The recent publication of a new book on the life of William Burrell has prompted me to look at some of the research I did eleven years ago on his activity as a councillor.
He was elected in November 1899 (see my post Sir William Burrell Glasgow Corporation Councillor 1899 – 1906). In his first year Burrell sat on the Gas, Electricity, Police and Library Department’s committees and two special committees on the Telephone Service and the setting up of a Friendly Society. As perhaps expected, he was also on these department’s Finance sub committees. He was also on the Police Department’s Health committee included in which was a subcommittee dealing with Uninhabitable Dwellings as defined by the Glasgow Police Act of 1890. This committee, whose membership was that of the Health committee, was chaired by Councillor Dick.
Burrell’s ‘maiden motion’ at a full corporation meeting on 17th May 1900 was to move that the city engineer be instructed to submit a statement showing the respective values of the sites of the city churches. The motion was delayed at meetings on the 7th June and the 5th July and eventually agreed on 27th September. An early indication perhaps that the ‘mills of the Corporation grind exceeding slow’.
He was however active in meetings before that in particular with those of the Police Department (he attended 90% of them). On the 7th February 1900 a motion was proposed and seconded that a resolution received by members of the Corporation from the Glasgow United Trades Council (in this case representing Cleansing Dept workers, in particular close sweepers) be remitted to the Committee on Cleansing for report. The resolution by the trade council regretted the Corporation’s refusal to grant a wage increase and the language used by some councillors when referring to the rights of employees to have their complaints represented to the Town Council by their union representatives. An amendment was proposed and seconded by Robert Graham and Thomas Watson (both of Exchange Ward) that the resolution ‘lay on the table’ i.e. no action to be taken. The amendment was supported by Burrell (also a member for Exchange Ward ) and carried. Interestingly his brother in law Charles John Cleland supported the motion.
On the 11th June all three members of Exchange Ward voted for a motion (which was carried) which gave approval to the Superintendent of Cleansing, the department’s Cashier and Bookkeeper all getting a rise in wages. However on the 15th October he voted for an amendment against a wage increase for sanitary inspector assistants, which was carried.
During this first year his attendance at the Health Department’s meetings were less than 50%. Around one third of these meetings had content referring to uninhabitable premises sub committee one of which Burrell attended.
25 addresses were deemed unfit over the year and appropriate action identified and implemented which included demolition, closure, re-housing of tenants and improvement action. It’s not clear if any demolitions occurred.
Section 32 of the Glasgow Police (Amended) Act 1890 was the relevant legislation for identifying such premises and for the action to be taken which ranged from improvement through closure to demolition of the premises. The process was begun by the issuing of certificates, by the city Sanitary Inspector, its Medical Officer and the Master of Works following inspection by these individuals stating premises were unfit for human habitation. Burrell was not a member of this committee at this time which had twelve members (7 Baillies and 5 Councillors), chaired by councillor J Carswell.
The next two years saw Burrell retain membership of the above referenced committees. Significantly perhaps, he was added to General Finance in 1901. He appears to have played a full part in all financial matters associated with his committee membership, no doubt bringing his own business experience into play. However on several occasions he was defeated on his motions or his amendments, ranging from dissenting to the acceptance of departmental accounts to trying to stop by amendment, the creation of Glasgow Corporation 3% Redeemable stock. He had some successes particularly with accounting for depreciation of departmental assets. Reference the committee on Uninhabitable Houses very little action seems to have been taken, Burrell becoming a member in 1901, it still being chaired by J. Carswell.
Towards the end of 1902 the Lord Provost set up a special committee within the Police Department to review the work of the Health Committee, apparently due to concerns about the effectiveness of the Uninhabitable Houses sub committee and the relatively new Public Health Act of 1897.
In 1903 at the first full Corporation meeting of the year Burrell was elected as a Baillie, a vacancy having arisen from the death of Baillie James Hamilton. He was nominated by River Baillie Shaw and seconded by Thomas Watson, fellow Ward 10 councillor. He was opposed by Councillor George Taggart who was nominated by Councillor Alexander Murray and seconded by Councillor W.F. Anderson. Burrell gained 44 votes to Taggart’s 26, having had the support of the Lord Provost John Ure Primrose, his brother in law Charles John Cleland and Robert Graham.
He remained on the General Finance, Police, Gas and Electricity committees becoming sub convener of Electricity. He was also on seven other special committees all dealing with different aspects of Corporation finances. These covered, amongst others, rates collection, capital expenditure, tendering and bye laws for auction sales.
His focus remained matters financial and he continued to put forward his responses to situations which he felt merited it. On 13th November 1903 for example he seconded a motion which would allow private enterprise to supply or hire electric motors adding the corporation should not undertake the responsibility (he was firmly against any municipalisation action by the corporation). The motion was defeated 10 votes to 3. He could also bring simple practical input to the meetings. In 1904 he proposed that no Corporation meetings should be held ‘in July fortnight which includes the Fair week’. The motion was passed – just!
On 6th November 1903 the Corporation (presumably on a recommendation from the Special committee set up in 1902) nominated the Health committee to enact the Public Health Act of 1897 “with a view of efficiently and with reasonable expedition carryinginto operation the Sanitary and Public Health provisions of the Act.” The sub committee of Uninhabitable Houses became ‘Uninhabitable Houses, Areas and Back Lands, and Underground Dwellings’ as required by the Act, Convener was W. F. Anderson, membership was again that of the Health committee. As before it had the power to issue closure notices and demolish premises that did not meet the requirements of the Act with respect to human habitability.
During the committee’s first year over fifty properties were identified as not complying with the Act: the previous 4 years had barely got into double figures when non-compliance had been measured against the Police Act.
Fifteen months after it was created, in January 1905, Burrell became its Convener, perhaps surprisingly as the general thrust of the committe was to resolve working class housing through some form of municipal action. Was that because it’s action would somehow be ‘contained’ by him or did he he have a genuine desire to improve the situation? His previous voting record, where he resisted what he called unnecessary expenditure which would not benefit the ratepayers of the time, makes me tend to the former reason rather than any altruistic feelings he may have developed to support the non rate paying working class. I recognise that I may be doing him an injustice in saying that as he was born into a tenement flat in 3 Scotia Street, however his life as a businessman, councillor and collector really give no indication of any kind of social concern.
He also continued to be involved in all his other committees in what proved to be his last full year as a councillor, but there is no doubt the Health sub committee became a major focus of his attention.
From the first meeting of the newly named sub committee on 7th November 1904 to the last chaired by him on 10th January 1906 nearly 200 premises were recommended for closure to be followed by demolition should the owners not comply with required improvements (they were given one month) or closure.
There seems to have been some initial success in that the first premises recommended for demolition at 101 Maitland Street and 240 Gallowgate were approved on 21 December at a cost of £37 10s., and in due course demolition took place.
However an indication of how the committee faired in the longer run in dealing with this significant social problem can be given by looking at the case involving 16 Sharps Lane.
The owner of these premises (James McNicol) had been given an improvement order during November 1904. At a meeting held on 28th December the Town Clerk advised Burrell that the owner had appealed to the Sheriff to have a demolition order rescinded. The Sheriff indicated he would hear the arguments from both sides on the 16th January. It’s not clear what happened in detail at the appeal but what is certain the property reappeared as a concern to Burrell’s committee at their meeting on 29th March 1905 when a further order was recommended. This was approved at the full Corporation meeting on 27 April and the Town clerk instructed to pursue the issue. It’s worth pointing out at this stage that all the recommendations for improvement, closure or demolition that Burrell’s committee recommended during his 14 month tenure were all approved by subsequent full corporation meetings.
The owner continued to appeal until November when the Town Clerk was instructed to request the Sheriff (who always seemed to want more information, particularly from the Corporation) to refer the matter to the Court of Session for their determination as was allowed for by the Act, which the Sheriff refused to comply with! Eventually the property was demolished as was indicated to Burrell at his final meeting on 10th January 1906, at a cost of £25.
Burrell’s attendance at his other committee meetings declined noticeably during the latter half of 1905, he was building ships again and preparing to return to running Burrell & Son. Despite all his Uninhabitable Housing committee’s input and the Corporation’s approval there appears to have been no process or sufficient capacity in place to create the desired results. All Burrell’s recommendations went to the Town Clerk to action, all Corporation supporting actions or recommendations also went to the Town Clerk. This activity would not be the only responsibility he or his department would have. Was he and his department sufficiently prepared to deal with the process required, both in terms of understanding what that should be and what resources he needed? As an individual who always was running his business efficiently and seeking improvement this situation must have been very frustrating for Burrell, purely, at least, from an efficiency point of view.
There may have been one other source of irritation for Burrell during this time. At a meeting on 10th May 1905 his committee recommended that a report be prepared with plans, for circulation among Corporation members, dealing with the work done by it. On the 24th May a Special Committee was set up by the Lord Provost to deal with Part 2 of the Housing of Working Classes Act 1890 relating to ‘Buildings Unfit for Human Habitation and Closing Orders and Demolition’. This committee was initially chaired by Councillor Steele who was a member (and remained so) of Burrell’s. Burrell was present at the first meeting of this new committee as a member but did not attend any subsequently. In terms of what activity it undertook it clearly was no different from that of Burrell’s, which continued to meet, with Councillor Steele in attendance!
Burrell remained a Baillie until 10th November 1905. At the start of 1906 he decided to resign. His letter of resignation dated 17th January was accepted by the full corporation meeting on 18th January without comment.
His election as a councillor was not pre planned, he became a candidate due to the death of Robert Murdoch, who was one of three sitting members for Ward 10 (Exchange). He was the retiring member for 1899 and was standing again, unopposed for re-election. What is therefore not in doubt is that Burrell’s later comments that he had become a councillor to help solve Glasgow’s slum housing problem are not borne out by the facts. A number of ratepayers had specifically pressed him to become a candidate as there were some concerns that the selected candidate after the death of Murdoch, Richard Hunter, who helped found Quarrier’s orphans home, would have some degree of liberal concern for social issues despite his general conservatism, and that Burrell would better represent the views of commerce and business.
When researching Sir William Burrell’s (SWB) business and political activity I also became interested in his family origins, particularly his paternal ancestry. A few years ago I read Richard Mark’s book on Burrell, Portrait of a Collector, in which he writes that one of Burrell’s ancestors, the nephew of his great great grandfather was the first governor of Hong Kong. As it turns out this individual, George Burrell, had nothing to do with Hong Kong, the first governor being Sir Henry Pottinger in 1843. However, he was in China as a soldier, that caught my interest, and was the cause of my research into Burrell’s family.
The name Burrell is ubiquitous in the borders particularly in the county of Northumberland. Place names associated with SWB’s branch of the family include Alnwick, Bassington, Longhoughton and Eglingham, where his great great grandfather George Burrell was born in 1730. He had a brother John, born in 1733, who had a son George, the soldier who served in China.
John and George’s father was George Burrell of Bassington, and both were born in Eglingham.
The Soldier in China
Before I detail SWB’s ancestry from his great great grandfather George, I’m going to indulge in a slight diversion to look at John’s soldier son George.
George Burrell was born to John and his wife Barbara Peareth in Longhoughton in 1777. He was the second son of four, one of his brothers, John the youngest, also became a soldier with the 60th Regiment of Foot. He was killed in 1832 leading his regiment at the siege of Porto during the Portuguese civil war.
Describing George Burrell as a “soldier in China” does him an injustice. He had a successful, varied and distinguished army career serving for circa fifty years, finally attaining the rank of Lieutenant General.
His career began in 1797 when he joined the 15th Regiment of Foot as an ensign. He was promoted to lieutenant in the same year and by 1805 commanded a company as captain serving in the West Indies. In 1807 he became a major in the 90th Light Infantry, serving in Guadeloupe in 1810 and in Canada during the latter part of the war of 1812-1814 between the United States and Great Britain. He arrived in Upper Canada in May 1814 and was Commandant of Fort Niagara in the United States, which had been captured in December 1813, from November 1814 until May 1815. From there he was posted to the Netherlands and then France where the Napoleonic Wars were coming to an end, Waterloo having occurred a few weeks earlier. He eventually returned to England in 1816.
Between 1820 and 1840 he went firstly to the Greek Island of Paxos where he was military and civil commander for five years. In 1832 he was in back in England, this time with the 18th Royal Irish regiment, with which regiment he went to Ceylon in 1836 and was commandant at Colombo and Trincomalee. He rose steadily in the ranks during this period being promoted colonel in 1830 and then brevet major general in 1837.
Then came his service in China, arriving there in May 1840 during the first Opium War between Britain and China. In July of that year the Chinese authorities of the island of Chusan (Zhoushan), around eight hundred miles north of Hong Kong, were told to surrender the island to British Naval and Land forces, the latter led by Burrell, or the island would be taken by force. The Chinese leaders refused, and the island was duly taken by the British with surprisingly few casualties on both sides.
Burrell was then appointed Governor of Chusan, a post he held until February 1841, when the island was handed back to China as a result of a treaty being signed. The treaty however did not last long which resulted in Burrell leading his forces on a successful attack on Canton a few weeks later , , following which he was appointed a Companion of the Bath (C.B.). He remained in China until July 1842, which was his last tour of active service. He was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1851 and appointed Colonel of the 39th Regiment in 1852.
He married twice and had four children with his second wife, including two sons who both joined the military. He died on the 4th January 1853.
Note: The British Flag flew over Chusan about 6 months before it did over Hong Kong.
SWB’s Paternal Ancestry
Great great Grandfather George Burrell married Eleanor Whitehead at Eglingham in June 1766. They had eight children, five boys and three girls born between 1767 and 1785. According to Marks he died in 1815, which I have not been able to confirm from any other source.
Great Grandfather George Burrell.
The eldest boy was yet another George born in 1767. He was a tea merchant in Alnwick  and married Elizabeth Harrison there in 1795. I’ve not been able to ascertain how many children they but they certainly had two boys, George and John, baptised at Alnwick on the same day in 1801. Who was the eldest is not clear however George was SWB’s grandfather. Great grandfather George died in the 1st quarter of 1853; the death being registered in Alnwick.
Whilst searching the English and Scottish censuses of 1841 and 1851 for his family I came across unexpected entries for both Scottish censuses for a George Burrell. The entry for the individual concerned recorded that he was age 84 in 1851 and born in Egringham, Northumberland. There is no such place name in Northumberland, it therefore has to be Eglingham or Edlingham. As indicated above great grandfather George was born in Eglingham in 1767. He is described as a widower and having been a grocer and spirit dealer, perhaps not much far removed from being a tea merchant and Marks refers to him at one point as being a grocer.
His residence is also interesting. He is described as an inmate of the William Simpson Asylum in St. Ninians parish, Stirlingshire. Is this SWB’s great grandfather? The evidence is fairly strong that he is, especially when it is taken into account that his son George had been resident in Scotland from at least 1824 as I’ll show. Being a widower did he come to Scotland to be near his son?
He also had a brother Nicholas born in 1769. He married Mary Veitch in 1804, the daughter of Glasgow merchant Alexander Veitch, the marriage taking place in Leith. Mary’s father had died in 1797 at Newington near Edinburgh leaving his widow Lilias Nimmo and two unmarried daughters, Mary being the oldest, born in 1761.
These incursions into Scotland by great grandfather George, his son George and his brother Nicholas were the first of SWB’s immediate family. Why son George and Nicholas left Northumberland seems to have been in search of opportunities to improve their lives.
Grandfather George Burrell.
Grandfather George came to Scotland some time before 1824 quite possibly to join with his uncle Nicholas. In 1824, in Leith, he married Elizabeth Hastie, the daughter of mason Robert Hastie. He was listed as living in Leith and working as a clerk, Marks suggesting he was in some way involved in the eastern end of the Forth and Clyde canal. There is however no reliable source that confirms that.
Just over a year later in September 1825 daughter Barbara was borne in Leith. Elizabeth however died shortly after, whether in actual childbirth or at a later time has not been established despite various search data being used.
Sometime after Barbara’s birth George moved to Glasgow, still working as a clerk, which is where he married Janet Houston in 1831. She was born in 1809, the daughter of William Houston, a carpet manufacturer and his wife Rebecca Barr.
They had eleven children as follows, two of whom did not live to adulthood.
George continued to be described as a clerk in census returns, family birth records and in the 1855 valuation roll when the family resided at 21 Garscube Road in Glasgow. This was the family home address from at least 1841.
It’s worth noting at this stage that George’s daughter Barbara by his first wife lived with the Burrell family at least until 1861. She married Robert Pattie, master mariner in 1872 and died in 1914.
In 1856 George began his involvement with shipping in his own name when he set up as a shipping agent on the Forth and Clyde canal. At the time of his son Alexander’s birth in May 1856 he was described as a shipbroker’s clerk, still living at Garscube road, However he made his first appearance in the GPO directory of 1856/57, published post June in 1856, as a shipping and forwarding agent, located at Grangemouth and Alloa Wharf, Port Dundas. The family had also moved to a new address at 72 New City Road, no more than a twenty minute walk to his place of business.
By the following year Burrell & Son had been established with both George and son William listed in the GPO directory. (William has been entered as Walter but it is undoubtedly William as his home address is given as 3 Scotia Street, Glasgow where his son George was born in November 1857, more of which later.
Interestingly six years previously William had appeared in the 1851 census, age 19, lodging with a John McGregor in the vicinity of Camelon. McGregor was listed as a lock keeper (there are three Forth and Clyde canal locks near Camelon) and William was described as a shipping agent. Was William therefore the prime mover that took his father into shipping a few years later or were they both in the employ of a company doing business on the canal in 1851, George as a clerk and William as an agent? Clearly it can’t be proved one way or another but undoubtedly at least one member of the Burrell family was involved in shipping through the canal as early as 1851.
Burrell & Son prospered, expanding from canal operations only to include international shipping and the building of puffers at their yard at Hamiltonhill from 1873, with George and son William running the business. Other partnerships were also established over the next few years by William; Burrell & McLaren (Thomas McLaren) in 1867 and Burrell & Haig in 1875. Haig was his sister Elizabeth’s husband having married him in 1866, his occupation given as English teacher. There was a familial connection however with the canal in that his father was a lock keeper on the Forth and Clyde canal in the parish of New Kilpatrick. The McLaren partnership was relatively short lived, ending in 1873 however that with David Haig lasted until 1905.
What part, if any, did George’s other sons play in the company? His second eldest son Henry, described as a carver in 1851, subsequently became involved with shipping, probably with his father’s company although that has not been clearly established. In 1861 he was boarding with a Mrs Gray in Falkirk and described as a shipping clerk. Was he therefore at the other end of the canal looking after the company’s interests? It would certainly seem so as from around 1865 he was living in Grangemouth, had an office adjacent to his house, and was described as a shipbroker.
He lived there, in North Harbour Street, for the rest of his life, variously being described as a shipbroker or shipping agent. He married Helen Morrison circa 1871, there being no children of the marriage. He died in Grangemouth during October 1902. In his will he left over £4100, his wife Helen being his executrix and sole beneficiary. Two interesting items from his will were that he owned shares in the shipping company Faerdar of Christiana (Oslo’s previous name) in Norway and in Burrell and Haig. Henry’s wife Helen died in 1912 at their home in North Harbour Street.
In 1861 the third son George was working with Burrell & Son as a shipping clerk. For whatever reason that did last very long as I next came across him in Australia in 1869 when he married Fanny North. It seems they had only one child, Janet, born in 1877 in Bungarree, Victoria. Unfortunately, she died at six months in 1878.
George returned to Glasgow with his wife sometime after 1881 (not included in the census for that year) and set up G. Burrell & Co., ships stores merchants in 1886. His home address was given in the directory as 13 Afton Crescent, Glasgow which was where his brother Alexander lived, whom he took into partnership in 1887.
He continued in that business, mainly located in West Street until circa 1912/13 the business’s last appearance in the GPO directory for Glasgow. In 1890 he moved from Afton Crescent to Cumbernauld finally settling in Luggiebank, Cumbernauld two years later, which is where he died in 1918. His wife Fanny continued to live there until her death in 1923.
The youngest son Alexander Houston had a limited connection with the shipping business compared to his three brothers. At the age of twenty two in 1878 he set up Burrell & Macmaster, Ship Brokers and Commission Agents in York Street. That did not last long as the following year he was operating from premises in Ann Street on his own. In 1880 he joined Neil Smith & Co., Ship Stores Merchants at 48 York Street, eventually taking over the business in partnership with John Chamberlain, another employee of Smiths, in 1882. This turned out to be yet another short lived venture which ended in 1885.
His situation however certainly improved when he joined with his brother George in 1887. I’m not sure if he was in partnership with George but the company operated until 1913, Alexander being involved until 1899.
Throughout his time with George he continued to live at 13 Afton Crescent, however by 1901 he was living with his widowed half-sister Barbara Pattie at Brooklynn Villa in Luggiebank, still being described as a Ships Stores Merchant and employer.
He died, unmarried, in 1908 whilst visiting the Manse house in Stow where his sister Margaret and her husband, a Church of Scotland minister, the Rev. William Workman lived.
Only one other daughter of George senior and Janet Houston married. That was Janet, who married Andrew Hunter, another Church of Scotland minister, in 1874.
Father William Burrell.
George senior retired in 1873 leaving SWB’s father William in sole charge of the company’s operations. He died in 1881 at Dunkeld Place, Byres Road, Partick. His wife Janet died at 13 Afton Crescent, son Alexander’s home, in 1897.
Under William’s control Burrell & Son continued to expand becoming one of the most important shipping companies in Glasgow with a large number of ships in full ownership and a significant number in which they had shares. In due course he was to be aided and abetted in the business by his sons SWB and George.
He had married Isabella Guthrie in December 1856, just about co-incident with the creation of Burrell & Son. She was the daughter of Adam Guthrie, a coal agent, and Elizabeth Duncan who had died in January 1855.
William and Isabella had nine children as follows:
George, b. 19th December 1857 at 3 Scotia Street, Glasgow. He and his brothers Adam and SWB attended school in St Andrews in 1871 after which he joined Burrell & Son during the following year. Subsequently he became a forwarding agent with the company. He married Anne Jane McKaig in 1883 and they had five children.
William Burrell, b. 1885 at Ravenswood, Langbank. He died in 1914 as the result of a boating accident on Loch Ewe whilst serving with the Royal Navy.
Thomas McKaig Burrell, b.1887 at Ravenswood, Langbank. At Perth he married Muriel Margaret Wylie, daughter of Robert Wylie Hill, landed proprietor, in 1919. He was a ship broker. He died at Perth in 1961, his wife Muriel the following year.
Gladys Helen Hillcoat Burrell, b. 1888 at Ravenswood, Langbank. She married William Barr Knox in 1914 at Paisley Abbey. He was a thread manufacturer working for his father Bryce Muir Knox at Kilbirnie. The company W & J Knox, net and yarn manufacturers, currently located in Kilbirnie, is a direct descendant of the original company. Gladys died in 1920 at her father’s house Gleniffer Lodge of a stroke/brain tumour.
Isabella Guthrie Burrell, b. 1890 at Ravenswood, Langbank. No other information has been established.
Gordon George Burrell, b. 1895 at Ravenswood, Langbank. He served in the RNVR from 1917 to 1918 and shortly afterwards in 1919 married Brenda Agnes Bibby, the daughter of merchant and ship owner Herbert Kirkman Bibby, at St. Martin’s, London. From around 1930 he and his wife lived in Ayrshire, he being described as a ship owner. He died in 1949 at Auchendrane near Ayr, his occupation recorded as farmer. Brenda died in Cirencester, Gloucestershire in 1959.
George and Anne moved to Gleniffer Lodge in 1896, where they lived for the rest of their lives. George died in 1927 whilst visiting County Antrim in Northern Ireland, Anne at home in 1932.
Please see my post “The Other Burrell Brothers” for a fuller report on George’s family life and his involvement with Burrell & Son.
Adam Guthrie, b. 4th June 1859 at 3 Scotia Street. Adam started out working in the family firm but changed direction very quickly and graduated from Glasgow University in 1892 with degrees in medicine and surgery.
He married Clarissa or Clara Jane Scott in 1886 in Ireland. They emigrated to Wyoming the year after he graduated, with their three children: George Guthrie b. 1887, Isabella Mary Houston b. 1888 and Robert Alexander b. 1889.
They did not stay in the US for long, going initially to South Africa and finally to New Zealand where a third son Adam Guthrie was born in 1899. Adam practised as a doctor in Dunedin for some time and then moved to Canterbury in 1905 where another son Roderick Scott was born near the end of that year.
Adam died rather suddenly in 1907, Clarissa in 1944, having married again in 1911. See “The Other Burrell Brothers” post.
SWB, 9th July 1861 at 3 Scotia Street. He joined Burrell & Son in 1876 and was to see the firm through to its closure in 1939. He married his sister in law Constance Mary Lockhart Mitchell in 1901, daughter of deceased timber merchant James Lockhart Mitchell and his wife Marion Nisbet Miller . They had one child, Marion Mitchell, born in 1902. In later life she changed her first name to Sylvia. Why she made the change is not particularly clear however it may have something to do with what I understand to be a poor relationship with her mother(she was unable to have any more children after Marion was born) and the fact that her father interfered in her relationships with potential suitors, being concerned that they were simply after her (his) money. She was apparently engaged on three separate occasions, the last of which was to the Honourable Patrick Balfour, son and heir of the second Lord Kinross.
Their engagement was announced in the Scotsman and elsewhere on the 10th February 1931, followed on the 23rd February with the announcement that the marriage would take place at St. George’s, Hanover Square, London on the 17th March at 2.15pm. However on the 5th March the following rather terse Scotsman notice stated that “The marriage arranged between the Honourable Patrick Balfour and Miss Marion Burrell will not take place”.
Her father had made the announcement without telling Marion as he was concerned about Patrick’s growing gambling debts and, perhaps more importantly, the discovery that Balfour was homosexual. Regardless of the reasons it was a heartless decision leaving Marion very unhappy. She died unmarried in 1992.SWB died in 1958 leaving in his will just under £760,000 having previously donated his collection of art to Glasgow. Constance died in 1961.
See posts: “The Other Burrell Brothers”, “Sir William Burrell’s Nearly Gift to London” and “Sir William Burrell, Glasgow Corporation Councillor”.
Elizabeth Duncan, b. 13th August 1863 at 30 Willowbank Street, Glasgow. She married Thomas Steward Lapraik, marine engineer, at her family home, 4 Devonshire Gardens, Kelvinside on the 26th He was the son of ship owner and merchant John Steward Lapraik of South Kensington, London. They had one daughter Isabell Clare born in 1892 in Derby. They lived in England for all of their married life, Thomas dying in 1926. Elizabeth was still alive in 1939 living in Ilfracombe, Devon.
Henry, b. 1st April 1866 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace, Bowling. He worked for the family firm for a period of time from 1885 until 1897 before setting up on his own in Robertson Street in Glasgow. He had several successful patents dealing with ship design and subsequently set up the Straight Back Steamship Company. He never married and lived with his parents then his mother only until 1913. He died in 1924 at a tuberculosis sanatorium in Banchory. See “The Other Burrell Brothers”
Janet Houston, b. 15th June 1868 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace. She married Charles John Cleland, stationer, employed in his father’s paper manufacturing company, in 1888. They had three daughters, Isabella Guthrie, born in 1889, Jean, born in 1890, and Jessie Muriel, born in 1893, all born at Bonville House, Maryhill. Isabella served during WW1 in the Voluntary Aid Detachment of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS). She married Walter Percy Reed Webster, tea planter, in 1927. He was the son of John Webster, a retired District Inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Jean never married and died in 1932 at Bonville House. As it turned out Isabella was not the only daughter to marry someone with an Irish connection. Jessie Muriel married Sir Richard Dawson Bates in 1920. He was an Ulster politician who was in the forefront of opposition to Irish Home Rule. They had one son, John Dawson Bates, born in Belfast in 1921. Sir Richard was appointed as Minister of Home Affairs when Northern Ireland was formed in 1922. He set up a committee of enquiry to reorganize the police force which in due course recommended a single force for the province one third of which was to be Catholic. Bates however was virulently anti-Catholic and later on in 1922 allowed members of the newly formed RUC to join the Orange Lodge. Previously the Royal Irish Constabulary were prohibited from joining such organisations. This effectively ensured Catholic officers in the RUC would be minimised. During his tenure, the political decisions he took were always hardline and based on his belief of Protestant supremacy. He left office in 1943 having being made a baronet in 1937. He died in Somerset in 1949. Jessie also died in Somerset in 1972. See “Sir William Burrell, Glasgow Corporation Councillor” post for more on Charles John Cleland.
Helen Grey, b. 24th September 1869 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace. Died at Largs on the 3rd October 1875 of tubercular meningitis.
Isabella Duncan, b. 8th January 1872 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace. She died unmarried in 1951.
Mary Guthrie, b. 26th December 1874 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace. She married James Alexander Ralston Mitchell, timber broker, several months before SWB married his sister, in 1901. They had five children.
Isabella Duncan, b.1902 at 8 Belhaven Crescent, Kelvinside. She married Joseph Murray Hoult in 1923. He was described as a landed proprietor from Lincolnshire, the son of ship owner Joseph Hoult and his wife Julia Murray. They had three children, two boys and a girl between 1927 and 1931, the first two being born at Caistor in Lincolnshire, the third being born in Dreghorn, Ayr. Joseph Murray Hoult served in the Royal Artillery in the 3rd Welsh Brigade in 1911 as a second lieutenant, transferring to the Royal Artillery in 1913. He remained with the regiment throughout WW1 going to France in August 1914 and attaining the rank of Major by the war’s end. In 1944, he was appointed as a sheriff of Lincolnshire, and in 1946, as Lieutenant Colonel he became the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire. He died in South Africa in 1948. Isabella died in Malaga in 1979.
Marion Elenore Bonthron, b.1904 at 8 Belhaven Crescent. She married Charles Glen MacAndrew (his second wife) in 1941. He was MP for Bute and Northern Ayrshire and had previously been MP for Kilmarnock and Partick. He held various positions in the House of Commons being a deputy Speaker of the House and Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee from 1951 to 1959 when he retired. He was knighted in 1935 and became a Baron on his retiral. They had one daughter, Mary Margaret Hastings, born in 1942. Charles died in 1979, Marion in 1994.
James Merrick Ralston, b.1906 at 8 Belhaven Crescent. Information about James has been hard to come by. He was a timber merchant or broker as evidenced by journeys he made to Burma and the US. He joined the Royal Regiment of Artillery at some point and in 1945, with the rank of temporary major, was awarded the Military Cross. He died, unmarried, at Stirling in 1983.
Ruth Mary Beryl, b.1910 at 8 Belhaven Crescent. She married chartered accountant Alexander Irving Mackenzie in 1938. He was the son of Dr. Charles Mackenzie and his wife Margaret Wilson. As for her brother James information has been hard to come by. She had at least one daughter however, Mona, who along with her mother gave evidence at a Parliamentary Commission hearing which was looking at Glasgow City Council’s proposals to send some of the Burrell Collection abroad. Ruth died at Ayr in 2011.
William Burrell Alan, b.1913 at 8 Belhaven Crescent. He died at Kelso in 1989.
James and Mary died at Perceton House, Ayrshire, he in 1952,she in 1964.
As can be seen from the addresses where their children were born William and Isabella’s standard of living improved as William Burrell & Son progressed. Starting from a tenement flat in Scotia Street in Glasgow, by 1874 they were living in Bowling at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace, eventually to “Elmbank” in Manse Road in Bowling, a large detached villa.
Burrell & Son continued to prosper with William and in particular sons George and SWB running the business. However, that was not to continue in the way they probably expected it to. In 1885 William, at the relatively young age of 53, died at Elmbank from an enlarged liver. In his will he left £39,711 his executors and trustees being his wife Isabella, sons SWB and George. Henry declined to be a trustee, Adam was not mentioned in this context, his legacy also being less than that of his brothers. Thereafter SWB and George jointly ran the business until 1927 when George died, SWB afterwards until 1939 when it ceased to trade.
By 1891 William Burrell’s widow Isabella was resident at 4 Devonshire Gardens where initially she lived with SWB and daughters Isabella and Mary. Henry also lived there from circa 1901. She died at Crieff in 1912.
The prosperity that Burrell & Son brought to the family was astonishing not just in monetary terms but in the society in which the family moved. That ranged from a visit to Hutton Castle from royalty, to the London social scene of the 1920s/30s with dances being arranged by titled ladies for SWB’s daughter and her presentation at court, SWB’s knighthood, and the various descendant marriages which I’ve tried to detail above.
One negative is that SWB’s ambition to move in that society made him over-protective of his daughter Marion, leaving him in my view, insensitive to her feelings.
 Marks, Richard (1983). Burrell, A Portrait of a Collector. Glasgow: Richard Drew. p. 27.
 Marriages. (PR) England. Eglingham, Northumberland. 2 June 1766. BURRELL, GEORGE and WHITEHEAD, Eleanor. Collection: England and Wales Marriages 1538-1988. Film Number 1068608. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/
 Baptisms. (PR) England. Eglingham, Northumberland. 15 September 1767. BURRELL, George. Collection: England and Wales, Christening Index, 1530-1980. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/
 Testamentary Records. England. 22 April 1949. HOULT, Joseph Murray. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. p.538. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/
 Testamentary Records. England. 1 August 1980. HOULT, Isabella Duncan Guthrie. England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995. p.4328. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/
 Passenger List for SS Transylvania departing Glasgow for New York. MITCHELL, James Merrick, Ralston. 26 January 1930 and Passenger List for SS Pegu departing Rangoon for London. James M R Mitchell. 12 April 1934. https://search.ancestry.co.uk/
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]
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.
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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
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.
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.
William Burrell and Isabella Guthrie married in 1856[i] and had nine children, one of whom was to become Sir William Burrell (SWB), ship owner and art collector. There were three other sons and five daughters. Three of the daughters got married, one remained a spinster, and the fifth died at the age of six. But what of the brothers?
They were George Burrell, who joined with SWB in the Burrell & Son shipping business, Adam Guthrie Burrell, and Henry Stuart Burrell.
Note: to avoid confusion brothers George, Adam and Henry will always appear in bold. Sir William Burrell will always be referred to as SWB.
GeorgeBurrell was the first of the nine children, being born on the 19th November 1857 at 3 Scotia Street, Glasgow.[ii] In the 1871 census he and brothers Adam and SWB were recorded as attending school in Abbey Park, St Andrews.[iii]
He joined the family firm Burrell & Son in 1872, age fifteen[iv], being described as a forwarding agent’s clerk in the census of 1881[v] and was first listed in the Post Office Directories in 1884.[vi]George’s grandfather, also George, had started the business sometime in the early 1850s. From the time of his marriage in 1831 to 1855 he had been described as a clerk, in what business is not specified in any of the registration documents or censuses pertaining to him. However in his first entry in the P.O. Directory of 1856-57 he is described as a shipping agent,[vii] the following year’s directory containing the first entry of Burrell & Son, when son William (senior) joined him.[viii]
There is some evidence to suggest that grandfather George and William (senior) had been involved in the shipping business as early as 1851. In the census of that year a William Burrell is recorded as lodging with John McGregor, lock keeper on the Forth and Clyde Canal near Camelon. He was age 20, born in Glasgow, (William Burrell senior was born in January 1832 in Glasgow[ix]), and was a shipping agent, strong circumstantial evidence that this is George and SWB’s father William.[x] Additionally William senior’s brother Henry is recorded in the 1861 census as a ship agent in Grangemouth, providing the company with representation at both ends of the canal.[xi]
George married Anne Jane McKaig on the 19th December 1883 at the bride’s family home, 30 New Sneddons, Paisley. Her father was Thomas McKaig, a brick builder, her mother was Helen Hillcoat.[xii]George and Anne had five children, William, Thomas, Gladys, Isobel and Gordon, all born at Ravenswood House, Langbank between 1885 and 1895.[xiii]
His eldest son William was educated at Glasgow Academy and Uppingham, subsequently working for Burrell & Son. He was a keen rugby player and played with the West of Scotland Club. At the start of WW1 he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) as a despatch carrier attached to the Motor Boat Service. Later that year on the 18th November, the boat he and three other officers were travelling in capsized on Loch Ewe and he and two of his fellow officers drowned.[xiv]
Thomas also played rugby and played a trial match for Scotland. He was perhaps better known as a golfer having won the Scottish Amateur Championship at Troon in 1923 and had played for Scotland against England in 1924.[xv] During the war he served with the Highland Light Infantry, attaining the rank of Captain.[xvi].
The youngest brother Gordon (middle name George but subsequently became Fitzgeorge), joined the RNVR in 1917 as a sub lieutenant, was assigned to various depot ships (Hermione, Egmont) heading for Port Said in Egypt, (not sure if he went there) and was demobbed as lieutenant in December 1918.[xvii]
Following their father’s death in 1885 George and SWB took over the running of the company business. It had been their father’s intention that his four sons would be involved in the company, and at least initially it seems all were.[xviii] However for a variety of reasons which will be examined later Adam was no longer with the company by 1892, and Henry left around 1897.
George was the technical man of the business whilst SWB took care of finance, their joint expertise significantly improving the company’s performance.
An interesting demonstration of their roles, and how they may be confused, occurred in a court case of 1897 when they sued the shipbuilder Russell and Co of Glasgow for £40,000. The case opened on the 24th June 1897 at the Court of Session, with Burrell & Son being represented by the Solicitor-General. It lasted almost 3 years, concluding with an appeal to the House of Lords.
In 1893/94 Burrell & Son contracted Russells to build four cargo ships. The contract specified straight keels, in the event the ships were built with cambered keels. The effect of this change was to increase carrying capacity, however it also increased draught, making docking of the ships problematic and dangerous, and in some cases impossible.
The shipbuilder’s position was that Burrell & Son had proposed or agreed the change to improve capacity. This resulted from conversations as to whether the shipbuilder’s initial planning and modelling of the ships would achieve the contracted cargo capacity. At a meeting with SWB (not George) they said that it would, SWB disagreed saying his expert (unnamed) indicated that there would be a capacity shortfall, that now was the time to increase the ships dimensions, and offered £4, a significant sum, for every ton the cargo capacity was increased.
The evidence given for the most part was very technical with both sides bringing forth expert witnesses. Additionally various Russell personnel stated that they had overheard cambering being discussed/instructed by both Burrells and their engineering superintendent James Stewart at various times and that as the ships were being built it was easy to see the cambering.
In the event judgement was given against the Burrells with the judge stating that they had presented a good case however he believed the shipbuilder’s employees evidence to be true as otherwise the managing partner Mr. Lithgow would have had to persuade a large number of people to lie and perjure themselves.
He went on to say that he believed SWB did not know of the cambering (thus ignoring SWB’s financial incentive which was not disputed) but GeorgeBurrell and his superintendent Mr Stewart did and that Russells acted in accordance with their instructions. Expenses were awarded to the shipbuilder.
Burrell & Son appealed, however on the 23rd December 1898 it was dismissed by a majority, one law lord dissenting. Burrell then appealed to the House of Lords and on the 2rd March 1900 judgement was finally given in their favour. One major reason given by the Lord Chancellor for the reversal was that he could not perceive any motive for Burrell and Son wanting to camber the ships keels and that the camber had been done by the shipbuilder because they had originally miscalculated. The Lords also chose to disbelieve some of Russell’s employees’ testimony, thus “removing the stain on Mr Stewart and George Burrell’s reputations”. Damages awarded were £16,000 with the defendants liable for all expenses.[xix]
In 1891 George and SWB applied to become members of the Merchants House of Glasgow. In the applications book there is a comment simply saying “Lord Dean to make enquiry”.[xx] In the event it appears neither became members. He did become a member of the Glasgow Art Club in 1891, remaining so until 1913. SWB joined the club in February 1893 but resigned in October of the same year.[xxi] He did however become an honorary member in 1946.[xxii]
George became a Justice of the Peace in 1896[xxiii] and by 1897 he and his family were resident at Gleniffer Lodge, Paisley, where he lived for the rest of his life.[xxiv] In 1899 the Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association was formed which he joined later that year. Other Glasgow benefactors who were inaugural members were Leonard Gow and William McInnes.[xxv]
Like his brother he was also something of an art collector. He owned work by Degas, Crawhall and Melville, probably bought from Alexander Reid.[xxvi] He also supported the Paisley Art Institute annual exhibition held in Paisley museum. For the 1900 exhibition he loaned the Institute Melville’s ‘Dancing Girl’.[xxvii]
In 1925 the king approved his appointment as the new Austrian Consul in Glasgow, a post he held until he died.[xxviii]
George died on the 8th September 1927 at Ballycastle, County Antrim. His will dated 5th December 1921 named his wife Anne, sons Thomas and Gordon, and daughter Isobel, as his executors. His estate was valued at £253,475 13s 7d.[xxix]
Adam Guthrie Burrell
Adam was born on the 4th June 1859, also at 3 Scotia Street.[xxx] As previously indicated in 1871 he attended school in St Andrews with brothers George and SWB and by 1881 he was working as an engineer draughtsman[xxxi], presumably with the family shipping business.[xxxii] He appears not to have been particularly interested in this kind of career which disappointed his father to the point he was left less than his brothers when his father died in 1885. The father’s will specified that once all other bequests had been satisfied the residue of the estate would be divided between the brothers with Adam getting £2,500 less than the other three brothers.[xxxiii] He clearly was not happy with this situation and brought an action against his father’s trustees (his mother and brothers George and SWB), to determine what amount he should have been left (or £5,500), the case being heard in the Court of Session on the 17th July 1886.
Adam gave evidence to the effect that the trustees (effectively his brothers George and SWB) had understated the value of the estate by £90,380 9s 10d resulting in the estate’s residue being less than it should have been. He added that he had successfully managed his father’s ship building yard at Dumbarton from 1882 until 1885 thereby adding to his father’s wealth. During this time he had taken a limited salary on the understanding that the business would ultimately be his. In the event the shipping business in total went to George and SWB, and he received £2,500 less of the estate residue than they did. He stated that he had approached the trustees to try and resolve the situation and get what he felt was his due, however their offer of £500 and a further £2,500 over two years was not acceptable. They also required him and any children of his to forego any possible future claim on the trustees.
The trustees’ response was to disagree with the value of the estate Adam had stated and to say that not only had he a generous salary when running the Dumbarton shipyard, his board and hotel bills were paid as were his holiday expenses. They also said that his running of the yard was poor (injudicious and extravagant) and that he had greatly annoyed and distressed his father which resulted in him taking over the running of the yard. They also believed that their offer to him was greater than his due. The case was settled at the end of evidence by Adam accepting a payment of £3,000 in full.[xxxiv]
Why did the family behave in such a way towards Adam? Was he a reluctant engineer or did he make a hash of running the ship yard? Either way he clearly annoyed his father, with his two trustee brothers perpetuating the situation after their father’s death. Their motives may of course have more to do with money than anything else, which by different means, were not too different when dealing with their younger brother Henry.
One other event which may have added to Adam’s difficulty with his family was his marriage to Clara or Clarissa Jane Scott during the first quarter of 1886 in Ballina, County Mayo in Ireland. It was a civil ceremony with the religious background of either party not being recorded.[xxxv] None of Adam’s family attended the marriage which suggests he was marrying ‘outwith his class’ (Clara’s family background has not been discovered) or perhaps there was a religious issue.
In 1891 he and his family were living at 1 Athole Gardens Terrace in Hillhead.[xxxvi] He is described as a marine engineer which is somewhat at odds with the fact that he had passed his first exam in 1888 at Glasgow University whilst studying to be a doctor[xxxvii]. In 1892 he graduated MB CM (Bachelor of Medicine, Master of Surgery) with his graduation record showing that he had an association with Port Elizabeth, South Africa.[xxxviii] .
In 1893 he and Clara with their family, two sons George, age 6 and Robert, age 3, and daughter Isabella age 5, emigrated to the United States arriving in New York on the 30th May, their expected final destination being Wyoming.[xxxix] One source has it that he did not stay very long in the States but moved on to South Africa, hence explaining the South Africa connection mentioned above.[xl] He and the family then moved to New Zealand, when is not clear however in 1902 he registered as a doctor in the city of Dunedin.[xli]
There is a suggestion that a son, William, was born in Wyoming around 1896. No firm evidence has been established which confirms that, however, if true, it means the family went to South Africa sometime after that date. That view is supported as on the 5th April 1899 son Adam Guthrie Burrell was born in Cape Town. No direct source has been identified for that date however his birth in South Africa is confirmed in his affidavit as one of his mother’s executors in 1945[xlii], and in a trip he made to the United States in April 1960.[xliii]
Adam remained registered as a doctor in Dunedin at least until July 1905.[xliv] Towards the end of that year he moved to the district of Selwyn (East Oxford) in Canterbury where another son, Roderick Scott Burrell was born during the last quarter of the year.[xlv] He continued to live there until his death on the 15th February 1907.[xlvi]
It appears he died rather suddenly as his will was written in hospital in Christchurch on the 13th February 1907. Probate was granted to his wife Clara on the 26th February who inherited entirely. In her affidavit to the court written on the 19th February she declared that the value of the estate did not exceed £100. Originally her affidavit had included the words “in New Zealand” after the value, however they were scored out and the change initialled by her lawyer.[xlvii] Interestingly there is a record of his death in the Cape Estates Death Index in Cape Town dated 1908. This index was used in the general administration of deceased estates.[xlviii]Adam was buried at Sydenham Cemetery, Canterbury.[xlix]
His widow Clara married William Alexander McCullough in 1911.[l] She died on the 28th November 1944, probate being granted to her sons Adam and Rodrick, both of whom were bank officials. Her estate was valued at under £3,300, with sons George and Ronald being left £300 each, and Adam and Roderick sharing the residue of the estate. There was no mention of daughter Isabella.[li]
Henry was born on the 1st April 1866 at 2 Auchentorlie Terrace in Bowling, Old Kilpatrick.[lii] As he never married for most of his life he stayed with his parents, firstly at Auchentorlie Terrace until c.1874[liii], Clydebank House, Yoker until 1879[liv], Elmbank, Bowling until 1891[lv] and thereafter at 4 Devonshire Gardens with his mother and various siblings until 1913. More of why he left Devonshire Gardens later.
As indicated previously his father died in 1885 and in his will he named four trustees, three of whom were Henry’s mother Isabella, SWB and George. William (senior) stipulated that if George and SWB bought Burrell & Son (at a price to be agreed by the Trustees) which they did, then they must employ their brother Henry in the business until he was 24. On reaching that age he was to be allowed to buy into the business.[lvi] That meant Henry had to be working for Burrells until 1890. In the event it seems he started after his father’s death in 1885[lvii], continuing until 1897-98[lviii], the last year he appeared in the Post Office Directory in the employ of William Burrell & Son.
What he did in the following two years is not known however between 1900 and 1907 he successfully submitted seven patents, all of which dealt with aspects of ship building.[lix] They were:
7 March 1900 – Improvements in the Construction of Cargo Steamers.
17 November 1900 – Improvements in Loading/Discharging Equipment of Cargo Steamers.
24 August 1901 – Improvements in Cargo Steamers.
31 December 1903 – Improvements in Ship’s Hatchway Covers.
11 February 1904 – Hopper Bunker for Steamers.
3 August 1905 – Improvements in Cranes for Cargo Steamers.
6 June 1907 – Improvements in the Construction of Ships
When submitting his patent applications he described himself as a ship owner. His place of business was initially given as Devonshire Gardens, after 1901 it was at 73 Robertson Street.[lx]
He was re-listed in the Post Office Directory in 1903-1904 at 73 Robertson Street,[lxi] no occupation given until 1909-1910 when he was described as a ship owner[lxii]. From 1910-1911 he was listed as manager of the Straight Back Steamship Company.[lxiii] There is no evidence that he had any connection with Burrell & Son after 1898. Between 1894 and 1898 he had held one or two shares, sold to him by SWB, in twelve single ship limited companies which he sold to Thomas Reid, ship agent, in 1896.[lxiv]
On the 1st February 1912 the brothers’ mother Isabella Guthrie Burrell died of heart failure.[lxv] She died testate with her trustees being George, SWB and Charles John Cleland, the husband of the brothers’ sister Janet Houston Burrell. She left £19036 0s 2d movable estate and in her will dated the 16th December 1901 she gave each of her children a specific bequest with the residue of the estate, being shared by George and SWB. In Henry’s case he was left £2,500. Son Adam was left an annuity based on a capital sum of £2,500, which would be paid for life to him or his wife on his death. In the event a codicil dated the 16th May 1905 changed that to a straightforward bequest to Adam of £2,500. She also empowered her trustees to sell off her heritable property as they decided.[lxvi] That in due course was to be the reason for Henry moving from Devonshire Gardens.
Initially following his mother’s death Henry continued to live at 4 Devonshire, apparently as ‘allowed’ by her trustees. However they subsequently decided that he should leave the house, presumably to sell it, which Henry refused to do saying that he had made a tenancy agreement with his mother prior to her death. The trustees (George and SWB) took the issue to court and won their case, Henry, in the Sheriff’s opinion, not proving he had tenancy of the house. In October 1913 he appealed to the Court of Session without success, the court issuing an order for his eviction.[lxvii]
Henry thereafter is recorded as living at 73 Robertson Street, his place of business.
He was to take his brothers (as trustees) to court one more time, on this occasion the issue was the sale of ship shares. He contended that as trustees they had sold shares to their respective wives on the grounds that they had really been purchased by his brothers or that the sales should be set aside because they were made by the wives of two trustees. He lost and appealed to the Court of Session during January 1915. He lost his appeal and was required to pay expenses. The Judge hearing the appeal said that in each case the price paid was an adequate and even a full one and that the transactions were exclusive of the husbands. He added that no absolute law existed which made it illegal for the wife of a trustee to purchase trust estate.[lxviii] Nothing was said about the morality of the sales.
When you consider how Henry and Adam were treated by George and SWB there appears to be very little brotherly affection at play. It seems their joint objective was always to maximise their personal wealth, fine in business but perhaps inappropriate, even objectionable, at the expense of other family members.
Henry lived at 73 Robertson Street for the rest of his life. He died at the Nordrach-on- Dee tuberculosis sanatorium, Banchory on the 15th July 1924, cause of death was pulmonary tuberculosis.[lxix]
He died intestate, leaving net estate valued at £732 0s 3d, SWB being confirmed as his executor dative in January 1925.[lxx]
As Henry left no will presumably all his siblings shared the estate equally.
[i] Marriages (CR) Scotland. Helensburgh, Dunbartonshire. 31 December 1856. BURRELL, William and GUTHRIE, Isabella. 503/00 0001. www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk
[xix]Glasgow Herald. Court of Session 25 June 1897 p. 2e,f,g,h, Court of Session 26 June 1897 p.3g,h.Court of Session 1 July 1897 p. 10g,h, Court of Session 2 July 1897 p.9i, Court of Session 22 July 1897, p.2h, Action against Clyde Shipbuilders 1 November 1897 p.9e,f,g,h, Court of Session 24 December 1898 p.8a,b,c,d, House of Lords 27 March 1900. p.4e, f. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk
[xx] Merchants House of Glasgow: Applications Book 8 May 1891. BURRELL, George and William.
[xxi] Spoor, Freya (2011) Membership information for George and William Burrell. E-mails to George Manzor 17 August and19 July respectively. Glasgow Art Club: email@example.com
[xxii] Glasgow Art Club Membership Book (1954) William Burrell. Mitchell Library Reference:
[xxv] Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association (1899) Minutes of meeting 5 May 1899 and 1899 year end Directors report January 1900, p.8.
[xxvi] Hamilton, Vivien. 2002 Millet to Matisse New Haven and London: Yale University Press. Appendix 3 p.199.
[xxvii]Glasgow Herald. (1900) Paisley Art Institute. Glasgow Herald 27 December. p.2c. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk
[xxviii]The Scotsman. (1925) New Austrian Consuls in Scotland. The Scotsman 9 May. p.11h. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk
[xxix] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 11 November 1927. BURRELL, George. National Probate Index (Calendar of Confirmations and Inventories), 1876-1936. Volume 1927, p. B124. Mitchell library, Glasgow.
[xxxiv]Glasgow Herald (1886) Court of Session 17 July 1886. p.7a, b. The National Library of Scotland. http://www.nls.uk
[xxxv] Marriages Index (CR) Ireland. 1st Qtr. 1886. BURRELL, Adam Guthrie and SCOTT, Clara Jane. Collection: Ireland, Civil Registration Indexes 1845–1958. Vol.4, page 3. FHL film number 101255. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
[xliii] National Archives at Washington, D.C. Passenger Manifests of Airplanes Arriving at San Antonio, Texas, 1893-1963. Adam Guthrie Burrell 18 April 1960. American Airways, flight number 630. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
[xliv] Directories. New Zealand. (1905) The New Zealand Gazette: Registers of Medical Practitioners and Nurses, 1873, 1882-1933. BURRELL, Adam Guthrie. p. 95. https://search.ancestry.co.uk
In 1944 ship owner, Sir William Burrell donated to Glasgow his collection of paintings, Japanese and Chinese ceramics, tapestries, sculpture, stained glass and many other artefacts, totalling some 6000 items. By the time of his death in 1958 the donation had grown to over 8000 items, probably one of the greatest collections ever amassed by an individual. The collection is housed in a dedicated building in Pollok Park and has a world-wide reputation for its range and quality.
Earlier that year, on the 19th March, another ship owner, William McInnes, died at his home in Mariscat Road, Glasgow. In his will he bequeathed his collection, some 700 items including over 70 paintings, to Glasgow. Compared to Burrell, McInnes is much less well known to the Glasgow public, however his French paintings, which include works by Degas, Renoir, and Matisse are amongst the finest in the Glasgow Municipal collection.
Undoubtedly McInnes is, correctly, overshadowed by Burrell. The following however is an attempt to appropriately redress the balance between the two men. Whilst there can be no doubt that Burrell’s gift is and will remain unsurpassed, McInnes’s significant contribution to Glasgow’s cultural life deserves broader acknowledgement than it has received so far.
William McInnes’s paternal family originated in Crieff, Perthshire. His grandparents William and Janet married in 1825 [i] and had eleven children, not all of whom survived childhood. William’s father John was the oldest child, born in Crieff at the end of December 1825.[ii] Seven of the children were born in Crieff or Comrie, the others in Glasgow after the family moved there sometime between 1841 and 1851.[iii] Grandfather William, John and his brother Alexander were all working on the railways by 1851, William as a labourer, John as an engine man and Alexander as a fireman.
Ten years later the family home was at 6 Salisbury Street in the Gorbals where John and his siblings lived with their parents. The three men continued to work on the railways, William now being a timekeeper. John’s three sisters, Jessie, Jeanie and Mary were milliners.[iv]
In 1867 John McInnes married Margaret McFadyen from Neilston on 28th June. At the time of his marriage he was working as a railway engine driver.[v] They lived at 6 Cavendish Street where their four children were born: son William on 13th September 1868[vi], to be followed by Finlay (1870), Thomas (1872) and Ann (1876).[vii]
Tragically, at the early age of 33, Margaret, died of plithisis (tuberculosis) in 1879 [viii] which resulted in John and the four children, who were aged between 3 and 11 years, moving to 6 Salisbury Street to live with his brother Andrew and sisters Jessie and Mary; where Jessie acted as housekeeper and surrogate mother to the children.[ix] This manifestation of strong family ties working to bring some good out of a bad and difficult situation I’m sure had a lasting impression on William. His friendships, particularly with the artist George Leslie Hunter and his support of family members in later life, provide evidence of that.
It’s not clear where William received his schooling although one source has suggested that he attended Hutcheson Grammar at the same time as the author John Buchan.[x] Having talked to the administration staff at the school this has not been confirmed.
In 1882 John’s sister Mary married Gavin Shearer in Glasgow.[xi] Gavin aged 44 was an Insurance Broker working for the Glasgow Salvage Company Ltd.[xii] whose business was marine salvage. The marriage was childless and short lived as he died in 1887 from tuberculosis. At the time of his death he was secretary of the salvage company.[xiii]
William was aged 19 at this time and probably had been in employment for some time. Was Gavin Shearer his entrée to the world of insurance when he was old enough? Considering how the family stuck together and supported each other it’s not unreasonable to think that his uncle helped him to get work, especially in an industry where he would have some influence. This is clearly conjecture as it’s not known what employment, if any, he was in at the time of his uncle’s death, however by 1891 he was working as a marine insurance clerk for P.H.Dixon and Harrison.[xiv]
Four years later the company merged with Allan C. Gow to form Gow, Harrison and Company. Allan Carswell Gow had established his shipping company in the early 1850s. In 1853 he was joined in the business by his brother Leonard who on Allan’s death in 1859 became head of the firm. His younger son, also Leonard, in due course joined the business which by this time had offices in London as well as Glasgow.[xv] Senior partners in the new company which was located at 45 Renfield Street were the young Leonard Gow and John Robinson Harrison; McInnes continued to be employed as a marine insurance clerk.[xvi] In 1899 the Glasgow Ship Owners and Ship Brokers Benevolent Association was formed, which Gow, Harrison and McInnes joined in its inaugural year. Another well-known Glasgow shipping name also joined later that year, George Burrell of William Burrell and Son, brother to the future Sir William Burrell.[xvii] McInnes possibly became a partner in the business in 1907, the first year he appeared in the Glasgow Post Office Directory, however it’s more likely to have been 1922 when John Harrison retired from the business and his son Ion joined it. In 1929 William became godfather to Ion’s son Iain Vittorio Robinson Harrison.[xviii]
Between 1899 and 1907 William’s brothers and sister married. Thomas married Jessie McEwan in 1899 at the Grand Hotel, Glasgow, there were no children of the marriage; Finlay married Agnes Hamilton at 95 Renfield Street on 15th February 1907, they had one son who was born on 8th December of the same year; Ann married William Sinclair on 27th February 1907 at 22 Princes Street, which was where the McInnes family then stayed.[xix] Shortly afterwards Ann and William emigrated to the United States and settled in Maine where their three sons William (1908), John (1912) and Andrew (1916) were born.[xx]
William McInnes never married although according to one source he was close to it. Lord McFarlane of Bearsden relates the story that his wife’s aunt and McInnes planned to marry but her father forbade it because he ‘didn’t have enough siller’.[xxi]
McInnes moved to 4 Mariscat Road, Pollokshields in 1909 and lived there for the rest of his life with his elderly father and his uncle Andrew and aunt Mary.
It’s not clear when he started his collection, however it’s likely that his collecting activity would be prompted, certainly influenced by his relationship with Gow who became a renowned collector in his own right, particularly of paintings and Chinese porcelain. You can also envisage that Gow was the means by which McInnes met Alexander Reid and hence Leslie Hunter. What is known is that he bought his first painting, ‘Autumn’ by George Henry from Alexander Reid in 1910.[xxii] His final purchase was ‘The Star Ridge with the King’s Peak’ (near Gardanne) by Cezanne, in 1942, from Reid and Lefevre, London.[xxiii] This painting eventually came into his sister-in-law Jessie’s (widow of brother Thomas) possession.[xxiv] In between those purchases he bought a number of significant paintings ranging from French Impressionists to Scottish Colourists. He bought works by Degas, Renoir, Picasso, and Matiss [xxv] and was the first Scottish collector to buy a van Gogh, (The Blute Fin Windmill, Montmatre) bought in 1921 for £550.[xxvi]
He also purchased, glassware, ceramics and silver which in due course, along with his paintings, formed the basis of his eventual bequest to Glasgow.[xxvii]
In a Kelvingrove museum publication of 1987 the then Fine Art keeper Ann Donald commented as follows: ‘The most important individual 20th Century benefactor to date has been William McInnes (1868-1944), a Glasgow ship owner who left to his native city his entire collection of over 70 paintings as well as prints, drawings, silver, ceramics and glass. The bequest included 33 French works (many of them bought from Alexander Reid) by key artists such as Monet, Degas, Renoir, van Gogh, Cezanne and Picasso, whilst the British pictures were mostly by the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists, of whom he was a regular patron. This donation firmly established the international importance of Glasgow’s French collection.’[xxviii]
McInnes is described by those who knew him as a modest, unassuming individual who did not seek attention or the limelight.[xxix]and may have found these comments not particularly welcome, despite them being highly complimentary. McInnes valued his friendships and his family, which is evident from the support he gave, and his ability to listen to the advice he was given. He was able to take the artistic guidance given him by the likes of Leslie Hunter, Tom Honeyman and others, and act on it if he thought it appropriate to do so, which wasn’t always. He bought paintings it’s said not only for his own pleasure but for that of his friends.[xxx] He gave unstinting support to family and friends, particularly Leslie Hunter and his closest family members.
As stated earlier, William lived with his father, and aunt and uncle, for a number of years at Mariscot Road, incidentally where most of his paintings were housed. His father died in 1911, aged 85, cause of death being senile decay and pneumonia. His uncle Andrew, aged 81, died in April 1930 from senility and glycosuria (untreated diabetes); his aunt Mary, aged 83, also died in 1930 (August) from glycosuria. Both died at home.[xxxi]
These are very distressing and difficult conditions, not only for the sufferers, but for those who have to care for them. When it is considered that he had a senior position in a significant shipping business, that he was a member and leader of a number of industry organisations and also of the Ship Owners Benevolent Association, in addition to whatever he had to do at home, it’s clear that William had a strong sense of service and duty, perhaps inculcated by his early family experiences. It seems reasonable to presume he found this to be more intrinsically rewarding than anything else. When his support of Leslie Hunter is taken into account, then that presumption gains credence.
The artist must have seemed to McInnes to be a vulnerable, possibly unstable individual, whose life style could be fraught and chaotic at times. This must have resonated with McInnes’s home life in that here was another person who needed care and support. This may be more fanciful than factual, however there does seem to be this pattern to how William lived his life.
Hunter and McInnes met before 1914 and are known to have been in Paris pre WW One along with John Tattersall, the trip expenses, according to Hunter, being paid for by his two friends.[xxxii] There are examples of how Hunter was helped and encouraged by McInnes and others in Tom Honeyman’s biography of him.[xxxiii] The most tangible evidence of McInnes’s support is, I suppose, the fact that his collection contains 23 paintings by Hunter.[xxxiv] There was one occasion apparently when McInnes commissioned a portrait of himself because the artist needed the money.[xxxv] The friendship between the two men was not a one-way street however. McInnes was in many respects helped and guided by Hunter in his artistic education; however the better part of the bargain must have what McInnes gave to Hunter in encouragement, friendship, and in helping to sustain his motivation and confidence. McInnes has been described as Hunter’s most important patron; that is true in a way that goes well beyond the expected understanding of the phrase.
After Hunter’s death in 1931 [xxxvi] McInnes continued to promote him by persuading Tom Honeyman to write his biography of the artist[xxxvii] and along with Honeyman and William McNair, by organizing a memorial exhibition of his work, which was held in Reid and Lefevre’s gallery in West George Street during February 1932. Mrs Jessie McFarlane, the painter’s sister, asked the group to decide which paintings to keep and which to destroy.[xxxviii]
McInnes and Honeyman met around the time Honeyman gave up medicine and moved into art dealership, probably through Leslie Hunter. It developed into a well bonded relationship, not only when Hunter was a common link between them but also after his death. Probably Honeyman is the only person to have recorded in any detail McInnes’s personality and interests which he did in his autobiography ‘Art and Audacity’. He is described as having a keen interest in classical music in which he indulged through his gramophone records and pianola, and his attendance at the Scottish National Orchestra’s Saturday evening concerts. He is said to have played the church organ in his younger days. Art and learning about paintings and artists was also a primary interest. It’s perhaps a moot point as to which he preferred. He also enjoyed travelling to the continent, during which time visits to the various museums and galleries would further develop his knowledge of art, art styles and artists, particularly when in the company of Hunter. Honeyman describes visits to the McInnes home as always stimulating and interesting.[xxxix]
In many respects because of his interest in painting in particular, McInnes was fertile ground for Honeyman in his quest to interest industrialists of the day in fine art and bring them to the idea of donating to municipal collections. I don’t believe this was a ‘corruption’ of their friendship but a celebration of its strength and depth. Between 1921 and 1943 he donated works by Hunter, Peploe and Fergusson and in 1940 William presented Matisse’s ‘Woman in Oriental Dress’ to Kelvingrove to commemorate Honeyman’s appointment as Museum Director.[xl]
In 1931 McInnes was nominated for the vice-presidency of the Ship Owners Benevolent Association and was duly elected. The rules of the Association meant that he would become president in 1932. However at the last board meeting of the year it was agreed that ‘having regard to the very serious time through which the country was passing the directors felt that the president and vice president should carry on for another year, especially as the honour to Mr McInnes was only deferred.’ In 1933 McInnes duly became president.[xli]
It’s clear from the minutes of the meetings held during his tenure that he played a full and influential part in the decision making process of the Association.[xlii] On his retiral from the post he donated £100 to the association funds, equivalent to £5000 in today’s money.[xliii]
William McInnes died at home on 19th March 1944 from a heart attack.[xliv] He was senior partner in Gow, Harrison and Co. at the time of his death, taking over from Leonard Gow on his death in 1936. In his will he left in excess of 700 items, including 70 paintings, to Glasgow. His bequest was made free of any legacy duty or any other expenses, his only stipulation was that his paintings would go on show at Kelvingrove. The same day his bequest came before a special meeting of Glasgow Corporation’s committee on Art Galleries and Museums it was accepted with ‘high appreciation’ following a report on the collection by Tom Honeyman, the Director of Art Galleries.[xlv]
His obituary in the Glasgow Herald stated: ‘McInnes was a man of cultured taste, he was keenly interested in music and art. He had brought together in his home a collection of pictures which was notable for its quality and catholicity.’ It adds finally ‘He was an intimate friend and patron of the late Leslie Hunter with whom he made several visits to the continent.’[xlvi]
In a sense William’s contribution didn’t stop there. In 1951 his sister-in-law Jessie donated Cezanne’s ‘The Star Ridge with the Kings Peak’ to Kelvingrove.[xlvii] In 1985 a portrait of McInnes by Leslie Hunter was sold to Kelvingrove by his sister Ann’s son Andrew McInnes Sinclair of Massachusetts, USA. The painting was handed over in person by Andrew and his cousin John McInnes, the son of William’s brother Finlay, on 9th July.[xlviii] The portrait had been commissioned by William for his sister to take back to America following a visit to Scotland in 1930[xlix]
[i] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Crieff, Perthshire, 342/00. 1 May 1825. McINNES, William and McDONALD, Janet. GROS Data 342/00 0020 0113. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed June 2011.
[vii] Births. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 1 May 1870 McINNES, Finlay. GROS Data 644/09 0689. Births. Scotland. Tradeston, Glasgow City, 644/09. 2 June 1872 McINNES, Thomas GROS Data 644/09 0989.
Births. Scotland. Gorbals, Lanarkshire, 644/12. 22 October 1876, McINNES, Ann GROS Data 644/12 1367.
As most people know Sir William Burrell made a gift of his extensive collection to the City of Glasgow in 1944. What perhaps is lesser known is that for the previous eight years he tried to give it to ‘the Nation’ and have it sited in London. Part of that story is told in a series of letters held by the National Archives.
During 1935 Sir Eric Maclagan, director of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London visited Sir William Burrell at Hutton Castle. The object of the visit was to discuss Burrell’s proposed gift of his collection to the Nation. Subsequently on the 25th November of that year Burrell wrote to Sir Eric as he felt it necessary to clarify his intentions with respect to his collection. Essentially the letter contained a number of conditions that would have to be met. They included that the collection would be housed in London, it should be an entirely new museum and not be a part of any other, the Government should pay for the new museum’s upkeep, and that it should have its own staff headed by a director. Sir William also proposed to bequeath a large sum of money which would be used to buy additions to the collection. He finished by writing that if the collection was not accepted by the Nation (which meant agreeing to his conditions), he had made arrangements for it to go elsewhere.
As far as the letters in the National Archives are concerned that was that until 1942. On the 6th April Burrell wrote to the art and antique dealer Frank Partridge referring to a recent conversation they had. Partridge appears to have been used as an intermediary/negotiator between the government and Burrell as the letter refers to an enclosure which again contained the conditions attached to his gift, and a list of his collection’s locations which were generally in England. He asked Partridge to pass on this document to a Major Cazalet*, along with a photograph of Hutton Castle, so that he could have both on him when seeing “Mr. Eden or Mr. Churchill”. He added that he had spent £43,000 on the castle structure after he bought it.
The enclosure began by Burrell saying that he understood that the country was engaged in a life and death struggle and that the Prime Minister and the government were being overwhelmed with work and that his timing was inopportune. He added he had delayed for that reason for three years but was concerned that as he was now in his early eighties he would die before his gift had been accepted. He stated that he wanted the collection to stay in England and not to be sold off after his death, in particular to American museums.
As before he wanted the collection to be located in London as that would allow it to be seen by a larger numbers of visitors than it would be anywhere else. Whilst not mentioned, it is understood he still wished it to be housed in a new museum. He also indicated that he would bequeath the whole of his estate (the collection and everything else) to be managed by g0vernment trustees for the purchase of “fine things” for the collection. In an aside he stated that his daughter had already been provided for.
Finally he wanted to leave Hutton Castle and its 1,800 acres, with good partridge and pheasant shooting, as a holiday resort for Government Ministers.
At this time his collection was housed in various locations including the National Gallery, the Tate (300 pictures), the cathedrals of Salisbury, Ely, Winchester and Chichester, Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow, and various other museums in places such as Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Edinburgh and Birmingham.
On the 17th April a note (marked secret) was sent from the Treasury to C.H. Wakely, Inland Revenue Commissioner, requiring financial and taxation information to be established. The writer states that Sir Horace J. Wilson** of the Treasury believes the collection is valued at £1,000,000, he wants to understand the extent of Burrell’s wealth as shown by income producing assets, and the potential taxation and estate duty liabilities if any. He stated that certain artistic items would not attract estate duty, however was of the belief that there was no provision for relief from estate duty generally and that an estate valued at £1,000,000, liable for 60% would lose the Exchequer £600,000 and essentially that would mean they were paying for the bequest. Nonetheless Wakely, with others, was asked to determine the exact situation and identify the relevant estate duty provisions.
Sir Eric Maclagan wrote to Sir Horace Wilson on the 18th April referring to his meeting with Burrell in 1935. He indicated that he had advised Burrell that his conditions were likely to be costly due to the size of building required and its location in central London, and was unclear as to who was paying for it (hence Burrell’s letter of the 25th November 1935). He also was concerned about the number of staff required. Maclagan expressed the view to Burrell that he should consider linking any bequest to an existing museum, the Victoria and Albert say. As the letter of the 25th November indicates that was not acceptable.
Also on the 18th April an internal Treasury note (again marked secret) was sent to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Anderson, possibly from Sir John Henry Wood, Private Assistant Secretary to the Chancellor. In it the writer states that he had been given Burrell’s written proposal, as per the 6th April 1942, by Major Cazalet. He goes on to say that Cazalet (a friend and supporter of Churchill) believes the Prime Minister should write to Burrell accepting his offer. The writer of the note does not support that saying that there are complications and that he would investigate those. He also adds that he has consulted Sir Eric Maclagan, Sir Kenneth Clark (Director of the National Gallery and of ‘Civilisation’ fame)and Sir Alan Barlow (Treasury), who discussed the proposal with John Rothenstein (Director of the Tate Gallery). All of these individuals agreed that the collection included a number of fine objects but also had a considerable number of items that were not particularly noteworthy. In an attached handwritten note John Rothenstein is quoted as saying that of the paintings in the Tate, some are first rate but the majority are of a type and standard well represented in other London galleries and that they would be better off in provincial galleries. Building a museum which would house such paintings would be a waste of money.
The rest of the note repeats previous concerns about building costs and operating expenses, and taxation issues, and states that there is a general antipathy to the establishment of a separate museum or museums to house the collection. It concludes by saying that the Prime Minister should write to Burrell stating his appreciation of the offer but that some negotiation would be required to deal with points raised. The writer suggested Mr. R A Butler (Rab) should be the PM’s delegate in this matter.
On the 21st April C.H. Wakely wrote to Sir Horace Wilson detailing his answers to the questions raised in the Treasury note of the 17th April. He confirmed that pictures and other works of art that are bequeathed “for national purposes” are exempt from estate duty. He also confirmed that any monies bequeathed to establish and maintain an Art Gallery would not get estate duty relief. He added however that any gift made to the crown before death would be exempt. He also reiterated, as others had, that any exemption to estate duty made the Exchequer a ‘contributor’ to the purpose behind the exemption. A hand written comment on the letter stated that Burrell’s income producing assets were £600,000.
There followed three pages of detailed analysis of the treatment of death duties in a variety of circumstances.
In a letter of the 23rd April to Sir William the writer, having seen Burrell’s letter to Frank Partridge of the 6th April, offered to visit Hutton Castle to discuss what he described as “your magnificent offer”. He also said that if he would prefer to deal with a member of government then he would arrange it. This suggests the letter writer, whose address was given as The Dorchester, may have been Eric Maclagan or Kenneth Clark.
On the 11th May a note from the Inland Revenue to Sir Horace Wilson states that Hutton Castle and the estate are owned by the Hutton Estate Company Ltd. which was formed in 1921, practically all of the shares being held by Sir William.
Thereafter all is quiet until the 11th August when Sir Eric Maclagan writes to Sir Alan Barlow to say that he understood the Burrell affair had ended in silence. Barlow replies on the 13th August saying that no more has been heard about it and that the assumption is that the proposal is dead.
Well, not quite. On the 11th November Alan Barlow received a letter from A. R. Wood Comptroller of London County Council’s department of Subject and Policy in which he states that Burrell now appears to want to hand over his collection to the Council. Mr. Wood fundamentally repeats all the questions asked previously and seeks the Treasury’s view on tax and exemption. Sir Alan’s reply on the 12th was that if bequeathed to the council the collection would be free from death duties as would a gift if he died within twelve months. He also adds that for any associated endowment fund there is a prime facie case for assuming that fund income would not be taxed however a definitive answer would depend on the terms of the trust.
A. R. Wood responded to Barlow’s letter on the 24th November saying that the council had decided to accept a formal offer of the collection with the proviso that it did not entail an excessive charge on the rates. He also indicated that the Council would prefer that Sir William handed over his collection and greater part of his other estate to trustees and that after one year these trustees would offer the collection et al to London County Council. He also adds that if London did not accept it at this time the gift should be offered to other local authorities named in the Trust Deed so that it could be available for public view in one place or in several. He then goes on again to ask about death duties and other taxation, pretty much as before. He closes by saying that he hopes that contact will be made with Sir William through Sir Kenneth Clark.
On the 25th November Barlow wrote to the Chairman of the Inland Revenue Board Sir Cornelius Gregg stating the Burrell was now “coquetting” with London County Council. He refers to the letters sent to him by A.R. Wood on the 11th and 24th November and asks for advice on what to reply on the proposed Trust and its possible liabilities.
Gregg’s advice came on the 2nd December which was fundamentally no different from that given previously by other Treasury and Revenue personnel. The only additional point he made was that the Trust should not sin “against the rule against perpetuities”. He also adds, as others had, that the terms of the Trust need to be seen before finally deciding on the matter. Barlow in a letter to A.R. Wood on the 3rd December passed on all that Gregg’s letter contained.
The last entries in the Archives documents states the following: Undated but has to be circa December 1942 into early 1943 – ” No further developments, no obituary, no index reference. 11th November 1943 – as above. 9th February 1944 – as above.”
Archive References: T273/52 CS96662 and IR62/2054 C619691.
What came next was that on the 24th January 1944 a special meeting of Glasgow Corporation’s Art Galleries committee was convened to consider Sir William’s proposed gift/bequest of his collection to Glasgow. On the 2nd of February the same committee recommended that the Corporation should accept the offer. By the 18th April 1944 it was all done and dusted, with the completion of the Memorandum of Agreement.
Page 396 – 24th January 1944, Page 460 – 2nd February 1944, Page 816 – 18th April 1944.
Why did Burrell change his mind? He clearly wanted his collection to be regarded as, at least, of European importance, hence his desire to have it housed in London and in a specifically created museum. Time was clearly pressing for him because of his age and that may have created significant impatience with the whole London/taxation process. He was a difficult man to deal with anyway, his frustration would add to that, especially if he felt thwarted, he was a man who liked to get his own way by all accounts. The key issue seems to have been Glasgow’s willingness to be liable for all taxation/duty although the expectation was there would be none. The Corporation also became liable for all insurance, storage, and other expenses connected with the collection, from the date of the gift.
* Major Victor Alexander Cazalet was Conservative MP for Chippenham. Prior to WWII he had supported Winston Churchill against the appeasement of Germany. During the war he became the liasion between the War Office and the leader of the Polish Government in Exile General Sikorski. They were both killed, along with thirteen others, on the 4th July 1943 when their aircraft crashed taking off from Gibralter. He was a great friend of the parents of film actress Elizabeth Taylor and was her godfather. http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/fallen-alumni/colonel-victor-alexander-cazalet
** Sir Horace John Wilson was a civil servant who supported the Chamberlain government’s appeasement policy before the war, becoming a significant confidant of the prime minister. He was appointed permanent secretary to the Treasury and head of the civil service in 1939. When Churchill became prime minister he was banned from Number Ten because of appeasement and was eventually forced to retire in August 1942, having made enemies of Churchill and also Clement Attlee, because of his influence in rejecting the Labour party’s economic (Keynesian) policies of the late 1920s. http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/31844?docPos=1
What makes a successful and prosperous ship owner, also an assiduous and knowledgeable collector of art, become a Glasgow Corporation councillor? Is it a sense of civic duty, to give something back as it were? Is it to gain a different kind of influence, or to pursue a political view or philosophy? Or did it ‘just happen’?
Following his death in March 1958 the collector in question, Sir William Burrell, was quoted in an article in the Glasgow Herald by the then Lord Provost of Glasgow Andrew Hood as saying “I sold all my ships so I could become a councillor with the aim of helping to solve Glasgow’s slum housing problem”.[i]
He clearly became a councillor; being elected in 1899, however did he have a political objective and did he sell his ships to achieve it? Additionally by what process did he become a candidate in the municipal elections? Did he have any particular political viewpoint? Who or what influenced him politically?
The answers to these questions lie within the period 1897 to 1899 during which time all the events which resulted in Burrell becoming a councillor, occurred.
In 1899 two seemingly unconnected events happened, one planned, the other unforeseen, which, in combination, set the scene for Sir William Burrell (then plain mister) becoming a Glasgow Corporation councillor.
The last few years of the 19th century saw significant demand for ships coupled with high shipping rates. In keeping with their previous practise of buying ships when the industry was depressed and selling them in boom periods, Burrell and Son sold their entire fleet, some 25 vessels, between 1897 and 1899 most of which had been built between 1892 and 1894, when shipbuilding was in a slump. This was the second occasion they had sold their fleet in this manner and there was to be a third subsequent to the end of the Great War.[ii]
In a letter to his friend R.S. Dods dated 3rd January 1902 the architect Sir Robert Lorimer (who at that time was heavily involved with Burrell’s furnishing of his house in Devonshire Gardens) tells of Burrell explaining his company’s business tactic of buying and selling ships. Lorimer describes it as the nimblest he’s ever struck and quotes Burrell as saying he puts the money into 3% stock and “lies back until things are absolutely in the gutter” at which point he starts to buy new ships at rock bottom prices. Burrell described it to him as “making money like slate stones”. He also told him that he expected to be buying ships again in 1904,[iii] in the event it was 1905.[iv]
The sole purpose of the manoeuvre was to make money, and lots of it. Nothing wrong with that of course but there was clearly no intent to sell his ships for any other reason, it was purely a business imperative. That being so it’s difficult to accept he had any political objective in mind when he did so. Perhaps he came to that later.
The company continued to function as shipping agents and insurance brokers in the following few years and to charter ships whenever they secured cargo. Nonetheless compared to earlier years the company’s activities were clearly much reduced.[v]
Burrell continued to add to his collection, which already included paintings, tapestries, sculptures and ceramics, with more funds and at least initially, with more free time to do so.[vi]
The Municipal elections in 1899 were to be held on Tuesday 7th November. At that time there were 25 wards in the city and by the 1st October all the candidates for each ward had been identified and declared. Burrell’s name was not amongst them.
One of the candidates was Robert Murdoch, head of Robert Murdoch and Co., Iron and Steel Merchants, who was also one of three sitting members for Ward 10 (Exchange). He was the retiring member for 1899 and was standing again, unopposed for re-election.
Unfortunately for Mr. Murdoch, who had been a councillor for 10 years, on the 15th October he died suddenly at home, aged 75 thereby creating a vacancy in the ward.[vii]
Exchange ward was at the heart of the city and was the centre of the city’s business and commercial activity. It took in George Square, the City Chambers, Bank of Scotland, Clydesdale Bank, the GPO, the Custom House, and at No.54 George Square, the Burrell and Son offices. In 1895 the city assessor James Henry in accordance with the City of Glasgow Act 1891 (Divisional Administration) presented a report proposing a rearrangement of the 25 municipal wards, primarily to ensure that any given ward in its entirety was in a single parliamentary constituency. After a period of debate the issue was finally settled in April 1896. Exchange ward boundaries were established to the north as Bath Street and Cathedral Street, its southern boundary was Clyde Street, and it was bounded east and west by Stockwell Street/Glassford Street/John Street and Jamaica Street/Mitchell Street/ West Nile Street respectively, all contained within the Central Parliamentary Division.[viii] Its electoral roll was 2087 and it had a rental valuation of £450,190, the smallest roll and highest rental (by a significant margin) of any of the city wards. [ix]
The ward contained some of the most influential and powerful people in the city and it would be expected that its representatives on the council would come from that community. In due course that’s what happened when Richard Hubbard Hunter was persuaded to come forward to fill the vacancy caused by Murdoch’s death.[x][xi] He was a wealthy business man who was the managing director and chairman of Hunter, Barr & Company, a company which had been started by his father in 1843. They were wholesale warehousemen dealing in textiles and had branches in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Belfast, Leeds and Newcastle.
He was a man of strong religious conviction and had a background of philanthropic works and had, among other charitable activities, joined with William Quarrier in setting up the orphan’s home at Bridge of Weir. He also established the Sailors Orphan Society of Scotland, which continues to provide assistance to the children of seamen to this day.[xii][xiii]
At the Exchange Ward committee[xiv] annual meeting held on 25th October in the Lesser Trades Hall in Glassford Street, following accounts of Corporation business given by the other sitting councillors of the ward (Robert Graham and Thomas Watson), Hunter addressed the meeting saying he was concerned about the amount of money the city was borrowing, that he would not follow any particular party line but would use his judgement to determine matters in council. As reported in the Glasgow Herald it was a fairly brief statement. He was unanimously adopted as a ‘fit and proper person to represent the ward’.[xv]
Usually (but not always) that would have been that and Hunter would have been elected to the council without opposition.
However, that was not to be. On the 30th October the Glasgow Herald carried a short notice which said that on the preceding Saturday (28th) William Burrell had been ‘waited upon by a deputation from the electors of the Exchange Ward’ requesting him to put himself forward as a candidate for the ward vacancy. His answer was expected later that day.[xvi]
Who these electors were is not stated. Were they ward committee members despite the unanimous vote recorded for Hunter, or were they associates of Burrell (business or otherwise) who felt he would better represent their interests rather than the philanthropic Hunter?
At any rate Burrell gave his answer in the affirmative.[xvii] With one week to go to the election Burrell is now a candidate. Clearly not a pre-planned event unless he foresaw the unfortunate Mr. Murdoch’s demise!
Burrell’s decision to stand as a candidate in the election did not pass without response. Two letters to the Herald written on the 31st October and published on the 1st November gave divergent views on the situation. One was clearly in support of Burrell, the writer stating that he was glad there was to be a contest, that Burrell was Glasgow born and bred (Hunter was born in Inverkip) and that Burrell was a safe and competent individual to deal with ‘schemes’ which are ‘crowding’ on to the Town Council. The letter writer was not identified.[xviii]
The other, from ‘a large ratepayer’, basically criticised Burrell for creating a contest especially when he and Hunter were essentially saying the same thing, that Hunter was a larger ratepayer than Burrell, and had been endorsed by the Ward committee and a subsequent public meeting of electors. He encouraged voters to show their disapproval of Burrell’s candidature by voting for Hunter.[xix]
The election however did not go Hunter’s way with Burrell gaining 911 votes to his 522, thereby being duly elected to be the third member for the Exchange ward.[xx]
Why did he win? He was a latecomer to the contest and had no obvious political background. Was Hunter too much of a philanthropist for his fellow business ratepayers liking, was it local man versus outsider, bearing in mind that Hunter was born in Inverkip? Was there another reason?
If there was, it was probably related to Sir Samuel Chisholm and his politics. Chisholm was one of two candidates for Lord Provost that year (he was duly elected at the first meeting of the new council) and was a radical Liberal.[xxi] Thomas Gray, who was the Town Treasurer, spoke at Hunter’s pre-election meeting in the Merchant’s House on 2nd November suggesting the contest was not between Hunter or Burrell but which of the two would be more aligned to the politics of Chisholm. He felt Chisholm was being unfairly treated because of views being expressed that his appointment “would result in unnecessary and wasteful expenditure and that as he was an abstainer the city’s hospitality would suffer”.[xxii]
One individual in particular, to whom I’ll return to later, vigorously promoted these views over a number of years. Gray clearly was of the opinion that Hunter, perhaps because of his philanthropic activity, was more in tune with Chisholm than Burrell would be. The day before the election the Herald carried a notice from the Progressive Union, combining Christian, Philanthropic and Temperance agencies, supporting Hunter.[xxiii]
What were Burrell’s politics and influences then? His background would indicate he would at least lean towards the Conservative party. He was an extremely wealthy individual, was a successful business man, already had an extensive collection of artwork, and lived in Glasgow’s West End at 4 Devonshire Gardens with his mother and sisters Mary and Isabella.[xxiv] Additionally, his father William senior was described in his obituary in the Herald in 1885 as “a keen Conservative and active in a minor way in local politics in Bowling and Old Kilpatrick.”[xxv] It’s difficult therefore to see him having any contrary political views.
Another, perhaps more significant, influence was probably his brother in law Charles John Cleland who had married Burrell’s younger sister Janet Houston Burrell on 14th June 1888.[xxvi] Cleland worked for his father’s stationers company and in 1891 he was elected as one of three councillors for Glasgow Ward 25 (Maryhill). He had a deep interest in politics and was Vice Chairman of the Glasgow Conservative Association in 1909. He was also a member of the Conservative Clubs in the city.[xxvii]
In 1907 he was honoured with membership of the Royal Victorian Order (M.R.V.O.)[xxviii] and in 1917 was invested as a Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire. (K.B.E.).[xxix] At one time he was also Deputy Lieutenant for the County of the City of Glasgow. He remained a councillor for Maryhill until 1907 when he retired from public office. However he stood for the Exchange Ward in 1929 and was duly elected subsequently becoming sub convener of the new Education Committee. He finally retired from politics in 1934.[xxx]
Cleland had three daughters, one of whom, Jessie Muriel Cleland, married Sir Richard Dawson Bates in 1920.[xxxi] He was an Ulster Unionist politician who was in the forefront of opposition to Irish Home Rule prior to the First World War and subsequently.[xxxii]
Cleland had significant influence as a politician and it’s probable that when Burrell was approached to stand as a candidate that he would seek advice from his brother in law and be guided by him, maybe even encouraged by him to stand.
One other influence on Burrell may have been the views of fellow business man and collector Arthur Kay. He was a director of Arthur and Co. whose offices were located at 78 Queen Street, approximately 350 yards from Burrell’s offices. He was also the individual referred to earlier who had a deep aversion to Samuel Chisholm and all he stood for.
Kay had much in common with Burrell in terms of collecting and had a similar approach in that he would rather trust dealers than academics when it came to seeking advice. Like Burrell he had started collecting early in life and was wary about alerting potential rivals to his interest in a particular item. It’s probable therefore they were acquaintances possibly even friends through their interest in art and their business activities. They would certainly mix in the same business circles and be aware of each other’s collecting activity and preferences,[xxxiii] an example of which is; around 1900 Kay bought Manet’s Un Cafe Place du Theatre Francais, which was eventually purchased by Burrell.[xxxiv] In 1907 they were founding members of the Provand’s Lordship Society in Glasgow. They therefore had a lot in common in business and art, and as I’ll show, their approach to civic governance.
Kay was the second largest ratepayer in Glasgow, after the railway companies and was vigorously against what he called Municipal Trading such as running tram systems, municipal telephone services, housing and so on, the sort of activities Glasgow’s citizens in due course readily accepted as municipal services. He also had concerns about the financing arrangements of the Council and the burden, actual and potential, it put on business ratepayers.[xxxv] He specifically was against the Housing Scheme proposed by Sir Samuel Chisholm which was in response to the Housing of Working Classes Act 1890, the scheme proposing a municipal solution to the problem.[xxxvi]
In general Kay was against the encroachment of the council into activities that he felt were the province of business, that the cost of doing this was being placed on the business ratepayers in particular, and that the debt caused by the council’s financial arrangements (stock issues) would ultimately default to the ratepayer. He was the founder of the Glasgow Ratepayers Federation and a member of the Citizen’s Union, both organisations being against Municipal Trading and all that it implied. He wrote pamphlets on the subject, delivered speeches to various bodies including the Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, and on June 25 1903 gave evidence to a parliamentary committee during which he stated he is fundamentally against Municipal Trading and that ‘it is the opinion of a great many ratepayers – if all these undertakings are on the rates, a day will come when our representatives are not so reliable as they are at present – they may be socialists.’[xxxvii]
There is no evidence to suggest Burrell was a member of any of these organisations and there is no doubt most ratepayers (or council tax payers today) would support a reduction in their rates burden. However when Burrell spoke at his pre-election meeting at the Merchant’s House on the 1st November his ‘manifesto’ was very much in line with the essence and some of the specifics of Kay’s views.
Amongst those present at this meeting were Burrell’s brother George and his brother in law Bailie Charles Cleland. He opened by saying he ‘came before the electors neither as a stranger or an outsider’.
The key elements of his address dealt with Corporation finance as follows: expenditure, greatly increased in recent years due to municipalisation of the city, now time to call a halt as capital expenditure exceeded reserves; ratepayer burden generally increasing; flotation of stock to raise capital inefficient and excessive; Corporation would be better off paying attention to savings on large items rather than getting involved in ‘crotchets and fads’ such as the municipalisation of bread and milk, and the manufacture of policeman’s helmets; was against the Free Libraries Act as it would increase the rate burden on businesses in the city, from which they would get no benefit, (this at a time when Andrew Carnegie was building free libraries all over the world, including Glasgow); the Building Regulations Act imposed several unnecessary and oppressive restrictions on the erection of business premises and that some of the Act’s clauses should be eliminated and others amended.
A Mr. John Wilson asked Burrell why he had decided to stand for election without going to the Ward Committee either publically or privately. Burrell stated he had been pressed to do so and having agreed he would not turn back. A vote of confidence in Burrell was then proposed and seconded which was carried. Wilson had put forward an amendment to the motion saying there was nothing to suggest that Burrell would be better than Hunter, however it was not seconded.[xxxviii]
It may be that Burrell came to these views by himself, however what is not in doubt is that his comment that he had become a councillor to help solve Glasgow’s slum housing problem is not borne out by the facts.
He sold his ships for business reasons, no other. His candidature was pure happenstance. There was nothing in his ‘manifesto’ to demonstrate he wanted to help solve Glasgow’s slum housing problem. In fact he allied himself to the views of an individual (Kay) who was specifically against improving working class housing through municipal action.
There is one further question to be pondered, how effective was he as a councillor?
In the Herald article of 1958 Andrew Hood further quotes Burrell who told him that “after seven years as a member of the corporation I became so disappointed over my inability to realise my ambition.”[xxxix]
As ever with Sir William Burrell, there is probably more to it than that.
[xiv] In 1896 the Lord Provost of Glasgow Sir James Bell defined ward committees as voluntary bodies, the special functions of which were to deal with candidates for office and in a minor degree, with the elected and sitting representatives. They would also nominate or recommend a candidate for municipal elections which in practical terms would be a strong endorsement of the candidate to the electorate. Scottish Archive Network Ward Committees 1860 – 1974 Person code NA 18958 http://220.127.116.11/catalogue/person.aspx?code=NA18958&st=1&tc=y&tl=n&tn=y&tp=y&k=ward+committees&ko=a&r=GB243&ro=s&: accessed December 2013.
[xxvi] Marriages. Scotland. Old Kilpatrick, Dumbarton. 501/00. 14 June 1888. CLELAND, Charles John and BURRELL, Janet Houston. GROS Data 501/00 0036. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk: accessed September 2012.
[xxxi] The Peerage, person page13507. ‘Jessie Muriel Cleland was the daughter of Sir Charles John Cleland. She married Sir Richard Dawson Bates, 1st Bt., son of Richard Dawson Bates and Mary Dill on 8 April 1920. She died on 31 October 1972.’http://www.thepeerage.com/p13507.htm: accessed October 2013.