Archibald Gray Macdonald – Engraver and Lithographer. (1813-1900)

Archibald Gray Macdonald was an engraver/lithographer who bequeathed twenty three paintings to Glasgow, eleven of which were by the landscaper Samuel Bough. The paintings were to go to Glasgow on his death or on his wife’s if he predeceased her,[1] which is what happened as she died in 1903, three years after he did.[2]

Archibald was born in 1813 in the Barony parish to John Macdonald, writer (lawyer) and Thomina Gray[3] who had married in 1810.[4] He was named after his maternal grandfather Archibald Gray and was the youngest of their three children, Mary being born in 1811[5] and Eneas in 1812.[6]

Very little has been established about father John, not helped by the fact there were two writers of the same name in Glasgow at the same time. When he was born is not clear but it may have been around 1790. He died intestate at Bridge of Allan in 1856, son Archibald was confirmed as executor, his estate being valued at £295 6s 9d. Interestingly in his inventory document he was described as being the owner of the Gartverrie Fire Clay Works in New Monklands and lived in Kingshill Cottage in the parish of Cadder.[7] In the Glasgow Herald of the 12th January 1855 he is recorded as donating £1 to the Patriotic Fund, set up to support the troops fighting the Crimean War (1853-56).[8] His death is recorded in the Inverness Courier on the 19 June 1856.[9]  On his father’s death Archibald became owner of the Clay Works [10] eventually selling it c.1860 to J. Arthur and Co. and the Garnkirk Company.[11]  Archibald’s mother Thomina was born in Kilmallie in 1780, the daughter of merchant Archibald Gray and Mary Cameron.[12]

Where Archibald was schooled has not been established nor is there any evidence to support his attendance at university. By 1835 however he partnered Andrew Maclure in the lithographing and engraving company Maclure, Macdonald & Co, situated at 190 Trongate,[13] the company first appearing in the Post Office Directory of 1836/37.[14] It’s not clear how he got involved with that profession, perhaps he and/or Andrew worked with another company initially. As it happens Hugh Wilson was an engraver and lithographer situated at 197 Trongate. Wilson had been in the profession since 1822 in Argyle street[15] and had moved to the Trongate in 1828[16] at which time Andrew would be age 16 and Archibald 15. Is this where one or both served their ‘apprenticeship’? Pure conjecture of course.

In 1838 their description in the directory was given as ‘lithographers, printers, draughtsmen and printers to Her Majesty’[17] the latter part subsequently becoming ‘ornamental printers to Her Majesty’ in 1846.[18]

In 1839 they moved their business premises to 57 Buchanan Street[19] remaining there until 1853 when they moved to 20 St. Vincent Place.[20] They were to stay there for the next thirty one years, moving to Bothwell Street in 1884. Their directory entry for that year gives a clear indication of the range and growth of the company which now included engineering activity, chromo lithographs, photographs, photo engraving, making medals, die sinks and embossing.[21] They were also at the forefront of innovation in their profession having bought a Sigi machine from Germany in 1851 which could print 600 sheets per hour and were the first company in the UK to use steam power for lithographic printing.[22]

Their business activity was not confined to Glasgow. In 1840 they opened premises in Liverpool, then London in 1845. In 1886 they opened in Manchester[23] by which time the founders of the company were no longer there. Andrew Maclure had died in 1885 at Monzie Castle in Perth, usual residence given as Ladbroke Square, London [24] having lived there from at least 1861.[25] Archibald retired from the business in 1886.[26]

Their products included portraiture, events and postage stamps. The National Portrait Gallery in London have forty four lithographs and chromolithographs of significant Victorian individuals including royalty, politicians, artists and soldiers, the original artwork on a number of them being done by Andrew Maclure.[27] The Wellcome Collection based at London University has thirty three lithographs of varying subject matter, with a small number of portraits. They also have thirty published reports produced by the company on a variety of subjects . [28]

The stamps they produced were mainly for the National Telephone Company, which was based in Glasgow, although they also created postage stamps for Uruguay and Sarawak.[29]

Some examples of their output are shown below.

Figure 1. Queen Victoria
Figure 4. Gordon of Khartoum
Figure 3. Sir John Millais
Figure 2. Lord Randolph Churchill.

These lithographs are from the National Portrait Gallery. The two below are from the Wellcome Collection .

Figure 5. Duke of Wellington Lying in State
Figure 6. Opium Factory at Ptna, India
Figure 9. Uruguay Postage Stamp.
Figure 7. National Telephone Company.
Figure 8. Sarawak Postage Stamp.

Stamp images from Wikipedia Commons.

The company remained independant until 1992 when it was taken over by J. R. Reid of Blantyre.

Archibald married Janet Gemmill Aitken in 1845.[30] She was the daughter of Dr. John Aitken and Margaret Montgomerie Thomson who married in 1817.[31] The Aitkens had four children, Janet being the third, born in 1823.[32] Her father was a graduate of Glasgow University gaining an MA in 1815 and an MD in 1839 and was also at one time the Register of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons.[33]

Archibald and Janet’s marriage was childless. Two years after their marriage they were living at 1 Fitzroy Place in Glasgow.[34] They moved to 8 Park Circus in 1866 where they lived for the rest of their lives.[35]

Archibald died at home on the 25th April 1900, cause of death given as Pulmonary Congestion.[36] Janet died, also at home on the 10th January 1903, cause of death recorded as acute bronchitis.[37] They were both buried in the Glasgow Necropolis in the tomb of Janet’s father and mother.[38]

Their favourite artist seems to have been Samuel Bough. He was born in England in 1822 but became well known and influential in landscape paintings of Scotland in the 19th century. He initially started out by painting theatrical scenes but by 1855 had moved to Edinburgh and was elected to the RSA the following year.[39] His portrait was painted by Daniel Macnee which is shown below.

Figure 10. Samuel Bough by David Macnee. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

[1] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 9 August 1900. MACDONALD, Archibald Gray. Will. Glasgow Sheriff Court. SC36/51/125.

[2] Deaths (SR). Scotland. Kelvin, Glasgow. 10 January 1903. AITKEN, Janet Gemmill. 644/9 59.

[3] Births (OPR). Scotland. Barony. 11 August 1813. MACDONALD, Archibald Gray. 622/ 50 247.

[4] Marriages (OPR). Scotland. Barony. 15 August 1810. MACDONALD, John and GRAY, Thomina. 622/ 70 339.

[5] Births (OPR). Scotland. Barony. 12 July 1811. MACDONALD, Mary. 622/ 50 164.

[6] Births (OPR). Scotland. Barony. 24 June 1812. MACDONALD, Eneas. 622/ 50 203.

[7] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 15 January 1857. MCDONALD, John. Inventory. Glasgow Sheriff Court. SC36/48/43.

[8] Glasgow Herald. (1855). Subscriptions to the Patriotic Fund. Glasgow Herald  12 January. p.2d.

[9] Inverness Courier. (1856) Births Marriages and Deaths. Inverness Courier p. 8c.

[10] Lanarkshire O.S. Name Books, 1858-1861. Volume 49. OS1/21/49/7.

[11] Hunt, Robert. (1860). Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Great Britain etc. London: Longman, Green Longman and Roberts. p.122.

[12] Births (OPR). Scotland. Kilmallie. 19 August 1780. GRAY, Thomina. 520/ 10 45.

[13] Glasgow Museums Collection. Maclure, Macdonald & Co.

[14] Directories. Scotland. (1836/37) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: John Graham. p. 147.

[15] Directories. Scotland.(1820) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: W. McFeat and Co. p.230.

[16] Directories. Scotland. (1828) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: John Graham. p.264.

[17] Directories. Scotland. (1838/39) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: John Graham. p.151.

[18] Directories. Scotland. (1846/47) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: Edward Kuhl. p.169.

[19] Directories. Scotland. (1839/40) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: John Graham. p.159.

[20] Directories. Scotland. (1853/54) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.220.

[21] Directories. Scotland. (1885/86) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.979.

[22] Glasgow Museums Collection. Maclure, Macdonald & Co.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Monzie, Perth. 20 December 1885. MACLURE, Andrew. 382/ 5.

[25] Census 1861. England. Kensington, Middlesex. RG 9; Piece: 14; Folio: 56; Page: 44; GSU roll: 542556.

[26] Directories. Scotland. (1886/87) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.386.

[27] National Portrait Gallery.

[28] Wellcome Collection.

[29] Wikimedia Commons.,_Macdonald_and_Co.

[30] Marriages (OPR). Scotland. Barony. 21 September 1845. MACDONALD, Archibald Gray and AITKEN, Janet Gemmill. 622/  180 661.

[31] Marriages (OPR). Scotland. Glasgow.15 September 1817. AITKEN, John and THOMSON, Margaret Montgomerie. 644/1 280 368.

[32] Births (OPR). Scotland. Glasgow. 22 July 1823. AITKEN, Janet Gemmill. 644/1 310 270,

[33] Addison, W. Innes. (1898). A Roll of The Graduates of Glasgow University from 1727 to 1897. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons. p.8.

[34] Directories. Scotland. (1847/48) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.172.

[35] Directories. Scotland. (1866/67) Glasgow Post Office Directory. Glasgow: William MacKenzie. p.213.

[36] Deaths (SR) Kelvin, Glasgow. 25 April 1900. MACDONALD, Archibald Gray.. 644/9 621.

[37] Deaths. (SR) Kelvin, Glasgow. 10 January 1903. AITKEN, Janet Gemmill. 644/9 59.

[38]  Find a Grave.