Archibald Walker Finlayson J.P.

Archibald Walker Finlayson was a linen thread manufacturer whose company had factories in Johnstone, Renfrewshire and in the USA.

He was born in October 1849 (1) the oldest child of James Finlayson and his wife Rachel nee Watson. At that time they were living in Paisley. His father was a linen thread manufacturer, one of the first to introduce the spinning of flax mechanically.

  (2 ) In 1844, James and his brother Charles and C.H, Bousefield had established a business manufacturing linen thread which continued in production up to 1958 and formed part of the Linen Thread Company Ltd. The factory became a major employer in Johnstone. So Archibald was born into a successful family business.

Merchiston House
Figure 1. Merchiston House. From Canmore.

 His education is not known. At the age of 21years, (3 ) he is living with his parents and brothers and sisters in the family home , Merchiston, Johnstone, Renfrewshire , an impressive turreted building which required 7 servants to run (4). Later this house was to become part of the estate of the Western Regional Hospital Board as Merchiston Hospital.(5 )

In 1847 at the age of 25 years, he wrote to the Glasgow Herald (6 ) as one of the shareholders in what became known as the The Blochairn Share Scandal-effectively a “bubble”- which had promised impossibly high returns and which lost many small shareholders money. The subject was taken up by the Glasgow Herald in an article published the next day.(7 ) 

02 Mr Archibald Finlayson no 113
Figure 2 Archibald Walker Finlayson The Bailie  © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries

 The Bailie, discovering that he was the son of James Finlayson, a former M.P. and Deputy Lieutenant of Renfrewshire, were fulsome in his praise and promised a bright political future.(8)

 Archibald joined the family firm and was sent to America in 1880 to establish a linen thread mill in Massachusetts. He travelled to and from America on occasions. Eventually the firm became part of The Linen Thread Company, Ltd. (9)

He married Elizabeth MacAndrew. In 1891 his home address was Spring Grove, Kilbarchan. (10 ) He lived there until 1903 when his father died. (11) He then moved back to Merchiston. (12 )

 He was not able to become an MP but contented himself with representing West Renfrewshire on the County Council, was a JP and gave the Provost’s chain to Paisley. There is a death notice and an obituary in the local paper (13) on his death in November 1916. (14)

Halswelle, Keeley, 1832-1891; Sir Toby Belch and the Clown
Figure 3. Sir Toby Belch and the Clown  by  Keeley  Halsewell   © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

He gave two paintings to Glasgow Museums. In the Object file for the 1903 donation (15), there is a letter from him with information about Sir Toby Belch and the Clown , by Keeley Halsewell.    It was painted in 1862 at which time it cost £40, was shown at the Paisley Arts Institute Exhibition in 1896(16) then bought by Archibald Finlayson in 1901.

Figure 4 September, Glen Falloch by A Brownlie Docherty© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

The other painting, September, Glen Falloch by A. Brownlie Docherty was exhibited at the Glasgow Institute and at the St Louis National Institute in 1904. (17) It was bought by Finlayson in 1907 and donated to Glasgow City Council. (18)


  1. National Records of Scotland      Statutory Births  OPR 18492.
  2. Calder, John.  Finlayson, James. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2014.
  3. National Records of Scotland. Census 1871
  4. Photographs of houses in Renfrewshire. Renfrew Archive
  5. Canmore images
  6. The Glasgow Herald 9 November 1874 page 4
  7. The Glasgow Herald 10 November 10 1874 page 9
  8. The Bailie 1874 vol 5 pp 113-1149.
  9. Calder, John.  Finlayson, James. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2014.
  10. National Records of Scotland      Census 1891
  11. National Records of Scotland      Statutory Deaths
  12. National Records of Scotland      Census 1891
  13. Paisley and Renfrew Gazette 18 November, 1916
  14. Ancestry
  15. Glasgow Museums Archive
  16. Catalogue of Paisley Fine arts exhibitions, Paisley Archive.
  17. The Glasgow Herald 13 November  1940 A. Brownlie Docherty   Obituary          
  18. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 1907.

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