4th Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.[86] He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of Renfrewshire in 1873, relinquishing the role in 1922.

He also appears to have had significant political connections and may also have been involved with the Colonial Office between 1877 and c.1900. His papers are lodged in the Mitchell Library in Glasgow and contain a wealth of information in respect of his activities in South Africa and his interest in Cyprus where he had an estate near Kyrenia in northern Cyprus.[87]

It seems he spent some time in South Africa being appointed in 1877 Commissioner for the District of Rustenberg in the Transvaal and as a Justice of the Peace. He was present in Somboti, Swaziland, in 1895, witnessing the King’s signature on a letter to Queen Victoria and in 1900 he was in Bulawayo where he received a letter from Arthur Balfour who corresponded with him often, as did other political figures. He also exchanged letters with General Gordon of Khartoum and also with the writer H. Rider Haggard between 1889 and 1891.[88]

The information in the preceding three paragraphs comes from the Houstoun Family of Johnstone papers in the Glasgow City Archives held in the Mitchell Library. The papers, contained in three boxes, are extensive and date from 1630 to 1912, reference TD263.

In the censuses of 1891[89] and 1901[90] he is recorded as staying with his sisters Mary and Ann at Johnstone Castle living on his own means, his brother William James having died in 1866.[91] In may therefore be that his involvement in colonial affairs was sporadic and informal however, in terms of his correspondence, he exchanged information and comments on a number of subjects dealing with the British presence in Africa.

When he married Anne Douglas Stirling in 1903 she brought to the marriage a significant ‘fortune’ having some £13,000 of her own money and the expectation of an inheritance from her mother’s trust fund when her father died, as per her parent’s Marriage Settlement in 1864, and also from him.[92]

They lived for a period at Johnstone Castle until c.1912 when they moved permanently to their estate in Kyrenia, apparently due to Lloyd George’s Land Tax reforms which had begun in 1909.[93]

He had been interested in establishing a Scottish Episcopalian Church in Kyrenia for some time having between 1887 and 1891 began to seek financial support from wealthy friends with the aim of raising £1,000 to do so.[94]  He seems to have had a good response, whether he reached his target however is not clear. No action seems to have been taken until 1912 when St Andrews Episcopalian Church was built, the land being donated by Houstoun and the church being built by Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Eldred McDonald, he being the District Commissioner for Kyrenia.[95]

Figure 7 St Andrews, Kyrenia, Cyprus.

Houstoun was also involved in founding the local hospital and along with a number of other philanthropic activities, trying to improve local farming. In support of this he also established an Agricultural Show.[96]

The Church is still in existence and appears to be very active. Its current vicar is the Reverend Wendy Hough.[97]

Figure 8 Houstoun Cemetery, Kyrenia, Cyprus.


He died in Kyrenia in 1931[98], his wife surviving him until 1950,[99] also dying in Kyrenia. They are both buried in the small Houstoun Cemetery there.[100]

Their marriage was childless and as his two sisters Mary Erskine and Ann Margaret died unmarried, Mary in Cannes in 1904[101] and Ann in Edinburgh in 1925[102], the Houstoun line begun by George Houstoun in the mid-1600s ended.

[1] Sterling, Albert Mack. (1909). The Sterling Genealogy. Vol.1 New York: The Grafton Press. pp. 158-162.

[2] Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878). The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry. 2nd ed. ‘Drumpellier’ .Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

[3] Glasgow Librarian. (1888). Catalogue of Stirling’s and Glasgow Public Library. Glasgow: Robert Maclehose. pp. xiii – xvii.;view=1up;seq=1

[4] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 27 July 1717. STIRLING, William. 644/1 90 320.

[5] Reid, Robert. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present Vol. 3 Glasgow: David Roberson and Co. p. 374.

[6] National Museum of Scotland. Firms that made Turkey Red.

[7] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 20 September 1747. STIRLING, William and BUCHANAN, Mary. 644/1 250 98

[8] Sterling, op.cit. pp. 158-162.

[9] Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. op.cit. ‘Drumpellier’.

[10] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 14 February 1751. STERLING, Andrew. 644/1 121/5.

[11] Reid, op.cit. p.424.

[12] Macfarlane Families & Connected Clans Genealogy.

[13] Marriages. (PR) England. Bloomsbury, London. 26 May 1778. STERLING, Andrew and STIRLING, Ann. Collection: London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1931.

[14] Sterling, op. cit. pp.163-165.

[15] London Gazette (1792) 22 September 1792 Issue 13470, p. 809.

[16] Sterling, op.cit. pp. 163-165.

[17] Thomson, George (1945) The Monkland Canal: A sketch of the Early History. Monklands: Monkland Library Services Department

[18] Sinclair, Sir John. (1793) The Statistical Account of Scotland. Vol. 7. Edinburgh: William Creech. pp. 373, 374.

[19] Burials (PR) England. Pirbright, Surrey. 5 April 1823. STIRLING, Andrew. Collection: Surrey, England, Church of England Burials, 1813-1987. Reference Number PI/4/1.

[20] Burials (PR) England. Pirbright, Surrey. 11 June 1830. STIRLING, Anna. Collection: London, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-2003

[21] Births (OPR) Scotland.  Old Monkland or Coatbridge. 16 June 1788. STIRLING, Charles. 652/ 10 263

[22] The Gentleman’s Magazine. (1867) Deaths. The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. IV. July – December 1867. p. 542.

[23] Sterling, op. cit. pp. 163

[24] Marriages (PR) England. Pirbright, Surrey. 1 May 1827. STIRLING, Charles and STIRLING, Charlotte Dorothea. Collection: Surrey, England, Church of England Marriages, reference PI/2/2/2.

[25] The Gentleman’s Magazine. (1867) Deaths. The Gentleman’s Magazine Vol. IV. July – December 1867. p. 542.

[26] Reid, Robert. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present Vol. 1 Glasgow: David Roberson and Co. p. 484.

[27] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Muiravonside, Stirling. 25 August 1867. STIRLING, Charles. 486/ 40.

[28] Find a Grave. General Sir William Stirling.

[29] Sterling, op.cit. p. 163.

[30] The Sandhurst Collection. William Stirling.

[31] Marriages (PR) England. Westminster, London. 2 June 1864 STIRLING, William and STIRLING, Anne Douglas. Collection: England, Select Marriages, 1538–1973. FHL Film number 1042324.

[32] Births (OPR) Scotland. Larbert, Stirling. 8 November 1834. STIRLING, Anne Douglas. 485/ 10 531.

[33] Sterling, op.cit. p. 129.

[34] Sterling, op. cit. pp. 129-132.

[35] Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878) The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry 2nd ed.  Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

[36] Births (OPR) Scotland. Dunblane, Stirling. 24 February 1803. STIRLING, Silvester, Douglas. 348/ 30 04

[37] Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878) The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry 2nd ed.  Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

[38]  University College London. Legacies of British Slave Ownership.

[39] Measuring Worth.

[40] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Abbey. 7 September 1830. STIRLING, Sylvester Douglas and CONNELL, Anne Craigie. 559/ 80 234.

[41] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 24 May 1759. CONNELL, David. 644/1 130 190.

[42] Deaths (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 28 January 1819. CONNELL, David. 644/1 610 221.

[43] Births (SR) Scotland. St George, Edinburgh. 7 December 1865. STIRLING, Anne Douglas. 685/1 1476.

[44] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 1899 STIRLING, Anne Craigie. Stirling Sheriff Court SC67/36/118.

[45] Census. England. 1901. Brockenhurst, Hampshire. Class: RG13; Piece: 1035; Folio: 67; Page: 4.

[46] Sterling, op.cit. p. 163.

[47] London Gazette (1879) Colonel William Stirling. 21 November 1879, issue 24785, p. 6586.

[48] London Gazette (1893) Supplement, Queen’s Birthday Honours. Lieutenant General William Stirling. 3 June 1893, issue 26405. p. 3251.

[49] London Gazette (1900) Lieutenant General Sir William Stirling. 9 January 1900, issue 27152, p. 146.

[50] London Gazette (1902) General Sir William Stirling. 8 August 1902, issue 27462, p. 5101.

[51] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 5 June 1906. STIRLING, General Sir William. Supplementary Inventory. Edinburgh Sheriff Court. SC70/1/457.

[52] Find a Grave. General Sir William Stirling.

[53] Marriage Announcements (1903) The Scotsman 12 November. HOUSTOUN, George Ludovic and STIRLING, Anne Douglas. p. 10h. Collection: Scotsman Digital Archive 1817 – 1950.

[54] Burke, John and Burke, John Bernard. (1844). A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Extinct and Dormant Baronetcies of England, Ireland and Scotland. 2 ed. London: John Russell Smith. p. 627.

[55] Ibid.

[56] Births (OPR) Scotland. Ayr. 8 September 1744. HOWSTOUN, George. 578/ 30 247.

[57] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Renfrewshire. 29 January 1779. HOUSTOUN, George and MCDOWAL, Maria. 559/ 40 292.

[58] Burke, op.cit.

[59]  Jisc Archives Hub. Papers of the Houstoun family of Johnstone.

[60] Lloyds Banking Group. Paisley Union Bank.

[61] Cameron, Alan. (1995) Bank of Scotland 1695 – 1995: A very singular institution. Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing Company. p.150.

[62] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 1818. HOUSTOUN, George. Wills and Testaments. Paisley Sheriff Court. SC36/48/13

[63] Measuring Worth (2016).

[64] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Renfrewshire. 22 October 1809. HOUSTOUN, Ludovic and STIRLING, Ann. 559/ 40 551.

[65] Census. 1861. Scotland. Abbey of Paisley, Johnstone. 559/3 11/1.

[66] London Gazette (1831) 15 August 1831 Issue 18849, p. 1878.

[67] The Chopin Society UK. Chopin’s visit to Britain 1848.

[68] Burke, op.cit.

[69] Stapylton, H.E.C. (1884) Eton School Lists 1791 – 1877. London: Simpkin, Marshall & Co. p. 117.

[70] Oxford University Alumini. 1500 – 1886. Vol. II 1715 – 1886, p. 117.

[71] London Gazette (1831) 22 February 1831 Issue 18778, p. 340

[72] The Gentleman’s Magazine. (1844) Deaths. The Gentleman’s Magazine. Vol. XXI. January – June 1844. p. 203.;view=1up;seq=215

[73] Glasgow Herald. (1848) Glasgow, August 28, Glasgow Herald. 28 August 1848. p. 4f.

[74] Fowler’s Paisley Commercial Directories 1824 – 1846.

[75] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Johnstone, Renfrew. 3 October 1862. HOUSTOUN, Ludovic. 559/3 129.

[76] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Johnstone, Renfrew. 6 February 1856. HOUSTOUN, William. 559/ 3 37.

[77] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Gargunnock. 8 July 1845. HOUSTOUN, William, and RUSSELL, Marion Douglas. 481/ 20 238

[78] Sterling, op.cit. pp. 133, 134.

[79] Births (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Paisley. 15 October 1846. HOUSTOUN, George Ludovic. 559/ 70 36.

[80] Births (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Paisley. 25 October 1848. HOUSTOUN, William James. 559/ 70 418

[81] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Paisley. 17 August 1850. HOUSTOUN, Mary Erskine. 559/ 70 450.

[82] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Abbey, Paisley. 2 April 1852. HOUSTON, Ann Margaret. 559/ 70 488

[83] Census 1851 Scotland. Johnstone. 559/ 17/3

[84] Smith, Dr. Jonathan (2018), Archivist at Rugby School: George Ludovic Houstoun at Rugby School. E-mail to George Manzor, 8 March 2018.

[85] (1886) Rugby School Register 1850-1874. Vol. II. Rugby: A.J. Lawrence. p. 80.

[86] Houstoun Family of Johnstone Papers. Glasgow City Archives: Mitchell Library TD263

[87] Ibid

[88] Ibid

[89] Census. 1891. Scotland. Abbey, West Renfrewshire, 559/3 15/ 22.

[90] Census. 1901. Scotland. Johnstone, Paisley. 573/2 17/ 14.

[91] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire. 18 September 1866. HOUSTOUN, William James. 570/ 56.

[92] Houstoun Family of Johnstone Papers. Glasgow City Archives: Mitchell Library TD263.

[93] Death Announcements. (1931). the Scotsman. 5 September. HOUSTOUN, George Ludovic. p. 15b. Collection: Scotsman Digital Archive 1817 – 1950.

[94] Houstoun Family of Johnstone Papers. Glasgow City Archives: Mitchell Library reference TD263.

[95] Collins, P.C. (1988) A Short History of St. Andrew’s English Church, Kyrenia, Cyprus: 1913 – 1988.

[96] Ibid

[97] St. Andrew’s Church, Kyrenia. Our Chaplain.

[98] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 16 March 1932. HOUSTOUN, George Ludovic. National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936.

[99] Testamentary Records. England and Wales. 21 October 1950. STIRLING, Anne Douglas. National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966.

[100] St. Andrew’s Church. Kyrenia. The Houstoun Cemetery.

[101] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 16 June 1904. HOUSTOUN, Mary Erskine. Paisley Sheriff Court Wills. SC58/45/13 and SC58/ 42/64.

[102] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 26 June 1925. HOUSTOUN, Ann Margaret. Dunblane Sheriff Court Wills. SC44/48/2.