John Douglas Campbell White M.D. (1871 – 1940)

Dr. John Douglas Campbell White was heir to his uncle, Lord Overtoun. He donated four paintings to Glasgow Museums in 1935. (1)

Figure 1. The Tryst by  Sir John Noel Paton RSA © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

J D C White was born at Hayfield House, Rutherglen on 18 August 1871, to John Orr White and Fanny Campbell White (2) who were second cousins and came from a family of industrialists. The family moved to London. His father died on 22 January1879 (3) but his mother continued to live in London. (4) He was educated at Charterhouse School where he did well. (5) He then attended Trinity College Cambridge and in his five years there he was awarded a BA First Class in the Classical Tripos (1894) and also in the Theological Tripos (1896). He proceeded to an MA in 1899. (6) He went to the London Hospital where he was a House Physician and qualified MRCS and LRCP. (7) In 1905 Cambridge awarded him an MD. (8) He did not go into medical practice but joined the Lister Institute to undertake research. This was made possible in 1908 because he was his uncle Lord Overtoun’s heir and on his death inherited his estate in Dunbartonshire. (9)

Figure 2. Loch Ericht by Henry John Boddington © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

 His research was mainly into the social aspects of venereal disease and he was a member of the British Social Hygiene Council. (10) In the following years he published and lectured quite widely. In the First World War he was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. (11) In 1922 he was sent by the army to Constantinople to conduct an anti-venereal disease campaign. (12) From 1923 he was Chairman of the Council of the Tavistock Clinic. (13)He was a committed Christian and continued to take an interest in religious affairs. He had been ordained a Deacon in the Church of St Peters in Eaton Square, London in 1898. (14)  He was Chairman of the Council of the Modern Churchmen’s Union from 1923 to 1930.  (15)

Figure 3. Dog in the manger by Walter Hunt © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

In 1898 he married Lucy Agnes McClure (16) and they had a son. He died at Harrow-on the-Hill on 25 March 1940. (17) His life is summed up in the BMJ obituary: ‘Circumstances made it possible for him to do unpaid jobs; training made him competent to look on sociological problems from both ethical and physiological viewpoints.’ (18)

Figure 4. Where’s my Good Little Girl   by  Thomas Faed RA © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Paintings donated to Glasgow Museums:

Oil. Thomas Faed RA. Where’s my Good Little Girl

Oil. Henry John Boddington.  Loch Ericht

Oil. Walter Hunt. Dog in the manger

Oil. Sir John Noel Paton RSA. The Tryst

The Family Inheritance

The White family members were industrialists and chemical manufacturers in the west of Scotland. They combined business acumen with strong religious beliefs and a commitment to civic service. (19) The family had come out at the Disruption in the Church of Scotland and clung to the ethics of the Free Church.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, brothers James and John White established a factory to make soda and soap in Shawfield, Rutherglen near Glasgow. By 1830 they were producing potassium dichromate, used as a mordant for the dye industry. By 1850 the site covered 200 acres and employed 500 men. It was a very successful business, a near monopoly, because of the large textile factories within Glasgow and Paisley. (20) James was well known in business and for philanthropy and his statue now stands in Cathedral Square, Glasgow. (21)

Their sons, John Orr White, son of James and John Campbell White, son of John, carried on the business but it was John Campbell White who became best known. (22) He studied at Glasgow University, graduating MA and studied law before entering the business. (23) Over the years he left others to run the business and devoted himself to philanthropy and religious causes and gave much time and money to charity. He was a powerful figure in the Liberal Party and became Baron Overtoun in 1893. He developed his estate in Dumbarton at Overtoun which he had inherited from his father.

The chrome business was successful but it was a dirty business. Little heed was paid to the well-being of workers or to the disposal of toxic waste. In 1899, the workers went on strike and their cause was taken up by Keir Hardie. This became a cause célèbre with much criticism of Lord Overtoun and can be followed in the Scotsman. (24) (25 ) (26 )(27) Opinions are divided about how much Lord Overtoun was involved.   Eventually a compromise was reached and the workers returned to work with improved conditions of employment but the legacy of chrome persisted in ill health and environmental damage.

In 1903 Lord Overtoun gave public parks to Dumbarton and to Rutherglen, both called Overtoun Park. For this he was made a Freeman of Dumbarton (28) in 1903 and of Rutherglen in 1905. (29)

In 1908 Lord Overtoun died childless and the estate and his art collection passed to his nephew. (30)  Dr John Campbell Douglas White also inherited a religious belief and a sense of duty to society.

 In 1935 the estate was given to Dumbarton by Dr White and some paintings were given to Glasgow and Dumbarton. (31)

  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 1935
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1877
  3. Ancestry .co.uk
  4. Census England and Wales 1880
  5. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  6. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1908
  10. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  11. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  12. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  13. ibid
  14. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  15. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  16. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  17. Ancestry.co.uk
  18. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  19. Ritchie, Lionel Alexander. ‘John Campbell White, Lord Overtoun’ in Slaven, A              A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen. Aberdeen University Press,1986. Page 293
  20. ibid
  21. Memoirs and Portraits of 100 Glasgow Men
  22. Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909
  23. ibid
  24. The Bailie. The Man you Know June 1889
  25. The Scotsman 29 June 1899
  26. The Scotsman 5 July 1899
  27. The Scotsman 5 August 1899
  28. Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909
  29. ibid
  30. Wills and Probate. London, England
  31. Personal communication Dumbarton Librarian


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