Charles Rennie Cowie (1851-1922)

Note: Charles Rennie Cowie and his son John always in Bold.

Figure 1. John Cowie. By kind permission of John D. Napper.

In 1964 the widow of East India merchant John Cowie, Mrs. Elizabeth Janet Cowie, donated to the National Library of Scotland (NLS) in Edinburgh and the Mitchell library in Glasgow a collection of rare books, historical manuscripts and letters, included in which are rare editions of Robert Burns poems, first editions of Milton, Galt, and Scott, and a large number of letters of Burns and others. It consists of several hundred items and is an astonishingly eclectic accumulation of material covering over six hundred years. The NLS was to get that material which was of national importance, the Mitchell the rest, the decision making process being undertaken by personnel from both libraries, Mrs. Cowie and her lawyer. Eventually the NLS collection consisted of manuscripts of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and the poet Allan Ramsay.

The individual who had collected all this material was not John Cowie however, it was his father Charles Rennie Cowie, also an East India merchant, who had bequeathed it to his wife Grizel on his death in 1922.[1] In his will the collection was identified as of National and Historic Interest, thereby excluding it from his estate for tax purposes, and valued at £4083.[2] Today, at that valuation, the joint collections would be worth around £2 million.[3] Grizel died seven years later with the collection eventually going to John.[4]

Who was Charles Rennie Cowie, what was his and his wife’s family background? By what means did he fund his purchases? One other question which seems unlikely to be answered by this research is from whom did he make his purchases?

The Cowie family originated in Stirlingshire, most likely in the parish of Larbert. John Cowie’s great grandfather was forester James Cowie who was married to Margaret McAlpine.[5] It’s not clear when they married however John’s grandfather, also John, was born in 1817,[6] the fifth of eight children all born in Larbert. They lived in Carronhall village to the east of Larbert, James dying there in 1848.[7] Margaret remained in Carronhall until circa 1863 when she moved to Grahamston to live in a house owned by her son John.[8] [9] She died there at the age of eighty seven in 1870.[10]

John married Margaret Rennie in 1839,[11] she also being born in Larbert the daughter of iron founder John Rennie and his wife Mary Alexander.[12] It’s not clear what his occupation was at the time of his marriage however by 1841 he was a grocer in Grahamston in the parish of Falkirk,[13] an occupation he followed for most of his working life. He and Margaret had twelve children between 1840 and 1862, seven sons and five daughters, the relevant offspring to this research being Charles Rennie Cowie and three of his brothers, James, Archibald and Thomas, and his sister Jessie.

John and Margaret lived in Grahamston until at least 1872[14] however by 1881 they had moved to Mavis Villa, Riddrie,[15] which is where he died in 1882.[16] Margaret lived a further twelve years, dying in Hyde Park, Blantyre in 1895.[17] Interestingly in the 1891 census she was resident in Rutherglen, living on a private income, with her son James, another East India merchant, and two grandchildren John and Mary, both born in Rangoon,[18] the children, as I’ll show, of her son Charles Rennie Cowie.

Charles was born on the 24th October 1851 and baptized in July the following year[19]. His initial education was at a local school. He then attended Anderson’s College in George Street in Glasgow  studying chemistry under Frederick Penny.[20] Penny was a Londoner who had studied chemistry under Michael Faraday at the Royal Institution and in 1839 had been  appointed Chair of Chemistry at the College, a position he held until his death in 1869. He also was involved in testing the water quality from Loch Katrine to establish if it was suitable for Glasgow’s water supply and gave expert testimony in a number of criminal trials involving poisons including that of the infamous Dr. Pritchard who had murdered his wife and mother in law.[21]

When Charles left College is not certain, nor is it clear what his qualification was, but he must have left around 1870 as by 1871 he was employed as chemist at the Uphall Oil Works in Linlithgow, living in lodgings at Crossgreen Farm in Uphall.[22] In due course he became manager of the facility[23] which was just a few miles from James ‘Paraffin’ Young’s refinery in Bathgate. In 1873, being described as ‘gent’ he was appointed ensign in the 5th Linlithgowshire Rifle Volunteers.[24]

He did not remain in Uphall very much longer as around 1874[25] he travelled to Rangoon eventually becoming manager of the Rangoon Oil Company the precursor of Burmah Oil, this being his occupation when he married Grizel or Grace Purdie in 1878,[26] more of whom shortly.

Between 1876 and 1878 he registered two patents in Rangoon, one dealing with the use of rice husks as furnace fuel in rice mills,[27] the other about improving the efficiency of steam furnace combustion.[28]  The first patent at least halved the cost of milling rice with the added benefit of the burnt rice husks proving to be an effective deodorizer used to cover all kinds of refuse dumps. His invention not only found use in Burma but also in Thailand and French Indo-China.[29] He also registered a third patent with a colleague in 1881, again dealing with furnace efficiency.[30]

Figure 2. Grace Purdie Christening Cup. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery

He remained manager of the oil works until circa 1878/79 at which time he founded in Rangoon the trading company Charles R Cowie & Co.,[31] trading in almost any commodity that was required by customers in British India and elsewhere. That was the beginning of Charles, his brothers James, Archibald and Thomas, and his eventual sons, becoming East India merchants

His wife Grizel was the daughter of Thomas Purdie, farmer, and Margaret Storrie, [32] her birth being commemorated by her parents having a christening mug made by Bo’ness Potteries.[33]

The family originated in West Calder where Grizel’s grandfather Andrew Purdie farmed at West Mains which is where he died in 1863 age ninety five.[34] In 1837 whilst Andrew was the tenant of the farm a servant girl Elizabeth Brown was charged with child murder or concealment of a pregnancy. She confessed and was sentenced to ten months imprisonment. The court records make no mention of the male involvement only that Elizabeth’s address was c/o Andrew Purdie, West Mains Farm. [35]

Figure 3. Uphall, Crossgreen and Fortneuk Farms. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery

Thomas Purdie farmed at Forkneuk, Uphall from around 1855[36]  which makes it likely that Charles and Grizel met before he went to Rangoon, the farms being in close proximity to each other. They married at Forkneuk on the 17th December 1878, the beginning of a married life that for the first twelve or so years saw them travelling frequently between Rangoon and Glasgow.

Their first born child was John, the ostensible donor of the Cowie Collection. He was born in Rangoon in October 1880 and baptized there in July 1881.[37] They had a further nine children between 1882 and 1903 as follows:

  1. Mary Storrie, born 1882 at Rangoon and baptized there.[38]
  2. Margaret Rennie, born 1884 at Portobello, baptized in Rangoon later that year.[39]
  3. Gracie Purdie, born and baptized at Rangoon in 1886.[40]
  4. Isabella Miller, born at Rosneath in 1888.[41]
  5. Elizabeth, born and probably baptized in Rangoon in 1890.[42]
  6. Jessie, born at Kirn, Argyllshire in 1891.[43]
  7. Thomas Purdie, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1893.[44]
  8. Charles Rennie, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1895.[45]
  9. Gladys Dorothy, born at Woodend House, Partick in 1903.[46]

Whilst Charles ran his company in Rangoon his brother James in 1880 was working for Jas. L. McClure & Co., merchants and agents for a number of companies dealing in iron and steel products.[47] Two years later he established his own agency company, James Cowie & Co., representing a number of similar companies from England and Scotland.[48]

In the following year Cowie Brothers & Co. were formed located at the same address, 59 St. Vincent Street, as James’ company. No other brother seemed to be involved at that point[49] however it does appear that simply was a matter of timing as within the next twelve months brother Archibald joined the company.[50] Charles was home in Glasgow that year (1884), not associated with either of the family businesses but with merchants Russell, Macfarlane & Co., a situation that occurred every time he came home from Rangoon until circa 1891 when he came home to Glasgow for good. He had lived at various address on each return home finally settling at Woodend House, Partick sometime after 1891, his wife Grizel being recorded as the owner.[51] His Rangoon company however still operated in his name as before directed by Rangoon partners and his sons.

The two Glasgow Companies continued to operate for another ten years, latterly from 196 St Vincent Street, with Charles continuing to be associated with Russell, Macfarlane and Co. until 1893 when he formally joined Cowie Brothers & Co.[52] It’s clear brother James was seriously ill at that time as he died the following year of cirrhosis of the kidneys which he had suffered from for at least six months.[53] James’ company ceased trading in 1897/98, the last year it appeared in the Glasgow directory.[54] Cowie Brothers & Co continued for several years afterwards with brother Thomas joining the company in 1905, remaining involved until 1911. Subsequent to that date the Cowies involved in the company were the three sons of Charles, namely John, Thomas and his namesake Charles. The company was still listed in the Glasgow Directory in 1975.[55]

Charles senior’s company in Rangoon also continued to operate at least until the late 1930s, with his three sons all involved to varying degrees, travelling back and forth to Rangoon as required. The last journey from Rangoon I have established is that of son Charles Rennie Cowie and his wife Norah on the M.V. Oxfordshire during April/May 1939.[56]

However a third Charles Rennie Cowie was to remain in Burma. John, the eldest son of Charles and Grizel married in 1908 Elizabeth Janet Ramsay. They had four children the eldest of whom was another Charles Rennie Cowie, born in Rangoon in 1911. He joined the Rangoon Battalion of the Burmese Auxiliary Force in 1938 and in 1940 is listed as a lieutenant in the Battalion. He continued to be listed through 1941 as such although it seems he was promoted captain in April 1941.[57] Exactly where he was located during this time has not been established although I have come across a photograph of him and fellow officers, along with their honorary colonel, Sir Alexander Cochrane, in Burma (Rangoon?) in 1940.[58] Lieutenant C. R. Cowie is seated at the extreme right hand side.

Figure 4. Officers of the Burmese Auxiliary Force, Rangoon Battalion 1940.

He stayed in Burma throughout the war, attaining the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel by its end.

John’s brother Thomas Purdie Cowie married in Rangoon in 1921[59]. In the Thacker’s Commercial Directory of 1925, the company was located at 6 Merchants Street and described as machinery importers, mill furnishers and mill stores, engineers and contractors, electrical stores, insurance agents, importers and exporters, and as agents for the Dollar Steamship Line. There were no Cowies listed as Rangoon partners although Thomas was listed as an assistant in the company.[60] He returned to British India in 1945, this time to Bombay, as the Director of Stores for the Indian Red Cross.[61]

As stated previously, the Cowie companies traded any commodity that had a buyer. Their sales included cutlery, steam engines, pottery, biscuits and bricks. Where they could they labelled or marked the items with their company name.

Figure 5. Cowie Brothers and Co. trademark applied to transfer printed bowls by Bridgeness Pottery. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery
Figure 6. As figure 5.

Figure 7. Steam Engine with Cowie Brothers and Co. nameplate. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery.

Their involvement with bricks came about when Charles senior’s sister Jessie married coalmaster Mark Hurll in 1888.[62] At the time of his marriage his brother Peter was a fireclay brick manufacturer in Glenboig. About three years later Mark set up with his brother as a brick manufacturer, amongst other similar products, forming P & M Hurll, with works in Maryhill, Garscsadden as well as Glenboig. This led to the Cowie brothers trading the bricks and applying their name to each individual product.[63]

Figure 8. Hurll Brick with Cowie Marking.

Their involvement with biscuits in terms of their trademark however was not as successful. In 1896 at the Court of Session they applied for an interdict against biscuit manufacturers George Herbert, a supplier of Cowies, to stop them using what they claimed to be the Cowie trademark, an image of the Glasgow Municipal Building, on biscuits sold by Herberts on their own behalf in Rangoon.

Charles Rennie Cowie and brother Archibald gave evidence essentially saying that Cowies had traded biscuits to Rangoon since 1889, with that trademark. The defendant had also been trading in Rangoon but had begun to use a similar image of the Municipal Building on biscuits he sold directly there thereby confusing potential native purchasers. After a very longwinded obtuse argument involving images of temples and mosques, the judgement went against Cowies and the interdict was refused, the judges essentially declining to accept Rangoon natives would be confused.[64]

It will be pretty obvious by now that the money Charles senior earned through his business ventures as an East India Merchant was the means by which he created his collection. When he died in 1922 his estate was valued at £144,507[65], current worth somewhere between £7million and £70million.[66]

The NLS collection is listed on the library website as contained within MSS 15951 – 15975 and consists of manuscripts relating to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and the poet Allan Ramsay. The manuscripts include an autobiographical letter written by Burns to Dr. John Moore in 1787 in which the poet writes retrospectively of his life to date (MS 15952), and a series of thirteen manuscripts relating to the seven volume collection ‘The Works of Robert Burns’ edited by W Scott Douglas, 1877-1879 (MSS 15955-67). Also included are proofs of ‘The History of Scotland’, 1829-1830, by Sir Walter Scott (MS15969), the final version of ‘The Gentle Shepherd’ by Allan Ramsay, 1724-1725 (MS15972), and letters of Sir Walter Scott to Robert Southey and others (MS15971).[67],[68]

The Cowie collection at the Mitchell is somewhat different. Although it also contains a lot of Burns material, it has an exceptional range of other manuscripts, books, including first editions, and letters from an extremely wide range of individuals including royalty. As far as I’m aware there are no digitalised records of the collection however there are two catalogues which contain a full list of the items donated. They are ‘The John Cowie Collection-Catalogue’ and ‘The John Cowie Collection-Autograph Albums. Index 1 to 4’.

The following will give some idea of the range of topics and material that the Mitchell holds.

  • Statutes of Edward I and II. MSS dated 1274.
  • Rerum Scoticarum Historia. Edinburgh: A. Arbuthnot 1582. Author George Buchanan.
  • Quintus Curtius. Venice 1494. De Rebus Gestis Alexandri Magni.
  • John Milton – Paradise Regained. 1st Edition 1671.
  • Carolus Gustavus, King of Sweden. Last will and Testament – 1660.
  • Aesop Fables by Sir Roger L’Estrange. 1692/1699.
  • The Rosebery Burns Club, Glasgow. Its origins and Growth 1906.
  • Charles Edward Stuart – Order signed by him to raise the Mackintoshes – 1746
  • Letter of Leopold I, King of the Belgians 1850.
  • Paul, Emperor of Russia letter to Baron Dimsdale 1778.
  • Bassendyne Bible 1576
  • C.F. Brotchie. History of Govan 1905
  • Eikon Basilike. The Pourtraicture of his sacred Majestie in his solitudes and sufferings. 1648. (Charles I).
  • Acts of Parliament – 1711.
  • Royal Navy Accounts of Cruisers and Home- Convoys – 1704.
  • George I Document headed 15/4/1724
  • M.W. Turner R.A. lecture ticket dated 1818.
  • William Wilberforce various letters 1819 – 1825
  • Louis XVI. Order for lieutenant to command the corvette ‘La Poulette’ – 1781.
  • Last will and testament of Carolus Gustavus King of Sweden – 1660.
  • Allan Ramsay The Ever Green, a collection of poems – 1724.
  • Sir Walter Scott. Guy Mannering, Edinburgh 1815
  • An account of the taking of the late Duke of Monmouth. Samuel Keble 1685.
  • Giuseppe Garibaldi – letter to Rear Admiral Mundy. 1860.
  • James III letter to Cardinal Gotti, Bologna. 1729.
  • James Boswell. The journal of a tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson. London:1785.
  • The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer 4th John Kyngston 1561.
  • Glasgow Tontine Society. Regulations, 1817.[69]
Figure 9. Charles Rennie Cowie. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery.

His enthusiasm for Robert Burns went beyond collecting books and manuscripts. He contributed significantly to the purchase and restoration  of buildings associated with the poet.

Burns’ house in Castle Street (previously Back Causeway), Mauchline, where he and Jean Armour lived was put up for sale at the beginning of 1915 by its then owner, a Miss Miller. The Glasgow and District Burns Clubs Association were interested in purchasing it and sent a delegation to examine the premises, which included Cowie as president of the Partick Burns Club.

It was decided to buy the property despite it being in the need of repair. It’s not clear what the total costs involved were however Cowie donated the required funds to purchase and repair the house. The building once restored was formally opened to the public on the 28th August 1915. In addition to the museum created, provision was made in the other rooms of the property to accommodate deserving elderly people.[70] At the end of the ceremony Mrs Cowie was presented with a silver key to mark the occasion and her husband’s generous gift.[71]

Figure 10. Opening of Burns House, Mauchline. Mrs Cowie and Charles fifth and sixth from left. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery.

Following on from that in 1916 Charles funded the purchase of the property adjoining the Burns house which had been once owned by Dr. John MacKenzie who had apparently attended Burns’ father at the end of his life. Little work was done during the war but by 1919 the premises were fully restored allowing the museum to expand and to provide accommodation for additional elderly people. His final act of generosity in this respect was for the purchase of Nanse Tinnocok’s Tavern across the road from the other two properties. It was formally opened after repair on the 24th May 1924 by Mrs. Cowie, Charles having died in 1922.[72]

Figure 11. Mrs Grizel Cowie being presented with ceremonial key after performing the opening ceremony of the restored Nanse Tinnocks Tavern. Courtesy of Bo’ness Pottery.

Charles Rennie Cowie died at Woodend House, Partick on the 18th November 1922, cause of death given as chronic nephritis (inflammation of the kidneys).[73] In his lifetime he had been a very successful chemist, inventor and merchant, amassing a fortune from his trading activities which allowed him to indulge his interests in Burns, and collecting.

His obituary in the Glasgow Herald makes reference to his professional life and to his collecting, describing him as a an ‘ardent admirer of the national poet’ and ‘keenly interested in the history of Scotland’. It also adds that he was prominent in temperance circles, an elder in Dowanhill U.F. Church and a member of several General Assembly committees.

He was President of the Abstainers Union and had been a director of the Scottish Temperance League, also supporting these organisations and others financially, and had purchased the old Partick Academy gifting it to the Western branch of the Y.M.C.A. He had also endowed one of the beds in the Arran War Memorial Hospital, an island he visited annually on holiday. He was a J.P., vice president of the Hillhead Liberal Association, had been a member of the Govan School Board, and was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. (F.S.A.). [74]

In his obituary in The Straits Times of 16 December it was stated that every rice eater owed the cheapness of his meal to the ‘unobtrusive chemist from Scotland’. He was also described as a ‘public spirited and charitable citizen’.[75]

John and his mother Grizel were named as executors and trustees of Charles’ estate. Grizel inherited all the household items including his collection and other artefacts and there were also a number of bequests to his church and the temperance organisations he had been involved with. The residue was then to be split  half to Grizel,  and the other half equally divided between his ten children.[76]

Grizel died in 1929 leaving the collection to John. He died on the 10th March 1963 of a heart attack.[77]

Acknowledgement: My thanks to John D. Napper, grandson of John Cowie,  for additional information on the Cowie family


[1] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 24 April 1923. Cowie, Charles Rennie. General Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court. SC36/51/198 and SC36/48/340.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Measuring Worth (2019).
[4] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Partick, Glasgow. 12 November 1929. COWIE, Grizel. 644/22 504.
[5] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Shettleston, Lanarkshire. 1 July 1882. COWIE, John. 622/2 81.
[6] Births (OPR) Scotland. Larbert. 24 June 1817. COWIE, John. 485/  10 477.
[7] E-mail from John D Napper showing Monumental Inscription in Larbert Cemetery.
[8] Census 1861. Scotland. Carronhall, Larbert. 485/ 6/ 2.
[9] Valuation Rolls (1863) Scotland. Falkirk Burgh. COWIE, John. VR0030000006-/56.
[10] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Grahamston, Falkirk. COWIE, Margaret. 479/1  112.
[11] Marriages (OPR) Scotland. Falkirk. 19 February 1839. COWIE, John and RENNIE, Margaret. 479/  130 39.
[12] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Blantyre, Lanarkshire. 27 April 1895. COWIE, Margaret. 624/  112.
[13] Census 1841 Scotland. Grahamston, Falkirk. 479/ 6/ 21.
[14] Valuation Rolls (1872) Scotland. Falkirk Burgh. COWIE, John. VR0030000009-/119.
[15] Census. 1881. Scotland. Riddrie, Shettleston. 622/2 4/ 6.
[16] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Shettleston, Lanarkshire. 1 July 1882. COWIE, John. 622/2 81.
[17] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Blantyre, Lanarkshire. 27 April 1895. COWIE, Margaret. 624/  112.
[18] Census 1891 Scotland. Rutherglen. 654/ 23/ 9.
[19] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Falkirk. 24 October 1851. COWIE, Charles Rennie. 479/ 110 492.
[20] Obituaries. (1922) Glasgow Herald. 20 November. Charles Rennie. p. 5d
[21] Strathclyde University. Archives and Special Collections. OM/126 – Frederick Penney Collection.
[22] Census 1871. Scotland. Uphall, Linlithgow. 672/ 3 / 24.
[23] Obituaries. (1922) Glasgow Herald. 20 November. Charles Rennie. p. 5d
[24] London Gazette (1873) 25 March 1873. Issue 23961, p. 1659.
[25] Obituaries. (1922) Glasgow Herald. 20 November. Charles Rennie. p. 5d
[26] Marriages (SR) Scotland. Uphall, Linlithgow. 17 December 1878. COWIE, Charles Rennie and PURDIE, Grizel. 672/  20.
[27] Families in British India Society. Patents of British India, 1856 – 90. Patent No. 1876/50.
[28] Families in British India Society. Patents of British India, 1856 – 90. Patent No. 1878/16.
[29] The Straits Times. (1922). 16 December 1922. p. 13.
[30] Families in British India Society. Patents of British India, 1856 – 90. Patent No. 1881/18.
[31] Obituaries. (1922) Glasgow Herald. 20 November. Charles Rennie. p. 5d
[32] [32] Marriages (SR) Scotland. Uphall, Linlithgow. 17 December 1878. COWIE, Charles Rennie and PURDIE, Grizel. 672/  20.
[33] Bo’ness Pottery. Grace Purdie.
[34] Deaths (SR) Scotland. West Calder, Edinburgh. 19 February 1863. PURDIE, Andrew. 701/  9
[35] National Records of Scotland. High Court of Justiciary Processes. Reference JC 26/1837/446. RHP141521. and Crown Offices Precognitions, Reference AD14/37/404.
[36] Valuation Rolls (1855) Scotland. Uphall, Linlithgow. PURDIE, Thomas. VR01220000-/2
[37] Births and Baptisms. India. Rangoon, Bengal. 29 October 1880. COWIE, John. India Births and Baptisms 1786 – 1947, Film No. 510867.
[38] Births. And Baptisms. India. Rangoon, Bengal. 23 May 1882. COWIE, Mary Storrie. India Births and Baptisms 1786 – 1947, Film No. 510868.
[39] Births (SR) Scotland. Portobello, Edinburgh. 5 May 1884. COWIE, Margaret Rennie. 684/ 1  91. and Baptisms. India. Rangoon, Bengal. 7 December 1884. India Births and Baptisms 1786 – 1947. Film No. 510874.
[40] Births and Baptisms. India. Rangoon, Bengal. 19 February 1886. COWIE, Grace Purdie. India Births and Baptisms 1876 – 1947, Film No. 510878.
[41] Births (SR) Scotland. Rosneath, Dunbarton. 11 February 1888. COWIE, Isabella Miller. 502/ 1  3
[42] Census 1901 Scotland. St. Mary’s, Govan. 646/ 3 40/ 22.  And Census 1911. Scotland. St. Mary’s Govan. 646/ 3  38/ 1. and E-mail from John D Napper.
[43] Births. (SR) Scotland. Kirn, Argyllshire. 17 August 1891. COWIE, Jessie. 510/ 1  84.
[44] Births. (SR) Scotland. Partick, Lanark. 11 December 1893. COWIE, Thomas Purdie. 646/ 3  1738.
[45] Births. (SR) Scotland. Partick, Lanark. 24 July 1895. COWIE, Charles Rennie. 646/ 3 1138.
[46] Births. (SR) Scotland. Partick, Lanark. 9 March 1903. COWIE, Gladys Dorothy. 646/ 3 524.
[47] Directories. Scotland. (1880-81) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 167, 324.
[48] Directories. Scotland. (1882-83) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 173.
[49] Directories. Scotland. (1883-84) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 175.
[50] Directories. Scotland. (1884-85) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 200.
[51] Valuation Rolls (1895) Scotland. Lanark. COWIE, charles Rennie. VR010700154-/658.
[52] Directories. Scotland. (1893-94) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 210
[53] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Old Monkland, Lanark. 14 June 1894. COWIE, James. 652/ 1 77
[54] Directories. Scotland. (1897-98) Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 192
[55] Directories. Scotland. (1975-76). Glasgow Directory. Glasgow: p. 133. Mitchell Library, Glasgow.
[56] Passenger List for SS Oxfordshire departing Rangoon. COWIE, Charles Rennie. 1939. Collection: UK and Ireland Incoming Passenger Lists 1878 – 1960.
[57] The Anglo – Burmese Library. Officers and Men of the Burma Auxiliary Force and the Burma Intelligence Corps.
[58] The Burma Campaign. Rangoon Battalion, Burma Auxiliary Force
[59] Marriages. India. Rangoon. 16 November 1921. COWIE, Thomas Purdie and SEYMOUR, Gladys Hilda. India Select Marriages, 1792 – 1948.
[61] Passenger List for SS Pegu departing Middlesbrough. COWIE, Thomas Purdie. 14 December 1945. Collection: UK and Ireland Outward Passenger Lists 1890 – 1960.
[62] Marriages (SR) Scotland. Rutherglen, Lanark. 19 April 1888. HURLL, Mark and COWIE, Jessie. 654/  33.
[63] Scotland’s Brick Manufacturing Industry. Cowie Brothers, Glasgow
[64] Casemine. Cowie Brothers & Co. v Herbert 16 June 1896.
[65] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 24 April 1923. Cowie, Charles Rennie. General Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court. SC 36/51/198 and SC36/48/340.
[66] Measuring Worth (2019).
[67] National Library of Scotland. Cowie Collection of Manuscripts etc. made by Charles R Cowie of Glasgow.
[68] National Library of Scotland. Robert Burns 1759-1796, The Cowie Collection Manuscripts.
[69] Mitchell Library, Glasgow. The John Cowie Collection – Catalogue and The John Cowie Collection – Autograph Albums. Index 1 to 4.
[70] Jean Armour Burns Trust. History of the Jean Armour Houses.
[71] Bo’ness Pottery. Grace Purdie.
[72] Jean Armour Burns Trust. History of the Jean Armour Houses.
[73] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Partick, Glasgow. 18 November 1922. COWIE, Charles Rennie. 644/ 22 595.
[74] Obituaries. (1922) Glasgow Herald. 20 November. Charles Rennie. p. 5d
[75] The Straits Times. (1922). 16 December 1922. p. 13.
[76] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 24 April 1923. Cowie, Charles Rennie. General Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court. SC 36/51/198 and SC36/48/340.

[77] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Partick, Glasgow. 10 March 1963. COWIE, John. 644/ 8  368.

Mary Jackson Kirkpatrick (1876 – 1956)

Seven oil paintings were presented to Glasgow Corporation on 14 July 1947. The donor was a Miss Kirkpatrick of 6 Cleveden Crescent, Glasgow. 1

The paintings were:

Figure 1. Constable, John (in style of); On the Wye, Herefordshire. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(
Figure 2. Donald, John Milne; Cattle in a Pool. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(
Figure 3. Boughton, George Henry; Girl with a Muff, Winter Scene. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(
Figure 4. Boughton, George Henry; Girl with Pitchers, Summer Scene. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

Figure 5. Billet, Pierre; Bringing in the Catch. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

The other two paintings in the donation were: The Old Story by D.A.C. Artz (2627) and Highland River by John MacWhirter, RA, ARSA  (2628).

         According to the Glasgow Voters’ Roll for 1948, there was a Mary J. Kirkpatrick resident at 1 Cleveden Crescent. In 1937 the Voters’ Roll has Mrs Mary A. Kirkpatrick and Mary J Kirkpatrick living at 6 Cleveden Crescent. This suggested that the two women were mother and daughter and that the mother had died sometime between 1937 and 1948. Mary Anne Kirkpatrick, widow of Thomas Kirkpatrick, grain merchant, died at 6 Cleveden Crescent, Glasgow on 13 December 1940. She was 86 years old, and her death was reported by her daughter Mary J. Kirkpatrick. Her father, John Jackson, was also a grain merchant. 2

                Thomas Kirkpatrick was employed by the firm of John Jackson & Co., grain and flour factors of 23 Hope Street, Glasgow. 3 He was thirty-four years old and a bachelor when he married the boss’s daughter, twenty-year-old Mary Anne Jackson at the bride’s residence, 13 Lauder Road, Grange, Edinburgh on 25 March 1875. Thomas Kirkpatrick’s address was 24 Berkeley Terrace, Glasgow.4 Mary Jackson Kirkpatrick was born the following year on 20 January at 2 Park Quadrant, Glasgow.5  Two years later, a son, Thomas was born and a second daughter, Edith Grant Kirkpatrick was born in 1880. 6 The family was completed with the birth of Arthur in 1887.7 By 1891 the family had moved to 6 Montgomerie Crescent in Kelvinside. Thomas Kirkpatrick’s occupation was ‘grain merchant, employer’. Mary was a scholar aged fifteen. 8 Ten years later, on 18 November 1901, Thomas Kirkpatrick died aged sixty-one after an operation for an epithelioma of the colon. 9  The family remained at 6 Montgomerie Crescent with Mary Ann Kirkpatrick living on private means along with her daughter Mary, son Arthur who was now an accounts clerk and two servants. 10 Edith Kilpatrick had married John Ernest Jarrett in 1902 11 and Thomas Jr. followed in his father’s footsteps as a grain merchant and took over the family business.

Kirkpatrick, Thos., grain merchant, 67 Hope street; ho. 4 Grosvenor cres. 12

                Sometime between 1911 and 1936, Montgomerie Crescent was renamed Cleveden Crescent. Mary Anne Kirkpatrick died at 6 Cleveden Crescent on 13 December 1940. She was eighty-six. Her daughter Mary reported her death. 13 After her mother’s death, Mary moved to 1 Cleveden Crescent 14 perhaps to a smaller flat and this may have occasioned the donation of the paintings to Glasgow. Mary Jackson Kirkpatrick died at the Royal Glasgow Cancer Hospital on 18 February 1956 aged eighty. Her sister Edith who was living with her at 1 Cleveden Crescent, reported her death. 15,16


  1. Glasgow Corporation, Catalogue of Donations, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  2. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  3. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1874-5
  4. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  5. Scotland’s People, Birth Certificate
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Scotland’s People, Census 1891
  9. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  10. Scotland’s People, Census 1911
  11. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  12. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1918-19
  13. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  14. Glasgow Voters’ Roll, 1948
  15. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  16. Glasgow Herald, 20 February 1956, p1

Robert McNeil Ker (1878 – 1953)

On 11 December 1946, an oil painting entitled Mrs. Scott, Wife of James Scott of Kelly (2590) by John Graham-Gilbert RSA, was presented to Glasgow Corporation by Major Ker of Easterton, Milngavie. 1

Figure 1. Graham-Gilbert, John; Mrs James Scott of Kelly; Glasgow Museums;

The subject of the painting is Jane Martha Galbraith who was born in Barony on 7 May 1830. (She  died aged 87 in 1917 at 8 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow). Her parents were Andrew Galbraith, a cotton spinner/merchant, and Margaret Bogle Scott. 2 In 1848, aged eighteen, Jane married the thirty- eight-year-old James Scott. 3 (Appendix) The following year James Scott bought the estate of Kelly in the parish of Inverkip, Renfrewshire. The painting is dated to 1850 (ArtUK) so either commemorates the couples’ marriage or perhaps the birth of their first child Margaret Bogle Scott who was born on 14 July 1850. 4 Between 1850 and 1866 Jane Martha Scott gave birth to ten children, five boys and five girls. One of the girls, Helen Bethia Scott who was born on 16  July 1855 in Inverkip 5 was the mother of the donor. Helen Bethia Scott was 21 when she married Thomas Ripley Ker ‘gentleman’ of Dougalston, Milngavie on 20 June 1877 at St. Mary`s Tower, Birnam, Little Dunkeld. 6 (Thomas Ker’s father Robert Ker went out East as a merchant in 1825 and made his fortune before returning to Glasgow in 1836 and becoming a partner in Ker, Bolton & Co. of 27 West George Street, Manilla and Singapore Merchants. In 1841 he married Elizabeth Johnston of Shieldhall and had four children).7                   

Thomas and Helen Ker’s first child, Robert McNeil Ker (later ‘Major Ker’ the donor of the painting) was born in Strathblane on 18 February 1878. 8 A second child, Ronald Scott Ker was born in 1879 and the family took up residence in Bardowie House (Castle), Baldernock, Stirling. 9

Finely situated on its north-east side of Bardowie Lochan, and
embowered among foliage, is Bardowie House, an edifice of moderate
size, and somewhat timeworn, yet withal wearing an appearance of
quiet cosieness and comfort .’ 10                                                           

Figure 2. Bardowie_Castle in 1870 By Thomas Annan httpwww.theglasgowstory.comimage.phpinum=TGSB00235, Public Domain, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=15233785

Robert was educated at Dalvreck Academy (later Ardvrek Academy) in Crieff and appears on the school roll in 1891 11 but no record of Robert’s time there could be found by the school archivist. By 1901 the family had moved to Dougalston Mansion. This was a large house – according to the census there were thirty-five rooms with one or more windows – situated in Milngavie. 12

Figure 3. Dougalston, Milngavie (From an old post card)

 The house had been built by John Glassford, one of the Glasgow ‘Tobacco Lords’ in the early 18th century. Robert’s grandfather Robert Ker bought the house and estate in 1870 13 and had the house restored about 1872-73. 14 He also, in 1883, acquired the estate of Easterton . When he died in 1888, Robert Ker left an estate valued at £220,000 not including Dougalston. 15

The family now consisted of Thomas and Helen, Robert aged 23 was a ‘militiaman’, Ronald, an Oxford undergraduate and a sister Helen Ripley Ker born in 1887. They employed eight servants and a governess. 16

On 24 September 1902, Robert joined the army – the Officer Cadet Battalion with the rank of Honorary Captain. 17 The following year as a lieutenant in the Royal Garrison Regiment he married Margaret Lilian Blagden in Tisbury, Wiltshire.18,19 On 29 April 1904, the Royal Garrison Regiment embarked for South Africa to take up garrison duties at Fort Napier, Pietermaritzburg. 20 Tragically, Margaret Lilian Ker died in Pietermaritzburg on 7 April 1905. Robert later erected a memorial plaque to her in the church of St. Mary the Virgin, Donhead St. Mary, Wiltshire:

In Memory of

Margaret Lilian Ker

Nee Blagden

Who was married in this church 13th October 1903

And who died in Pietermaritzburg, Natal

7th April 1905

Erected by Robert MacNeil Ker

Xmas 1905

Robert returned from South Africa later that year with three battalions of the regiment. (The Royal Garrison Regiment was disbanded on 1 September 1908 21). In the same year as the death of his wife, Robert’s grandmother Elizabeth Ker died at Eastertoun. 22

On 17 April 1907, Robert McNeil Ker married Lucy Winifred Strickland -Constable at Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street, Chelsea. 23 Lucy was born in Wassand Hall, Seaton, Yorkshire in 1875. She was the daughter of Henry Strickland – Constable and niece of Sir Charles Strickland eighth baronet of Boynton. After the wedding, the couple left for Paris and a continental honeymoon. 24

They had a son, Neil Ripley Ker, born on 28May 1908 in Brompton, London. Neil became an eminent palaeographer and his entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says that his father was a captain in the 3rd battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (A & SH). During the war years his mother and grandmother held garden fetes etc. to raise funds for the A & SH Comforts’ Fund. 25

According to the census of 1911, Robert, aged 33 was living ‘on private means’ at Friningham Lodge, Detling, near Maidstone in Kent. With him were his wife Lucy aged 36 and son Neil aged 2. In 1914, with the advent of war, Robert was a captain in the Reserve of Officers attached to the Brigade of Infantry. In the same year he joined the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders and then the Machine Gun Corps with the rank of major. At some point during the war, he was made acting lieutenant colonel of the corps. 26

Figure 4. Easterton House (Alexander Nisbet Paterson, 1915)Old Postcard View found in Crawford, James, Old Mugdock, Balmore, Baldernock and Bardowie, 2016, Stenlake Publishing, Ltd.

 After the war he seems to have lived quietly at Easterton, his father’s house in Milngavie taking an interest in local affairs. Lucy Winifred Ker died at Eastertoun on 7 December 1942. 27She was sixty-seven. Robert’s father, Thomas Ripley Ker, died at Eastertoun on 18 July 1947. An extensive obituary was published in the local paper. 28Robert McNeil Ker died on 15 October 1953 at Easterton. His death certificate states that he was a Major in the Royal Garrison Regiment (retd.) and the widower of Lucy Winifred Strickland – Constable. 29 A brief report appeared in the local newspaper stating that ‘he was well known locally for the deep interest and kindness he showed in philanthropic institutions, and particularly of the Old Folks Clubs. He was of a quiet genial disposition and will be missed by many in the district’. 30   

After a private funeral he was buried in Baldernock Churchyard alongside his parents, his brother and his second wife. His father had earlier gifted land to enlarge the churchyard ‘where the maternal ancestors of President Roosevelt are buried’. 31

Figure 5. Ker family gravestones in Baldernock Churchyard. httpswww.findagrave.commemorial196889564robert-macneil-ker



James Scott 1810 – 1884

James Scott had been made a partner in the firm of James Black & Co., calico printers, at the age of twenty and largely thanks to his efforts the firm’s business grew rapidly. In 1835 it acquired the Dalmonach printworks in Alexandria and through Scott’s ‘extraordinary enterprise’…….. attained it’s present position in the foremost ranks of printing’. James Scott retired from business in 1847. However, in 1852 he returned to set up the firm of J. & W.J. Scott with his younger brother. It became the largest cotton spinning works in Scotland. He also had interests in the railways and in oil setting up works at Clippens in Renfrewshire. 32 As a town councillor in Glasgow he was largely responsible for the formation of Kelvingrove Park. He sold the estate of Kelly to James ‘Paraffin’ Young in 1867. James Young died there on 13 May 1883 and is buried in Inverkip cemetery. James Scott died in 1884. Kelly House burned down in 1913 allegedly from suffragette activity. 33


  1. Catalogue of Donations, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  2. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate 1917, Jane Martha Scott
  3. Old Parish Registers, Family Search, Scotland
  4. Ibid
  5. Scotland’s People, Birth Certificate
  6. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  7. Smith, John Guthrie, Strathendrick, and its inhabitants from early times, Glasgow, J Maclehose and sons, 1896
  8. Scotland’s People, Birth Certificate
  9., 1881 Scotland Census
  10. Macdonald, Hugh, Rambles Round Glasgow, 1854
  11., 1891 Scotland Census
  12., 1901 Scotland Census
  13. Smith, John Guthrie, Strathendrick, and its inhabitants from early times, Glasgow, J Maclehose and sons, 1896
  15. Stirling Advertiser, 11 October 1888
  16., 1901 Scotland Census
  17. https//
  18. England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,
  21. Ibid
  22. Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 10 February 1905
  23. England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,
  24. Hull Daily Mail, 18 April 1907
  25. Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 12 April 1918
  26. https//
  27. Glasgow Herald, 8 December 1942
  28. Milngavie and Bearsden Herald, 26 July 1947
  29. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  30. Milngavie and Bearsden Herald , 17 October 1953
  31. Kirkintilloch Herald, 2 January 1929

Cecilia Douglas (1772-1862). Art Collector and Slave Owner.

To avoid confusion donor Cecilia Douglas will always be in bold.

In 1862 Mrs Cecilia Douglas (nee Douglas) bequeathed oil paintings and sculptures to the then Glasgow Corporation. The paintings, thirteen in total consisting of an old master, copies of old masters and other originals, initially were on display in the Mclellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street. Currently they are located in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre or on display in Kelvingrove Art Galleries.

Figure 1. Willem van Aelst (1627-after 1687). Still Life: Herring, Cherries and Glassware. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (
Figure 2. Vincenzo Camuccini (171-1844). The Death of Julius Caesar. © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

She and her husband Gilbert represented two different branches of the Douglas family. Hers, according to one source, perhaps wishful thinking, descended from the Douglas Earls of Angus via the Douglas families of Cruixton and Stobbs,[1] Gilbert’s from the Douglases of Mulderg in Ross-Shire.[2] Her mother was a Buchanan, descending from the Buchanans of Leny, Gilbert’s mother was a Robertson,  daughter of a farmer from Balcony (Balconie). Interestingly there is a line of descent chart which shows the Robertson family descending from Edward I of England and his wife, the daughter of the king of France.[3] All pre-eminent families, particularly the Douglases and the Buchanans who were heavily involved in the West Indies in the eighteenth century, owning plantations and dealing in sugar and tobacco.

Gilbert Douglas

Gilbert’s paternal ancestry can be traced back to Hector Douglas, the first of Mulderg, who is mentioned in the 1644 Valuation Roll of the Sheriffdom of Inverness and Ross. He seems to have been the proprietor of the estate from around 1630.He died before 1653, his son Hector succeeding him being ‘retoured as heir of his father’ (legally recognised). Son Hector had married Bessie Gray around 1630 producing at least three sons, however his time as owner of the estate was short lived as he died around 1657, to be succeeded by son Robert. Robert, his brother another Hector who succeeded him, both had no issue the estate passing on to a third brother, first name unfortunately not known. This brother was succeeded by his son Hector who was Gilbert’s great grandfather. Around 1718 the Douglases ceased to own Mulderg, Gilbert’s great grandfather’s eldest son (another Hector) being the last.[4]

The second son was Robert [5] who married Catherine Munro in 1703.[6] She was his second wife and they had three children one of whom was yet another Robert, a farmer in Balcony, who was Gilbert’s father. He married Janet Robertson, daughter of farmer Hugh Robertson also of Balcony, Gilbert being born in 1749. He was baptised in the parish church of Kiltearn in Ross-shire.[7]

Cecilia Douglas

From 1378 to 1660 there were twelve Douglas Earls of Angus, the last one being William Douglas, who became the Marquis of Angus in 1633. No clear connection has been established between the Earls and Cecilia’s father John Douglas, a Glasgow merchant, however I believe his first traceable direct ancestor, and Cecilia’s paternal great great grandfather was Robert Douglas, an Edinburgh merchant who married Helen Hunter in 1665.[8] According to the Douglas Archives website they had a son, Robert of Cruixton, who married Rachael McFarlane, who in turn had a son named William, John Douglas’s father. William was a merchant in Leith. He married Katherine Dunlop of Garnkirk[9] and died in 1772.[10]

John Douglas was born in Leith in 1727.[11] He married Cecilia Buchanan in 1766,[12] the daughter of George Buchanan, a maltman, burgess and guild brother of Glasgow. Her paternal ancestry can be traced back to Walter Buchanan of Leny in the sixteenth century, his grandson Andrew Buchanan of Gartacharn being her great grandfather. She shares this ancestry with Mary Buchanan, the wife of Alexander Speirs, who also was Andrew’s great granddaughter.

Andrew’s son George was a maltman in Glasgow, a member of the Trades House from 1674, where he held a number of positions. At various times he was also a Glasgow Bailie and Deacon Convener of the Trades House. He married twice, his second wife being Mary Maxwell, daughter of Glasgow merchant Gabriel Maxwell. They had ten children, seven sons and three daughters.

The eldest was also George, born in 1686 who followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a maltman in Glasgow. He was also Glasgow Burgh Treasurer at one point and became a Bailie in 1732.[13] He married three times, his third wife Cecilia Forbes, whom he married in 1736,[14] being the mother of Cecilia Buchanan who was born in 1740.[15]

George’s younger brothers Andrew, Neil and Archibald, who was Alexander Speirs’ father in law, were heavily involved in the American tobacco trade becoming Glasgow’s largest tobacco importer by 1730.[16]

The Family of John Douglas and Cecilia Buchanan

John and Cecilia had eleven children, all born in Glasgow, as follows:

·  William, b. October 1766.[17] Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1778.[18] Died before 1828, the Trust deed of Cecilia Douglas, written in 1828 refers to him as her late brother as she bequeathed to his daughter Rosina £250.[19] As the name Rosina in the Scotlandspeople records for that time is rare there is some reasonably strong evidence, but not fully conclusive, that William was a ship’s captain, had married Rosina Service, daughter Rosina being born in 1811.[20] She died in 1912,[21] the widow of Peter Drew whom she married in 1854,[22] her father being described as a master mariner.

·  George, b. May 1768.[23]

·  John, b. May 1768.[24]  What happened to his twin George has not been established except that he matriculated at Glasgow University in 1780 and died young.[25] John also matriculated at Glasgow[26] and afterwards was significantly involved with the sugar trade in Demerara, (British Guiana, now Guyana) probably on his own initially but subsequently with his brothers through the family firm of J. T. and A. Douglas & Co. Probably/possibly his involvement in the trade was through Gilbert Douglas who owned plantations in the West Indies. He actually lived in Demerara around 1800 owning, with his brothers, at least three sugar plantations directly, plus others indirectly as mortgagees.[27] Whilst there he fathered three children, two boys and a girl, with a free creole woman. The second son James, born in 1803, was to have an astonishing career considering his parents never married and his mother was of mixed European and black descent. He came to Scotland with his brother Alexander, possibly with their father, for his early schooling and in 1819 they both went to Canada to work in the fur trade for the North West Company. By 1821 James was working for the Hudson Bay Company. He married Amelia Connelly, who was half native Canadian, half white in 1827 and continued to rise through the Hudson Bay Company, eventually being transferred to British Columbia to run its operation there with a wide range of responsibilities. By 1851 he had been appointed governor of Vancouver Island. When it became officially a crown colony in 1859 he became the first governor of British Columbia, holding the two posts until his retirement in 1864 at which point he became a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. He died in 1877.[28]

Figure 3. Sir James Douglas. From Dictionary of Canadian Biography. (source Wikimedia Commons).

John returned to Glasgow before 1809, probably around 1806/07 as the first time the family firm of J. T. snd A. Douglas & Co., located at 51 Virginia Street, appeared in the Glasgow Post Office Directory was in the 1807 edition.[29] He married Jessie Hamilton, the daughter of a Greenock merchant in 1809[30] and they had at least three children, one boy named for his father and two girls.[31] I have the impression that he returned to Demerara at some point but there is no clear proof of that. He eventually moved to Edinburgh living at Moray Place where he died in 1840. His estate in Scotland was valued at just under £71,500, the majority of it in bank, railway and canal stock.[32] Today that would be worth between £7m and £290m.[33] His estate in England was valued at ‘under £20,000’, being finally settled in 1862, his brother Thomas being by that time the sole surviving executor,[34] John’s wife Jessie having died in 1861 at Moray Place.[35]

·  Robert, b. 20 July 1770.[36] Not mentioned in her 1828 Trust deed presumably having died before then.

·  Cecilia, b. 28 February 1772,[37] more of whom and husband Gilbert to follow.

·  Neil, b. 24 February 1774.[38] Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1786 then  became a partner in Douglas and Brown, cotton spinners.[39] Joined the Rifle Brigade in 1801 as a second lieutenant and had an extremely successful military career. By 1811 he had attained the rank of major and had fought with Sir John Moore in Portugal and Sweden. He was no desk soldier being wounded twice between 1810 (Busaco) and 1815 (Quatre Bas). In June of that year he had commanded his battalion at Waterloo. He continued to progress through the ranks becoming by the end of his career Lieutenant General of the 78th regiment in 1851. He was an aide-de-camp of William IV from 1825 to 1837 and from 1842 to 1847 was governor of Edinburgh Castle.[40] He was awarded many honours being made a Commander of the Order of Maria Theresa in 1815 by the Austrian emperor,[41] in 1831 he was knighted becoming a Knight-Companion of the Royal Hanoverian Guelphic Order,[42] finally becoming a Knight Commander of the Bath. I’ve not been able to clearly identify when he was given this last honour but when he was appointed to Edinburgh Castle in 1842 he was described as a KCB.[43] In 1816 he married Barbara Robertson, the daughter of George Robertson, a banker of Greenock.[44] They had at least one son, Sir John Douglas, who like his father became a soldier. He fought in the Crimean War and was involved in dealing with the Indian Mutiny of 1857. He reached the rank of general in 1880.[45] Sir Neil Douglas died in Brussels in 1853.[46]

Figure 4. Sir Neil Douglas. National Portrait Gallery of Scotland

·  Thomas Dunlop, b. 1 February 1776.[47] He began his business life as an apprentice hat maker with Thomas Buchanan (a relative of his mother?) in Glasgow and by 1801 had his own hat making business located between Brown Street and Carrick Street.[48] Following the partnership with his brothers John and Archibald in 1807 he continued as a hat maker until 1816, the last year he appears in the Glasgow directory as such.[49] From 1823 until 1857/58 he was described as an insurance broker. From 1807 until 1855 he continued to be a partner of J. T. and A. Douglas & Co., that being the last year the company appeared in the Glasgow directory [50]. He married Rose Hunter of Greenock in May 1808,[51] there being, apparently, no children of the marriage. He was a member of the Board of Green Cloth, a Glasgow whist and supper club from at least 1809 and in 1845 bought the Dunlop estate in Ayrshire, which was once owned by the Dunlop family his grandfather William Douglas had married into.[52] He died in 1869 at Dunlop House, his wife Rosina pre- deceasing him.[53] His inventory of assets totalled over £64,000 in Scotland and £176,000 in England, combined total being £241,600.[54] Today this would equate to around £500m in terms of economic worth.[55] In his trust settlement of 1867 he made several bequests to the families of his brothers, other family members, servants, farm hands and charitable institutions, however the most significant beneficiary was Thomas Dunlop Douglas Cunninghame Graham, who I believe was a nephew or great nephew, but not proven.[56]

·  Archibald, b. 10 October 1778.[57] Reliable information about Archibald has been difficult to get, however like his brothers he matriculated at Glasgow University in 1789.[58] He clearly was a partner in the family business but rarely appeared in the Glasgow directory. There is an Archibald Douglas, stocking manufacturer, in the 1801 directory, becoming Archibald Douglas & Co, hosiers by 1807, thereafter no further entries. Similarly his personal life only becomes clear through his Trust settlement of 1860. In the Regality Club of Glasgow publications he is described as a merchant in 1811 and a member of Glasgow Golf Club in 1815.[59] In addition to being a partner in J. T. and A. Douglas and Co. he was also a partner, with brother Neil, in Douglas, Brown and Co., cotton spinners. He purchased the estate of Glenfinnart in Argyllshire in 1845 where lived for the rest of his life.[60] He died there in 1860 and it is in his Trust document that you get primary evidence that he married and had children. He married firstly Christina Riddell in 1810, then Harriet May in 1828, and finally Anna McNeill in 1838. There appears to be children only of the last marriage, namely John, a colonel and Assistant Adjutant General of Cavalry who was his executor and main beneficiary, and daughters Anna Glassford and Eleanor Louisa, who pre deceased him. His estate was valued at over £28,000.[61]

·  James, b. 8 August 1779.[62] Very little known about this brother except he seems to have lived and died in Demerara. The only evidence I have for that is that there is a reference to his death in the July-December 1853 issue of the Official Gazette for British Guiana concerning a share of the Good Hope plantation there being transferred to his brother Thomas Dunlop Douglas.[63] In his sister Cecilia’s Trust deed of 1828 he is described as ‘of Demerara’[64] however it’s possible he may have returned to Glasgow on occasion as in his brother John’s will in 1840 he is described as a merchant in Glasgow.[65] In his only entry in the Glasgow directory in 1850/51 he is described as a partner in the family company his house address given as 234 St Vincent Street. [66]

·  Colin, 25 November 1781.[67] Matriculated at Glasgow University in 1793 and graduated M.D. in 1802.[68] He is very likely to have died unmarried before 1828 as sister Cecilia does not mention him or any family of his in her Trust settlement of 1828

·  Cathrin, b. 16 January 1784.[69]

As Indicated previously John Douglas senior was a Glasgow merchant. Around 1775 he purchased from John Miller a plot of land in what became Miller Street.[70] In the same year he and two other city merchants were charged by the Sheriff Depute of the County of Lanark, with ensuring that the Clyde from Dumbuck Ford to the Broomielaw had been deepened in accordance with the contract between Glasgow and a Mr. Goldburne, which was confirmed as seven feet at an ordinary neep tide![71]

What kind of merchant he was is not entirely clear as entries in the Glasgow directories don’t always specify. His first entry in the1783 John Tait directory simply says he was a merchant in Miller Street.[72] However in the Jones directories in 1789 and 1790/91 the only John Douglas entry in each states he was a wine and rum merchant, located in Miller Street.[73] Confusingly another source states he was the father of Sir Neil Douglas, which is correct, but then goes on to describe him as an insurance broker.[74]

I have not been able to clearly identify when John Douglas died but it must have been after 1803, the date of his last entry in the Glasgow directory and before 1810, the date of his wife Cecilia’s death where she was described as the relict (widow) of merchant John Douglas.[75]

J. T. and A. Douglas and Co.

The company lasted for just under fifty years, the final entry in the Glasgow directory being in 1854. Its main area of operation had been the sugar plantations it or the brothers owned in Demerara and Berbice in British Guiana. They had an involvement with at least six plantations Union, Better Hope, Enfield, Good Hope, Belmont and Windsor Forest either as owners or mortgagees which collectively had 1155 slaves. Additionally there were five more slaves presumably household for either John or James. When slavery was abolished they claimed compensation, eventually receiving as owners £41517 and a further £48874 from other owners which paid off the outstanding mortgage debt.[76] The total of these sums, £90391, equate today to £392m in terms of economic power.[77] That sum was in addition to the profits they made over the lifetime of the company, the majority of that time investing in human misery to their clear advantage. That misery erupted into a slave rebellion in Demerara in 1823 which was savagely put down by the military with hundreds of slaves killed, those who weren’t being sentenced to 1,000 lashes and hard labour.[78]

Cecilia and Gilbert Douglas

Cecilia and Gilbert married in Glasgow on the 26 January 1794.[79] There were no children of the marriage. As a farmer’s son Gilbert presumably spent his early working life on his father’s farm in Balcony, however there is not a great deal known about his subsequent business activities. At the time of his marriage he was described as a merchant in Glasgow but the usual sources to confirm that such as the city directories, the Merchants House and the Scottish Record Society records of burgesses etc, contain no reference to him. Nor is there any record of matriculating/graduating from the University. What is known is that at the time of his death he owned a cotton plantation called Fairfield in Demerara and a sugar plantation called Mount Pleasant, on the island of St. Vincent, where he had lived for a period.[80] How and when he acquired them has not been discovered.

In 1800 he bought the Douglas Park estate from Major-General John Hamilton of Orbiston,[81] following which he engaged architect Robert Burn to build a mansion on the site of the old Orbiston House based on plans apparently prepared in 1795.[82] He also bought the estate of Boggs from Hamilton a year later. He and Cecilia lived there for the rest of their lives.

He died in 1807 at Douglas Park,[83] his deed of settlement in St. Vincent naming Cecilia and her brothers as trustees of his estate. She specifically was bequeathed half shares in the two plantations as well as life rent of the Douglas Park and Boggs estates.[84]

As it turned out the plantations had debts which Cecilia paid off by continuing to sell the Demerara produce for a time and eventually her half share in the plantation itself.[85]

Figure 5. Orbiston House. From: Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878). The Old Country Houses of the Old Glasgow Gentry. 2nd ed. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

The remainder of Cecilia’s life does not reflect that of a typical Victorian lady. She travelled to Italy and lived there for an extended period, she purchased the estate of Orbiston, adjacent to her own and renamed the whole estate and house Orbiston,[86] and she had a number of significant industrial and financial investments which included the Forth and Clyde Canal (£3536), the Bank of England (£7977) and various railway stocks (over £9700).[87] She also retained her half share in the ownership of the St. Vincent plantation which had 231 slaves. When slavery was abolished in 1834 she claimed compensation and in 1836 was duly awarded £3014.[88] She collected art in many different formats, paintings, sculptures, furniture and so on, the collection in due course being donated to Glasgow.[89]

Figure 6. The Tontine Building in 1868, photographed by Thomas Annan. From ‘ Glasgow’s Treasure Chest’ by James Cowan, ‘Peter Prowler’. Published June 1951, page 393.

In December 1860 she came into the ownership of the Tontine building in Glasgow. The Tontine scheme in 1781 financed the reconstruction of the old Tontine Hotel creating what became known as the Tontine Building. Individual shares were purchased at £50 per share, there being a total of one hundred and seven shares sold. Two shares were bought in young Cecilia’s name one of which was by her grandfather William Douglas, the other by Glasgow merchant Alexander McCaul. The objective of the scheme, apart from having a grand civic building, was that the last living share holder would have ownership of it. That turned out to be Cecilia,[90]although it was a close run thing as she was the oldest of four survivors in February of that year.[91]

She died at home in 1862 in her ninety first year, essentially from old age.[92] She left a personal estate valued at just over £40,365. In accordance with her Trust deed her bequests included family and a number of charities and organisations, and individual members of her domestic staff.[93] In accordance with her husband’s Trust deed the Orbiston estate was left to his grandnephew Robert Douglas.[94]

She and her husband are commemorated by a plaque on the wall of St. Bride’s Collegiate Church in Bothwell inscribed as follows:

To the memory of Gilbert Douglas of Douglas ParkBorn 28th May 1749 Died 10th March 1807
and also of Cecilia Douglas of Orbiston his wife
Born 28th Feby 1772 Died 25th July 1862

Before her death she funded a window in Glasgow Cathedral dedicated to her husband and her parents and siblings, which was completed in October 1862, part of it being shown below.[95]

Figure 8. Kind Permission of Heritage Environment Scotland.

In 2013 articles about the paintings bequest to Glasgow appeared in the Herald newspaper, one entitled “The Paintings Sullied by Slavery”. It goes into detail about the Cecilia Douglas fortune being founded on slavery and asks the inevitable question about whether paintings with their financial provenance should ever go on show. A complex question with no easy answer. The following are two telling and moving extracts referring to the conditions on the Douglas plantation in St. Vincent.

‘Slavery conditions on the Mount Pleasant estate on St. Vincent were brutal. Large gangs of slaves would spend much of the day digging holes for the sugar cane and constantly weeding the plantation, with women not spared such physical labour.’

‘The slaves die off because they are being worked in very difficult conditions very hard with inadequate nutrition.’[96]

It’s clear that the fortunes of the family of Cecilia Douglas, both paternal and maternal, came about, either directly or indirectly through the exploitation of African slaves, the extracts above indicating what little regard they had for the enslaved people creating their fortunes.

Glasgow generally has come late to the idea that slavery underpinned the city’s commerce from around the Act of Union to the mid 1800’s. This was a major ‘self-denial’ that persisted well into the twentieth century, the following, which was printed in the Herald in 1883, being typical of the mindset that existed until fairly recently.

The American War of Independence finished the latter (the tobacco lords), but the trading instinct of Glasgow was not to be denied, and prompted no doubt by its favourable situation for the purpose, the merchants of Glasgow embarked largely in the West India (West Indies) trade. The other great sugar ports were London, Bristol and Liverpool, and it is to Glasgow’s lasting honour that while Bristol and Liverpool were up to the elbows in the slave trade Glasgow kept out of it. The reproach can never be levelled at our city, as it was at Liverpool, that there was not a stone in her streets that were not cemented with the blood of a slave. [97]


[1] Douglas Archives.

2] Ross, A.M. (1895) The Genealogy of the Families of Douglas of Mulderg and Robertson of Kindeace and their descendants. Dingwall: A.M. Ross and Co. pp. 9-12.

[3] Ross, op. cit. p.18.

[4] Ross, op. cit. pp. 9-12.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Inveraray and Glenaray. 24 August 1703. DUGLAS, Robert and MONROE, Catherine. 513/  20 174.

[7] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Kiltearn. 28May 1749. DOUGLASS, Gilbert. 070  10 30.

[8] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 28 March 1665. DOUGLASS, Robert and HUNTER, Helen. 685/1 440 77.

9] Douglas Archives.

[10] Grant, Francis J. ed. (1899). The Commissariat Record of Edinburgh. Register of Testaments. 1707 – 1800. Edinburgh: Scottish Record Society. p. 78.

[11] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Leith South. 11 March 1727. DOUGLAS, John. 692/2 50 286.

12] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 5 January 1766. DOUGLAS, John and BUCHANAN, Cecilia. 644/1 260 20.

[13] Glasgow’s Benefactors. Alexander Speirs – Tobacco Lord (1714-1782) Part 2.

[14] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 29 August 1736. BUCHANAN, George and FORBES, Cecilia. 644/1 250 58.

[15] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 14 February 1740. BUCHANAN, Cecilia. 644/1 120 25.

[16] Glasgow’s Benefactors. Alexander Speirs – Tobacco Lord (1714-1782) Part 2.

[17] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 1 October 1766. DOUGLAS, William. 644/1 140 332.

[18] Addison, W. Innes. (1913). The Matriculation Albums of Glasgow University from 1728 to 1858.p. 122.

19] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 13 December 1862. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. Inventory, Trust Disposition and  Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court Wills. SC36/51/44, and Inventory. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories. SC36/48/49.

[20] Births. (OPR). Scotland. Girvan. 1 September 1811. DOUGLAS, Robina. 594/  20 250.

[21] Deaths. (SR) Scotland. Row, Dumbarton. 14 August 1912. DOUGLAS, Rosina. 503/  79.

[22] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 1 September 1854. DREW, Peter and DOUGLAS, Rosina Elizabeth. 644/1 440 503.

[23] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 8 May 1768. DOUGLAS, George. 644/1 150 59.

[24] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 8 May 1768. DOUGLAS, John. 644/1 150 59.

[25] Addison, op. cit. p. 128.

[26] Ibid

[27] University College London. John Douglas.

[28] Ormsby, Margaret A. ‘DOUGLAS, Sir JAMES,’ in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003.

[29] Directories. Scotland. (1807). Glasgow directory. Glasgow: W. McFeat and Co. p. 31.

[30] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 15 January 1809. DOUGLAS, John and HAMILTON, Jessie. 644/1 280 97.

[31] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 16 April 1841. DOUGLAS, John. Inventory, Trust Disposition and  Settlement. Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories. SC70/1/60.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Measuring Worth (2021).

[34] Testamentary Ancestry. England. 9 April 1862. DOUGLAS, John. National Probate Calendar. (Index of Wills and Administration). 1858 – 1995. p. 147.

[35] Deaths. (SR) Scotland. Edinburgh. 6 December 1861. HAMILTON, Jessie. 685/1 935.

[36] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 20 July 1770. DOUGLAS, Robert. 644/1 150 208.

[37] Births (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 28 February 1772. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. 644/1 150 311.

[38] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 24 February 1774. DOUGLAS, Neil. 644/1 160 80.

[39] Addison, op. cit. p. 147.

[40] Stephens, H. M. ‘DOUGLAS, Sir Neil, (1774-1853)’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[41] London Gazette (1815) 23 September 1815.

[42] London Gazette (1831) 23 September 1831.

[43] London Gazette (1842) 29 April 1842.

[44] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Greenock. 26 August 1816. DOUGLAS, John and ROBERTSON, Barbara. 564/3 40 450.

[45] Girard, Charlotte S. (1986/87) Some Further Notes on the Douglas Family. (PDF) BC Studies, no.72, Winter 1986-87. University of Victoria, British Columbia.

[46] Stephens, H. M. ‘DOUGLAS, Sir Neil, (1774-1853)’ In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[47] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 1 December 1776. DOUGLAS, Thomas Dunlop. 644/1 160 218.

[48] James Maclehose and Sons. (1891). Minute Book of the Board of Green Cloth. 1809-1820. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

[49] Directories. Scotland. (1816) Glasgow directory. Glasgow: A. McFeat and Co. p. 49.

[50] Directories. Scotland. (1854/55) Glasgow directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie p. 113.

[51] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Greenock. 28 May 1808. DOUGLAS, Thomas Duncan and HUNTER, Rosina. 564/3 40 322.

[52] Girard, Charlotte S. (1986/87) Some Further Notes on the Douglas Family. (PDF) BC Studies, no.72, Winter 1986-87. University of Victoria, British Columbia.

[53] Deaths. (SR) Scotland. Ayr, Dunlop. 30 January 1869. DOUGLAS, Thomas Dunlop. 591/  1.

[54] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 26 March 1869. DOUGLAS, Thomas Dunlop. Inventory. Ayr Sheriff Court. SC6/44/34.

[55] Measuring Worth (2021).

[56] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 26 March 1869. DOUGLAS, Thomas Dunlop. Trust Disposition and Deed of Settlement. Ayr Sheriff Court Wills. SC6/46/6.

[57] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 10 October 1778. DOUGLAS, Archibald. 644/1 160 425.

[58] Addison, op. cit. p. 156.

[59] Girard, Charlotte S. (1986/87) Some Further Notes on the Douglas Family. (PDF) BC Studies, no.72, Winter 1986-87. University of Victoria, British Columbia.

[60] Devine, T. M. An Eighteenth Century Business Elite: Glasgow West India Merchants etc. In : The Scottish Historical Review Vol 57, No. 168. Part 1 April 1978. pp. 40-67. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

[61] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 22 January 1861. DOUGLAS, Archibald. Trust Deed of Settlement and Inventory. Dunoon Sheriff Court. SC51/32/11.

[62] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 8 August 1779. DOUGLAS, James. 644/1 170 14.

[63] National Archives. The Official Gazette, British Guiana.

[64] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 13 December 1862. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. Inventory, Trust Disposition and Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court Wills SC36/51/44 and Inventory. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories. SC36/48/49.

[65] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 16 April 1841. DOUGLAS, John. Inventory, Trust Disposition and  Settlement. Edinburgh Sheriff Court Inventories. SC70/1/60.

[66] Directories. Scotland. (1850/51). Glasgow directory. Glasgow: William Mackenzie. p. 97.

[67] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 15 November 1781. DOUGLAS, Colin. 644/1 170 169.

[68] Addison, op. cit. p. 171.

[69] Births. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 16 January 1784. DOUGLAS, Cathrin. 644/1 170 305.

[70] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol 2. Glasgow: David Robertson and Co. p. 416.

[71] Senex, op. cit. p. 34.

[72] Directories. Scotland. (1783). John Tait directory for the City of Glasgow. Glasgow: John Tait. p.26.

[73] Directories. Scotland. (1790/91) Jones Directory of Glasgow. Glasgow: Joseph Galbraith. p.16.

[74] Senex, op. cit. Vol 3.p. 410.

[75] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 2 July 1810. DOUGLAS, Mrs. John. 644/1 610 44.

[76] University College London.

[77] Measuring Worth (2021).

[78] Demerara Revolt.

[79] Marriages. (OPR) Scotland. Glasgow. 26 January 1794. DOUGLAS, Gilbert and DOUGLAS, Cecilia. 644/1 270 164.

[80] National Records of Scotland. CS96/4901-2.

[81] Smith, John Guthrie and Mitchell, John Oswald. (1878) The Old Country Houses of the Glasgow Gentry. 2nd ed. Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons.

[82] Dictionary of Scottish Architects.

[83] Deaths. (OPR) Scotland. Bothwell. 16 March 1807. DOUGLAS, Gilbert. 625/  20 222.

[84] Mullen, Stephen. ‘Douglas, Cecilia (1772-1862)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[85] ibid

[86] Ibid

[87] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 13 December 1862. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. Inventory, Trust Disposition and Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court Wills. SC36/51/44, and Inventory. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories. SC36/48/49.

[88] University College London. Cecilia Douglas.

[89] Mullen, Stephen. ‘Douglas, Cecilia. (1772-1862)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[90] Senex et al. (1884) Glasgow Past and Present. Vol. 3. Glasgow: David Roberson and Co. pp. 287-289.

[91]Glasgow Herald. (1860) Last Survivor of the Glasgow Tontine. Glasgow Herald 13 October. p.3.

[92] Deaths (SR) Scotland. Bothwell, Lanark. 25 July 1862. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. 625/1 94.

[93] Testamentary Records. Scotland. 13 December 1862. DOUGLAS, Cecilia. Inventory, Trust Disposition and  Settlement. Glasgow Sheriff Court Wills. SC36/51/44, and Inventory. Glasgow Sheriff Court Inventories. SC36/48/49.

[94]Mullen, Stephen. ‘Douglas, Cecilia. (1772-1862)’. In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

[95] Glasgow Herald. (1862) Glasgow Cathedral – Completion of the Four Great Windows. Glasgow Herald 13 October. p.4.

[96] Glasgow Herald. (2013) The Paintings Sullied by Slavery. Glasgow Herald 10 March.

[97]Glasgow Herald. (1883) The West India Association of Glasgow. Glasgow Herald 1 June. p.9.

Mrs Anna Bella Baird nee Maltman (1870 – 1963)

On 28 February 1944, an oil painting by Sir John Lavery presented by Mrs Baird of 8 Northbank Terrace, Glasgow, N.W., was accepted by Glasgow Corporation.1 The subject of the painting was Mr. George Ure Baird who was the father-in-law of the donor.

Figure 1. Lavery, John (1885). George Ure Baird (2361) © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(

The Donor

Anna Bella Walker Maltman was born at 17 Kelvinhaugh Street, Anderston, Glasgow on 14 January 1870.2 Her father, Thomas Maltman was a drapery warehouseman who had married Anna`s mother Isabella Adam on 6 July 1860 in Glasgow.3 In 1871 the family consisted of Thomas, (who was now a shipping clerk) and Isabella with Magdalena aged 8, Frances 6, John 4 and Anna Bella.4 Ten years later the family was living at 9 Windsor Street, Kelvin, Glasgow. Anna Bella was a scholar, aged 11 and there were two other children, Johanna aged 7 and James aged 2.5  

            In 1891, the twenty-year-old Anna was living at 52 Ardbeg Road, Rothesay with her sisters Frances and Magdalena and brother-in-law, Andrew Adamson who was a photographic artist. Anna was ‘living on private means’.6 On 9 April 1896 Anna married George Callwell Baird at her home, 22 Montgomerie Street, Glasgow. George was a commercial traveller, aged 27, living at his brother`s home, Killadoon, Langside. Anna`s sister Johanna was a witness.7

            By 1901 Anna and George had moved to 2 Albany Street, Kelvinside. They now had a son George Ure Baird aged 3 and employed one servant.8 Ten years later, they were living at 242 Wilton Street, (later 8 Northbank Terrace) and now had three children, George, Dorothy, aged 9 and Thomas, aged 2.9 George senior was now a silk buyer employed by Gilmour & Co. silk merchants of 5 Royal Exchange Square, Glasgow. 10

            George Callwell Baird died in the Western Infirmary, Glasgow on 18 May 1943. He was 75.11 The following year Anna donated the painting of her father-in-law to Glasgow Museums.

            Anna Bella Walker Baird died on 10 December 1963 at 44 Balshagray Avenue, Glasgow. She was aged 93 and the cause of death was ‘senile decay’. Her usual address was that of her son Thomas at 242 Wilton Street.12

The Sitter

            George Ure Baird was born in Saltcoats on 8 January 1832 although the birth was registered in Stevenston. His parents were Hugh Baird, gentleman, and Margaret Anderson.13 On 18 July 1860, George married the nineteen-year-old Mary Helen Robertson at Gothic Cottage in Govan, and the couple took up residence at 3 Osborne Place, Govan. George was a commission merchant in sewing machines and lace.14 By 1881 the family had moved to Cartbank, 45 Netherlee Road, Cathcart. (This small Georgian house consisted of a single storey with a basement. It was described as symmetrical, two ends circled, ashlar, large square bay window on front. Probably circa 1770, with ends added circa 1800).15 The family now consisted of four sons and three daughters.16

It was about this time that the portrait of George Ure Baird was commissioned from John Lavery – probably to help the artist become established. Lavery later said that ‘Mr. Baird was one of my first patrons and his kindness to me still excites my warm gratitude’.17 Lavery`s paintings The Tennis Party and a watercolour Lady on a Safety Tricycle, (now in the government art collection) were painted at Cartbank and dated to 1885.18

Figure 2. Lavery, John. The Tennis Party © Aberdeen Art gallery. (

At about this time, George Ure Baird moved to a different address. An entry in the Glasgow Post Office directory for 1884/5 is

Baird, George Ure, commission merchant, 62, Queen Street; House, Anglsey Lodge, Langside

         George Ure Baird died of consumption aged 53 at Anglesy Lodge on 21 January 188519 and was buried in the Glasgow Necropolis along with two sons and a daughter who had predeceased him. The inscription on the headstone reads;-

    ‘GEORGE URE BAIRD ANN OGILVY born 22nd April 1873 died 6 March 1875, DAVID ANDERSON born 6th Oct 1870 died 28th March 1875 JESSIE born 3rd Jan 1877 died 9th Aug 1877, GEORGE URE BAIRD born 8th Jan 1832 died 21st Jan 1885, MARY HELEN ROBERTSON wife of the said GEORGE URE BAIRD who died 4th Oct 1903 aged 61’.

His business of commission merchant was carried on by his son Hugh Baird in partnership with Mr. William Ewing. However, the name George Ure Baird was retained. 20

The Painting and the Artist

            John Lavery was born in Belfast in 1856 but was orphaned three years later. At the age of ten he was sent to live with a rich cousin of his aunt who had a pawnshop in Saltcoats.21 George Ure Baird was one of his earliest patrons and the portrait was one of the first painted by Lavery. It may have been commissioned partly to help the artist become established. (It is not clear if the Saltcoats connection is relevant to their relationship since Baird would have moved to Glasgow before Lavery arrived in Saltcoats). However, the present portrait at GMRC is not the one commissioned by Baird.

         Lavery had bought and insured a studio in St.Vincent Street and ‘very shortly afterwards it succumbed to a mysterious fire’. Lavery recalled later that he had completed the original painting at his studio one Saturday evening but was not at all happy with the finished work. On returning to the studio the next day he found the place in flames and the painting destroyed ‘to his secret pleasure’. He pretended to be aggrieved but was secretly pleased with the outcome. More especially since he collected £300 of insurance money with which he financed his departure in 1880 for the Heatherley School of Fine Art in London and then to Paris.22

            Sometime later (1885) he painted the present portrait from a photographic miniature. Unfortunately, it was completed after the sitter’s death and was delivered to his widow. When Mary Helen Baird died on 4 October 1903, the painting passed to her son George Callwell Baird, husband of the donor. There is a letter on file at Glasgow Museums Resource Centre from Lavery to Mr. J. (sic) C. Baird dated 3 October 1931 from 5 Cromwell Place, London in which he says that he will be ‘passing through Glasgow on Monday with an hour to spare’ and stating that he would wish to come and visit and view the painting. The letter was handed in to Kelvingrove in February 1962 by Mr. T. M. Baird the grandson of the sitter.

Figure 3. Lavery, John (1885). George Ure Baird (2361) © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection.(
Figure 4 Photographic Miniature from the Glasgow Evening News 4 September 1931.



  1. Glasgow Corporation, Committee on Art Galleries and Museum, Minutes, 15February 1944. (Mitchell Library)
  2. Scotland`s People, Birth Certificate
  3. Scotland`s People, Marriage Certificate
  4., 1871 Scotland Census
  5. Scotland`s People, 1881 Census
  6. Scotland’s People, 1891 Census
  7. Scotland`s People, Marriage Certificate
  8. Scotland`s People, 1901 Census
  9. Scotland’s People, 1911 Census
  10. Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1911-12
  11. Scotland`s People, Death Certificate
  12. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  13. Old Parish Registers, Ayrshire, Family Search
  14. Scotland`s People, Marriage Certificate
  16. Scotland’s People, 1881 Census
  17. Glasgow Evening News, 4 Sept 1931
  19. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  20. The Edinburgh Gazette, 24 April 1885
  21. Billcliffe, Roger, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography,
  22. ibid

James Couper (1839-1916)

Mr James Couper of Craigforth, Stirling was a Company Director living on private means.

Figure 1. Portrait of the late Charles Tennant by Andrew Geddes. © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

The Portrait of the late Charles Tennant by Andrew Geddes was received by Glasgow Corporation in 1920. It had been bequeathed by his grandson, James Couper, to his wife Jane as life rent (2) and under the terms of his Will, after her death, was then to be given by his Trustees to Glasgow Corporation.

Figure 2. Statue of Charles Tennant and Obelisk for William Couper. Image © F J Dryburgh

James Couper was born on 13 September 1839 (3) the son of John Couper MD MRCP, Regius Professor of Materia Medica at Glasgow University (4) and his wife Charlotte Couper. His mother was the daughter of Charles Tennant (5) and his father was the son of Tennant’s great friend and associate, William Couper. (6)

The monuments to these men are side by side in the Necropolis in Glasgow. (7)

In the 1871 Census James Couper is living in Glasgow but visiting his parents and he is a manufacturing chemist. (8) James Couper moved to Craigforth in Stirling in1873 as a tenant and eventually as owner in 1904. (9)  In the 1881 Census he is listed as a manufacturing chemist, his wife is Jane, he has two sons, and 8 servants are listed. (10)  Craigforth is an impressive country house now on the M9 looking towards Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. Couper was a director of the Steel Company of Scotland and of Messrs Ogston and Tennant. (11) He and his wife were active in local society and contributed to charitable and civic activities in Stirling. (12) In 1878, James and Jane gave the Bishop’s Chair to the newly established Episcopal Church of The Holy Trinity in Stirling. (13)

He was a Director of Stirling Royal Infirmary and of The Albert Hall Company while these were being built. (14)

He died in the Central Hotel in Glasgow on 13 June 1916. (15)

His funeral was attended by many people including his nephew Mr. Charles Tennant Couper. He is buried in Logie cemetery. (16)

Charles Tennant (1768-1838) was a bleacher from Ayrshire with bleach fields in Darnley. (17)  There is a watercolour of the bleach fields by an unknown artist in the collection of Lady Maxwell in Pollok House, Glasgow (18) and a map from 1791 showing their location in the East Renfrewshire Public Library in Giffnock. (19) He went on to develop the first chemical method of bleaching using bleaching powder and to establish the St Rollox works in Glasgow, the first great chemical works in the world. (20)  His son John Tennant (21) developed the firm and built Tennant’s Stalk- a huge chimney in the North of Glasgow. His son was Sir Charles Tennant, an art collector, Liberal politician and industrialist. He was the founder of a family well known in social and political circles. (22) (23)   In 1926 the business became part of Imperial Chemical Industries and in 2008 became part of Atezo Nobel. (24)


  1. Archives of Glasgow Museums
  2. National Records of Scotland Wills and Testaments  1916
  3. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1839
  4. John Couper The University of Glasgow Story.
  5. National Records of Scotland Wills and Testaments  1840
  6. John Couper The University of Glasgow Story.
  7. The Glasgow Necropolis.
  8. National Records of Scotland census 1871
  9. Stirling Advertiser and Journal 3 March 1916. Obituary of James Couper
  10. National Records of Scotland census 1881
  11. Stirling Advertiser and Journal 3 March 1916. Obituary of James Couper
  12. Personal communication Stirling librarian
  14. Stirling Advertiser and Journal 3 March 1916. Obituary of James Couper
  15. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1916
  16. Stirling Advertiser and Journal 16 March 1916. Funeral of James Couper
  17. Massie, Alan. Glasgow Portraits of a City. London: Barrie and Jenkins,1989
  18. Watercolour of Mr Charles Tennant’s Bleachfields, artist unknown, held in Pollok House, Glasgow.
  19. Map of East Renfrewshire, 1791 showing Mr Tennant’s Bleachfields held in the East Renfrewshire Public Library, Giffnock
  20. Massie, Alan. Glasgow Portraits of a City. London: Barrie and Jenkins,1989
  21. Lindsey, Christopher F. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press, 2014.
  22. Sir Charles Tennant Wikipaedia
  23. Ibid
  24. ibid

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. (

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, ( 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]


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


[1] Data given by the Gallery Staff.

[2] Family History

[3] The Incorporation of Cordiners in Glasgow

[4] Scottish Education in the nineteenth Century,

[5] Marriage Certificate,

[6] ibid. 1871 census.

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

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

[9] Scottish Post Office Directories,

[10] Wellington Boots,

George Edgar Campbell (1899 – 1976)

On 16 October 1950 an oil painting Mimosa (2863) by F. J. Conway was donated to Glasgow Corporation by Mr George Campbell, per Dr. Honeyman. 1

Figure 1. Mimosa © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

In 1952, the same donor gave a second painting, Amintas Revived by Sylvia (2959), by François Boucher, (after). 2

Figure 2. Amintas Revived by Sylvia © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

This painting has labels on the reverse, ‘19219’; ‘Pictures with Care Dr T. J. Honeyman Glasgow’; ‘G E Campbell’ ‘no. 2/’; ‘5GA’; ‘6013-2’S’. At one time it was in the possession of Asher Ezra Wertheimer a London art dealer. It was sold at Christie’s, London in 1923. 3

                Also in 1952, a companion piece to the above was purchased from George Campbell by Glasgow Corporation. This is Sylvia Saved by Amintas also by François Boucher  (after) (2958)

Figure 3.  Sylvia Saved by Amintas © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

            The artist F. J. Conway (Ferdinand Joseph Conway) 4 was born on 19 January 1888 in Paddington, London. 5 He was the son of the British art dealer Asher Ezra Wertheimer and his wife Flora. Asher had inherited premises in London from his father Samson. Ferdinand  and his older brother changed their name to Conway ‘perhaps to avoid anti-German sentiment during the First World War’. 6 He became known as Bob Conway, artist, and writer. John Singer Sargent was commissioned by Asher to paint twelve portraits of his family between 1898 and 1908. Nine of these portraits are now in the Tate Britain Gallery in London.

Figure 4, Essie, Ruby, and Ferdinand, Children of Asher and Mrs Wertheimer,John Singer Sargent, 1902. © Tate Gallery. (

When Conway died on 1 April 1950, he left his house, Tarras, Crawley Drive, Camberley, ten thousand pounds, ‘and all my personal chattels’ to his friend George Edgar Campbell. He also instructed his trustees to pay George Edgar Campbell during his lifetime, the income from his estate. 7 Although not specifically mentioned in his will, it is likely that the two donated paintings were among his ‘personal chattels’ since Conway and Campbell shared the same house for many years.

            George Edgar Campbell was born on 9 December 1899 in Liverpool. 8 His parents, Thomas Campbell and Margaret Farrell were Scottish. He was christened at Edge Hill on 10 January 1900. 9 In 1911 he was living at 85 White Rock Street, Liverpool, the youngest of the family of four sisters and four brothers. His eldest brother Thomas Matthew Campbell aged 33, a railway van man, was head of the family his mother having been widowed. An uncle, Robert Edmond Farrell was also living with them. 10

            On 20 August 1917, George, aged seventeen, joined the White Star Line shipping company as a steward and sailed to New York aboard the RMS Adriatic. He is described on the ship’s manifest as ‘Scotch’. 11 The following year from 1 to 25 June he served as an ordinary seaman in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) on HMS Vivid 3 based at Devonport. From 26 June to 20 October, he was based at HMS Victory 6. Like H.M..S Vivid, this was a land-based establishment and not an actual ship. (At this time, Crystal Palace was used as a Royal Navy training establishment and was given the name HMS Victory 6). He returned to HMS Vivid on 21 October 1918 and remained there until discharged with a disability on 6 February 1919 and was paid a war gratuity.12 The RNVR records describe him as being 5’10”, 38” chest with light brown hair, grey eyes and a fair complexion. His character was VG and his ability Satisfactory.

            After his war service, George enrolled in the Regent Street Polytechnic to study sculpture. After five years he passed the exams of the Royal College of Art and won the Whitechapel Prize for sculpture. On completing his studies, he travelled in Italy, Switzerland and the USA and lived for a time in France. 13 He continued to sculpt and between 1934 and 1937 he completed at least three works, Virginia (1935), Helen (1936) and A Youth (1937) which were shown at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture exhibitions between 1935 and 1937. His address at that time was 26 Holland Villas Road, London, W14. Between 1934 and 1966 he exhibited one or two works per year (twenty-two times in all) at the Royal Academy of Arts summer exhibitions. 14

            ‘Bob’ Conway commissioned a house to be built at 32 Newton Road, Paddington from the architect Denys (later Sir Denys) Lasdun. The house was completed in 1938 and was occupied by Conway and Campbell till at least 1943.15

Figure 5. The house at 32 Newton Road, Paddington, London. © Copyright Jim Osley, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons  Licence.

The house was bought in the 1950s by the cartoonist Ronald Searle and his wife Kaye Webb. It was remarked that the house was,

‘built for a pair of bachelor artists, (unknown artistically, but extremely wealthy) it was topped by a splendid studio favoured by north light, as the estate agents say, and a fine terrace overlooking half of Paddington. As Searle remarked to his friend David Arkell, ‘If one had to overlook half of Paddington, this was the way to do it.’ 16

The Searles found that ‘the cellar was full of stuff left by the previous owners (including several Lucian Freuds, which they returned)’.17

It is not clear that the ‘previous owners’ were Conway and Campbell since in 1943 they were in residence at Tarras, Crawley Drive, Camberley. In that year George Campbell exhibited Archangel Gabriel at the RSA. 18

            George Campbell again saw service in WW2. He was promoted to lieutenant on 23 June 1941 and, as part of the Royal Naval Reserve, was stationed at the shore base HMS Lucifer in Swansea. 19 This was the base for a mine sweeping trawler fleet tasked with ensuring the Bristol Channel was kept free of mines. 20

            When Conway died in 1950, he left an estate valued at £83,690 with George Campbell one of his trustees and main beneficiary, He was buried in St. Peter’s Churchyard, Frimley, Surrey. 21 George Campbell had two nephews and a godson living in Sydney 22 and on 22 November 1951, he travelled first class to Australia aboard the P&O steamship Strathnaver. His London address was now 37 Holland Park Road, W.14. 23

On his return he continued to exhibit at the Royal Academy summer exhibitions, and he also executed a large amount of religious works. He became an Associate Member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors (RSBS) in 1941 and organized Children in Sculpture for the society in 1947. Two years later he served as a Member of Council. He was elected a Fellow of the RSBS in 1951. 24 In the same year, Glasgow Corporation bought one of his sculptures, Torso from the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts Exhibition. 25

Figure 6. Torso – Sculpture in Wood by George Edgar Campbell, 1944 (S.265). © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

George Edgar Campbell died on 11 May 1976 at 71 Marsham Court, Marsham Street, London, SW1. He was seventy-six.26                                              

            On 10 March 2021, a 44.5 inch, bronzed, plaster maquette by Campbell, of Judith at the Well was put up for auction with an estimate of £1500 – £2000. It was unsold. 27

Figure 7. Judith at the Well


  1. Catalogue of Donors to Glasgow Museums, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  2. Ibid
  3. Toutziari, Dr. Georgia, National Inventory of Continental European Paintings, Culture and Sport Glasgow (Museums): Kelvingrove Museum
  4. Information from his will published 15 June 1950
  5. “Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : 3 August 2020), Wertheimer, ; Burial, Frimley, Surrey Heath Borough, Surrey, England, St. Peter’s Churchyard; citing record ID 197025066, Find a Grave,
  7. Information from his will published 15 June 1950
  8., Royal Naval Reserve Service Records Index, 1860-1955,
  9., England Births and Christenings, 1538-1975
  10., Census 1911, England
  11., New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957
  12. https//
  13. Stevenson, Hugh, Catalogue of Sculpture Collections, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, August 2008
  14. ‘George Edgar Campbell’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [, accessed 12 Nov 2021]
  16. Russell Davies in
  17. Ibid
  18. ‘George Edgar Campbell’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [, accessed 12 Nov 2021] This gives George Campbell`s address from 1943
  19. Forces Records, UK Navy List, February 1942.
  22. Information from his will, published 30 July 1976
  23., UK and Ireland, Outward Passenger Lists, 1890-1960
  24. ‘George Edgar Campbell’, Mapping the Practice and Profession of Sculpture in Britain and Ireland 1851-1951, University of Glasgow History of Art and HATII, online database 2011 [, accessed 12 Nov 2021]
  25. Catalogue of Donors to Glasgow Museums, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre
  26. Information from his will, published 30 July 1976

John Douglas Campbell White M.D. (1871 – 1940)

Dr. John Douglas Campbell White was heir to his uncle, Lord Overtoun. He donated four paintings to Glasgow Museums in 1935. (1)

Figure 1. The Tryst by  Sir John Noel Paton RSA © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

J D C White was born at Hayfield House, Rutherglen on 18 August 1871, to John Orr White and Fanny Campbell White (2) who were second cousins and came from a family of industrialists. The family moved to London. His father died on 22 January1879 (3) but his mother continued to live in London. (4) He was educated at Charterhouse School where he did well. (5) He then attended Trinity College Cambridge and in his five years there he was awarded a BA First Class in the Classical Tripos (1894) and also in the Theological Tripos (1896). He proceeded to an MA in 1899. (6) He went to the London Hospital where he was a House Physician and qualified MRCS and LRCP. (7) In 1905 Cambridge awarded him an MD. (8) He did not go into medical practice but joined the Lister Institute to undertake research. This was made possible in 1908 because he was his uncle Lord Overtoun’s heir and on his death inherited his estate in Dunbartonshire. (9)

Figure 2. Loch Ericht by Henry John Boddington © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

 His research was mainly into the social aspects of venereal disease and he was a member of the British Social Hygiene Council. (10) In the following years he published and lectured quite widely. In the First World War he was a Captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps. (11) In 1922 he was sent by the army to Constantinople to conduct an anti-venereal disease campaign. (12) From 1923 he was Chairman of the Council of the Tavistock Clinic. (13)He was a committed Christian and continued to take an interest in religious affairs. He had been ordained a Deacon in the Church of St Peters in Eaton Square, London in 1898. (14)  He was Chairman of the Council of the Modern Churchmen’s Union from 1923 to 1930.  (15)

Figure 3. Dog in the manger by Walter Hunt © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

In 1898 he married Lucy Agnes McClure (16) and they had a son. He died at Harrow-on the-Hill on 25 March 1940. (17) His life is summed up in the BMJ obituary: ‘Circumstances made it possible for him to do unpaid jobs; training made him competent to look on sociological problems from both ethical and physiological viewpoints.’ (18)

Figure 4. Where’s my Good Little Girl   by  Thomas Faed RA © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums Collection

Paintings donated to Glasgow Museums:

Oil. Thomas Faed RA. Where’s my Good Little Girl

Oil. Henry John Boddington.  Loch Ericht

Oil. Walter Hunt. Dog in the manger

Oil. Sir John Noel Paton RSA. The Tryst

The Family Inheritance

The White family members were industrialists and chemical manufacturers in the west of Scotland. They combined business acumen with strong religious beliefs and a commitment to civic service. (19) The family had come out at the Disruption in the Church of Scotland and clung to the ethics of the Free Church.

In the early years of the nineteenth century, brothers James and John White established a factory to make soda and soap in Shawfield, Rutherglen near Glasgow. By 1830 they were producing potassium dichromate, used as a mordant for the dye industry. By 1850 the site covered 200 acres and employed 500 men. It was a very successful business, a near monopoly, because of the large textile factories within Glasgow and Paisley. (20) James was well known in business and for philanthropy and his statue now stands in Cathedral Square, Glasgow. (21)

Their sons, John Orr White, son of James and John Campbell White, son of John, carried on the business but it was John Campbell White who became best known. (22) He studied at Glasgow University, graduating MA and studied law before entering the business. (23) Over the years he left others to run the business and devoted himself to philanthropy and religious causes and gave much time and money to charity. He was a powerful figure in the Liberal Party and became Baron Overtoun in 1893. He developed his estate in Dumbarton at Overtoun which he had inherited from his father.

The chrome business was successful but it was a dirty business. Little heed was paid to the well-being of workers or to the disposal of toxic waste. In 1899, the workers went on strike and their cause was taken up by Keir Hardie. This became a cause célèbre with much criticism of Lord Overtoun and can be followed in the Scotsman. (24) (25 ) (26 )(27) Opinions are divided about how much Lord Overtoun was involved.   Eventually a compromise was reached and the workers returned to work with improved conditions of employment but the legacy of chrome persisted in ill health and environmental damage.

In 1903 Lord Overtoun gave public parks to Dumbarton and to Rutherglen, both called Overtoun Park. For this he was made a Freeman of Dumbarton (28) in 1903 and of Rutherglen in 1905. (29)

In 1908 Lord Overtoun died childless and the estate and his art collection passed to his nephew. (30)  Dr John Campbell Douglas White also inherited a religious belief and a sense of duty to society.

 In 1935 the estate was given to Dumbarton by Dr White and some paintings were given to Glasgow and Dumbarton. (31)

  1. Minutes of Glasgow City Council 1935
  2. National Records of Scotland Statutory Births 1877
  3. Ancestry
  4. Census England and Wales 1880
  5. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  6. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. National Records of Scotland Statutory Deaths 1908
  10. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  11. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  12. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  13. ibid
  14. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  15. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  16. Venn J.A, Alumni Cantabriensis London England. Cambridge University Press, 1922-1954
  18. BMJ 20 April 1940 p673. Obituary
  19. Ritchie, Lionel Alexander. ‘John Campbell White, Lord Overtoun’ in Slaven, A              A Dictionary of Scottish Business Biography. Aberdeen. Aberdeen University Press,1986. Page 293
  20. ibid
  21. Memoirs and Portraits of 100 Glasgow Men
  22. Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909
  23. ibid
  24. The Bailie. The Man you Know June 1889
  25. The Scotsman 29 June 1899
  26. The Scotsman 5 July 1899
  27. The Scotsman 5 August 1899
  28. Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909
  29. ibid
  30. Wills and Probate. London, England
  31. Personal communication Dumbarton Librarian

Helen Murray (1868 – 1959)

On 22 June 1946, a painting entitled Nurse and Child (2557) in oils by R. C. Crawford was presented by Miss Murray of 15 Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow. 1

Figure 1. Crawford, Robert Cree; Woman and Child; © CSG GIC Glasgow Museums Collection. (

On ArtUK the painting is entitled Woman and Child by Robert Cree Crawford and is dated to about 1895 – 97.

The initial problems with researching this donor were that she was listed simply as ‘Miss Murray’ with no first name or initial given. Also, she could not be located at the address given in the Glasgow Post Office Directories spanning the years 1944 to 1949.

However, in March 2014, a distant relative of the artist visited the Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC) to view the painting. She was able to identify the child in the painting as Helen, youngest daughter of the artist Robert Cree Crawford. 2 It then seemed possible that ‘Miss Murray’ might be the woman in the picture – the child`s nurse/governess. On checking the 1891 Census 3 there was listed at 46 St. James Street, Hillhead, along with the Crawford family, an ‘Ellen Murray’ who was single, aged 23 and employed by the family as a nurse. She had been born in England. There was no Helen Crawford but there were six children under the age of eleven, one of whom was deaf, so it would have been appropriate to employ a governess.

By 1901, the family had moved to 12 Derby Crescent, Kelvinside and in the census of that year 4 there appears, ‘Helen Murray, governess, single, aged 31’ in the Crawford household. There is also a Helen C(harlotte) Crawford, daughter of Robert and born in 1892.

        So, assuming the child in the painting is Helen Charlotte aged about five, the painting must have been completed about 1897 when Helen Murray would have been about 28 and a ‘governess’.

            By the time the picture was painted Helen would have been with the family for ten years. Perhaps it was a birthday/anniversary present? In his will, Robert Cree Crawford left everything to his wife but there is no mention of this painting. 5 It is also a possibility that Helen Charlotte was named after a favourite nurse/governess as there seemed to be no other ‘Helens’ in the family. If this is so it shows that Helen Murray was held in high regard by the family.

Helen Murray was christened on 11 March 1868 in Everton, Liverpool. 6  Her father, David Murray was a joiner from Canonbie in Dumfries who had married Mary Beattie in Canonbie on 29 August 1862. 7 The couple and their eldest daughter, Jane moved to Liverpool around 1865 and lived there for about the next ten years. In the 1871 census 8 they were at Toxteth Park, Liverpool, and ‘Ellen’, aged 3, now had a brother Robert. By 1881 they had moved back to Scotland to Carrutherstown Village, Dalton, Dumfries. 9 Helen was now thirteen and a ‘scholar’. She had, in addition to Jane and Robert, two younger siblings, George and Mary. Ten years later, Helen, aged 23, was employed by Robert Cree Crawford as a ‘domestic servant, nurse’ and was living with the Crawford family at 46 St. James Street, Hillhead. 10 The donated painting was completed about 1897. By 1901 the family had moved to 12 Derby Crescent, Kelvinside and in the census of that year Helen`s occupation is ‘governess’, aged 31. 11

Robert Cree Crawford married his first cousin, Sophia Jean Cree. His ‘in-laws’ (or uncle and aunt) lived at ‘Woodneuk’, Rahane near Garelochhead. His father-in-law (uncle) died in 1894 and his mother-in-law (aunt) in 1903. 12 Sometime after this the Crawford family moved to Rahane, and Helen went with them. In the census of 1911 for ‘Woodneuk’ she is described as a ‘lady help’ aged 42.13 However, the family must have kept the house at 12 Derby Crescent as this was described as his usual address when Robert Cree Crawford died in 1924.

Sophia Jean Crawford died intestate in 1929 at ‘Woodneuk’ leaving £3123, 5s 5p. Her two daughters Sophia Cree Crawford and Helen Charlotte Crawford were granted confirmation, and both gave their address as Woodneuk, Rahane. 14, 15 The following year Helen Murray was in residence at 15 Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow 16. She was now 62 and had been employed by the Crawford family for over 40 years. She presented the painting to Glasgow in 1946 when she was 78.

Helen Murray died at 2 Lorraine Road, Glasgow – a nursing home – on 8 March 1959. She was 91. Her usual address was still 15 Belhaven Terrace. 17

MURRAY – At a nursing home, Glasgow on 8th March, 1959, Helen Murray, 15,

Belhaven Terrace, Glasgow, W2 – Funeral tomorrow (Wednesday) at 12.10 p.m. from Messrs Wylie & Lochhead, Ltd., 31, Bath Street to Glasgow crematorium, Maryhill arriving at 12.30 p.m.; friends desirous of attending phone …..; no flowers or letters please. 18

Helen Charlotte Crawford died, unmarried, in 1979 at Callender. She was 87.19


  1. Catalogue of Donations to Glasgow, Glasgow Museums Resource Centre (GMRC)
  2. Information in the Object File at GMRC
  3. Scotland`s People, Census 1891
  4. Scotland’s people, Census 1901
  5. Scotland`s People, Wills and Testaments, Robert Cree Crawford,
  6. Births and Christening Records, Old Parish Registers, Family Search, England
  7. Scotland’s People, Marriage Certificate
  8., Census, England, 1871
  9. Scotland’s People, Census, 1881
  10. Scotland’s People, Census, 1891
  11. Scotland’s People, Census, 1901
  12. Scotland’s People, Death Certificates
  13. Scotland’s People, Census, 1911
  14. Scotland`s People, Death Certificate
  15. Confirmations and Inventories, Mitchell Library, Glasgow
  16. Scotland’s People, Valuation Roll, 1930
  17. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate
  18. Glasgow Herald, Death Notices, 10 March 1959
  19. Scotland’s People, Death Certificate