Alexander Blair Clements (1884-1966)

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

Figure 2 Hunter, George Leslie; The Red Jacket. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)

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

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

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

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

Figure 3 Alexander Blair Clements.

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

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

Figure 4 Biographical notes written by Alexander Blair Clements

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

Figure 5 Shanghai Prize

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

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

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

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

Margaret was the daughter of Robert Harvey (1853 – 1921)[15] and Margaret Adair (1852 – 1931)[16] both originally born in Scotland and married there in 1884.[17] Margaret was born in Shelby Springs, Birmingham, Alabama on the 2nd August 1890.[18] She may have been born there due to her grandfather Thomas Harvey being a ship’s master. It’s possible that her parents sailed with Robert’s father hence her birth place.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Figure 9 Glasgow Art Club Membership 1941.

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

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

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

Figure 11 Notes on the step by Eben Clements.

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

Figure 12 Painting by Alexander Blair Clements

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

Figure 13 Caledonian Philatelic      Society President 1956.

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

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

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

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

Figure 14 Tom Honeyman Evaluation 1969

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

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

 

[1] Glasgow University Archives Services. Records of Scottish Machine Tool Corporation. GB 248 UGD 175/1 http://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk

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

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

[4] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 15 April 1928. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/18 0182.  http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

[5] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 26 July 1919. CLEMENTS, Jeanie Ramsay. 644/18 0305. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

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

[7] Births (CR) Scotland. Kinning Park, Lanark. 10 June 1878. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/14 0637. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

[8] Census. 1881. Scotland. Govan, Glasgow. 644/14 012/00 0271. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

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

[10] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

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

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

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

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

Collection: New South Wales, Australia, Unassisted Immigrant Passenger Lists, 1826-1922. http://ancestry.co.uk

[15] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Aberfoyle, Perth. HARVEY, Robert. 21 August 1921. 325/00 0010. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

[16] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 7 March 1931. HARVEY, Margaret. 644/18 0110. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

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

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

[19] Ibid

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid

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

[23] Deaths. Australia. Yass, New South Wales. 1914. WEIR, Jane Kirkland. Registration Number 3109/1914. https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search/result?3

[24] Census 1881 Scotland. Cathcart, Renfrew. 560/ 6/14. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk:

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

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

https://familyhistory.bdm.nsw.gov.au/lifelink/familyhistory/search/result?7

[26] I have not been able to identify an acceptable source for this death. It comes from an Ancestry family tree. http://ancestry.co.uk

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

[28] Burness Genealogy and Family History. Person pages 99, 145, and 2431. https://www.burness.ca/

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

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

Collection: UK Incoming Passenger Lists 1878-1960. http://ancestry.co.uk

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

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

https://archive.org/stream/postofficean191314glas#page/170/mode/2up

[33] Births. (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 14 March 1913. CLEMENTS, Margaret Jean. 644/18 180. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

[34] Births. (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 1918. CLEMENTS, Eben Harvey. 644/18 332. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

[35] Directories Scotland. (1916-1917). Post Office annual Glasgow Directory: Clements. p. 166. https://archive.org/stream/postofficean191617glas#page/166/mode/2up

[36] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Pollokshields, Glasgow. 15 April 1928. CLEMENTS, Ebenezer Wyse. 644/18 0182.  http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

[37] 1947 left SMTC

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

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

[40] Canadian Intellectual Property Office. Lathe Driver Device. No CA423996. 21 November 1944. Scottish Machine Tool Corporation, Alexander Blair Clements. http://www.ic.gc.ca/opic-cipo/cpd/eng/search/number.html

[41] Glasgow University Archives Services. Records of Scottish Machine Tool Corporation. GB 248 UGD 175/1 http://archiveshub.jisc.ac.uk

[42] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[43] Glasgow Art Club Archives.

[44] Ibid

[45] Ibid

[46] Ibid

[47] Ibid

[48] STAMPS

[49] Deaths (CR) Scotland. Glasgow. 20 April 1966. CLEMENTS, Alexander, Blair. 644/4 397 http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

[50] Deaths (CR) Glasgow. 21 October 1980. CLEMENTS, Margaret Fraser. 617/00 0779. http://www.scotlandspeople.gov.uk

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

[52] Mrs. Jane Pelosi

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

[54] Mrs. Jane Pelosi.

[55] Ibid.

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