Kenneth Sanderson W.S. (1868 – 1944)

On 29 December 1943, a bequest from Kenneth Sanderson, Esq., W.S., Edinburgh, of a portrait in oil of George Murdoch (2352) by David Martin was received.

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Portrait of George Murdoch (1715-1795) – Provost of Glasgow 1754-55 and 1766-67 – by David Martin. Painted 1790. ©CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

“There was submitted a letter from Wishart & Sanderson, solicitors, Edinburgh, intimating that the late Mr. Kenneth Sanderson, W.S., had bequeathed to the Corporation the portrait of George Murdoch, Lord Provost of Glasgow, 1766, by David Martin. The committee, after hearing a report by the Director, agreed that the bequest be accepted”.1 (Accepted 29th December 1943).

Kenneth Sanderson was born on the 1st of July 1868 at Knowe Park, Galashiels. 2 He was the fourth of eight sons born to Robert Sanderson a woollen manufacturer and his wife Elizabeth Cochrane whom he had married on the 22nd of September 1859. The eldest child of the family was a daughter, Jane, born in 1860. 3

Sanderson was educated at the Edinburgh Institute (now Stewart`s Melville College) which he attended from 1882 to 1885. The following lists some of his achievements during and after his time at school 4:-

“SANDERSON, Kenneth, 5, Northumberland Street. Particulars at School – 1st XV, 1884-85. After Leaving School – W.S., 23, Rutland Street, Edinburgh; Chairman, Edinburgh Public Library; Lawn Tennis: Scotland v Belgium, 1914; 1914-18, Assistant in Law Department of Board of      Trade; Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland; Director, Scottish Power Company”

After leaving school in 1885, he attended Edinburgh University. At the same time, he was serving his apprenticeship as a Writer to the Signet which he began on the 2nd of November 1885.5 From the census of 1891, he was at his parents` home with four of his brothers. His occupation was “apprentice law clerk”.6 Having studied Civil Law and Conveyancing, he completed his apprenticeship in the office of Messrs. Bruce and Kerr, W.S. on the 13th of July 1891 when he became a member of the W.S. Society. 7 The following year, along with Andrew Wishart W. S., he formed the firm of Wishart and Sanderson where he remained a senior partner throughout his life. The firm built up a considerable practice both in Edinburgh and the Borders.8 In 1897 he wrote a letter to the Scotsman from 65, Castle Street, Edinburgh supporting the idea that “Scottish bills …. could fittingly be dealt with by a tribunal sitting in Scotland”.9 In both the 1901 and 1911 censuses he was living at 5, Abercromby Place and employing two servants. His profession was “W.S. and N.P.” 10

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Photograph of Sanderson from, James Hamilton, Research Principal, The WS Society, The Signet Library, Edinburgh

Kenneth Sanderson was a talented lawn tennis player. In 1887 he competed in tournaments in Galashiels and Melrose and in 1888, he entered the Scottish Championships, reaching the semi-finals. He competed in the Queen`s Challenge Cup in 1890 and reached the final of the Scottish Border Championships in 1903. In 1904 another entry into the Scottish Championships ended when he lost in round one. He also competed in tournaments on the Continent, South of France (quarter-finals in 1905) and Cannes (semi-finals in 1905) and again in 1909. He again reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Championships in 1908 and played in the South of Scotland Tennis Championships at Moffat as current North of Scotland Champion. He reached the men`s singles final and played in the mixed doubles.11 In April 1914 he toured Belgium with the Scottish Lawn Tennis Team and represented Scotland against Belgium in the first international match in which a Scottish team was involved. (He won two and lost two matches). (The team attributed its relatively poor form to having to play the match so soon after arriving in Belgium!)12

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Sanderson (right) playing at Moffat from “Aspects Of Scottish Lawn Tennis”, Being A Series Of Articles By J. Patten Macdougall, C.B., A. Wallace Mcgregor, A. Morrice Mackay, Edinburgh, 1st Jan 1910.

He wrote a critique of Scottish Tennis comparing the standard of play now and 40 years previously. In it he mentions some of the prominent players and tournaments.13 This was republished, (unaltered because of its historical interest), in 1927. 14

In other arenas, he was an expert angler (“a passionate sport from boyhood on Ettrick and Tweed”) and a fine golfer becoming a member of the Royal Burgess Golfing Society. He was also elected a council member of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society in 1907.

When the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club was established in 1893, Sanderson was a founder member and was elected to the post of Honorary Secretary. The First Annual Meeting and Dinner of the club was held on the 7th November 1894.

The Secretary (Mr. KENNETH SANDERSON, W.S.) read the Minute of the Meeting constituting the Club, which was held on 13th June last, and the same was approved of. He reported that the membership to date numbered 496”. 15

His address at this time was 15, York Place. The following year he attended the meeting of the Club in the Synod Hall, Edinburgh where the Rev. John Watson (a.k.a. Ian Maclaren) was the speaker. The speaker commented that even then Scott was “not read”. 16 The 7th Annual Dinner of the Club was held at the Royal Hotel, with Sanderson as Hon. Sec. 17 In this capacity, he wrote to Sir Donald MacAlister in 1909 inviting him to be President of the Club for the following year. Sir Donald was then Principal of Glasgow University and the letter is preserved in the archives of the University. 18 The invitation was accepted. On the 8th of April 1910 he wrote to Lord Crewe possibly with a similar invitation. 19

After 27 years as Hon. Sec. of the Club, he indicated his intention to resign that position on 31st October 1921 and his resignation was accepted at the AGM and Dinner on the 17th of December that year.20 Presumably this prompted a presentation to him of “the Bracket Clock by Joseph Kniff, given to me by the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club” which is mentioned in his will and which was left to his nephew Robert Kenneth Sanderson. He retained a connection with the club and attended its Thirtieth Annual Dinner in 1930 at the North British Hotel, with the Rt. Hon. Stanley Baldwin presiding. He was no longer an office bearer.21

In 1932 he wrote authoritative articles in the Scotsman describing exhibits (for example “The Engraved Portraits” of Scott) on display at the Scott Centenary Exhibition in the National Galleries of Scotland.22

The Old Edinburgh Club was founded in 1908 with Sanderson a founding member.23

Kenneth Sanderson`s main interests outside of his law practice were Scottish Art, Prints and Engravings, and libraries. He was regarded: “as one of the finest art connoisseurs in Scotland; he had not only one of the largest private collections of pictures and prints, but an intimate knowledge of the work of each of the great painters and engravers, particularly of the 18th century. His favourite portrait painter was probably David Martin, the master of Sir Henry Raeburn, though he had an affection for Allan Ramsay and Andrew Geddes”. 24

His “intimate knowledge” is exemplified in a letter of 1917 on the subject of “Sir Henry Raeburn`s “Glengarry””25. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Scottish Print and Fine Arts Club which held exhibitions in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen and he contributed regularly to “The Print Collector`s Quarterly”. For example, he wrote an article on “Engravings after Raeburn” for one of the 1925 editions.26

In 1928 he became Curator of the Signet Library a post which he held for the rest of his life.27 He was Chairman of the Edinburgh Library Committee from 1930. 28 In a letter of that year he requested donations of local materials to be housed in a new library being built in Leith.29 In 1934 he presided over a meeting of the General Committee of the Edinburgh Public Library and announced that he was giving two pencil drawings by Henry Gastineau and a letter of James Gordon dated 1680, to the Edinburgh Room.30 This was followed in 1935 by his gift of two watercolour drawings to Edinburgh Central Library; “The Edinburgh Tollbooth, 1829” and “View of Portobello, 1838”.31 He was also chairman of the Library Committee of Edinburgh University.32 He was passionate about “the extensions and welfare of the Public Library – which he regarded as his chief life`s work”.33

In 1936 he was appointed to the Board of Trustees of the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS). He subsequently served as the National Galleries of Scotland Accounting Officer.34 In 1938 in his capacity as Trustee he was a member of the Executive Committee set up in Edinburgh in connection with “the most comprehensive exhibition of Scottish Art which has ever been undertaken”. The exhibition was to be held at the Royal Academy, Burlington House, London in 1939. Other members of the committee were Sir James L. Caw, Sir D. Y. Cameron, Mr. Stanley Cursiter and Mr J. R. Blyth, Chairman of the Kirkcaldy Art Gallery Committee.35 John Lavery and Sir Muirhead Bone were involved in the London committee. In connection with this exhibition he gave a series of weekly lectures on Scottish painters featuring, for example, the work of Wilkie and Geddes.36 He also lent the portrait of George Murdoch (subsequently donated to Glasgow) to be exhibited at the Royal Academy.

Sanderson visited many of the galleries in Europe the last being those in Copenhagen and Stockholm in the year before the war.37 In 1941 he represented the Trustees of NGS at an exhibition of “Inter-Allied Art” which was opened by Tom Johnston Secretary of State.38 He was reappointed to the Board of Trustees in 1942 (along with Sir William Burrell and Sir D. Y. Cameron).

Kenneth Sanderson, 1868 – 1943. Connoisseur and collector; trustee of the National Galleries of Scotland, David Foggie, National Galleries of Scotland. © THE ARTIST’S ESTATE

 “Interested in the development of electrical supply in the South of Scotland, he became a director of the Scottish Power Company and the various electrical supply companies associated with it”. 39

Kenneth Sanderson never married. He died aged 75 on the 16th October 1943 at his home, 5, Northumberland Street, Edinburgh. “An Appreciation” appeared in the Scotsman;

“His bright, engaging and energetic personality endeared him not only to friends in the Parliament House and in other legal quarters, but in several artistic, literary and other societies. His zest, wide knowledge, sincerity and sound judgement were characteristics which won the admiration of all whom he came in contact with.” 40

The Edinburgh Evening News of 18th October 1943 contained a brief obituary and according to the Weekly Scotsman, his estate was valued at £26,503. 41 Among other bequests he left £1000 to the City of Edinburgh Council of Social Service, £500 to the Kirk Session of St. Cuthbert`s Parish Church – of which he had been an elder – (“for behoof of the Choir Endowment Fund”) and £200 to the Scottish Modern Arts Association. He also bequeathed a print showing the opening of the Scott Monument to Edinburgh Central Library.

The National Galleries of Scotland have a large collection of prints and drawings from the Kenneth Sanderson bequest of 1944. In addition, the Fine Arts Library in Edinburgh Central Library has a collection of artists` autographs and letters also from the bequest.


  1. Glasgow Corporation Minutes, 16th November 1943, Committee on Art Galleries and Museums. (Mitchell Library)
  2. Scotland`s People, Birth Certificate
  4. Edinburgh Institution, 1832 – 1932, J.R.S. Young, George Waterston & Sons Ltd., 1933
  5. Information and photograph of Sanderson from, James Hamilton, Research Principal, The WS Society, The Signet Library, Edinburgh
  6. Scotland`s People, Census, 1891
  7. Scots Law Reporter, 1943, p191
  8. Information from Andrew Wishart, grandson of Kenneth Sanderson`s partner; He also provided the information that a walnut tallboy was bequeathed to the Royal Scottish Museum and is on display there;
  9. The Scotsman, 13th April 1897, p9
  10. Scotland`s People, Censuses, 1901 and 1911
  11. and The Scotsman, 7th August 1909 p13
  1. “Fifty Years of Lawn Tennis in Scotland”, 1914, Wallace MacGregor, editor and publisher
  2. “Aspects Of Scottish Lawn Tennis”, Being A Series Of Articles By J. Patten Macdougall, C.B., A. Wallace Mcgregor, A. Morrice Mackay, Edinburgh, 1st Jan 1910
  3. “Fifty Years of Lawn Tennis in Scotland”, Wallace MacGregor, publisher. 1927
  4. Minutes of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club,7th November 1894, reprinted 9th March 2009
  5. The Scotsman, 26th Nov 1895. p9
  6. The Scotsman, 10th January 1901, p9
  7. Glasgow University Archives, MS Gen 544/42
  8. Cambridge University Archives, Crewe C.14.1.24
  9. From the Minutes of the Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott Club, courtesy of Lee Simpson, Hon. Treasurer
  10. The Scotsman, 17th January 1930, p10
  11. The Scotsman, 1st and 2nd July 1932, p12
  12. Information from, James Hamilton, Research Principal, The WS Society, The Signet Library, Edinburgh
  13. The Scotsman, 19th October 1943, p4; 18th October 1943. Notice of his death and an obituary
  14. The Scotsman, 24th July 1917, p6
  15. The Print Collector`s Quarterly, Vol. 12, No. 2, April 1925
  16. Information from, James Hamilton, Research Principal, The WS Society, The Signet Library, Edinburgh
  17. The Scotsman, 22nd January 1930;
  18. The Scotsman, 24th January 1930 p7
  19. The Scotsman, 31st July 1934, p7
  20. The Scotsman 1st October 1935, p13
  21. The Scots Law Times, 6th November 1943, pp 47,48
  22. “A Friend`s Tribute”, The Scotsman, 21st October 1943
  23. I am grateful to Kerry Eldon, Librarian, Scottish National Gallery, for information and for allowing access to its collection of Sanderson papers.
  24. The Scotsman, 4th June 1938, p17
  25. The Scotsman 28th January 1939, p15
  26. “A Friend`s Tribute”, The Scotsman, 21st October 1943
  27. Glasgow Herald, 31st May 1941
  28. Edinburgh Evening Dispatch, 18th October, 1943
  29. The Scotsman, 19th Oct 1943
  30. The Weekly Scotsman, 3rd Jan 1944, p3

The Painting

The portrait was painted by David Martin (1737 – 1797) in 1793. It is signed “Martin, P.W.P* pinxit 1793”. It was a family commission and remained in the family till 1931.

It was exhibited in Glasgow in 1868 (with the attribution that it was by Raeburn) and in 1894 at an exhibition of “Old Glasgow Art”, lent by Andrew B. Yuille.

It was sold at Christie’s in London on July 10, 1931 from the property of C.T. Murdoch, Esq., M.P.** It was bought by Leggatt for £105 and sold on to Kenneth Sanderson.

In 1937 it was loaned by Kenneth Sanderson to The Scottish Fine Arts and Print Club Loan Exhibition and again in 1939 to the Exhibition of Scottish Art at the R.A., London.

*P.W.P. = Painter to the Prince of Wales

** Charles Townshend Murdoch (27 May 1837 — 8 July 1898) was a banker and Conservative politican who sat in the House of Commons between 1885 and 1898.

The Sitter

George Murdoch was admitted a burgess of Glasgow on 26th September 1737, “by right of his father”. He was Dean of Guild in 1751 and 1752. He was elected Provost of Glasgow from 1754-1755 and again from 1766-1767. He was a merchant primarily trading in wines from Madeira, but became involved in related enterprises such as becoming a partner in a glass bottle works in 1742, and forming Murdoch & Warroch to build and operate the famous Anderston Brewery. George Murdoch was thrice married. His first wife was Margaret Leitch, daughter of a Glasgow merchant whom he married about 1740 and had a family of five sons and three (four?) daughters. His subsequent marriages (to Janet Bogle and Amelia Campbell) produced no further children.

One of his sons, James, went to work in Madeira at the age of thirteen and another, George, ended up in Grenada. In 1767, while in his second term as Provost, Murdoch laid the foundation stone for the new Jamaica Street Bridge. A mason, in 1769 he became “Provincial Grand Master over the Counties of Lenrick (Lanark?), Renfrew, Air, Dumbarton and Argyle”.

George Murdoch died at Frisky Hall, Dunbartonshire on 19th September 1795 and was buried in Blackfriars Churchyard. He was survived by his third wife.

The information about the painting and the sitter comes from the object files at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre.