Alexander Walker, C.B.E., D.L., J.P., F.S.I. (1886 – 1945).

On the 21st of September 1943 Mr. Alexander Walker, Esq. of 20 Queen`s Gate, Glasgow presented a portrait in oils of himself by J. Raeburn Middleton. The portrait was probably painted about 1936 when Walker was 70. Its acquisition number is 2341.

Figure 1. Alexander Walker. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.

“The committee agreed to accept, with thanks, an offer by Mr Alexander Walker, 20, Queen`s Gate, Glasgow, W.2, to present to the Corporation a portrait of himself by the late Mr. Raeburn Middleton”. 1

Alexander Walker was born on 28th of March 1866 at 27 ½ Crown Street, Hutchesontown.2 (He used to recall that his mother would speak of the public executions she could see from the house).3 His father, Andrew Walker was a “tobacco spinner” (i.e. a person who made and sold tobacco products). He married Agnes Wilson on 31st of December 1858 in Brechin.4 By 1871 Alexander was living at 168 Gallowgate with his parents, his older brother William aged seven and two sisters Agnes aged three and Margaret aged one.5 He was educated at Wilson`s School – a free, school located at 87 Montrose Street, Glasgow.6,7 (Although Wilson`s School in London had originally claimed Alexander Walker as one of their illustrious alumni there is no connection between the two schools and the reference to Walker on their website has now been removed).8

Figure 2. Wilson’s School Pupil, 19th Century. Glasgow University Library, Special Collections Department, MS Murray 593
Figure 3. This building, formerly Wilson’s School was demolished to make way for the James Weir building, Strathclyde University. www. strath.ac.uk/archives/iotm/june 2013.

Alexander left school at the age of twelve to become a “van boy with a Queen Street firm”. However, after a few months he entered a lawyer`s office and later spent five years training in general law business at the firm of W.B. Paterson.9 In 1881 the family was still at 168, Gallowgate Street with Alexander described as a “law clerk”.10

In January 1884, Alexander entered the service of the Corporation of Glasgow in the Town Clerk`s Office under Sir James Marwick. In the same year, aged 18, he matriculated at the University of Glasgow in the Arts Faculty. His class for his first year was “Junior Humanity”.11 He subsequently attended classes in Scot`s Law and in 1888 was awarded a prize for “Eminence in Class Examinations” and also received a prize awarded by the Faculty of Procurators of Glasgow.12 The following year he was placed in the “Eminently Distinguished” category after the Ordinary Class Examination in Conveyancing.13 He was now a “law student” still living at 168 Gallowgate with his mother, brothers and sisters in 1891 although his father does not appear on the census.14 There is no record of him graduating from the university although he was able to enrol as a law agent and a “writer”.

Alexander married Jessie Winchester at Loanhead, Rathven, Banff on the 2nd of June 1896. She was a schoolteacher and the daughter of a farmer. Alexander`s address at the time was 146 Onslow Drive, Glasgow and he gave his occupation as “solicitor”. His younger brother James was a witness.15 After their marriage the couple moved to “Loanhead”, Eastwood, Renfrewshire and by 1901 had a son, Alexander Reid and a daughter Lillias.16 In 1905, Alexander was appointed Depute Town Clerk in Glasgow and three years later was promoted to City Assessor at a salary of £750 rising to £900 a year.17 His entry in the Glasgow Post Office Directory for 1908/09 was, Walker, Alex., writer, lands valuation and registration of voters assessor, and surveyor of assessments, City Chambers, 249 George Street; ho, Loanhead, Giffnock .

Figure 4. Alexander Walker in 1909. Who’s Who in Glasgow, 1909.

This was the beginning of Mr Walker`s most outstanding work in the civic service. Within a very short period he instituted what were regarded as almost revolutionary changes in the sphere of valuation and rating, including a revision of the rating of the various trading departments of the Corporation and a claim from them for amounts greatly in excess of what they had hitherto been paying. The result of these changes was to bring about a considerable reduction in the rates. Within this brief period also he instituted changes in the manner of collecting assessments which proved a great convenience to the citizens, and led to a conspicuous increase in the amount collected”.18

During his time in office the valuation of Glasgow more than doubled to over 11 million pounds.

In 1914 he was appointed a J.P. for Glasgow and moved to 18 Queens Gate, Dowanhill. About this time he spent three months in America and Canada investigating various systems of rating and municipal administration.19 During the First World War he was secretary and treasurer of the committee of magistrates set up by Glasgow Corporation to look after the welfare of Belgian refugees around 20,000 of whom had fled to Scotland after the occupation of their country. A large number of them settled in Glasgow and a sum of £500,000 was raised for their welfare by Glasgow Corporation. At the same time a committee of ladies was set up to organise sales of the various goods produced by  the refugees, to visit and superintend the refugee hostels and “many other tasks”.20

Figure 5. CBE. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Figure 6. Order of the Crown of Belgium. Fdutil [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
Towards the end of the war, Alexander Walker was employed by the Admiralty to organise the introduction, housing and feeding of the additional labour coming to work in the Clyde shipyards. As a result of carrying out these duties, he was awarded a CBE. in the Birthday Honours of June 8th 1918.21,22 His wife, along with three other members of the “ladies committee”, was awarded an MBE. in 1920. (Appendix 2) Later Alexander was appointed Commander of the Order of the Crown of Belgium23 and a Member of the Order of St. Sava of Serbia, for his work as Honorary Secretary of the Glasgow-Serbian Relief Committee.24 His wife and the three other ladies were awarded the Queen Elizabeth Medal by the King of the Belgians and were personally thanked by him for their work with the refugees when they visited Belgium.25

Alexander was a Fellow of the Surveyors’ Institution of London (F.S.I.) and a member of the Royal Scottish Automobile Club.26 He was President of the National Association of Local Government Officers and in 1920 was appointed Honorary Solicitor in Scotland by NALGO to advise on aspects of law pertaining to Scotland. He held this post until 1925.27 He was Deacon of the Incorporation of Cordiners in 1928 and was a member of the Incorporation of Bonnet Makers and Dyers. Through his wife`s connection with the North East, he served for many years as a director and president of the Glasgow Angus and Mearns Benevolent Society, and was instrumental in bringing help to natives of Angus, in whose welfare he took a very keen interest. He was also an “enthusiastic freemason”.

In 1928, it seems that Alexander Walker received an offer of an appointment with a London firm at a salary of £3000. He duly submitted his resignation to the Corporation. However, prior to the council meeting which would “decide his fate” he had given his promise to members of the Corporation that if the Finance Committee`s recommendation (to accept his resignation and to pay him three months salary in lieu of notice) was not approved he would remain with the Corporation. It would seem that this was not approved and he remained in post.28 He retired from his post with Glasgow Corporation in 1935 but continued as a solicitor with offices at 141 Bath Street.29

It seems likely that his portrait was painted to commemorate his retirement and may even have been commissioned by Glasgow Corporation. He was described as being “short and plump, like an elderly Puck …… who does not look like a financial genius”.30

Alexander Walker died suddenly on 20th November 1945 during a visit to his daughter in Northwood, Middlesex. His body was cremated at Golders Green cemetery on the 24th.31 An obituary was published in the Glasgow Herald. 32 He was survived by his wife and two married daughters. His only son, Mr A. Reid, C.A., died in July, 1944. For a lawyer, his will, dated 15th Feb 1933, was very simple. It consisted of a single, hand-writen page in which he left everything to his wife. His estate was valued at £8,722.19.9.33

References

  1. Minutes of Glasgow Corporation, Committee on Art Galleries and Museums, Vol. Apr. – Nov. 1943, p 1404, Mitchell Library.
  2. Scotland`s People, Birth Certificate.
  3. The Bailie, No. 135, 13th August, 1934
  4. Scotland`s People, Marriage Certificate
  5. Scotland`s People, Census, 1971
  6. Eyre-Todd, George, Who`s Who in Glasgow, 1909: a biographical dictionary of nearly five hundred living Glasgow citizens and of notable citizens who have died since 1st January, 1907”,  Gowans & Gray, Glasgow, 1909, page 210
  7. Glasgow PO Directory, 1880; Wilson`s Charity School for Boys, 87 Montrose Street; George Liddell, teacher.
  8. wilsonsschool.sutton.sch.uk/about/history/ow/‎The Bailie, No. 135, 13th August, 1934
  9. The Bailie, No. 135, 13th August, 1934
  10. Scotland`s People, Census, 1881
  11. University of Glasgow Matriculation Albums 1884-5; University of Glasgow Archives
  12. University of Glasgow Calendar, 1888, 1889; University of Glasgow Archives
  13. University of Glasgow, Schedules of Graduates in Law from 1888; University of Glasgow Archives
  14. ancestry.co.uk, 1891 Census, Glasgow
  15. Scotland`s People, Marriage Certificate
  16. Scotland`s People, 1901 Census
  17. Eyre-Todd, Who`s Who in Glasgow, 1909, page 210
  18. Glasgow Herald, Nov 21st, 1945, page 6
  19. Thurston, J, Scottish Biographies 1938, Jackson, Son & Co.
  20. The Baillie, No. 2478, 14th April, 1920
  21. Glasgow Herald, June 8th 1918, p6
  22. Third Supplement to the London Gazette, No. 30730, 7th June 1918, p 6693
  23. The Edinburgh Gazette, 22nd June 1920
  24. Op cit.
  25. The Baillie, 14th April, 1920
  26. Op cit.
  27. unionancestors.co.uk/NALGO.htm
  28. Glasgow Herald, Nov 17 1928
  29. Glasgow Post Office Directories, 1935-36
  30. The Bailie, No. 135, 13th August, 1934
  31. Glasgow Herald, Deaths, Nov. 21st 1945
  32. Glasgow Herald, Nov 21st 1945, page 6
  33. Records of Scotland, Wills, recorded 13th 1946

Appendix 1

A Short History of Wilson`s School, Glasgow

Scotstarbet`s Mortification

On the 7th and 13th of June 1653 and on the 28th April 1658, contracts were drawn up between Sir John Scott of Scotstarbet, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and the Magistrates and Council of Glasgow whereby “out of the love he had for this city, being the prime city in the west, out of which country Sir John descended, and in consideration of the calamity of the inhabitants through fire, he mortified and conveyed to the Magistrates and Council the lands of Pucky and Pucky Mill” which were located in St. Leonard`s in Fife.1 The rents from these lands were to be used “for putting four boys to apprenticeships, to any lawful honest trade or calling, within the Burgh; no greater sum is to be paid for their apprentice-fees than 100 merks, and after their apprenticeships are over, they are to be admitted Burgesses by the Magistrates gratis”. 2

Sir John agreed that the choice of boys (“Scotch bairns”) should be from within the burgh, in preference to any from Edinburgh. Three of these boys were to be presented by the Donor’s successors and the other by the Magistrates and Council. By act of Council, 5th April 1781, an agreement was made between David Scott of Scotstarbet Esq. the successor of Sir John, and the Magistrates and Council, to increase the number of boys presented if the rental income increased. However, the apprentice-fees should not be augmented, notwithstanding any rise in the rent. 3

Wilson`s Charity

In 1778 Mr. George Wilson, a native of Glasgow who had made his fortune as a merchant in London, gave £3000 for clothing and educating a certain number of boys in Glasgow. These funds were augmented by subsequent donations and “by the proceeds of the annual collection at the sermon preached at the procession of the Charity Schools”. The patrons were the Magistrates and Ministers of the City, and other inhabitants, up to 30 in all. The charity later incorporated Scotstarvet`s Mortification the rent from the latter having reached “upwards of £90 per annum”.4 The number of boys in the school was 48 in 1804 5 and “about 80” in 1826 when the rental had reached £150 per annum. “They are admitted between the ages of seven and eight, and must produce a certificate of their health”. 6 They then spent four years in the school before being apprenticed to a trade. By 1826 the boys received clothing instead of apprentice fees. “The patronage is vested jointly in the Magistrates of the Council, and in the Duchess of Portland, formerly Miss Scott, daughter of General Scott of Balcomie in the county of Fife”.7

John Buchanan who owned the Dalmarnock estate in Lanarkshire in the late eighteenth century was a Governor of Wilson`s School and was also director of the Buchanan Society. He was Member of Parliament for Dunbartonshire from 1821 to 1826. He purchased an estate in Balloch and built Balloch Castle on it. His son-in-law Robert Findlay, a tobacco merchant, was also a Governor of Wilson`s School. 8

At one time, Wilson`s School was located north of the Trongate and Wilson Street got its name from the institution. Wilson Street is listed in the Glasgow Directory as early as 1799. However, “The governors have lately erected a handsome school-house near the head of Montrose Street. It is in a very airy situation and has an extensive open area in front”.9

Wilson`s School closed in 1887 and may have amalgamated with other “Charity Schools” in Glasgow. The following is a listing from the Glasgow Post office Directory of 1886/7;

“Montrose Street, 87, Wilson`s C. School for Boys; Liddell, George, teacher,

McDonald, Misses, Morton, Miss”.

There is no listing for 87 Montrose Street in 1887/8 and in 1888/9 the listing is;

“Montrose Street, 87, Children`s Shelter, Pirie, A.”

The building remained a Children`s Shelter until the early 1930s but fell out of use thereafter and was eventually demolished to allow for expansion of the Royal Technical College.

References

  1. Account of Bursaries in the University of Glasgow, 1792.djvu/12
  2. Denholm, James. A History of the City of Glasgow and Suburbs. 1804
  3. Account of Bursaries in the University of Glasgow, 1792.djvu/12
  4. Chapman, Robert. The Picture of Glasgow. 1812
  5. Denholm, James. A History of the City of Glasgow and Suburbs. 1804
  6. Glasgow Delineated, Second Edition, 1826, Wardlaw and Cunninghame.
  7. ibid
  8. Lee, A. Seekers of Truth, Emerald Group Publishing, 2006 (Google)
  9. Glasgow Delineated, Second Edition,  Wardlaw and Cunninghame. 1826

Appendix 2

Figure 7. The Bailie, No.2478 1920. Mitchell Library, Glasgow GC052 BA1.

Four Glasgow women, identified only by their husbands’ names, were awarded the MBE in 1920 in recognition of their work on the Ladies’ Committee set up by Glasgow Corporation to look after Belgian refugees during the First World War.

Following the occupation of most of their country by German forces in 1914, around 20,000 Belgian refugees fled to Scotland, and a large number settled in Glasgow. City Assessor Alex Walker was secretary and treasurer of the committee of magistrates which helped find them homes and raise funds for their maintenance; he freely acknowledged that his work would have been impossible without the assistance of his wife. The other three ladies were all wives of magistrates.

The caricatures appeared in The Bailie, which noted: “The honours that have been so worthily bestowed on these four ladies are more than mere personal recognitions of merit. The awards may be regarded in a wider sense as an honour to the vast multitude of women workers who toiled unremittingly in the service of the country during the whole of the war.”