Portrait of Councillor Alexander Waddell

Figure 1. Alexander Waddell by Joseph Henderson. Glasgow Museums © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

This portrait was donated by his family in May 1896 in recognition of the work which he did for the East End of Glasgow and the posts which he held on Glasgow City Council. It was painted in 1893 by Joseph Henderson, RSW.(1)

Joseph Henderson was born in Stanley, Perthshire on 10 June 1832. His family moved to Edinburgh when he was six years old and at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to a hosier and studied art alongside this. Eventually, in 1852 he gave up hosiery and moved to Glasgow and became a portrait painter. As he had a reputation for painting honest representations of his sitters, he painted many of the important people of that time in the West of Scotland.(2)

Alexander Waddell was born in Girvan, Ayrshire on 18 February 1820. His parents were Matthew Waddell who was a tailor and Elizabeth, nee Rowan. (3)

Sometime between then and 1840 the family moved up to Glasgow to live in Calton, in the east end of the city. The family home was at 72 Canning Street.

Alexander also served his time as a tailor and went into business with his father in the firm of M. Waddell and Son, clothiers, of 44 Canning Street and 75 Jamaica Street.

On 8 June 1840 he married Isabella Barrett. The 1841 census has them living in Duncan Street with a two-month-old daughter, Elizabeth.

In 1845 he opened a branch of the Western Bank in Calton, the first suburban bank branch and moved into a house in the Western Bank Buildings in Canning Street. The Western Bank tried to attract small (working class or artisan) depositors. Their extensive branch systems opened in the evenings and paid high deposit rates. However, it failed in November 1857. The Western bank was later taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland and Waddell managed several of its branches. (4)

By the 1851 census his address is given as 66 Canning Street where he is described as a clothier, and he and Isabella have five daughters, the youngest a baby of three months. The 1855 Valuation Roll records him at the Western Bank, 70 Canning Street and he is described as a Registrar. He was Registrar for Calton, a post which he held until his death. (5)

I can find him in neither the 1861 nor the 1871 census returns. Sometime after 1851 his wife Isabella dies, but I can find no record of her death. In 1867, described as a widower, he marries Grace French, a spinster, at Boathaugh, Lanark. By this time he has moved to 37 Monteith Row, overlooking Glasgow Green, where he lived for the rest of his life.

In 1871 he was elected to represent the First Ward (Great Hamilton Street on the south; Well Street on the east; New Street on the north; and the Royalty of the City of Glasgow on the west). He held this post until his death in 1895.(6) Offices which he held included Baillie of the Burgh, City Treasurer and Master of Works. He was also a Preceptor of Hutcheson’s Hospital.(7)

He actively supported many community institutions in the Calton and Bridgeton areas.

He was involved with the South Eastern District Sabbath School Union in 1868 -1869.  He was Superintendent of the Calton, Mile-End and Bridgeton Mechanics Institute which had been established at 46 Canning Street in 1833. It was the first institution of its kind in the country. He was also involved with the London Road Baths which were opened in 1876 under the management of the Police Board. They were situated in the Calton Police Building at 92 Tobago Street.(8)

He was Chair of the Glasgow Eastern Merchants and Tradesmen’s Society which met in the Mechanics Hall in Canning Street.  This was a Friendly Society and ran many social events. He was also involved with the Bridgeton Working Men’s Club.(9)

His second wife, Grace, died in 1879 of heart disease and congestion of the lungs. In 1883 he married for a third time to Christina Jeffs, a spinster, living in 21 Holyrood Crescent.

The 1891 census finds them still in Monteith Row with his daughter Catherine who is described as being 35 years old, which is odd as she as three months old in 1851.

Alexander Waddell died at home on 18 November 1895. His funeral was held in Greenhead U.P. Church in Bridgeton on 21 November and he was buried in the Eastern Necropolis.

On 22 November the following announcement was made in the Glasgow Herald:-

Funeral of Ex-Baillie Waddell.

The remains of Ex-Baillie Waddell were interred yesterday in the eastern Necropolis, Janefield. A public service was held within Greenhead U.P. Church which was attended by the Lord Provost and magistrates and many of the Town Councillors, the Lord Dean of Guild, and the Deacon-Convenor, along with a number of the leading Corporation Officials. The funeral cortege, which consisted of 28 mourning coaches, was watched by large crowds along the route. The flag was hoisted at half-mast on the City Chambers, and the city bells were tolled from half-past one until three o’clock.


  1. Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909 (artist)
  2. http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/your paintings.
  3. http://www.scotlandspeople.org – all references to births, marriages, deaths and census are covered by this category
  4. http://www.banking-history.co.uk/glasgow.html
  5. Post Office Annual Glasgow Directories – 1854/55; 1856/57
  6. Glasgowhistory.co.uk
  7. http://www.theglasgowstory.com
  8. http://www.  glasgoweasternmerchants.co.uk
  9. http://www.EastGlasgowHistory.com
  10. http://www.Glasgow Herald, November 19, 1895.