Mrs C.R.Ashbee 1877-1961

In 1947, Mrs C.R.Ashbee donated a painting of her mother-in-law Mrs H.S.Ashbee to Glasgow museums. (1) The painting was by E. A .Walton, one of the Glasgow Boys.


mrs H S Ashbee
Figure 1. Mrs H S Ashbee by E A Walton c CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

Janet Elizabeth Forbes(2) was born on the 28 December 1877 in Sevenoaks, Kent, to Francis A. Forbes, a cultivated stockbroker and his wife, Jessie Carrick, who was of Scottish descent but had been brought up in Saint Petersburg, Russia.(3)  She was educated at home by a governess, Miss  Stoy (4 ) and she studied English literature, geography, basic Latin and languages . At the age of 15 she and Miss Stoy spent a year in Germany and the next year they spent  months in Paris. She began to keep commonplace books and diaries, a practice which she continued for some years. These with many letters are now in the Ashbee family archives and are a source for the remarkable biography written by her daughter, Felicity  Ashbee.(5) At the age of 19, on 8 September 1898(6), she married Charles Robert Ashbee, a leading light in the Arts and Crafts movement.

Since her life thereafter was linked to his, it is reasonable to discuss Charles Robert Ashbee. He was born in 1863(7) to Henry Spencer Ashbee, a rich and successful businessman and exporter, and to his wife Elizabeth Jenny Lavy, daughter of a rich merchant from Hamburg. He was educated at Winchester College and at King’s College Cambridge(8) where he read History. It is said that his father disapproved and wished him to join the family firm, Charles Lavy and Company, however with the support of his mother he went to Cambridge. His father cut him off with £1000.(9) His father had a collection of erotica(10) which he eventually gave to the British Library. It forms the major part of its collection in the “Private Case”.

While at Cambridge, Charles met Edmund Carpenter, a founding member of the Fellowship of the New Life which extolled the virtues of the simple life, manual labour and friendship. He also came under the influence of William Morris. He decided to become an architect and (11) he lived in the East End of London at Whitechapel in

Figure 2. C R Ashbee by William Strang Wikipaedia Commons Public Domain

Toynbee Hall. There he founded Ashbee’s Guild of Handicraft. The Guild had the support of Burne-Jones, Holman Hunt and Alma Tadema to name but a few. It was a decidedly masculine society and put much faith in comradeship and craftsmanship. He lived at 37 Cheyne Walk with his mother and two unmarried sisters in a house which he had designed after his parents separated in 1893.(12 ) .  E.A. Walton was a neighbour at 73 Cheyne Walk.(13)

In 1898 at the age of 35, he married Janet Forbes who was then in 19 years old.(14) His life style had been that of a homosexual but there is a touching letter (15 ) to Janet in which he asked her to be his “ comrade wife” They lived in 74 Cheyne Walk in a house which he had designed and which was paid for by Janet’s father.(16 ) She was assimilated into the Guild and took part in the fellowship and  out door life that they enjoyed. (17) For example they sailed the river Wye and camped by its banks. In 1901 they travelled to America for a lecture tour with Charles’ mother, whom they called “The Little Mother”, covering  the  east coast ofAmerica, Washington and New York, and Chicago. They met, among others Frank Lloyd Wright. (18)

Janet became a strong and resourceful woman who took responsibility for the domestic arrangements and the many moves during her married life.

Charles Ashbee continued to promote the Guild and in 1902 it moved to Chipping Camden though he retained his office in Cheyne Walk. Number 74 was rented for a time to Rex Whistler.(19)

In Chipping Camden, there were living areas, workshops and a library and museum. All kinds of crafts were there, preferably hand worked: metalwork, jewellery, woodwork, cabinetmaking and painting. In addition to his architect practice, Charles designed silver ware and metal works which can be found in museums (20) among them the Victoria and Albert in London and the Court Barn Museum in Chipping Camden. Some are in private collections and they still come up for auction from time to time. Many young artists were attracted to work there and Mrs Ashbee became the “mother figure” although she was near to their age. She was the link with the people in Chipping Camden.(21)

After 13 years of marriage, her first daughter was born. In all she and Charles had four daughters(22) and caring for them became her fulfilment. She wrote one novel which was never published but her literary output is in her letters and diaries. She spoke French and German and had “ a facility for languages “. (23 )

The Guild was very sociable and enjoyed lectures and entertainments. It attracted many notable people (24) including Beatrice and Sidney Webb, William De Morgan, A.E.Housman, John Masefield and Lloyd Wright. The Guild eventually overextended itself and was disbanded in 1907, though it was reconstituted in 1908 but never really revived. The First World War ended the dream.

In 1915, Charles went on another lecture tour in America. In 1917, he sailed to Cairo to teach English at a training College (25). In 1918, he was appointed Civic Adviser to the British Mandate in Palestine, overseeing building works and protection of religious sites (26). He and his family lived in Jerusalem from 1918 to 1923.He published the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Society in 1924.(27) On returning to Britain, the couple moved to his wife’s family home in Sevenoaks .He died in Seven Oaks on2 May 1942.(28) Janet died in Lancaster in June 1961.(29)



  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 1947
  2. Church of England Births and Baptisms 1813-1917
  3. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  4. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002. p5,7.
  5. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002. p5,7.
  6. England and Wales Civil Registration Marriage Index.
  7. Church of England Births and Baptisms 1813-1917
  8. Cambridge University Alumni 1261-1900
  9. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  10. The Observer.9th February 2019. Kate Williams .What I saw in the British Library’s Dirty Book Section.
  11. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  12. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002
  13. Letter on fie in Archives of Glasgow Museums from Alan Crawford
  14. England and Wales Civil Registration Marriage Index.
  15. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002
  16. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  17. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002.p98
  18. Ibid p57
  19. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981.p77
  20. The Art Fund
  21. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  23. Felicity Ashbee :Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002
  24. Fiona MacCarthy: The Simple Life: C.R.Ashbee in the Cotswolds. London, Lund Humphries, 1981
  25. Felicity Ashbee: Janet Ashbee. Love , Marriage and the Arts and Crafts Movement.Syracuse University Press.2002
  26. ibid
  27. C R Ashbee .Jerusalem 1918-1920: Being the Records of the Pro-Jerusalem Council during the Period of British Military Administration. London ,John Murray.1924
  28. England and Wales Civic registration Death Index 1916-2007
  29. England and Wales Civic registration Death Index 1916-2007

Alexander Macphail M.D.Glas., F.R.F.P.S

In June, 1927, Dr Alexander Macphail gave Iona, White Sands of Iona, by George Huston, to Glasgow museums. (1)

© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Alexander Macphail was born on 31 August 1872 to Janet Macphail nee Merry and her husband Dougal Macphail(2). They lived at 185 Hill Street, Garnet Hill, Glasgow. He was educated at Garnet Hill School, Partick Academy and Hamilton Crescent in Glasgow (3).After his father died, in 1887, he lived with his older brother Donald, a general Practitioner ,and his young family in Coatbridge.(4) In 1890, he matriculated in the medical faculty at Glasgow University and graduated (with high commendation) four years later. While still a student he edited the Glasgow University magazine ((GUM). He was a member of the Kelvin Jubilee students committee.(5)

Shortly after graduating, he took a post as surgeon on the s.s.Clan Mackenzie, sailing between the ports of Columbia and Suez. On the ship he encountered a case of confluent smallpox in a Lascar seaman. He wrote this up in the Lancet (6).

His first appointment was a demonstrator in the Anatomy Department at Glasgow University, a post he held until 1900. In 1900, he became Dean of the St Mungo’s Medical School, based at the Glasgow Royal infirmary in the east end of the city, a post he held until 1907. (7)

In 1907, London and Anatomy beckoned and he took up a post as lecturer in Anatomy at Charing Cross Hospital and King’s College, London. In 1912 he moved to St Bartholomew’s as lecturer in Anatomy a post he held until 1922.(8) During the First World War, he was a Captain in the RA MC attached to the ninth Battalion Highland Light Infantry .(9) In 1922, he proceeded MD at Glasgow University. His thesis was entitled “Historical and other notes on the Administration of the Anatomy Act “and is in the Glasgow University library. (10)

Dr Macphail. British Medical Journal 10 Septmber 1938. RCPS Glasgow. (Elliot and Fry)

In 1922, he was appointed HM Inspector of Anatomy for England and Wales (11) and a medical officer in the Department of Health.y The obituary in the British Medical Journal gives full acknowledgement of the manner in which he undertook the task. After the scandals of the early 1800s, the Anatomy Act of 1832 undertook the provision of bodies for dissection in medical schools. After World War I, the arrangements for obtaining such subjects had broken down and medical schools were facing a difficult situation. The Ministry of Health asked the Boards of Guardians for their cooperation in allowing unclaimed bodies of inmates in institutions to be released as subjects for dissection. (12) Tact and diplomacy were required and Dr Macphail exhibited both; an extra obituary in the Lancet (13) talked of” that rare combination of refinement and gentleness with moral courage and on occasion righteous indignation” which he showed. Prof FG Parsons told in the British Medical Journal(13) of Dr Macphail’s wish that his own body go to Oxford to be dissected. “Macphail felt that until an anatomist had himself been dissected, we should have no answer to the demagogues who accused us of cutting up the friendless poor”. Thus did he practice what he preached.

During his working life he served Anatomy in many roles. He was Chairman of the Board of Studies in Human Anatomy, University of London: Secretary and Vice President of the Anatomical Society of Great Britain and Ireland (15). He published in the Journal of Anatomy.

His recreations are listed as painting and music. He was a water colourist and exhibited at the Ministry of Health exhibitions (16). In 1934, (16) he was appointed Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy in London (the first Professor of Anatomy at the Royal Academy was William Hunter, another Glasgow man).(17) This involved giving 10 lectures a year to students in October and November. This was an appointment of which he was very proud.

Dr Macphail’s life reflects his upbringing so it is pertinent that his father was a native of Mull and a well-known Gaelic bard. The choice of painting to donate to Glasgow museums must have been influenced by his family origins.


  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council June 1927
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1872
  3. Who Was Who 1929-1940
  4. National Records of Scotland Census 1891
  5. Who Was Who 1929-1940
  6. The Lancet 1986 ;June20   A case of confluent smallpox in a lascar seaman
  7. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  8. Op cit
  10. Glasgow University library
  11. British Medical journal 1922; 2 :787
  12. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  13. The Lancet 1938; Oct 15:922
  14. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 600
  15. British Medical Journal 1938; Sep 10: 601
  16. The Lancet 1938; Oct 15:922
  17. The Times, July 03,1934; p9


Dugald Macphail

Dugald MacPhail, the Bard, was from Mull, from the parish of Strathcoil living at Derrychullin Farm. He was born in 1819. His family had lived in Glen Forsa for many years (1 ).He married Janet Merry at Tarasay on the 23 August 1853.(2) His first son, Donald, was born there. (3) He left Mull shortly afterwards. He was initially a contractor but he studied   architecture and later became a   master of works. A devout Presbyterian, he joined the Free Church following the Disruption.(4)  His movements can be followed using the places where his children were born.(5 ) The family moved to Newcastle. (6) While there, he wrote the Gaelic song An T-lanmullach (7)which has been called the anthem of Mull. This is probably best known in the translation used by Sir Hugh Roberton and the Orpheus choir “O Isle of Mull, Isle of Joy Beloved”. He then moved to work for the Duke of Westminster as master of works in Shaftesbury where he lived at 1 Church yard (8) and the family had a servant. He moved back to Scotland, to Edinburgh and then to Glasgow. The family home was in Glasgow where Alexander was born (9) but in 1871, he is a lodger at 16 Gladstone Terrace Edinburgh.(10 )In the 1881 census(11) the family are in Glasgow without him so one can surmise that this was the stable family home and he moved with his work. He is at various times found in parish registers and voters rolls(12 ) in Edinburgh and in Glasgow. He died in 1887(13) in Partick in Glasgow. But he is buried in New Monklands Cemetery in Coatbridge, where it is said his firstborn grandson was buried.(14 )

His sons and daughters were well educated. Three sons, other than Alexander, were doctors. Donald was a General Practioner in Coatbridge(15 ): John was a Physician and Surgeon in Barnsley(16 ) : Rev James Merry Macphail was a missionary in India and died there. (17 )His daughters were schoolteachers. All bear witness to their upbringing in a religious and educated household.

monument 001
Thanks to Harry Davidson, Arran

In 1929, at Tarasay, a monument was constructed from the stones of his old cottage(18). It was recently refurbished by public subscription. It stands as a lasting monument to the Bard.









  1. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  2. Ancestry
  3. Op cit
  4. Op cit
  5. Op cit
  6. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  7. English census 1861
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1872
  9. National Records of Scotland Statutory census 1871
  10. National Records of Scotland Statutory census 1881
  11. National Records of Scotland Statutory valuation rolls
  12. National Records of Scotland Statutory deaths 1887
  13. Gazeteer for Scotland
  14. Macleod M C Dugald Macphail in Modern Gaelic Bards pp136-152. Stirling, 1908
  15. National Records of Scotland census 1891
  16. English census 1901
  17. Scottish National Probate Index. Wills and confirmations
  18. The Oban Times 2017 November 20

Mrs Margaret Dykes Lindsay and Colonel Barclay Shaw

In 1922, Mrs M D Lindsay (1) gave 5 paintings from the collection of Colonel Barclay Shaw to Glasgow Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. This painting, which hangs in the Glasgow Boys gallery in Kelvingrove, is Japanese Girl with Fan by George Henry.

japanese lady with fan
Japanese Lady with Fan by George Henry © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Margaret Dykes Cook was born (2) on 14th November, 1857, in Tradeston, Glasgow, the daughter of Christine  and James Cook, Master Brass Founder. On the 30th April, 1878, she married (3) Robert Barclay Shaw at her family home, Tinavale, Shields Road, Pollokshields, Glasgow.

Robert Barclay Shaw (4) was born in 1852.He was the son of William Shaw, and Janet Barclay. His father, a builder, was a prominent member of the Incorporation of Wrights in the Trades House and one_ time Deacon (5)(6). When Robert was young, the family lived in Pollok Street, moving to Valleyfield, Aytoun Rd about 1870. Robert Barclay Shaw was only 19 years old when, on the death of his father, he succeeded to the business, William Shaw and sons, Wallace St. Glasgow.  His firm moved into speculative building, building the impressive tenements in Glencairn Drive known as Olrig Terrace. After he married local girl Margaret Dykes Cook at her home, Tinavale, Shields Rd, he and his wife lived in number 6, Olrig Terrace. Later he built a detached house in Pollokshields, 40 Dalziel Drive, known as Dykeneuk, and was living there in 1888. The development of Pollokshields (7 ) as a garden suburb saw many fine houses built in varied architectural styles, indeed no two houses are identical. Shaw built three houses in Dalziel Drive, Dykeneuk, Oak Knowe and Hazliebrae.

His firm moved into specialist building construction and became very successful. His first main contract was for the buildings for the 1888 International Exhibition in Glasgow. (8 ) The architect was James Sellars, building in the Moorish style known locally as “Baghdad by Kelvinside”.  James Sellars unfortunately died in October,1888 reportedly of blood poisoning from standing on a rusty nail.

09 Mr Robert Barclay Shaw no 816
©CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries The Mitchell Library Special collections

Robert Barclay Shaw was the builder and he was much praised in The Bailie(9), being credited with the exhibition’s finishing on time and on budget. The site covered 10 acres. Shaw employed 1,000 men on the contract, used 5 million bricks, 750 tons of iron, 700,000 cubic feet of wood and 250,000 square feet of glass.

q victoria
Queen Victoria at the 1888 Exhibition by John Lavery © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

This was his first connection with Kelvingrove and it was the success of the Exhibition and the profit from it that enabled Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to be commissioned.  Both Barclay Shaw and Sellars are in this painting by John Lavery of the great and the good in Glasgow when Queen Victoria visited the Exhibition in 1888.

Shaw and William Smith later supervised the building, to the design of James Miller, for the Main Hall for the Glasgow Exhibition in 1901 and for the exhibition Concert Hall.

In 1895, he built the Kildrastan buildings with shops and adjacent tenements in Terregles and Glencairn Drives. In the valuation rolls for 1905 (10 ), Mrs Dykes Shaw is the proprietor of properties in Kildrastan Street which included shops and residential buildings. As well as the properties in Pollokshields, he built the Langside Tram Depot and stands at Hampden Football Park for Queens Park Football Club.

He was a sociable man. He followed his father as a member of Trades House- in the Incorporation of The Wrights- and was elected as Collector in 1888. (11) Why Colonel Barclay Shaw?

Colonel Shaw
Colonel Barclay Shaw by John Lavery © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

While he was still a lad he joined the 8th Lanarkshire Volunteers which became the 3rd Blythswood Volunteer Battalion of the Highland Light Infantry in 1887.(12) He was gazetted Colonel in 1904. (13)

In 1895, he purchased Annick Lodge(14 ) near Irvine, an imposing country house. The estate extended to 45 acres with 15 estate houses and a farm of 95 acres.

Annick Lodge Canmore Collection 1150924

He died in 1905. His death is reported by Rev. William Lindsay, minister of Dreghorn.(15 )

After his death, his widow continued living at Annick Lodge. Valuation Rolls show that she ran the estate with a manager. In 1908 (16), she married the Reverend James Lindsay, M.A, B.Sc., B.D., D.D the minister of St Andrews Church of Scotland , Kilmarnock(17 ) and brother of the minister at Dreghorn, who had registered the death of Barclay Shaw. She continued to manage the estate. Dr Lindsay died in 1923 (18 ) but she continued to live at Annick Lodge, then administered by a Trust, (19) until it was sold in 1934 and she moved to Dalry. She died in 1942.(20 )

The Donated Paintings

The other oil painting in the donation is entitled The Storm by John Lawson.

The three others are watercolours.

A Mediterranean Port by Arthur Melville © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection
A Moorish Pack Horse by Joseph Crawhall © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

The Koto player Tokyo by George Henry


  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council, 1922.
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1857
  3. National Records of Scotland Statutory Marriages 1878
  4. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1852
  5. The Bailie. The Man You Know. June 6th 1888. Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  6. N.J.Morgan “Robert Barclay Shaw” in Slaven A.  A Dictionary of  Scottish Business Biography Aberdeen. Aberdeen University Press, 1986. Pp164-167
  7. Pollokshield Heritage.
  8. Kinchin P. and Kinchin K. Glasgow’s Great Exhibitions. White Cockade, 1988
  9. The Bailie. The Man You Know. June 6th 1888. Mitchell library, Glasgow
  10. National Records of Scotland Valuation Rolls
  11. The Scotsman. 22nd September 1888
  12. www.britisharmedforces/regiments
  13. The London Gazette. 1904
  15. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1905
  16. National Records of Scotland Statutory Marriages 1908
  17. Fasti Ecclesiae Scoticaneae. Mitchell Library
  18. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1923
  19. National Records of Scotland Valuation Rolls
  20. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1942


Miss Catherine Spence Howden

A Spring Roundelay by E.A. Hornel. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

In May1914, Miss Catherine S. Howden and her brother gave A Spring Roundelay by E.A. Hornel to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  The painting now hangs in the City Chambers in the Satinwood Room.

Catherine Spence Howden was born in 1875in Helensburgh, (1) though her birth certificate cannot be sourced. She was the daughter of James Howden and his first wife, Helen Burgess Adams (2). She had two younger brothers James and William born to his second wife, Allison Hay. In the 1891 census the family were living at 66 Berkeley Street in Glasgow.

In 1892, she matriculated at the Queen Margaret College in Glasgow (3) in the Faculty of Arts where she studied for three years. Then in 1895, she enrolled in the Medical School there. In Glasgow University Archives there are records of her enrolment in classes until 1900 and she progressed through the years to her final year. There is no record that she graduated. Since the archives do not keep records of class tickets there is no reason given for this. In July 1899(5), her stepmother died of a cerebral tumour, having been ill for ten months, leaving two sons who were teenagers. Her family commitments may have meant she had to change her plans. In 1901(6), she is living with her father and two teenage brothers at 2 Princes Terrace, Dowanhill, Glasgow. It is possible to keep track of her through the census and valuation rolls. Her brother James died on 16th January 1908 in Montreux, Switzerland (7). Her father died in 1913 (8), leaving her a substantial legacy (9) so that she could live on private means. In 1915, she was living as proprietor (10) at 15 Mirrilees Drive and was proprietor of Lodge Cottage in Cove.

An Article in the Glasgow Herald after her death states that “During her lifetime, Miss Howden was a generous patron of art and music in Glasgow”.

The City Council minutes(11) of 1914 acknowledge the gift of A Spring Roundelay by E A Hornel presented by Miss C S Howden, 2 Princes Terrace, Dowanhill, on behalf of her brother and herself.  In the City Council minutes of February 1919(12), Miss Howden’s donation of 17 etchings and prints by Whistler, Legres, Beuer, Gordon Craig, Zorn, Haddon, Maryon and Muirhead Bone to the recently established Print Room in Kelvingrove is acknowledged. It has not been possible to trace her membership of societies in Glasgow related to Art or Music.

She died on the3rd May 1925 (13) and her death certificate is signed by Dr Marion Gilchrist, the first female graduate in Medicine from Glasgow University, who was her contemporary. Soon after her death, articles appeared in the Glasgow Herald (14) because of a further bequest to the City of Glasgow. “In all Miss Howden’s bequest consists of 117 etchings and prints, a portfolio of 21 etchings by Charles Keene-one of a set of 150-and Muirhead Bone’s 50 lithographs of Glasgow, with notes on Glasgow by A.H. Charteris, published in 1911 in a limited edition of 900 copies by Messrs James Macclehose and Sons. The collection contains such valuables as an etching by Van Dyck, one by Van Oestede, one by Durer and four by the master etcher, Rembrandt.” These were seen as a valuable addition to the print room of the Art Galleries which was then in the early stages of development. Full details of the bequest are detailed in the Council minute of June 19th, 1925(15). In her will (16) she left £5,000 to endow a scholarship at Edinburgh University in the name of her nephew Dr Andrew Adams Rutherford and a painting by Stuart Park to an aunt and uncle.

James Howden (1832-1913)

James Howden (17)(18) was an engineer and business man who displayed great talent for innovation and an enterprising business flair. He was born in East Lothian and moved to Glasgow in 1847. His apprenticeship was with engine builders James Gray and Company. He set up his own business as a consulting engineer in 1854. In 1862, he established the firm of James Howden and Company to manufacture engines and boilers specialising especially in boilers for ships. The invention for which he is remembered is the Forced Draught Engine. This enabled ships to go twice as fast on half the amount of coal and greatly contributed to trade around the world.

He married twice. He was married to Helen Burgess Adams and they had a daughter, Catherine. His second marriage, in 1872, was to Alison Moffat Hay (19) and there were 2 sons. His son James, who studied engineering at Glasgow University, predeceased him in 1908 and William was a director of the company but died childless in 1943 (20). In 1882, a nephew, James Howden Hume, joined the company and a limited company was established in 1907. Howden Hume succeeded as company chairman on his uncle’s death. Howden (21) is still based in Renfrewshire providing air and gas handling products in over 20 countries world wide.

In his will (22), James Howden left £388,251, leaving his daughter well provided.


  1. National Records of Scotland Census 1891
  2. Ancestry
  3. Queen Margaret College
  4. Glasgow University Archives
  5. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1899
  6. National Records of Scotland Census 1901
  7. The Scotsman. 17th January 1908
  8. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1913
  9. National Records of Scotland Wills and Testaments 1913
  10. National Records of Scotland Valuation Rolls 1915
  11. Glasgow City Council Minutes 1914. Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  12. Glasgow City Council Minutes 1919. Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  13. National Records of Scotland Statutory Register of Deaths 1925
  14. The Glasgow Herald. June 20th 1925
  15. Glasgow City Council Minutes 1925. Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  16. National Records of Scotland Wills and Testaments 1925
  17. The Bailie 3rd April 1895. Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  18. Munro C.W. “James Howden” in Slaven A. A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography Aberdeen. Aberdeen University Press, 1986. pp165-167
  19. Ancestry
  20. Hume D.H. Douglas Hume : A Personal Story: the Howden Heritage. Belfast,2009
  22. National Records of Scotland Wills and Testaments 1913


Agnes Gardner King(1857-1929)

Figure 1 William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)© CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

In 1920, Agnes Gardner King offered a painting of her uncle, William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, to Glasgow Art Galleries. The painting was by J Graham Gilbert, a Glasgow artist.

Agnes Gardner King was born in Ilkley, York shire in 1857 to Elizabeth Thomson and the Reverend David King, LLD (1). She had a sister Elizabeth Thomson King. Her mother, Elizabeth Thomson, was the sister of William Thomson, later Lord Kelvin, and James Thomson. William and Elizabeth were great friends and often went on walking tours together when they were in their twenties in Switzerland(2)(3). Elizabeth was an accomplished amateur artist and some of her paintings are in the National Portrait Gallery in London(4).

kelvin and siblings Agnes gardner King
Figure 2. William,James and Elizabeth Thomson by Agnes Thomson King National Portait Gallery, London, reproduced with permission

It is not known how Agnes was educated and what her training was but she became a gifted artist in watercolour. She painted pictures of children and also landscapes. She is featured in the Dictionary of British Artists. Her most interesting work ,which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, is a charcoal drawing of her uncles Baron Kelvin (William Thomson), and James Thomson with her mother Elizabeth King.

Her Canadian Paintings are in the Canadian Government Archives. One is entitled ”View of Sleeping Beauty from Windows of C P R Hotel, Vancouver”(5).

She published a number of books alone or with her sister. These include: My Sister by Agnes Gardner King; Daily Texts for the the Little Ones by Elizabeth Thomson King illustrated by Agnes Gardner King; Islands Far Away. Fijian Pictures with Pen and and Brush by Agnes Gardner King; Kelvin the Man, a Biographical Sketch by his Niece, Agnes Gardner King.

In 1912, after an undisclosed illness and needing recuperation, she fulfilled a long-standing wish to travel to Fiji(6). She travelled with a companion, Mrs Hopkirk, sailing on the Empress of Britain from Liverpool through storms and, in fact, a snowstorm and in sight of icebergs, to land in Québec. They crossed Canada by train to Victoria and then embarked on the Makura to the Sandwich Islands and then on to Fiji. She travelled around the islands writing about spending a week in a Fijian village, travelling up the Navua River on a boat poled by native boatmen and enjoying the hospitality of a number of Chiefs in many villages and towns. This book, which ran to 2 editions, was published in 1921 and it is illustrated by 80 pen and ink and charcoal drawings. It gives a remarkable picture of islands which had, in living memory, a history of cannibalism. It also reflects her indomitable spirit and openness to different patterns of life.


  1. The Young Kelvin at Home by Elizabeth Thomson King
  3. The Life of Lord Kelvin by Silvanus Thompson
  6. Islands far Away. Fijian Pictures with Pen and Brush by Agnes Gardner King. Bibliolife



The Very Reverend Nevile Davidson Ch.St.J., D.D., D.L. (1899-1976)

In 1945, Dr Nevile Davidson, Minister of Glasgow Cathedral, wrote to the Director of Glasgow Museums, Dr Tom Honeyman, offering a painting, Still Life by David Horn, a seventeenth century Dutch artist, to the Art Gallery(1).

donor 1
Figure 1 Still Life by David Horn,© CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

He had bought it in poor condition, had it cleaned, but now wished to donate it. Dr Honeyman  suggested  that the painting had some  merit and would be useful for educational purposes.  It now hangs in the  “Looking at Art” gallery in Kelvingrove Art Gallery. It is in the style of a Vanitas which possibly appealed to Dr. Davidson.

Andrew Nevile Davidson was born to James Davidson, Minister of the Free Church, Blackadder Church   of Scotland, in North Berwick and to his wife Rosina Constance nee Agnew(2)(3). He was educated at the High School, North Berwick and graduated from Edinburgh University(4). He was assistant minister at St George’s West Church, Edinburgh. In 1925, he was called to St Mary’s, Aberdeen and in 1932 he moved to St Enoch’s, Dundee. In 1935, he was appointed minister of Glasgow Cathedral from where he retired in 1967. In 1940, he volunteered as an army chaplain(5) and was sent to France with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers. The battalion was eventually evacuated from Cherbourg and his war service continued on the mainland. In 1942, he was persuaded to return to the Cathedral since there was greater need there.

He married(6) Margaret Helen de Carteret Martin, daughter of Colonel de Carteret Martin M.D., on 19th January, 1944. He had no children.

donor 2
Figure 2 Very Reverend Nevile Davidson, from ‘Beginnings but no Ending’

He served on various committees of the Church of Scotland, particularly as Convenor of The Committee on Church and Nation(7). He was made Chaplain to the King in 1946. This entailed visits to the Royal Family at Balmoral on many occasions. In 1962-1963, he was Moderator of the Church of Scotland. In his Moderatorial year, he travelled widely both in Scotland and abroad. In a three month tour, he visited the Scots of King’s Own Scottish Borderers in Aden. He and his wife flew from there to Kenya and then on to Australia and New Zealand. They returned to Scotland with time in Los Angeles and San Francisco. At every place he was able to preach and his account is full of memorable places and people.

He was a promoter of communication, involved in the ecumenical movement and in the founding of the Dunkeld Fellowship for Church of Scotland ministers. He established the Friends of Glasgow Cathedral.

He was the recipient of the St Mungo Prize in 1958. He was Scottish Prelate of the Most Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem.

Dr. Davidson had a great affection for the cathedral and wrote its history(8). Dr. and Mrs. Davidson tried to introduce colour and art to the cathedral which they felt had been swept away at the Reformation and were major donors to the cathedral. They gave a studio copy of a painting by Camillo Procaccini (ca 1600) The Adoration of the Shepherds and two early paintings of the cathedral. With Lord Bilsland, Dr Davidson was responsible for the project to replace the nineteenth century stained glass which used the talents of contemporary artists and took many years to complete. Dr and Mrs. Davidson gave six new windows by Harry Stammers, and four sixteenth and seventeenth century windows from Switzerland, all now in the Blacader Aisle .

He moved to Dunbar after he retired in 1967. He died suddenly in 1976. There were many tributes to him after his death, including one by Ronald Falconer(9) who wrote a personal memoire of ” a devout Christian and a hospitable man”(10) . He is buried in the Necropolis and there is a memorial window in the cathedral by Gordon Webster(11). The Archive of his papers was given by his wife to the National Library of Scotland(12).


  1. Letter in file at Glasgow museums
  2. Statutory births, Deaths and Marriages: Scotland’s People
  4. Obituary. Glasgow Herald:1976 December 21st
  5. Beginnings but no Ending by   A. Nevile Davidson. Edina Press
  7. Davidson, op. cit.
  8. Glasgow Cathedral: A Short History and Guide by A. Nevile Davidson
  9. Ibid
  10. Nevile Davidson: A personal memoir; Ronald Falconer
  11. A Walk through Glasgow Cathedral by   Very Rev William Morris: Society of Friends of Glasgow Cathedral
  12. National Library of Scotland Inventory