John Oswald Mitchell is not a benefactor of Glasgow by my usual definitions. However, he did write about Glasgow and its eminent families, their business activities and their houses, his two main histories, both published by James Maclehose, being The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry (with John Guthrie Smith – 1878) and Old Glasgow Essays (1905), this last one being published posthumously. He also made significant contributions to other histories in particular to the Regality Club, series 1 to 3 books and Memoirs and Portraits of one HundredGlasgow Men. He also wrote a book about Burns entitled Burns and his Times (1897).
A good deal of his writing covers the period of Glasgow’s pre-eminence in the tobacco trade, the people involved, the fortunes they made and the grand houses they purchased. What is not discussed in anyway is the fundamental ‘commodity’ which made this wealth generation possible, enslaved Africans.
From before the abolition of slavery in 1833 and throughout the US civil war and afterwards there were a number of significant groups and organisations in Glasgow and elsewhere in Scotland strongly opposed to slavery. Despite that, the part that Glasgow and Scots in general played in the ownership and use of slave labour in Chesapeake and the Caribbean, and their key involvement in the machinery of slavery, was not properly acknowledged or understood and totally misrepresented. In 1883, almost twenty years after the US civil war had ended, the writer of an article about the history of the West India Association of Glasgow in the Glasgow Herald of June 1st wrote the following:
“The American War of Independence finished the latter (the tobacco lords), but the trading instinct of Glasgow was not to be denied, and, prompted no doubt by its favourable situation for the purpose, the merchants of Glasgow embarked largely in the West India (West Indies) trade. The other great sugar ports were London, Bristol and Liverpool, and it is to Glasgow’s lasting honour that while Bristol and Liverpool were up to the elbows in the slave trade Glasgow kept out of it. The reproach can never be levelled at our city, as it was at Liverpool, that there was not a stone in her streets that were not cemented with the blood of a slave.”
The view expressed by the writer persisted well into the twentieth century with little or no recognition of the major part that we Scots played in slavery. In 1937 Andrew Dewar Gibb wrote a history called “Scottish Empire”, purporting to relate Scottish involvement in the British Empire. Not only does he not refer to slavery there is no mention of any substance relating to the American or Caribbean colonies. The Darien expedition and the establishment of the Ulster ‘plantation’ however are covered.  Stephen Mullen captured the essence of our mindset on the subject in the title of his book on Glasgow and slavery, “It Wisnae Us”
But what of John Oswald Mitchell? Was his lack of any reference to slavery a conscious or unconscious omission, was he merely fitting in with the prevalent view of his day? It may seem difficult after nearly one hundred and forty years to fully establish what his reasons were however once his ancestry is understood it becomes clearer what his possible (probable?) motivation was.
He was born in 1826 to Andrew Mitchell and his wife Lilias Oswald. They married in 1814 and had six children, John being the youngest. Andrew was born in 1774, the son of Reverend Andrew Mitchell and his wife Janet Alice. He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1788 and graduated B.A. in 1794. He became a writer (lawyer) and was a Member of the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow from 1797. He was also a partner in at least two law firms, Grahame & Mitchell and subsequently Mitchell, Henderson & Mitchell. He died in Glasgow in 1845.
Lilias Oswald was born in 1785 and it is within her family that the reason for any reluctance on John Oswald Mitchell’s part to write about slavery may lie.
She was the eighth of nine children born to Alexander Oswald and Margaret Dundas. Her brother, James, born in 1779, became one of Glasgow’s two M.P.s following the reform act of 1832. His statue is in the north east corner of George Square; Oswald Street in the city centre is named after him.
Alexander’s ancestry goes back to James Oswald of Caithness who married Margaret Coghill. They had two sons who became clergymen, one a Presbyterian, the other an Episcopalian.
The eldest James was born in 1654 and became minister in the parish of Watten in Caithness which was an Episcopalian charge. He married Mary Murray in 1683 and had two sons, Richard, born in 1687 and Alexander, born in 1694. They also had two daughters.
The sons became very successful merchants in Glasgow and were able to purchase the estates of Scotstoun in 1751 and Balshagray in 1759. They both died unmarried, Alexander in 1763, Richard in 1766 thus ending a direct male descendancy from the first James Oswald of Caithness.
The second son George was born in 1664 and became a minister in Dunnet parish in Caithness, this parish however being Presbyterian. He married his sister in law Margaret Murray and had five children including two sons, James, born in 1703 and Richard, born in 1705. It’s from these two boys that the journey to Lilias Oswald begins.
Like his father James became a minister and had a long line of descendants, more of whom in due course. Richard became a merchant working initially with his cousins Richard and Alexander as their factor in the American and Caribbean colonies where they traded in tobacco, sugar and wine. This was the Oswald’s family first contact with the use of slave labour. It’s not clear if the brothers Richard and Alexander had any ownership of slaves however their trading activities certainly benefited from it.
Such was the ‘apprenticeship’ served by cousin Richard who subsequently became a merchant in London. This was followed by marriage to Mary Ramsay whom he had met in Jamaica which gave him, via his heiress wife, ownership of plantations and slaves. He bought plantations in the Caribbean and Florida, and two large estates at home, Auchincruive in Ayrshire and Cavens in Kirkcudbright and Dumfriesshire. Two other notable events occurred, the first of which was the addition of slave trading from Sierra Leone to South Carolina to his business portfolio. The other was the leading role he played in the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Paris, which ended the hostilities between Britain and her erstwhile American colonies.
Unfortunately, Richard and his wife had no children which resulted in his wealth eventually ending up with his brother James’ descendants. He died in 1784,his wife in 1788.
James married Elizabeth Murray in 1728 and they had seven children, three girls and four boys. He was minister at Dunnet parish, succeeding his father, thereafter at Methven in Perthshire. He also wrote a number of religious papers and books and was awarded the degree D.D. by Glasgow University in 1765, the year he became moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. His wife Elizabeth died in 1746 and three years later he married Margaret Dunbar. There were no children of this second marriage and Margaret died in 1779. In 1783 he retired from the ministry, but not from his writings, and went to live with his son George at Scotstoun. He died there in 1793.
Two of James’ sons were merchants in Glasgow. George, born in 1735, was a partner in Oswald, Dennistoun & Co, tobacco importers and is described in The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry’ as “one of our old Virginia Dons”. He married Margaret Smith in 1764 and they had twelve children, his eldest son and heir being Richard Alexander Oswald, born in 1771. George inherited Scotstoun from his second cousins Richard and Alexander Oswald and also inherited part of his uncle Richard’s Auchincruive estate in 1784. He was rector of Glasgow University in 1797.
George died in 1819 his son Richard Alexander inheriting his estates bringing Auchincruive into single ownership again, he having been left part of the estate by his great uncle Richard when he died in 1784.
Richard Alexander married twice his second wife being widow Lilian Montgomery. His two marriages did not produce any living heirs and on his death in 1841 his estates passed to his uncle Alexander’s son James Oswald M.P.
In 1834 he and his wife were awarded £5445 18s 6d compensation for the freeing of 297 slaves in two plantations in Jamaica. That sum today would worth anywhere between £530k and £26m.
George’s brother Alexander (John Oswald Mitchell’s grandfather) was born circa 1738 and as stated previously was a Glasgow merchant. He married Margaret Dundas in 1774 and they had nine children, two of whom, James (the future M.P.) and Lilias (wife of Andrew Mitchell), have already been mentioned. He was a partner in the South Sugar House, became the owner of the Glasgow Ropeworks and invested in building ground. In 1781 he purchased the estate of Shield Hall.
In The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry he is said to have remained aloof from the leading business of the day, i.e. trading with the Caribbean colonies; “he refused them all: he would not, directly or indirectly, mix himself up with slavery.” He died at Shield Hall in 1813.
In summary, perhaps John Oswald Mitchell chose not to write about slavery as members of his mother’s family, but apparently not her father, had significantly benefited from it either by trading or in the compensation paid to them when it was abolished in 1833.
The key family members who benefited from the use of enslaved Africans and their relationship to his mother Lilian were:
Richard and Alexander, the sons of the Episcopalian minister James Oswald, her great grandfather George’s brother, who purchased Scotstoun and Balshagray estates from the proceeds of their American trading.
Her grandfather James Oswald, clergyman whose stipend was in part paid by his brother Richard from 1766 when his parish heritors were in financial difficulties.
Richard Oswald, the merchant, diplomat and slave trader, her grandfather James’ brother.
George Oswald, her father’s brother, who inherited Scotstoun et al from his second cousins Richard and Alexander and also Auchincruive from his uncle Richard the slaver etc. when Richard’s wife Mary Ramsay died.
Richard Alexander Oswald, her cousin, who inherited from his father George Oswald and also his great uncle Richard, the slave trader. He also was paid compensation along with his wife Lilian Montgomery, when slavery was abolished in 1833.
James Oswald MP, Lilian’s brother, who inherited Auchincruive from his cousin Richard Alexander Oswald.
The time period covered by the above is circa 1715, when brothers Richard and Alexander Oswald started to trade with the American colonies, to 1853 when MP James Oswald died.
For greater detail on the Oswald family and my sources please see my post “James and Richard Oswald – Beneficent Clergyman – Merchant, Diplomat and Slave Trader.”
Glasgow Herald. (1883) The West India Association of Glasgow. Glasgow Herald 1 June. p.9. https://www.nls.uk/
 Gibb, Andrew Dewar. (1937) Scottish Empire. London: Alexander Maclehose & Co.
 Mullen, Stephen. (2009) It Wisnae Us: The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery. Edinburgh: Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.
Note: Charles Rennie Cowie and his son John always in Bold.
In 1964 the widow of East India merchant John Cowie, Mrs. Elizabeth Janet Cowie, donated to the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh and the Mitchell library in Glasgow a collection of rare books, historical manuscripts and letters, included in which are rare editions of Robert Burns poems, first editions of Milton, Galt, and Scott, and a large number of letters of Burns and others. It consists of several hundred items and is an astonishingly eclectic accumulation of material covering over six hundred years. The NLS was to get that material which was of national importance, the Mitchell the rest, the decision making process being undertaken by personnel from both libraries, Mrs. Cowie and her lawyer. Eventually the NLS collection consisted of manuscripts of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and the poet Allan Ramsay.
The individual who had collected all this material was not John Cowie however, it was his father Charles Rennie Cowie, also an East India merchant, who had bequeathed it to his wife Grizel on his death in 1922. In his will the collection was identified as of National and Historic Interest, thereby excluding it from his estate for tax purposes, and valued at £4083. Today, at that valuation, the joint collections would be worth around £2 million. Grizel died seven years later with the collection eventually going to John.
Who was Charles Rennie Cowie, what was his and his wife’s family background? By what means did he fund his purchases? One other question which seems unlikely to be answered by this research is from whom did he make his purchases?
The Cowie family originated in Stirlingshire, most likely in the parish of Larbert. JohnCowie’s great grandfather was forester James Cowie who was married to Margaret McAlpine. It’s not clear when they married however John’s grandfather, also John, was born in 1817, the fifth of eight children all born in Larbert. They lived in Carronhall village to the east of Larbert, James dying there in 1848. Margaret remained in Carronhall until circa 1863 when she moved to Grahamston to live in a house owned by her son John. She died there at the age of eighty seven in 1870.
John married Margaret Rennie in 1839, she also being born in Larbert the daughter of iron founder John Rennie and his wife Mary Alexander. It’s not clear what his occupation was at the time of his marriage however by 1841 he was a grocer in Grahamston in the parish of Falkirk, an occupation he followed for most of his working life. He and Margaret had twelve children between 1840 and 1862, seven sons and five daughters, the relevant offspring to this research being Charles RennieCowie and three of his brothers, James, Archibald and Thomas, and his sister Jessie.
John and Margaret lived in Grahamston until at least 1872 however by 1881 they had moved to Mavis Villa, Riddrie, which is where he died in 1882. Margaret lived a further twelve years, dying in Hyde Park, Blantyre in 1895. Interestingly in the 1891 census she was resident in Rutherglen, living on a private income, with her son James, another East India merchant, and two grandchildren John and Mary, both born in Rangoon, the children, as I’ll show, of her son Charles Rennie Cowie.
Charles was born on the 24th October 1851 and baptized in July the following year. His initial education was at a local school. He then attended Anderson’s College in George Street in Glasgow studying chemistry under Frederick Penny. Penny was a Londoner who had studied chemistry under Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution and in 1839 had been appointed Chair of Chemistry at the College, a position he held until his death in 1869. He also was involved in testing the water quality from Loch Katrine to establish if it was suitable for Glasgow’s water supply and gave expert testimony in a number of criminal trials involving poisons including that of the infamous Dr. Pritchard who had murdered his wife and mother in law.
When Charles left College is not certain, nor is it clear what his qualification was, but he must have left around 1870 as by 1871 he was employed as chemist at the Uphall Oil Works in Linlithgow, living in lodgings at Crossgreen Farm in Uphall. In due course he became manager of the facility which was just a few miles from James ‘Paraffin’ Young’s refinery in Bathgate. In 1873, being described as ‘gent’ he was appointed ensign in the 5th Linlithgowshire Rifle Volunteers.
He did not remain in Uphall very much longer as around 1874 he travelled to Rangoon eventually becoming manager of the Rangoon Oil Company the precursor of Burmah Oil, this being his occupation when he married Grizel or Grace Purdie in 1878, more of whom shortly.
Between 1876 and 1878 he registered two patents in Rangoon, one dealing with the use of rice husks as furnace fuel in rice mills, the other about improving the efficiency of steam furnace combustion. The first patent at least halved the cost of milling rice with the added benefit of the burnt rice husks proving to be an effective deodorizer used to cover all kinds of refuse dumps. His invention not only found use in Burma but also in Thailand and French Indo-China. He also registered a third patent with a colleague in 1881, again dealing with furnace efficiency.
He remained manager of the oil works until circa 1878/79 at which time he founded in Rangoon the trading company Charles R Cowie & Co., trading in almost any commodity that was required by customers in British India and elsewhere. That was the beginning of Charles, his brothers James, Archibald and Thomas, and his eventual sons, becoming East India merchants
His wife Grizel was the daughter of Thomas Purdie, farmer, and Margaret Storrie,  her birth being commemorated by her parents having a christening mug made by Bo’ness Potteries.
The family originated in West Calder where Grizel’s grandfather Andrew Purdie farmed at West Mains which is where he died in 1863 age ninety five. In 1837 whilst Andrew was the tenant of the farm a servant girl Elizabeth Brown was charged with child murder or concealment of a pregnancy. She confessed and was sentenced to ten months imprisonment. The court records make no mention of the male involvement only that Elizabeth’s address was c/o Andrew Purdie, West Mains Farm. 
Thomas Purdie farmed at Forkneuk, Uphall from around 1855 which makes it likely that Charles and Grizel met before he went to Rangoon, the farms being in close proximity to each other. They married at Forkneuk on the 17th December 1878, the beginning of a married life that for the first twelve or so years saw them travelling frequently between Rangoon and Glasgow.
Their first born child was John, the ostensible donor of the Cowie Collection. He was born in Rangoon in October 1880 and baptized there in July 1881. They had a further nine children between 1882 and 1903 as follows:
Mary Storrie, born 1882 at Rangoon and baptized there.
Margaret Rennie, born 1884 at Portobello, baptized in Rangoon later that year.
Gracie Purdie, born and baptized at Rangoon in 1886.
Thomas Purdie, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1893.
Charles Rennie, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1895.
Gladys Dorothy, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1903.
Whilst Charles ran his company in Rangoon his brother James in 1880 was working for Jas. L. McClure & Co., merchants and agents for a number of companies dealing in iron and steel products. Two years later he established his own agency company, James Cowie & Co., representing a number of similar companies from England and Scotland.
In the following year Cowie Brothers & Co. were formed located at the same address, 59 St. Vincent Street, as James’ company. No other brother seemed to be involved at that point however it does appear that simply was a matter of timing as within the next twelve months brother Archibald joined the company.Charles was home in Glasgow that year (1884), not associated with either of the family businesses but with merchants Russell, Macfarlane & Co., a situation that occurred every time he came home from Rangoon until circa 1891 when he came home to Glasgow for good. He had lived at various address on each return home finally settling at Woodend House, Partick sometime after 1891, his wife Grizel being recorded as the owner. His Rangoon company however still operated in his name as before directed by Rangoon partners and his sons.
The two Glasgow Companies continued to operate for another ten years, latterly from 196 St Vincent Street, with Charles continuing to be associated with Russell, Macfarlane and Co. until 1893 when he formally joined Cowie Brothers & Co. It’s clear brother James was seriously ill at that time as he died the following year of cirrhosis of the kidneys which he had suffered from for at least six months. James’ company ceased trading in 1897/98, the last year it appeared in the Glasgow directory. Cowie Brothers & Co continued for several years afterwards with brother Thomas joining the company in 1905, remaining involved until 1911. Subsequent to that date the Cowies involved in the company were the three sons of Charles, namely John, Thomas and his namesake Charles. The company was still listed in the Glasgow Directory in 1975.
Charles senior’s company in Rangoon also continued to operate at least until the late 1930s, with his three sons all involved to varying degrees, travelling back and forth to Rangoon as required. The last journey from Rangoon I have established is that of son Charles Rennie Cowie and his wife Norah on the M.V. Oxfordshire during April/May 1939.
However a third Charles Rennie Cowie was to remain in Burma. John, the eldest son of Charles and Grizel married in 1908 Elizabeth Janet Ramsay. They had four children the eldest of whom was another Charles Rennie Cowie, born in Rangoon in 1911. He joined the Rangoon Battalion of the Burmese Auxiliary Force in 1938 and in 1940 is listed as a lieutenant in the Battalion. He continued to be listed through 1941 as such although it seems he was promoted captain in April 1941. Exactly where he was located during this time has not been established although I have come across a photograph of him and fellow officers, along with their honorary colonel, Sir Alexander Cochrane, in Burma (Rangoon?) in 1940. Lieutenant C. R. Cowie is seated at the extreme right hand side.
He stayed in Burma throughout the war, attaining the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel by its end.
John’s brother Thomas Purdie Cowie married in Rangoon in 1921. In the Thacker’s Commercial Directory of 1925, the company was located at 6 Merchants Street and described as machinery importers, mill furnishers and mill stores, engineers and contractors, electrical stores, insurance agents, importers and exporters, and as agents for the Dollar Steamship Line. There were no Cowies listed as Rangoon partners although Thomas was listed as an assistant in the company. He returned to British India in 1945, this time to Bombay, as the Director of Stores for the Indian Red Cross.
As stated previously, the Cowie companies traded any commodity that had a buyer. Their sales included cutlery, steam engines, pottery, biscuits and bricks. Where they could they labelled or marked the items with their company name.
Their involvement with bricks came about when Charles senior’s sister Jessie married coalmaster Mark Hurll in 1888. At the time of his marriage his brother Peter was a fireclay brick manufacturer in Glenboig. About three years later Mark set up with his brother as a brick manufacturer, amongst other similar products, forming P & M Hurll, with works in Maryhill, Garscsadden as well as Glenboig. This led to the Cowie brothers trading the bricks and applying their name to each individual product.
Their involvement with biscuits in terms of their trademark however was not as successful. In 1896 at the Court of Session they applied for an interdict against biscuit manufacturers George Herbert, a supplier of Cowies, to stop them using what they claimed to be the Cowie trademark, an image of the Glasgow Municipal Building, on biscuits sold by Herberts on their own behalf in Rangoon.
Charles Rennie Cowie and brother Archibald gave evidence essentially saying that Cowies had traded biscuits to Rangoon since 1889, with that trademark. The defendant had also been trading in Rangoon but had begun to use a similar image of the Municipal Building on biscuits he sold directly there thereby confusing potential native purchasers. After a very longwinded obtuse argument involving images of temples and mosques, the judgement went against Cowies and the interdict was refused, the judges essentially declining to accept Rangoon natives would be confused.
It will be pretty obvious by now that the money Charles senior earned through his business ventures as an East India Merchant was the means by which he created his collection. When he died in 1922 his estate was valued at £144,507, current worth somewhere between £7million and £70million.
The NLS collection is listed on the library website as contained within MSS 15951 – 15975 and consists of manuscripts relating to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and the poet Allan Ramsay. The manuscripts include an autobiographical letter written by Burns to Dr. John Moore in 1787 in which the poet writes retrospectively of his life to date (MS 15952), and a series of thirteen manuscripts relating to the seven volume collection ‘The Works of Robert Burns’ edited by W Scott Douglas, 1877-1879 (MSS 15955-67). Also included are proofs of ‘The History of Scotland’, 1829-1830, by Sir Walter Scott (MS15969), the final version of ‘The Gentle Shepherd’ by Allan Ramsay, 1724-1725 (MS15972), and letters of Sir Walter Scott to Robert Southey and others (MS15971).,
The Cowie collection at the Mitchell is somewhat different. Although it also contains a lot of Burns material, it has an exceptional range of other manuscripts, books, including first editions, and letters from an extremely wide range of individuals including royalty. As far as I’m aware there are no digitalised records of the collection however there are two catalogues which contain a full list of the items donated. They are ‘The John Cowie Collection-Catalogue’ and ‘The John Cowie Collection-Autograph Albums. Index 1 to 4’.
The following will give some idea of the range of topics and material that the Mitchell holds.
Statutes of Edward I and II. MSS dated 1274.
Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Edinburgh: A. Arbuthnot 1582. Author George Buchanan.
Quintus Curtius. Venice 1494. De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni.
John Milton – Paradise Regained. 1st Edition 1671.
Carolus Gustavus, King of Sweden. Last will and Testament – 1660.
Aesop Fables by Sir Roger L’Estrange. 1692/1699.
The Rosebery Burns Club, Glasgow. Its origins and Growth 1906.
Charles Edward Stuart – Order signed by him to raise the Mackintoshes – 1746
Letter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians 1850.
Paul, Emperor of Russia letter to Baron Dimsdale 1778.
Bassendyne Bible 1576
C.F. Brotchie. History of Govan 1905
Eikon Basilike. The Pourtraicture of his sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings. 1648. (Charles I).
Acts of Parliament – 1711.
Royal Navy Accounts of Cruisers and Home- Convoys – 1704.
George I Document headed 15/4/1724
M.W. Turner R.A. lecture ticket dated 1818.
William Wilberforce various letters 1819 – 1825
Louis XVI. Order for lieutenant to command the corvette ‘La Poulette’ – 1781.
Last will and testament of Carolus Gustavus King of Sweden – 1660.
Allan Ramsay The Ever Green, a collection of poems – 1724.
Sir Walter Scott. Guy Mannering, Edinburgh 1815
An account of the taking of the late Duke of Monmouth. Samuel Keble 1685.
Giuseppe Garibaldi – letter to Rear Admiral Mundy. 1860.
James III letter to Cardinal Gotti, Bologna. 1729.
James Boswell. The journal of a tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson. London:1785.
The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer 4th John Kyngston 1561.
His enthusiasm for Robert Burns went beyond collecting books and manuscripts. He contributed significantly to the purchase and restoration of buildings associated with the poet.
Burns’ house in Castle Street (previously Back Causeway), Mauchline, where he and Jean Armour lived was put up for sale at the beginning of 1915 by its then owner, a Miss Miller. The Glasgow and District Burns Clubs Association were interested in purchasing it and sent a delegation to examine the premises, which included Cowie as president of the Partick Burns Club.
It was decided to buy the property despite it being in the need of repair. It’s not clear what the total costs involved were however Cowie donated the required funds to purchase and repair the house. The building once restored was formally opened to the public on the 28th August 1915. In addition to the museum created, provision was made in the other rooms of the property to accommodate deserving elderly people. At the end of the ceremony Mrs Cowie was presented with a silver key to mark the occasion and her husband’s generous gift.
Following on from that in 1916 Charles funded the purchase of the property adjoining the Burns house which had been once owned by Dr. John MacKenzie who had apparently attended Burns’ father at the end of his life. Little work was done during the war but by 1919 the premises were fully restored allowing the museum to expand and to provide accommodation for additional elderly people. His final act of generosity in this respect was for the purchase of Nanse Tinnocok’s Tavern across the road from the other two properties. It was formally opened after repair on the 24th May 1924 by Mrs. Cowie, Charles having died in 1922.
Charles Rennie Cowie died at Woodend House, Partick on the 18th November 1922, cause of death given as chronic nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys). In his lifetime he had been a very successful chemist, inventor and merchant, amassing a fortune from his trading activities which allowed him to indulge his interests in Burns, and collecting.
His obituary in the Glasgow Herald makes reference to his professional life and to his collecting, describing him as a an ‘ardent admirer of the national poet’ and ‘keenly interested in the history of Scotland’. It also adds that he was prominent in temperance circles, an elder in Dowanhill U.F. Church and a member of several General Assembly committees.
He was President of the Abstainers Union and had been a director of the Scottish Temperance League, also supporting these organisations and others financially, and had purchased the old Partick Academy gifting it to the Western branch of the Y.M.C.A. He had also endowed one of the beds in the Arran War Memorial Hospital, an island he visited annually on holiday. He was a J.P., vice president of the Hillhead Liberal Association, had been a member of the Govan School Board, and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. (F.S.A.). 
In his obituary in The Straits Times of 16 December it was stated that every rice eater owed the cheapness of his meal to the ‘unobtrusive chemist from Scotland’. He was also described as a ‘public spirited and charitable citizen’.
John and his mother Grizel were named as executors and trustees of Charles’ estate. Grizel inherited all the household items including his collection and other artefacts and there were also a number of bequests to his church and the temperance organisations he had been involved with. The residue was then to be split half to Grizel, and the other half equally divided between his ten children.
Grizel died in 1929 leaving the collection to John. He died on the 10th March 1963 of a heart attack.
Acknowledgement: My thanks to John D. Napper, grandson of John Cowie, for additional information on the Cowie family
This post was meant to be about another beneficent Glasgow clergyman, the Rev. James Oswald, however as I researched his family it became clear that the broader family history was perhaps more interesting. His brother was Richard Oswald, who became a merchant in London and also helped establish the treaty between the United States and Great Britain which ended the American War of Independence.
However, by no stretch of the imagination can Richard Oswald be described as a benefactor of Glasgow. As I hope to show he married into a rich family which brought him property in the Caribbean and the American colonies, included in which were plantations which used African slave labour. He dealt in sugar, tobacco and other commodities and helped provision the British army during the Austrian War of Succession and the Seven Years War. He was also responsible for the shipment of around 13,000 African slaves from Bance/Bunce Island, in the Sierra Leone river estuary, to the British colonies in America and the Caribbean.
The major part of this post will therefore depart from my usual objective of discussing benefactors of Glasgow. Why? I’m not really sure. Richard Oswald had lots of skills and business acumen, however it was all underpinned by his activity as a major slave trader. I suppose therefore I’m reacting to his significant part in the slave trade which involved him setting up a ‘slave trading post’ off the West African coast. Hopefully, therefore, these notes will help, even in a small way, dispel the myth that trading in African slavery was predominately an English activity, carried out from English ports, and that we Scots were above doing anything like that. It has become clear in recent years that Scots were at the heart of the machinery that made slave trading work and profitable. They were also responsible for some of the most appalling treatment of their ‘cargo’ as ‘it’ was shipped across the Atlantic.
In 1795 Robert Burns wrote “ A Man’s a Man for A’ That”, a sentiment that Oswald appears not to have shared. As it happens Burns also wrote a poem about Oswald’s wife Mary Ramsey, but more of that later.
The brothers’ great grandfather was James Oswald* of Kirkwall, Orkney. He had a son, also James, who at some point crossed over to Wick in Caithness where he became a bailie of the town. What his occupation was has not been established. He married Barbara Coghill and had two sons, James and George who both became clergymen, each marrying daughters of Richard Murray of Pennyland.
*Lots of James Oswalds in this story!
James was born in 1654 and attended King’s College Aberdeen graduating as M.A. in 1674. Initially he was a session clerk and teacher in Thurso, however that was to change when he was admitted to the ministry in the parish of Watten in Caithness, an Episcopalian charge, in 1683. He remained at Watten until his death in 1698. He married Mary Murray in the year he became minister there and had two sons, Richard, born in 1687 and Alexander, born in 1694, and two daughters. Both sons became very successful merchants in Glasgow. In 1751 they purchased the Scotstoun estate from the Crawford family and by 1759 they jointly owned Balshagray. Notably they were also influential in their cousin Richard, son of George Oswald and the main subject of this post, becoming a merchant, he serving an apprenticeship with them.
George was born in 1664 and graduated M.A. from Edinburgh University in 1692. He became minister of Dunnet parish church, also in Caithness, in 1697, his charge being a Presbyterian one. He married his sister-in-law Margaret Murray and had five children of whom two were boys; James, (the beneficent clergyman) and Richard (the slave trader). He died in 1725. One unusual episode he had to deal with during his ministry occurred in 1699 when two parishioners were accused of witchcraft. Having sought advice from the Presbytery he was advised to confront the accused with witnesses and report back. Nothing seems to have come of it as there is no further record of it in the Presbytery Records. This case also appears to have been the last recorded incident of witchcraft in Caithness.
James Oswald – the Beneficent Clergyman.
George’s eldest son James was born in 1703. His early education is unclear with a suggestion that he attended King’s College, Aberdeen. It seems he did attend the divinity class given by William Hamilton at Edinburgh University in 1723. For how long and to what extent is not known.
He must however have attained a reasonable divinity education as when his father died the Caithness presbytery began the process of George succeeding his father at Dunnet in March 1726, ending with his ordination in August of the same year.
He remained at Dunnet, preaching in English and Gaelic, until December 1750 at which time he transferred to the parish at Methven in Perthshire. His move there was not without some difficulty. He was proposed by the parish patron for the position in 1748 however the Perth presbytery was against the appointment, not necessarily on a personal basis but because they were against patronage and would have preferred the parish lay elders to have decided their next incumbent. It took two years and various rebukes from the church hierarchy, including civil charges of intimidation, before a General Assembly committee ‘made it happen’. This led to a number of the congregation seceding from the church.
From about that time, and for the rest of his life, he began to write about the church, its purpose, methodology and potential for schism, gaining a reputation as an ‘ecclesiastical politician’. His first publication was in 1753 relating to church authority and obedience however it was in the mid-1760s that he began to make his name as an author. In that decade he was an unsuccessful candidate for the chair of ecclesiastical history at Glasgow University, in 1765 he wrote ‘Scripture Catechism, for the Use ofFamilies’ and a year later he wrote perhaps his most important work ‘An Appeal toCommon Sense in Behalf of Religion’, which was well received at home and abroad, and went to a second edition in 1768 and a second volume in 1772.
During this period, he became moderator of the General Assembly in 1765  and was awarded the degree D.D. by Glasgow University in the same year.
He married Elizabeth Murray of Clairdon in 1728 and had seven children, four of whom were boys. Two of the sons, George and Alexander, became noted merchants in Glasgow, George inheriting the Scotstoun estate circa 1766 from his second cousins Richard and Alexander who both died without issue, brother Alexander buying the Shieldhall estate in 1781. It’s also perhaps worth mentioning that brother Alexander had a son, another James born in 1779, who, like his father, was a merchant and became one of two MPs for Glasgow in 1832, following the Reform Act of that year. His statue is in the north east corner of George Square in line with the Cenotaph; Oswald Street in the city centre is named after him.
Elizabeth died in 1746, not long after the youngest son Andrew was born in 1745. In 1749 James married Margaret Dunbar, there being no children of this second marriage.
He continued at Methven until 1783 at which time he left his charge to go and live with his son George at Scotstoun. He had continued to write, having more time to do so from the early 1770s due to ill health resulting in his pastoral duties being carried out by others. For most of his life he and his brother Richard had exchanged letters, some of which dealt with his writings, particularly concerning a follow up to ‘Appeal’. His brother also helped him financially at Methven when his stipend was reduced as a result of the patron and one other heritor being in financial difficulties.
He died in 1793 and left £100 to the Glasgow Society for the Sons of Clergymen (still in existence and now known as the Glasgow Society for the Sons and Daughters of Clergymen), and a similar amount to its Edinburgh counterpart. He also donated £20 to the Glasgow Merchants House. Small amounts it would seem but in today’s terms these sums equate to somewhere between £25,000 and £2.4 million.
Richard Oswald – Merchant, Diplomat, Slave Trader.
James’ brother Richard was born circa 1705. Where he began his education is not known however around 1725, shortly after his father died, he became apprenticed to his cousins Richard and Alexander who, as previously stated, were successful merchants in Glasgow trading in tobacco, sugar and wine. He became their factor in the British colonies in America and the Caribbean travelling as required to satisfy the needs of the business, supplying planters and collecting payment and chasing debts. On his return to Glasgow in 1741 he became a partner in his cousins’ company.
During the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) Oswald had made large profits, presumably for his cousins’ company and himself, resulting in him moving to Philpot Lane in London in 1746 where he continued to deal in tobacco and sugar and eventually, horses and slaves. Between 1756 and 1758, helped by a family member who was on the government Treasury board, and other influential London based Scottish merchants, he began provisioning the British army with bread, wagons and so on, which led to him supplying the army in Germany with bread during the Seven Years War (1756-1763). His contracts and commissions during this war netted him a remarkable £125,000, worth £18 million to £2 billion today.
His business activity had clearly grown in size and scope between these two wars. He was making lots of money but where did his working capital come from? No doubt some of it would come from the usual sources of the day and his profits, however two events during this period I believe, significantly changed the level of capital he was able to apply to his business.
Firstly, he began shipping African slaves to the American and Caribbean colonies around 1748 and then he married an extremely rich heiress in 1750.
Looking at his marriage first; he married Mary Ramsay in St Martins in the Fields, London on the 17th November 1750. She was the daughter of Alexander Ramsay of Jamaica and Jean Ferguson, whom he had met in Jamaica whilst working for his cousins. Alexander was an extremely wealthy plantation and hence slave owner living in Kingston. He had died in 1738, his will being probated in Jamaica in that year and referring to him owning one hundred and one slaves, fifty one adult males and fifty adult females, all valued at £3727. Mary as an only child inherited her father’s estate on his death which included properties in the West Indies and the Americas. Through his wife therefore Oswald had access to a significant fortune. As it turned out there were no children of their marriage.
By the time of his marriage he had already got involved in the trading of slaves. In 1748 he and other London based Scottish merchants, the partnership being known as Grant, Sargent and Oswald, purchased Bance Island from the Royal African Company of England which had built a fort there around 1672.
The fort was rebuilt, and the infrastructure put in place to obtain slaves from the mainland. They did not venture into the interior themselves but imported guns, alcohol, and cloth which they exchanged with local chieftains for native captives they brought to the island, these captives resulting from local ‘induced’ wars.
Oswald was the lead partner in the venture whose main customers were the rice planters of Charlestown, South Carolina. By 1756 he had established a close business and personal relationship with Henry Laurens, a very rich rice planter and slave dealer there. From Bance island the slave ships would carry around three hundred slaves per ship plus ivory and camwood. Laurens sold the slaves locally and from his commission on the sale, would purchase rice to send to London along with the ivory and camwood. By this process both men increased their wealth exponentially.,  Between 1748 and 1784 around thirteen thousand men, women and children were shipped from Bance Island to the Americas.
However, the American War of Independence was to change the relationship between Oswald and Laurens, both becoming active participants in ending it.
In the meantime, following the end of the Seven Years War in 1763 Oswald began putting by now his vast fortune to more use by acquiring land for both business and personal use. He purchased four plantations in the Caribbean amounting to 1,566 acres, and 30,000 acres of land in Florida. Over the next twenty years he also purchased the Auchincruive estate in Ayrshire (7,000 acres) and the similarly sized Cavens estate in Kirkcudbright and Dumfriesshire. His main residence became Auchincruive House which was built in 1767 to a design provided to the previous owner James Murray by Robert Adam.
His business activities however began to suffer following the rebellion of the British colonists in America which resulted in the American War of Independence beginning in 1775. As a direct consequence he reduced his overseas activities and also divested himself of his property in Virginia and Florida. He always had been to some extent politically active, but not in any formal way, simply through friends in Whitehall. The war changed that as he began writing papers on a variety of subjects, including military, using his business background and experience of the Colonies and their businessmen to inform his writing. One particular memorandum written in 1781 was entitled ‘The Folly of Invading Virginia, The Strategic Importance of Portsmouth and the need for Civil Control of the Military’ from which we may be able to assume where his sympathies lay.
It was at this time that his friendship with Henry Laurens came to the forefront of settling the Independence War. Laurens had become President of the Continental Congress (the provisional government of the rebellious colonies) during the war and had then been appointed American envoy to Holland. On his way there c.1780/81 he was captured by the British Navy, imprisoned in the Tower of London and charged with high treason. In 1781 Oswald paid bail of £50,000 to release him from the Tower, Laurens remaining in London until he was exchanged for the British Commander in America, c.1782.
Probably because of his American contacts, in April 1782 Oswald was appointed by the Prime Minister Lord Shelburne as his diplomatic agent to ‘treat for peace’ with the American delegation in Paris which consisted of Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay and subsequently Henry Laurens. Oswald was the main negotiator for the British side but was considered by some to be too lenient towards the Americans and too ready to concede issues. However, by November 1782 a provisional treaty was agreed and signed by the four Americans and Oswald. The formal treaty (Treaty of Paris) was signed on the 3rd September 1783, being essentially the same as the provisional one signed the year before.
“At least in part, United States Independence was negotiated between a British slave trader and his agent for rice growing slaves in South Carolina”
Oswald returned to London, sharing his time between his town house at 9 Great George Street and Auchincruive, relinquishing the management of his business to other family members.
A year after the treaty was signed he died at Auchincruive on the 6th November 1784. His wife had life rent of the estate until her death in 1788 at which time his nephew George Oswald of Scotstoun was left one part of it, the other going to Richard Oswald’s great-nephew Richard Alexander Oswald.
Richard and Mary were buried in the Oswald vault at St. Quivox parish church, however she had died in her London home and it was the last part of her journey home to Ayrshire that prompted Robert Burns to write a poem about her which he called ‘Ode, Sacred to the Memory of Mrs. Oswald of Auchincruive’.
Some of the sentiments expressed in the poem came from Burn’s previous knowledge of Mary when he lived in her neighbourhood where her tenants and servants detested her with a passion. However, it was the arrival of her funeral cortege at Sanquhar inn, depriving him of lodgings there for the night thereby forcing him to ride on a further twelve miles on a tiring horse, himself fatigued and the weather stormy and snowing, which pushed him to write a scathing account of her life. The lines below illustrate his feelings about her as he wrote the poem after his arduous journey.
‘Laden with unhonoured years
Noosing with care a bursting purse
Baited with Many a deadly cure.’
‘Pity’s flood there never rose
See these hands, ne’er stretch to save
Hands that took but never gave
Keeper of Mammon’s iron chest
Lo, there she goes, unpitied and unblest
She goes, but not to realms of everlasting rest!’
The rest of the poem suggests she is destined for hell, along with her husband.
When slavery was abolished in Britain in 1833, Richard Alexander Oswald, the grandson of James Oswald, the beneficent clergyman, was awarded compensation of £5,645 18s 6d for the loss of the 297 slaves he owned jointly with his wife in Jamaica.
Today this would be worth somewhere between £500k and £27.5m.
In October 1950 Mrs. Helen Percy presented to Glasgow Museums a portrait of her mother by the artist John Graham Gilbert.
Her mother was Elizabeth Bannatyne, wife of Glasgow merchant John Jarvie who was heavily involved in trade with China and the Far East during the middle of the 19th Century.
This report looks at both their family backgrounds and how he became a ‘foreign merchant’ particularly in Singapore, but not always successfully as we will see.
John Jarvie’s grandfather was William Jarvie, a coal master of Pollokshaws. He married Agnes McGie in 1754 and they had at least four children, three girls and one boy. They were all baptised on the same day in 1762 in the parish of Eastwood, their birth dates ranging from 1755 to 1762.
William was a coal master at a time in Scotland when essentially miners were no better than slaves and were legally tied to mines (bondsmen) by an Act of Parliament (1606), unless their master agreed to release them. Another Act in 1672 authorised “coal masters, salt masters and others, who had manufactories in this kingdom to seize upon any vagabonds or beggars wherever they can find them, and to put them to work.”  This state of affairs continued until the beginning of the 19th Century. For more on the history of coal mining in Scotland the Scottish Mining Website (http://www.scottishmining.co.uk/index.html) is an excellent source of information.
Whilst his main occupation is given as coal master he also farmed at various locations within Sir John Maxwell’s Pollok estate, including at Clogholes farm, PolIocktoun and Northwoodside. His will, he died c.1767, details the value of equipment and crops at each of these locations and others, and also includes the value of tools, equipment and instruments associated with his coal works at Napiershall. When household goods, furniture and so on are included his estate was valued at £334 2s., his wife Agnes being his named executrix.
His son Robert was born in July 1758 at Shaws. His initial schooling has not been established, the only certainty being that he did not attend the University as the matriculation or graduation records do not include his name. It’s probable he worked for his father at some stage but again nothing has been found to indicate what he did in the early part of his life.
He eventually became a merchant in Glasgow however his first appearance in the Post Office Directories does not occur until 1806 where he is described as a merchant with James Hamilton, Sen. and Co., his home address being given as Charlotte Lane, which is where he lived until 1815. He remained with that company for the rest of his active life, eventually becoming a partner in the business and others. He was also a director of the Chamber of Commerce from 1829 until 1833.
He married in 1814 Jane Milligan, the daughter of William Milligan, merchant, and Jean Ure of Fareneze Printfield, Neilston. They had seven children, five sons and two girls. The family home was at Maxwellton Place from 1815 until 1824, at which time they moved to 19 Carlton Place.
Robert died at home on the 28th April 1843. At the time of his death his movable estate was valued at £8378 9s 3d, equivalent to £800,000 today by simple RPI changes, in terms of economic power it equates to several millions of pounds.
However, that does not tell the whole story of his wealth. In 1830 he set up a Trust Disposition and Settlement which dealt with his heritable estate in Glasgow plus what is described as his ‘stock in trade’ including his ‘share of same’ from other co-partneries with which he was involved. Included was property/ground bounded by the west of Robertson Street and the Broomielaw, subjects in Queen Street, property in Carlton Place and other properties and ground.
Eleven trustees were named whose function was to manage the trust to support his wife and children and if need be, their children. There are three codicils to the deed the last of which in 1836 names his eldest son William as a trustee.
Four of the five sons, William, Robert, James and John , more of whom later, all matriculated at the University between 1829 and 1837, and all became merchants in due course. There is no evidence to suggest the youngest son Alexander became a merchant or attended the University, however there was a bit of a mystery about his whereabouts after 1856 which led to a petition for him to be presumed dead.
In 1885 his sister Agnes, the widow of Isaac Buchanan, resident in Hamilton, Canada, sought to have Alexander presumed dead in accordance with the 1881 Presumption of Life Limitation Scotland Act. In her submission to the Lords of Council and Session she stated that her brother had sailed from New York to Melbourne, Australia in 1856 and had not been heard of since. She also stated that he was unmarried at that time.
Deposited in a bank account in his name was his share of his father’s estate which was finally settled in 1865, plus other bequests and interest accrued amounting to £1644, all of which had remained untouched since the account had been set up.
Judgement was given in her favour and Alexander was presumed to have died on or about the 23rd February 1864. Why that date is not made clear however a reasonable guess would be that since he was presumed to have died before his father’s estate was settled then his share would automatically go to his siblings, otherwise it should go to any heirs (children) he may have had which would have entailed a difficult search for proof.
In the event with Alexander being declared dead Agnes, as the only surviving sibling, was confirmed as executrix and sole beneficiary of his estate in January 1886.
When I tried to find out if he did die in Australia only one possibility arose in that an Alexander Jarvie died in Wellington, New South Wales in 1902. The data from the NSW web site is sparse but intriguingly the first names of the parents quoted in the document were Robert and Jane. Pure coincidence or could this have been the long lost brother?
The other brothers stories are also somewhat interesting. The oldest, William, started on his own account as a commission agent in 1839 in Robertson Street. By 1846 he was a partner in Rainey, Jarvie and Co. and by 1848 he was declared bankrupt and had his assets sequestrated. He never appears in the Post Office Directories again.
Very little is known about James except he died in 1867 at Lismore, Argyllshire. The registration document describes him as a merchant, no other source has been found to confirm that, and that he died of ‘excessive drinking’.
A little more is known about Robert. He undoubtedly was a merchant but it’s not obvious with whom in Glasgow. The most likely is Buchanan, Hamilton and Co. as in 1860 a partnership was established in Shanghai between Buchanans, Robert Jarvie and William Thorburn, which was styled Jarvie, Thorburn and Co. This partnership lasted until Robert’s death in Shanghai in 1866.
John Jarvie, the second youngest of the brothers was born in 1822. He matriculated at the University in 1837 and by 1842 he was in Singapore donating 20 Spanish dollars for raising a spire and tower for St. Andrew’s Church there!
He was essentially to remain there for the next eighteen years, travelling around the Far East as required by business. In 1848 he was acting as an agent for the Glasgow firm of Hamilton, Gray and Co.; in 1852 he became a partner of the company in Singapore and also of Buchanan, Hamilton and Co. in Glasgow. During that period, he travelled to and from Hong Kong,Siam, India, and Australia. His travels continued to these destinations and others until he returned home circa 1860.
In 1854 he was appointed Consul for Denmark in Singapore, an appointment he fulfilled well on behalf of that country. In 1858 he travelled to Siam accredited to the Royal Court there by King Frederich VII of Denmark. His task was to negotiate a treaty with the ‘first and second kings’ of Siam and their ‘magnates’. As he was well known to all of the personnel involved he had no difficulty in concluding a treaty of friendship and commerce along the same lines as other countries had done before.
He played his part in Singapore civic life serving on several grand jurys between 1849 and 1854. In 1853 he served on a jury whose calendar comprised of eighteen cases including two murders. In November 1850 he was elected Master of the local Masonic lodge from the position of Senior Warden.
In 1859 in recognition of his service to Denmark he was created a Chevalier of the Royal Order of Danebrog by the King of Denmark.
He returned to Glasgow in 1860 and married Elizabeth Bannatyne in November of that year. She was the daughter of Andrew Bannatyne, writer, and Margaret Millar.
Her paternal grandfather was Dugald Bannatyne a prominent citizen of Glasgow in the early part of the 19th century. He was a stocking weaver who was influential in the development of George Square around 1800. He formed, along with Robert Smith Jr and John Thomson, the Glasgow Building Company. He was able to attract English capital to what was a speculative venture through Thomson’s brother in law, an English stocking weaver called Johnston. By 1804 the Square had buildings on each side which were being described as ‘elegant, particularly on the north (side).’
He was appointed Post Master General in 1806 and was secretary to the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce from 1809 to 1830. In 1817 he was a member of a committee of the Glasgow Merchants House charged with bringing about the building of a new Merchants Hall. Dugald’s wife was Agnes Stirling who was a descendant of the Stirling family of Drumpellier.
John and Elizabeth had 11 children, six boys and five girls. Sadly, with two exceptions they all died before they were forty five years old, the exceptions being Helen the donor of the painting and her sister Agnes. Two died as infants, four as teenagers, two of whom, Andrew and Robert, died from pneumonia within 8 days of each other in 1878. The other five all married, more of which later.
John continued in partnership with Buchanan, Hamilton and Co. and others this time based in Glasgow, the family living at 13 Park Circus. Unfortunately this situation did not last for very long. In 1865 the funds of all the partnerships he was involved with and those of the individual partners were sequestrated. The companies involved were Buchanan, Hamilton and Co., Jarvie, Thorburn and Co., and Hamilton, Gray and Co., the partners being Walter Buchanan, William Hamilton, John Jarvie and George Henderson. The process of dealing with creditors lasted until 1876.
John however around 1866/67 had already formed another partnership with George Henderson apparently unaffected by the sequestration problems they both faced. They were known as Jarvie, Henderson and Co, in Glasgow  and J. Jarvie and Co. in Shanghai. However, this was another venture which ended up in failure, the funds of the companies and those of the partners being sequestrated on the 2nd June 1873.
There is no evidence that he formed any other partnerships following that with George Henderson, as from 1874 on his entries in the Post Office Directories simply state that he is a merchant.
He died intestate in 1879 at 9 Lyndoch Crescent, the family home since 1866. When he died his occupation was recorded as wine agent. The value of his estate was eventually given as £642 5s 7d. John’s wife Elizabeth died in Bournemouth in 1924. Her estate was valued at £9690 16s, probate being granted to her daughters Agnes Bannatyne and Elizabeth Helen Percy.
The five surviving children of John and Elizabeth were George Garden Nicol, Norman Alexander, Helen (Elizabeth Helen), Agnes and Susan Evelyn.
George married Sarah Elizabeth Tuffin at St Peter’s Limehouse in 1900. He was 29 years old; Sarah was 22. At the time of his marriage his occupation was given as mariner. They had a son in 1903, George Norman who died a few months after his birth, George’s occupation this time given as ‘independent’. Not much more has been established about him except that he died on the 10th May 1907, age 36 at the Deddington Arms, a beer house in Poplar, Middlesex. He left estate valued at £30. He seems to have been the landlord of the establishment as two years later his wife was still at the same address.
Norman spent some of his life in the military. In 1895 he was given a commission as a second lieutenant in the 3rd/4th battalion of the Highland Light Infantry. As a lieutenant he acted as aide de camp to Colonel Thackery, his battalion commander, when the Duke of Connaught, son of Queen Victoria and the battalion’s honorary chief, visited the battalion in June 1899.
He eventually attained the rank of temporary captain and was an Instructor of Musketry when he was seconded to a line battalion in South Africa early in 1900 at the start of the second Boer War.
It seemed his military career was progressing satisfactorily however it came to an abrupt end a few months later whilst he was in South Africa. In the London Gazette of the 1st May 1900 it was announced that Captain N.A. Jarvie was to be appointed second lieutenant. I have not been able to ascertain what caused this demotion but worse was to follow. About seven weeks later his new appointment was cancelled to be followed by his dismissal from the army in November, the official Gazette notice stating that he was ‘removed from the army, Her Majesty having no further occasion for his service’.
Norman married Edith Nora Ferguson in Huntingdon in 1903. By the 1911 census they were living in a private apartment in Llandudno with no family; Norman’s occupation was given as actor working on his own account. You can’t help but get the impression that he had led a rather nondescript life since his dismissal from the army.
However, there are two postscripts to his army life. In 1905 there was a further entry in the London Gazette about him which stated that the paragraph about his removal from the army in the November 1900 issue was to be substituted by one that simply said that Captain (temporary) N.A. Jarvie has retired from the Military.
The other is that three weeks after Great Britain declared war on Germany on the 4th August 1914 Norman enlisted as a private with King Edward’s Horse at the age of 41. He did not see any active service as he died on the 13th December of that year at a hospital in Hounslow, cause of death not stated but seemingly from an accident or an illness. The army documentation which records his enlistment and his death also records that his estate was not entitled to any war gratuity as he had not served for six months. His estate was valued at £11.
Agnes married chartered accountant John Allan Bannatyne in 1894. He was the son of her mother’s brother John Miller Bannatyne, that is, they were first cousins. He was a partner in Bannatyne, Bannatyne and Guthrie when the company was founded in 1892 but after 1902 he is no longer mentioned in the directory and the company name has changed to Bannatyne and Guthrie. What he did subsequently is unknown. They had a son Ninian John, born in 1896, who was killed in action in France in 1917. John died intestate in Sierra Madre, California in 1909, leaving £688 2s 7d, probate granted to Agnes twenty years after his death. She died in Durban, South Africa in 1949.
Susan Evelyn married Duncan Forbes Robertson Aikman in 1903 in Westminster, London. He was a member of the Robertson Aikman family of Ross House and New Parks House Leicester. His father was Hugh Henry Robertson Aikman whose brother Frederick Robertson Aikman won a V.C. during the Indian Mutiny in 1858. The marriage was childless and did not last very long as Susan died at the age of 32 in 1908. He died in 1920.
Helen, the donor of the painting was born in 1868. She married Edward Josceline Percy in 1907 in London. He was the son of Hugh Josceline Percy who descended from Hugh Percy, the 1st Duke of Northumberland (great grandfather), via the 1st Earl Beverly (grandfather),and the Rev. Hugh Percy, Bishop of Rochester and then Carlisle, his father. Edward died in 1931, probate granted to Helen, his estate being valued at £7898. She died in 1954. There were no children of the marriage.
In the Necropolis in Glasgow the family lair has fifteen family names inscribed on its headstone starting with Robert Jarvie and his wife Jane Milligan. They are followed by John Jarvie and his wife Elizabeth Bannatyne and all of their children. Not all of them are buried their however, the exceptions being George Garden Nicol Jarvie and Susan Evelyn Jarvie.
When it’s considered that Robert Jarvie left a very significant fortune when he died in 1843 it’s difficult not to come to the conclusion that none of the adult sons took advantage of the start in business that gave them. In fact, the family fortune went in reverse due their combined lack of the business acumen shown by their father.
On a sadder note, despite having eleven children there are no direct descendants of John Jarvie and Elizabeth Bannatyne.
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 8 May 1925. JARVIE, Elizabeth. National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. 1925, p. J10. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Marriages (SR) England. Limehouse, Tower Hamlets. 30 July 1900. JARVIE, George Garden Nicol and TUFFIN, Sarah Elizabeth. England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Births (SR) England. Poplar, St Stephen, Tower Hamlets. 10 May 1903. JARVIE, George Norman. London, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1917. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. England. 18 July 1907. JARVIE, George Garden Nicol. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate. 1907, p. 325. Collection: England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Marriages (SR) England. Huntingdon. 1st Qtr. 1903. JARVIE, Norman Alexander and FERGUSON, Edith Nora. England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915. Vol. 3b, p. 630. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. England. 14 June 1916. JARVIE, Norman Alexander. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate. 1916, p. 285. Collection. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. Scotland. 26 November 1929. BANNATYNE, John Allan. National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. 1929, p. B15. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. England. 30 June 1950. BANNATYNE, Agnes Marion. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate. 1950, p. 317. Collection. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Marriages. (SR) England. London. 1st Qtr. 1903. AIKMAN, Duncan Forbes Robertson and JARVIE, Susan Evelyn. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes, 1837-1915. Vol. 1a, p. 768. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Marriages. (SR) England. London. 1st Qtr. 1907. PERCY, Edward Josceline and JARVIE, Elizabeth Helen. England and Wales Civil Registration Indexes, 1837-1915. Vol. 1a, p. 868. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. England. 8 August 1931. PERCY, Edward Josceline. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate. 1931, p. 679. Collection. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk
 Testamentary Records. England. 11 April 1954. PERCY, Helen Elizabeth. Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate. 1954, p. 377. Collection. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. https://www.ancestry.co.uk