Jessie Henderson Hay

In 1947, the portrait of Adam Carter Hay was offered to Glasgow museums by the lawyer acting for Jesse Henderson Hay on the instructions of her late husband that the painting should be given to Glasgow museums to hang in the People’s Palace (1). The painting was a portrait by Maurice Greiffenhaggen of Adam C Hay painted on the occasion of his retirement from R and J Dick.

Figure1. Adam C Hay by Maurice Greiffenhagen. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Jessie Henderson Smith was born to John Smith and Agnes Marion Smith née Ferrier on the 12 November 1893 in Cardross. (2) Her father was a headmaster and her parents had been married in Kirkliston. (3) Little is known of her early life and education and she first appears in the 1901 Census (4) visiting Newington with her mother and older sister. She was the second wife of Adam Carter Hay and their marriage certificate (5) of 12 March 1926 describes her as a private nurse. Her husband died on the 13 September 1936. (6) She is next found travelling to Montréal in 1937. (7) When and where she died is not known.

Adam Carter Hay has been described in the Bailie as the archetypal example of “rags to riches”. (8) He was born on 16 May 1861 to William Hay, harbour labourer, and his wife Margaret Campbell living in Clyde Street, Glasgow. (9) He was with the Dick Company for 47 years starting as an office boy, then becoming a labourer proceeding to foreman and finally retiring as managing director. The Bailie has described him as being” an outstanding personality controlling a great business who retained the affection and loyalty of all grades of his employees”.(10) They attribute this to his knowledge of the business from A to Z. He was also a well-known figure in the business and social life of Glasgow; a member of Trades House and a Mason and a member of the other charitable organisations. Particularly as President of the Bridgeton Burns Club he was the moving spirit in raising £1150 for the Erskine House Hospital for Disabled Sailors and Soldiers in October 1917.

To understand the working life of Adam Hay one must describe the firm set up by the Dick Brothers. This is very fully chronicled in “100 years of Gutta-percha, R and J Dick Ltd” by Aird and Coghill Ltd Glasgow. (11) R and J Dick were from Kilmarnock. (12) They moved with their parents to Glasgow at an early age and John was apprenticed to an upholsterer and Robert to a jeweller but it was the coming of gutta-percha which made their fortune. Gutta-percha was rubber from Singapore. They made rubber soled shoes – 34,000 per week at the height of production – in the Greenhead works on Glasgow Green. In the 1840s, adequate insulation was needed for the transatlantic cables and gutta-percha proved ideal for this. They worked successfully with William Thompson, Lord Kelvin, on developing these cables.

Figure 2. © Glasgow Life and Museums.

The next opportunity came with the increase in the number of manufacturing industries  and the need for transmission belts in factories. In the 19th century power transmission was achieved solely by leather belting but this was not entirely satisfactory. In 1885 Robert Drake produced a driving belt made from rubber. Gutta percha was not suitable for this because it was too soft but a vegetable gum known as balata was found in South America. Thus the balata belt industry was born and became global.

Adam Hay (13) was recognised as an expert in belting and he superintended important installations in many of the great factories on the continent notably in France, Spain and Germany. He also took a leading part in the establishment and opening up of the Passaic factory, New Jersey.

On the death of James Dick, in 1902, the business was left to a number of his old employees, among whom was Mr Adam Hay. He resigned in 1920 but on the death of the then managing director, he was reappointed and remained in post until his death.

He married twice. His first wife with whom he had four daughters was Ellen Todd(14) and after her death he married Jessie Henderson Smith in 1926.(15) He died on the 13th September, 1936.(16) The date of death of Jessie Hay is not known.

References

  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 17th May 1947
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Births 1893
  3. National Records of Scotland Census 1901
  4. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Marriages 1926
  5. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1936
  6. Ancestry.co.uk   Passenger Lists 1937
  7. The Bailie. Men you know.2444. August 20th 1919
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Births 1861
  9. Wikipaedia Gutta-percha
  10. The Bailie. Men you know.2444. August 20th 1919
  11. 100 years of Gutta-Percha. http://www.electricscotland/history/articles/dicks
  12. The Bailie. Men you know.2444. August 20th 1919
  13. 100 years of Gutta-Percha. http://www.electricscotland/history/articles/dicks
  14. Ancestry.co.uk
  15. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Marriages 1926
  16. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1936

 

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