Sir Thomas Mason D.L. J.P. 1844-1924

In September, 1902, Sir Thomas Mason gave an oil painting entitled The Fifth of November by John Burr A.R.W.S. to GlasgowMuseums. (1)

Burr, John, 1831-1893; The Fifth of November
Figure 1. Burr, John; The Fifth of November. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.
001
Figure 2. The Bailie  © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries The Mitchell Library Special Collections

Thomas Mason was a successful Glasgow businessman and was prominent in many civic activities in Glasgow. (2)

He was born in Airdrie in October 1844 the son of John Mason, a builder, and his wife Marion. (3)   He was   educated at a private school, Anderson’s College in Carlton Place, Glasgow. (4)  After leaving school he was apprenticed to a mason in Paisley. (5) This was the time of the expansion of the railway system and for six years he worked as a contractor in railway construction. In 1867 he joined the firm of James Brand and was responsible for the construction of the Ayr viaduct. (6 ) In 1871 he was living in Ochiltree , Ayrshire and employing 20 Masons and 12 labourers. (7 )

In 1876 he joined the firm of John Morrison in Glasgow as the junior partner and the firm became Messers Morrison and Mason in 1879. (8 )  This was a very successful partnership which continued up to Morrison’s death in 1917. In 1876 Morrison was completing a number of contracts for Glasgow including the Merchants’ House, the Stock Exchange and the General Post Office. (9)

Mason’s experience with public works extended the firm’s involvement into major railway works in the West of Scotland including the Paisley Canal line, the first section of the Glasgow Cathcart Circle and also into England for Carlisle station. (10)

They gained contracts for major waterworks including the Mugdock tunnel for Glasgow (1886),  the Thirlemere Reservoir (1887)  and the aqueduct for Manchester . Nearer home they constructed  tunnels and the reservoir at Craigmaddie. (11) They continued their specialisation. In England they built reservoirs for Birmingham and Keighly.  On the Clyde they extended the Fairfield dock and built Yarrow’s dock at Scotstoun. Their largest contract was in 1907 at  the Portsmouth  Naval Dockyard for the lock gates and a graving dock for Dreadnoughts. (12 )

clyde navigation trust (2)
Figure 3. The Clyde Navigation Trust © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries. The Mitchell Library Special Collections

Further construction projects included the offices of the Clyde Navigation Trust for which the architects were J J Burnett and the municipal buildings on George Square for the main offices of the corporation. (13 ) They also built the forerunner of the Citizens’ Theatre –Her Majesty’s Theatre –in the Gorbals. In Glasgow they extended the Royal  Maternity Hospital in Rottenrow and built the fever hospital at Ruchill. The firm also built bridges over the Clyde, the Rutherglen Bridge and the Glasgow Bridge. (14)

untitled
Figure 5. Glasgow City Chambers © Malcolm Beckwith.

Nor did they neglect their own accommodation. Morrison  built a  flamboyant mansion in Pollokshields, Rhuadsgeir,  now Sherbrooke Castle hotel , in 1896.  (15 )

craigie hall, canmore
Figure 4. Craigie Hall   Canmore Collection 163406

Down the road in Bellahouston, Mason bought Craigie Hall on the death of its owner John Maclean (16 ) and it was extended by the architects Honeyman and Keppie and the interior decoration is attributed  to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, especially a much admired casement for an organ.

Public Life

He was a member of the Incorporation of Masons in Trades House and served as Deacon Convener of the House in 1889. (17)  In 1891 he was elected to serve as Councillor for the city’s eighth ward. (19) Then in 1906 he was Lord Dean of Guild, leader of the

thomas mason
Figure 6. The Bailie  © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries
The Mitchell Library Special Collections

Merchants’ House. (18) He was therefore at different times both the second citizen of Glasgow and the third citizen of Glasgow, the first citizen being, of course, the Lord Provost. He later served as Chairman of the Clyde Navigation Trust for eleven years and was credited with promoting schemes which improved navigation on the Clyde such as the building of the Princes Dock and of the Rothesay dock at Clydebank. (20)

He was knighted in 1908 in recognition of his public service.(21)

Private Life

drumbreck priory
Figure 7. Dumbreck Priory Canmore Collection 163406

He was first married to Jean Paton (22 ) in Ochiltree and they had two children. She died in 1875. (23 ) He later married Charlotte Wyllie. When he came to Glasgow he lived in Bellahouston, first in Dumbreck Priory (24 ) (25), and then in Craigie Hall. He and Charlotte had seven children. (26)  He is described in the Bailie as  “one of the kindest and least assuming of men……………his tact and kindliness are only two of his many qualities.”  (27 )

In addition to his many interests, he maintained a small racing stable and he was often to be seen at the horse races in Ayr. (28)

He died in 1924 and there is a very full obituary in the Glasgow Herald. (29)

References

  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council September 1902
  2. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven, A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  3. National Records of Scotland. Old Parish Records. Baptisms 1844
  4. The Bailie The Man You Know October 8th 1890. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  5. Ancestry.co.uk Scotland census 1861
  6. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven A.A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen. Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  7. National Records of Scotland Census 1871
  8. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven, A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  9. Ibid
  10. The Bailie The Man You Know November 9th 1906. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  11. Pollokshields Heritage Trust. http://www.pollokshieldsheritage.org
  12. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven, A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  13. Ibid
  14. Ibid
  15. Pollokshields Heritage Trust. http://www.pollokshieldsheritage.org
  16. www.craigiehall.co.uk
  17. The Bailie The Man You Know 8 October  1890. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  18. The Bailie The Man You Know 9  November  1906. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  19. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven, A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  20. Ibid
  21. Ibid
  22. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Marriages 1871
  23. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1875
  24. Pollokshields Heritage Trust.       www.pollokshieldsheritage.org
  25. http://www.canmore.org.uk
  26. National Records of Scotland Census 1891
  27. The Bailie The Man You Know 9 November  1906. The Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
  28. Nicholas J. Morgan “Sir Thomas Mason” in Slaven, A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press,1986. Pp 158-160
  29. The Glasgow Herald  25 April 1924

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