Matthew Dickie was born on the 6th April 1873 at 15, Naburn Street, Hutchesontown, Glasgow. (1) His father was John Kennedy Dickie, a mason builder born in Kilmarnock in 1844, who founded the building firm of “John Dickie and Son” in 1880. (2) His mother was Janet Ramsay. Matthew was the elder son in a family of four girls and two boys. At the time of the 1881 Census the family was still living at 15, Naburn Street with Matthew, aged 8, described as a “scholar”. (3) It is not recorded where he attended school, however, it seems that about this time he began accompanying his father to work thus learning the essentials of the building trade from an early age. He later completed his apprenticeship as a stone mason and by the time he was twenty one he was managing the firm with his father. In the 1890s, the firm was based in Greenside Street, Glasgow. (4)
John Kennedy Dickie died on the 7th May 1897 and the “assets and liabilities” of the firm were passed on to Matthew and his mother Janet. (5) The business, now under the name of John K. Dickie and Son, was based at 20, South Coburg Street, Glasgow (6) and continued to flourish under Matthew`s leadership. He was living with his mother at “Largs Villa”, Myrtle Park, Crosshill. However, on the 4th of August 1900, Matthew Dickie married Mary Hutchison the daughter of a master joiner in Lesmahagow. (7) and they moved to a house at 1132 Cathcart Road. (8) The following year their daughter Nettie Duff Ramsay Dickie was born and a son, John Kennedy Dickie, arrived in 1903. (9) By 1905, the family had moved to “The Priory”, King`s Park Avenue, Cathcart. (10) A second son, Matthew, was born in 1908. (11)
In 1909 the firm moved its premises to King`s Park Road, Mt. Florida and in the following year the family moved house, this time to Chartley Lodge in Cathcart. (12) According to the 1911 Census (13) this was a large house with at least fourteen rooms, it may have been about this time that Matthew started to amass his collection of art (or perhaps the house was purchased to display his already extensive collection). He had been to Holland in 1909 visiting the major cities and may have acquired pictures there. He bought paintings sometimes through dealers and at other times from junk and second hand shops. According to his grandson, he had an excellent eye for works of art and a favourite ploy if he spotted something interesting among a group of paintings was to pretend that he was only interested in the frames and the glass and to offer a price for the whole lot which was invariably accepted.
It seems that from his visits to Europe he got a sense of how things were progressing there and, realising that war was probably inevitable, he took the decision to emigrate to the U.S.A. This necessitated the sale of Chartley Lodge and ultimately of his art collection. At this time he also sold Eastwood House and estate to John (later Lord) Weir. In 1913 he sailed to the USA aboard the “Mauretania” and visited Chicago, Los Angeles and California where he tried his hand at gold prospecting and successfully unearthed some nuggets which he brought back to Scotland. This may have been a trip to ascertain the “lie-of-the-land” because in the following year on 17th July, Matthew, now aged 41, and his wife Mary arrived in New York having sailed from Liverpool aboard the “Aquitania”. (14) They travelled all over America and Canada visiting Sacramento, California, Vancouver and Montreal and sailed on the St. Lawrence River. They returned to Scotland but Matthew arrived back in New York, via Liverpool, on 24th April 1916 aboard the “St. Louis” having left Mary at home at 11, Royal Crescent, Queen`s Park. (15)
During this visit, he seems to have decided to try his hand at farming and employed a land agent to find a suitable property. Meantime he returned to Scotland to collect the family and on 18th September 1916 they all arrived in New York aboard the “Tuscania” which had sailed from Glasgow. (16) With Matthew were Mary, daughter Nettie aged 15 and sons John aged 12 and Matthew aged 8. They settled on a farm in Virginia, called “Deanwood” which Matthew had bought and the family lived there till about 1919. With the help of William Sheriff and a foreman who had travelled out from Scotland with them he was determined to make the farm productive and applied all his energies to that aim. (William Sheriff was a young engineer employed by the firm who remained with John Dickie and Son into the 1950s).
Meanwhile, back in Glasgow, on 5th October 1916, the bulk of his art collection was sold at auction by J. and R. Edmiston. Matthew`s address was listed in the catalogue as “late of Chartley Lodge, Cathcart”. (17) The star item in the sale was “Homewards at Dawn, Loch Fyne” which was painted in 1883 by William MacTaggart. It was bought for 1100 guineas by Alexander Reid. The picture was probably acquired by Matthew from the Ramsay Collection in 1909. Other items in the sale included pictures by Sir Henry Raeburn R.A., Sir Joshua Reynolds, P.R.A., George Henry, A.R.A., R.S.A., Sir James Guthrie, Fantin Latour, B.J. Blommers as well as paintings by J. Lawton Wingate, Muirhead Bone and S.J. Peploe. The Glasgow Herald in announcing the sale reported that “The pictures to be sold include not merely one or two of importance, but several of absolutely outstanding character”. (18) The sale realised a sum of about £39,000.
In 1919 Matthew was approached by a prospective buyer who offered twice the sum he had paid for Deanwood; an offer that Matthew couldn’t refuse! With the profit, he bought “Cornwell”, a mansion in Virginia dating from 1731, with 200 acres of land around it. He renamed this “Parklands”. However, the family did not live there for long. Within eighteen months, and with Mary becoming increasingly homesick, he reluctantly sold “Cornwell” (Parklands) and the family moved back to Scotland. “Cornwell” was one of the “Historic Houses of Virginia” which featured in a book published in 2003. (19) Two years later, Matthew again set sail from Glasgow bound for New York, this time accompanied by his son John. Part of the reason for this trip would have been to visit his son Matthew who was still at school in Virginia. They arrived in New York aboard the “Cameronia” on 30th June 1921 with their final destination Vienna, Washington, D.C. Their home in Glasgow was now at 71, Broomhill Road, Newlands. (20) They returned to Glasgow but on 18th of June the following year, Matthew arrived alone in New York having sailed from Glasgow aboard the “Columbia”. Mary was at home in “Underwood”, Giffnock, Glasgow. (21)
In 1930 Matthew purchased Eaglesham House together with ‘its gardens, cottages, lodge houses and farmland of 250 acres’ from the trustees of Captain Angus Cecil Gilmour. Planning consent was obtained to develop the estate with a country club, golf course and surrounding housing built in a village form including a school, shops etc. (22)
Eaglesham House was requisitioned in 1940 by the War Department (Scottish Command) and occupied until 1946. Then planning consent was changed to make part of the Eaglesham estate ‘green belt’. This, together with the cost of death duties, persuaded Dickie’s Trustees to sell the house and estate to the Polnoon Estate Company. One of those involved in this purchase was the Hon. J.K. Weir, son of the Lord Weir who had purchased Eastwood House. (23)
1931 saw the death of George Leslie Hunter the artist who had been a good friend of Matthew`s. Matthew had helped Hunter financially and, at the time when Hunter`s work had fallen out of favour with collectors, Tom Honeyman wrote that “Among the older friends and patrons who still believed at this time that Hunter was by no means a spent force I can only recollect McInnes, McNair, Harrison and Dickie”; and later “The Bon-Bon was the pretentious title of a very ordinary tea room in the Central Station (which was) the meeting place for the morning coffee of McInnes, McNair, Hunter and myself. Occasionally we would be joined by Willie Gordon, who was on the staff of the Evening News; Ion Harrison, Matthew Dickie, Sam Warnock, R.C. Roy were among others who would more infrequently, join in discussions …..”. (24)
Matthew owned several of Hunter’s work including one of his wife Mary. In 1941 he lent a “Still Life” by Hunter to be shown at the RGI Exhibition of that year. (25) He also owned “Fan and Fruits” which, when it came up for sale much later, was described as “one of the most dramatic Leslie Hunters ever to be on offer in recent years”. (26) Another of his paintings, “Boats in the Harbour, Cassis” by Hunter was sold at Christies in 1998 for £3,105
On the 29th October 1933, Matthew, now aged 60, Mary and their son Matthew arrived in New York aboard the “Caledonia” having left Glasgow on the 19th of October. (27) Perhaps the intention was to try to settle in the U.S.A. because they repurchased “Cornwell”. However, it was not to be and they sold up within two years and returned to Glasgow. In 1935, he purchased around 30 acres of land on the Castlemilk Estate on the outskirts of Glasgow. He proposed to erect 230 houses and 10 shops on the ground. The plans were finalised in February 1937 and preparations were made to start the work. However, Glasgow Corporation had plans to develop the estate for community housing and set a Compulsory Purchase Order on Dickie’s holding. After an inquiry in 1937, the lands and mansion of Castlemilk were finally bought by Glasgow Corporation. (28)
Matthew Dickie died on 22nd January 1944 at the Southern General Hospital, Glasgow. He had gone to visit one of his foremen in the hospital and collapsed and died from a cerebral haemorrhage. (29) His home at the time was at 74, Ormonde Avenue. Matthew was buried in Cathcart Cemetery, Glasgow. (30) According to his grandson, he left an estate worth well over £150,000 but this was severely reduced by death duties. The published value of his estate was £8,112:8:10 (31)
Matthew Dickie was an avid art collector. He owned several Peploes, a Raeburn and J.D. Fergusson`s “Lady with the Hat” now in Kelvingrove. He was a friend of Dr. Tom Honeyman who is reputed to have said that “Matthew Dickie taught me everything I know about art……. and I mean everything”. It was probably due to Honeyman that he donated “Lady in Red Hat” to Glasgow. He seemed to excel at most things he did including fishing and was an excellent artist himself. He was very musical as were two of his sisters who became opera singers. A third sister taught music at the Atheneum in Glasgow.
(I am very grateful to Matthew K. Dickie, grandson of the donor, for informative discussion and for allowing me access to family records and photographs).
1. Scotland`s People.
2. (The firm later became “Dickie Homes”). http://www.s1homes.com/newhomes/developer/dickie_homes/4107.shtml
3. Ancestry.com (Census Data)
4. Glasgow Post Office Directories.
5. The Edinburgh Gazette, 8th October 1897.
6. Glasgow Post Office Directories.
7. Scotland`s People.
8. Glasgow Post Office Directories.
9. Scotland`s People.
10. Glasgow Post Office Directories.
11. Ancestry.com (Census Data)New York, Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957.
12. Glasgow Post Office Directories.
13. Ancestry.com (Census Data)
14. Ancestry.com; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957.
17. Glasgow Herald, 30th September 1916
18. Glasgow Herald, 6th October 1916, page 9.
19. “The Land at Cornwell Farm” by Jean Tibbetts. Copy General, 102 – 9, Executive Drive, Sterling, VA 20166. (Copyright – “The Great Falls Historical Society”, PO Box 56, Great Falls, Virginia 22066).
20. Ancestry.com; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957.
24. “Introducing Leslie Hunter, T.J. Honeyman, Faber and Faber Ltd., 1937.(Also published in “Hunter Revisited”, Bill Smith and Jill Marriner, Atelier Publishing, 2012)
25. The Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, 1861-1989: A Dictionary of Exhibitors at the Annual Exhibitions, Roger Billcliffe, (Woodend Press, 1990).
26. Glasgow Herald.
27. Ancestry.com; New York, Passenger Lists, 1820 – 1957.
28. Glasgow Herald, 6th November 1937, p7; also Carmunnock Heritage Trail Booklet – Glasgow City Council.
29. Scotland`s People.
30. Glasgow Herald, 24th January, 1944, p1.
31. Confirmations and Inventories, 1944. National Records of Scotland, CAL/1944/A, pp 236