George Dickson(1829 -1917)

In August 1918, the Trustees of the late Mr George Dickson presented a painting called Falls of the Dochart, Killin by Sir Alfred East (1844–1913) as a memorial to Mr George Dickson. [1]

Figure 1. Falls of Dochart, Killin. Alfred East (1844-1913). © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (www.artuk.org)

The above painting that was presented to Kelvingrove Gallery, on behalf of our donor, was painted by Alfred East who was born in 1844 in Kettering and died in 1913, four years before our donor George Dickson’s death. By a strange coincidence Alfred East’s family as well as our donor’s family were both in the shoe business. A letter received from a research assistant in the Alfred East Gallery, Kettering, (http://www.kettering.gov.uk) at our request, gave some information regarding Alfred East. In the following lines this information is summarised.

After the death of his father, Charles East, in 1876, Alfred East became a junior partner in the business, with his nephews, Walter and Fred East. In Glasgow, he attended his first evening classes at the Government School of Art. In 1880, he resigned from the family business and with his savings and a part-time job in a bank, he was able to attend the Glasgow School of Art. How long he spent there is unclear, but by 1882 he was in Paris studying at the École des Beaux Arts and, later, the Académie Julién. He painted A Dewy Morning (a Barbizon landscape) in 1882, which was his first work to be exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1883.

It transpired that Alfred East managed his family’s firm’s warehouse and appears to have been the firm’s representative for sales and distribution in Scotland as well as in the north of England. In around 1874, he was sent to Glasgow by his family’s shoe business. It is possible that Alfred East and George Dickson might have met in Glasgow and perhaps the painting that was given to Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum was then bought by George Dickson from Alfred East. But the research assistant mentioned in his letter that he could not find any notes or indicators in the records that such an encounter had ever taken place.

Our donor, George Dickson, was born on 18 October 1829, in Glasgow. His father was James Dickson and mother was Janet Dickson (née Janet MS Nimmo). He was baptised

on 22 November 1829 in the Gorbals district of the city. When he was 10 years old, his family lived in Saltmarket Street, Glasgow.  His father, James Dickson, was a currier, a craftsman who curries leather for shoe making and any other articles such as gloves. [2]

It may be appropriate at this juncture to mention that the Incorporation of Cordiners is one of the fourteen ancient crafts which comprise the Trades House of Glasgow founded in 1605. It has its meetings in the historic Trades Hall designed by Robert Adam in 1791. The Incorporation of Cordiners in Glasgow has been supporting aspiration in the leather trade for nearly five-hundred years, certainly long before it received its Deed of Cause in 1558. [3]

There is not much information available about our donor’s early education, but it is known that there was quite an emphasis on education in Scotland during the nineteenth century. Scotland has long enjoyed an international reputation as historically one of the best-educated countries in the world. The foundation for this reputation was laid in the seventeenth century and was the result of the Calvinist emphasis on reading the Bible. Putting men and women in touch with the word of God was seen by the Scottish authorities and clergy as of paramount importance. To achieve this goal, schools paid for by the Church of Scotland and local landowners were established in all rural parishes and burghs by an Act of Parliament in 1696.

These educational establishments were run by the Church and were open to all boys and girls regardless of their social status. The democratic nature of the Scottish system had so impressed the eighteenth-century writer Daniel Defoe that he remarked while England was a land ‘full of ignorance’, in Scotland the ‘poorest people have their children taught and instructed’. The openness of the Scottish system ran all the way from the schoolroom to the university. A talented working-class boy the ‘lad o’pairts’ (a clever or talented fellow) through intelligence and hard work and by utilising a generous system of bursaries was able to gain a university education, something largely unthinkable in England in the eighteenth century. [4]

Therefore, we can assume that there had been a good education available to George Dickson as he was growing up. He had married Annie Buchanan on 20 February 1857 in Glasgow. [5] The I871 Census shows that, they had 5 children by that date. They were James (13), George B. (11), Robert (8), Oliver (6) and Jessie Ann (2). [6]

Also, in the censuses available during his lifetime, we see that he lived at several different addresses. The address given in the 1871 Census indicates that Dickson and his family lived at 2 Abercromby Terrace. Glasgow. In the 1881 and 1891 censuses, his home address is given as 15 North Claremont Street, Glasgow, then it changed to 8 Sandyford Place, Glasgow where he stayed until his death in October 1917. [7] His death was recorded in the Deaths column of the Glasgow Herald of 13 October 1917. [8]

His death certificate indicates that, he was a boot and shoe merchant, though the certificate could not be traced.  As his father before him was a currier, it appears that he had followed his father’s footsteps into the shoe business. There are also recordings in the censuses during his lifetime that he had been a boot and shoe merchant. His premises were in 449 Argyle Street in Glasgow, which was later extended to include 451 Argyle Street, Glasgow. Furthermore, after his death, when his son Oliver Dickson was in charge, the company was extended further to have many branches throughout Glasgow.[9]

It is interesting to note that our donor lived after the Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815) and during the time when Wellington boots were becoming fashionable in Great Britain. To see how the name of Wellington Boots came into being, the following story can be read online at the following reference. [10]

Acknowledgement

Help of the Archive staff of Mitchell Library, Glasgow and also the Trades House Glasgow is greatly appreciated.

References

[1] Data given by the Gallery Staff.

[2] Family History

https://www.ancestry.co.uk

[3] The Incorporation of Cordiners in Glasgow

https://www.cordiners-glasgow.com/

[4] Scottish Education in the nineteenth Century,

[5] Marriage Certificate,  https://www.ancestry.co.uk

[6] ibid. 1871 census.

[7] ibid. Death Certificate, 11 October 1917,

https://www.ancestry.co.uk

[8] The Glasgow Herald, Deaths Column, 13 October 1917,

[9] Scottish Post Office Directories, https://digital.nls.uk/directories/browse/archive/84702144?mode=transcription

[10] Wellington Boots,

https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/walmer-castle-and-gardens/history-and-stories/invention-wellington-boot/

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