Gunner and Driver James McLeish

Tuesday, July 20th, 2021

By Morag T Fyfe

There were two burials in the Necropolis on 22nd December 1846 the second of which was that of James McLeish who died from inflammation at the age of 41 and was buried by his son in a common grave in compartment Iota. In the burial register he is described as “late of the 4th Battn Royal Artillery, out pensioner @ 6d per diem”. No likely candidate could be found for James in the 1841 census of Glasgow but the information from the burial register was sufficient to allow his surviving service record (TNA WO97/1248/93) to be identified and the following is based on that.

James McLeish Burial Register

James McLeish Burial Register

His service record shows James as being born in the parish of Larbert, Stirlingshire 1805/6 though it seems likely that he was already working in Glasgow as a farrier when he enlisted there in the Royal Regiment of Artillery (RA) on 25th June 1823 aged 18. He served in the 4th Battalion, RA for 123/4 years as a gunner and driver until discharged in January 1836. Almost half of his service was spent on the Ile de France (Mauritius) but his records do not say when that was.

Prior to his discharge James went before a medical board of four surgeons at the Royal Ordnance Hospital, Woolwich on 7th December 1835 and as a result was declared to be permanently disqualified for military duty by reason of diseased enlargement of the testicles and permanent injury of the left thumb.

The report of the board survives and relates how he was injured in a riding accident near Dublin in May 1833 and sent to the hospital attached to the artillery barracks at Islandbridge, Dublin. He continued to perform his normal duties but by August 1834 he was unable to ride due to enlarged testicles. Later in 1834 an accidental explosion of a gun resulted in him dislocating his left thumb and a year later he had not regained full use of it.

On his discharge he seems to have returned to Glasgow while he was enrolled as an out pensioner of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea on 13th January 1836 at a rate of 6d per day, as stated in the burial register. Thanks to the hospital records we know that James died on 20th December 1846.

Islandbridge Barracks were renamed Clancy Barracks after independence and sold off in 2001 after almost 200 years in military use. Below (on the right) is the existing Artillery Stores as photographed in 2010 before redevelopment.

Islandbridge Barracks were renamed Clancy Barracks after independence

Islandbridge Barracks were renamed Clancy Barracks after independence


James Howe McClure

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

Alexander Mackenzie

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018

Alexander Mackenzie and his cast iron Monument, Glasgow Necropolis

Alexander Mackenzie Monument

Alexander Mackenzie Monument

1.0  Background

The Memorial to Alexander Mackenzie sited in Compartment Upsilon in the Glasgow Necropolis is a unique cast iron creation with memorial stone insert. The inscription identifies “Alexander Mackenzie, merchant, Glasgow, died 31st January 1875, aged 62 years; Alice Melrose his wife, died 4th January 1900, aged 82 years”, and “other family members are buried here.”

The monument was cast by the Sun Foundry of George Smith and Company as an assembly of parts and is marked with their company details.

Alexander Mackenzie Monument - Sun Foundry Mark

Alexander Mackenzie Monument – Sun Foundry Mark


This Memorial has long been recognised as an important piece of Scottish architectural ironwork from a famous Scottish firm. It is now apparent that the connection between Alexander Mackenzie and the Sun Foundry of George Smith and Company went well beyond the supply of this monument. This discovery significantly increases  the significance of the monument.

2.0 Significance

2.1 Context

Scottish foundry companies were the leading architectural iron founders in the world. From the establishment of Carron in 1759, the invention of the hot blast in 1828 and the discovery of black-band ironstone in 1804 all the ingredients were in place for rapid development.

The earliest Glasgow architectural ironwork firms started in 1804 with the arrival of the Phoenix Foundry. From this firm began McDowall Steven in 1834. Many other firms grew up on the back of the increasing demand for sanitary castings and so the appetite for decorative ornament increased. The arrival of Saracen in 1850 marked the start of a new phase, and from these works sprang the Sun Foundry of George Smith, the Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch and a host of other firms.

The industry peaked in Scotland around 1890 but many firms survived into the mid 20th Century.

The Necropolis has dual designation as a designed landscape and a Category A asset.

Category A buildings are:

• Of national or international importance, either architecturally or historically;

• Largely unaltered; and

• Outstanding examples of a particular period, style or building type.

Category A accounts for around 8% of the total number of listed buildings in Scotland.

As a designed landscape it is recognised as an asset which is outstanding as a work of art, historical, architectural and scenic value.

In terms of cultural significance, in summary per the Burra Charter framework ; See: research/publications/publication/?publicationId=befdca67-7782-4aee-8649-a5c300ab4cdf

2.2 Aesthetic value

The design of the memorial is a unique assemblage from the firm of George smith and Co, Sun Foundry. The style is Victorian, or Revival Gothic, redolent of church architecture of the period. George Smith trained as a pattern maker alongside his brothers and in execution, the work of the Sun Foundry is amongst the best of the broad range of the Scottish firms. The technical execution of the casting directly correlates to the skills of the designer and pattern maker and in this example the quality of the carving and construction is very high.


Grand Fountain, Paisley

Grand Fountain, Paisley

The recently restored Grand Fountain in Paisley, gives some idea of the powerful designs coming out of the Sun foundry at the height of its powers

2.3 Historic value

The Sun Foundry competed with the other four large architectural iron founders in Glasgow and contributed to Scotland being the most important producers of architectural ironwork in the world for around 100 years. George Smith patented a wide range of cast iron grave monuments – some with stone enclosures, others in cast iron. These were sold prolifically and are fairly common in Scottish graveyards in particular in different configurations. David Livingston purchased a Sun Foundry cast iron marker for his wife in Africa.

Alexander Mackenzie has only recently been revealed as a founding partner of the Sun Foundry – the

primary financier – and this increases the importance of this work. Alexander Mackenzie was a cabinet maker and upholsterer as Alexander Mackenzie and Company at 87 and 89 Buchanan Street and 165

North Street. At the time of his death himself and his son Alexander Mackenzie Jnr were sole partners.

(Edinburgh Gazette, 1875)

2.4 Scientific value

The use of cast iron in grave markers was new and actively promoted by Sun Foundry. Cast Iron was seen as a wonder material, able to bring ornamentation to the masses. Whilst failures are common through stress fractures arising from the corrosion of wrought iron fixings, the application of the medium in this way remains of technical interest, and particularly Scottish. Other firms who did produce grave markers in cast iron, such as the Etna Foundry, generally only made simple markers. Smith erected a cast iron memorial to his own family in Larbert.

2.5 Social value

The Necropolis is increasingly recognised as an important architectural and historical asset for Glasgow and Scotland. The level of visitation to the site has markedly increased over the past decade by locals and wider visitors. Conservation and restoration projects alongside research and walking tours have significantly enhanced the social value of this site. The identification of Alexander Smith as a founding partner of the Sun Foundry and the monument itself ties it to the Grand Fountain in Paisley and the Clock Tower at Bridgeton Cross; all works by the Sun Foundry.

3.0 Alexander  Mackenzie

Alex Mackenzie & Company were described as suppliers of art furniture and flooring, upholsterers and cabinet makers.

From the early 1850s to the 1890s, it was based at 87–9 Buchanan Street, with a ‘steam power factory’ at 165 North Street from the early 1850s to the 1890s. The firm was originally McKenzie [rather than MacKenzie] & Crawford, house furnishers, upholsterers and paper-hangers, but from c.1852, MacKenzie continued on his own account. In an 1872 advertisement, he informed ‘architects, builders and private gentlemen’ that he had machinery for constructing inlaid floors, solidly and with close-fitting joints, and could supply ‘designs, estimates and samples’. Two years later; ‘Mackenzie’s … wood mosaic flooring, made any thickness’ was advertised, and by the 1880s, the firm billed itself as ‘Manufacturers of art furniture … venetian blinds, carvers, gilders, carpet warehousemen and general house furnishers’.

At the 1888 Glasgow International Exhibition, the firm displayed ‘Spanish and Hungarian bed-room furniture [and] a very elegant sideboard’. They panelled the Mahogany and Octagonal Salons in Glasgow’s new City Chambers around the same time, and in 1889 advertised wares including Japanese screens and Venetian glass. 4 When their lease expired in 1891, they sold off an ‘Exhibition Axminster carpet woven in one piece’, and ‘Overmantels that were £24 for £12’. 5 MacKenzie’s partner, William Miller, carried on the business alone as the ‘Charing Cross Cabinet Works’ during the 1890s, advertising ‘Architectural woodwork’ and ‘artistic carving’ as his specialities.



1: Glasgow Post Office Directories, 1850–95

2: Scotsman, 25 April 1872, p. 2.

3: Scotsman, 20 July 1874, p. 2; Glasgow Post Office Directory, 1880–1.

4: Scotsman, 3 September 1888, p. 7; Elizabeth Williamson, Anne Riches and Malcolm Higgs, Buildings of Scotland: Glasgow, London: Penguin, 1990, p. 162; Glasgow Herald, 10 October 1889, p. 12.

5: Glasgow Herald, 4 May 1891, p. 10.

6: Scotsman, 8 June 1891, p. 1.



Alexander Mackenzie Advert - Courtesy of the Mackintosh Architecture Project

Alexander Mackenzie Advert – Courtesy of the Mackintosh Architecture Project


The 1871-2 Glasgow Post Office Directory has both father and son living in the West End:

Mackenzie, Alexander, jun. (of Alex. Mackenzie & Co.), ho. 104 Peel terrace, Hill st., Garnethill.

Mackenzie, Alexander (of Alex. Mackenzie & Co., and of George Smith & Co.), ho. 8 Belhaven tr.


George Smith and Co Advert

George Smith and Co Advert

4.0 George Smith and Co, The Sun Foundry

4.1. The Smith brothers trained at Carron with their father as pattern makers. George joined the fledgling foundry of Walter Macfarlane and Co of Saracen Foundry, to become the worlds most prolific Architectural iron founders around 1851 and left in 1857 to establish the Sun Foundry. The firm grew to 600 hands within ten years making a wide range of architectural castings which were shipped across the world. Originally at Port Dundas, a bespoke Foundry was built at Kennedy Street in 1870. By 1883 Smith had been sequestrated – a knock on from the City of Glasgow Bank collapse and the circumstances of the Mackenzie family changing. The firm worked on until George retired in 1886, when the name continued to be used by others for a further 12 years in Glasgow and then in Paisley. George established the short lived Sun Foundry in Alloa, residing in Bridge of Allan until his death in 1900.

4.2. Connection with Alexander  Mackenzie

In 1857 George Smith established the firm, Sun Foundry, with his brothers Gibson and Alexander and Alexander MacKenzie. The three Smith brothers were to be hands-on in the business and Mackenzie was to find money ‘without interfering in the spending of it.’4 This situation was to create problems some time later when MacKenzie died and a large part of the capital of the company was effectively owed to his estate. Initially the Smith brothers put in £250 between them and MacKenzie £500 so, right from the start, there was an imbalance in the financial structure.

When MacKenzie died in 1875, his share in the business was £47,358. George Smith had £15,000 and Gibson £7,800 standing to their credit at this time but most of the business was now owned by MacKenzie’s estate. The address for the new site is often given as Parliamentary Road, which runs parallel to Kennedy Street, one block to the south. Perhaps the offices were located there at first or the address was more recognisable.

As a result of the indebtedness to MacKenzie, the two remaining partners, George and Gibson Smith granted a bond over the Sun Foundry to the trustees of Mackenzie’s estate. This situation proved satisfactory for both sides till 1878 and substantial payments were made to the trustees.

A fire broke out at the Kennedy Street Foundry in October 1877, but it was quickly extinguished by the Central Fire Brigade. Damage was estimated at £400, covered by insurance.

The relationship with MacKenzie’s trustees however changed with the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank in October 1878 and, since the bank was not a limited company, the shareholders were collectively liable for the losses. The collapse of the bank was disastrous for Scottish business, particularly in the Glasgow area, taking over £5 million out of the economy. Calls on shareholders, depending on their ability to pay, reached at least £2,750 per £100 share. Despite helpful actions by other Scottish banks and an appeal fund, around 1,000 of the 1,272 shareholders were ruined and the fallout from the collapse lasted many years.

In his 1883 sequestration, George Smith had cited the collapse of the bank as causing the company to suffer but neither he or Gibson appear on the list of shareholders. His comment is therefore probably related to the drop-off in trade. In the light of this situation, Mackenzie’s trustees agreed to accept smaller payments for the time being. In 1880, Angus Macleod, who had been employed as a Commercial Manager, was assumed as a Director and Partner and he put £2,000 into the business.

Pressure from Mackenzie’s trustees increased in the early 1880s and George Smith decided to apply for sequestration in 1883. However, he had dissolved the partnership just before this allowing MacLeod to carry on running the business. Asked by the court why he did this, he replied that he thought MacKenzie’s trustees were about to call for sequestration of the actual firm.

During the sequestration examination, George Smith claimed that he had paid Mackenzie’s trustees over £30,000 since the latter’s death. Notwithstanding this, the court heard that the amount due to the trustees at 31 July 1878, shortly before the collapse of the Glasgow Bank, had been £32,437 and as of January 1883 it was £32,681, indicating that it had not been reduced. Smith blamed the over valuation of the firm at Mackenzie’s death and the pressure from his Trustees as the reasons for his sequestration.

Information courtesy of Dr D Mitchell “The development of the architectural Ironfounding industry in Scotland”

5.0 Condition

The monument is in very poor condition and, as can be seen, elements have already fallen off. This is due to fastening failure, and as this process progresses, additional stress is applied to the remaining elements. Collapsing elements are of course, at risk from impact damage when they fall and as they are in most cases of “manageable” size, at risk of theft.

As can be seen in this image, the central core sits on the corner of each column pedestal. This arrangement is not ideal as the pedestals will inevitably “spread” due to the load, initiating complete failure of the structure. This anomaly can be remedied during conservation.

It is anticipated that further collapse is inevitable in the short term and complete collapse in the medium term.


Alexander Mackenzie Monument

Alexander Mackenzie Monument

James S Mitchell ACR FIESiS






John MacQueen

Friday, May 19th, 2017

Dugald Moore 1805-1841

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

When Whistle-binkie was being put together from the pens of Carrick, Rodger, Motherwell, and others in David Robertson’s back shop near the foot of Glassford Street, another howf of men of literary and artistic taste existed not far away. The stationery warehouse of James Lumsden & Son in Queen Street saw the comings and goings of artists like Horatio MacCulloch and Daniel Macnee, and of poets like Andrew Park and Dugald Moore. James Lumsden, first of the name to be Lord Provost, was a warm friend of struggling talent. MacCulloch and Macnee found early employment with him in the tinting of illustrations, and it was by his help that Moore was enabled to publish his first book of poetry.

Dugald Moore was the son of James Moore, a private soldier, who appears to have been related to Dr. John Moore, the author of Zeluco, and his more famous son, the hero of Corunna. The poet was born in Stockwell Street, 12th August, 1805. His father, who had married at nineteen, died young; but his mother, Margaret Lamont, of Highland descent, was a woman of character, and managed to give her two sons at least the rudiments of education. It has been said that Dugald was apprenticed to a tobacco manufacturer, but the family account runs that it was to a maker of combs. Comb-making was not to his taste, and the method he took to have his indentures cancelled was ingenious enough. He never made a comb without breaking one or two of the teeth, till his master told his mother she had better send him to some other trade where good eyesight was not required. When at last he obtained a place in the copperplate printing department of Messrs. Lumsden & Son he found himself in a congenial atmosphere.

By Lumsden’s help, as already stated, Moore was enabled to publish The African and other Poems in 1829. The book ran to a second edition in 1830, and was followed in rapid succession by Scenes from the Flood, the Tenth Plague and other Poems, The Bridal Night and other Poems, The Bard of the North: a Series of Poetical Tales illustrative of Highland Scenery and Character, The Hour of Retribution and other Poems, and The Devoted One. The poet contributed many pieces, besides, to the Glasgow Free Press, the Western Literary Journal, and other periodicals. On the proceeds of his earlier volumes he was able to start in business for himself as a bookseller and librarian in Queen Street, and when he was cut off, after three days’ illness, at the age of thirty-six, he left a small competence for his mother. In the manner of his end he was a martyr to a mistake of surgery. It was the day of constant venesection, and the poet, laid aside by a slight inflammation, was literally bled to death by his doctor. He died 2nd January, 1841.

Moore was a Freemason and was never married, but the portrait of a lady to whom he was attached is preserved, with that of himself by Sir Daniel Macnee, and a quantity of his MSS., by his niece, Mrs. David Smith, Glasgow. The portrait shows him to have borne a considerable personal resemblance to Robert Burns. His early death, after accomplishing so much promising work, excited widely-felt sympathy, and he was lamented by a large circle of friends and admirers who erected to his memory in Glasgow Necropolis [Omega 32] one of the most notable monuments in that city of the dead.

In his own day Moore’s worth as a poet was widely acknowledged, but his merit has received no more than scant justice since his death. It is true that his muse had little turn for the tender and domestic. His arena was rather that of mountain, moor, and tempest. But his poetry is full of noble and fine suggestion, and in description of nature wild and free, and its association with human passion of the past, he has many passages and whole poems which must rank among the best. His finest work is contained in The Bard of the North.

From The Glasgow Poets by George Eyre-Todd, 1903, pp 276-277



The Scots Magazine of 1 March 1891 has the following story about Dugald Moore:


“That is a good story told of Dugald Moore, a Glasgow poet, who is referred to in the Life of Norman Macleod, and who is reported as making the following speech when the ‘Poets of Scotland’ were proposed, coupled with his name, but in terms which seemed to disparage the practical importance of their art. Dugald, rising in great indignation determined to give the ignoramus a lesson on the grandeur of the offended Muse. ‘I will tell the gentleman,’ he shouted, ‘what poetry is. Poetry is the language of the tempest when it roars through the crashing forest. The waves of the ocean tossing their foaming crests under the lash of the hurricane – they, sir, speak in poetry. Poetry, sir; poetry was the voice in which the almighty thundered through the awful peals of Sinai; and I myself, sir, have published five volumes of poetry, and the last, in its third edition, can be had for the price of five shillings and sixpence.’”

William Motherwell

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

Strictly speaking, Motherwell is perhaps less a ‘ Famous Scot ‘ than an interesting phenomenon in Scottish letters. A born literary man, an untiring experimenter in literary forms, a figure of real significance, if of minor importance, in the Romantic Movement which, inaugurated by Percy, Chatterton, and Walpole, reached its full height in Scott and Coleridge, his contribution to Scottish literature is in the general estimation probably limited to a single song; though we must hasten to add that, for the literary student, his work has an altogether different interest. Yet, after all, and taking the lower estimate, how many are the names of whom even this can be said? And let us not forget, either, that his talent was of a kind which by length of days might have been brought to a riper bearing. As it is, we may dismiss him quickly, for he had not, like William Thorn, the advantage of a romantic personal story to compensate for the tenuity of his literary performance. His true history, like that of so many of his brother poets, would be one, not of deeds or of circumstances, but of thoughts, feelings, and studies.

William Motherwell

William Motherwell

Born in a house in the College Street of Glasgow, October 13th, 1797, William Motherwell was the third son of a father bearing the same names, who carried on business as an ironmonger. The family of the Motherwells was, however, an ancient one, and there is the evidence of charters, as well as of tradition, to show that its members both held land and filled the post of hereditary millers at Dundaff, on the banks of the Carron in Stirlingshire, for, probably, not less than four hundred years. The name Motherwell, also spelled Moderville and Moderell, appears in the Ragman Rolls.

Mr Motherwell removing to Edinburgh, his son William was placed first, in 1805, at the school kept by a Mr Lennie in that town – where he remained for over three years – and afterwards at the High School. It was at the former seminary, and when in his eleventh year, that he met the little maiden who so strangely took and retained
possession of his fancy. Jane Morrison is described as a gentle and pretty child of about his own age. Her hair was of a lightish brown, and her eyes dark, with a sweet expression. In winter (for it is well to be particular where one has the means) she wore a pelisse of pale blue, and a light-coloured beaver with a feather. She was the daughter of a respectable brewer and corn-factor of Alloa, and was come to Edinburgh to ‘ finish her education.’ When Motherwell in his pathetic poem of Jeanie Morrison speaks of their being ‘sindered young/ not to meet again, he merely states what was the fact. Jane, who in due course became the wife of a respectable merchant named Murdoch, is said to have retained her early attractiveness in maturity. Motherwell during his school-days is described as an apt scholar and an amiable and lively boy. It seems quite probable that Jeanie may have been his first and only love.

After a brief stay at the High School, the boy – whose father had not prospered in business – was handed over to the care of an uncle at Paisley, where, after attending the Grammar School until he was fifteen, he was placed in the office of the Sheriff-Clerk. Already he gave tokens of the romantic and mediaeval bent which was to characterize him in later life, having as a schoolboy earned a reputation for his gift of spinning yarns about ‘castles, robbers, and strange out-of-the-way adventures,’ whilst he now exhibited great skill in deciphering and making facsimiles of ancient legal documents, and would wile away the intervals of business by exercising his decided artistic ability in making sketches of knights in armour, on horseback or a-foot. His accomplishments, united with smartness and intelligence, attracted the notice of the Sheriff, and, in May 1819, when in the twenty-second year of his age, he was appointed Sheriff-Clerk Depute of Renfrewshire, a post which he held with credit for the next ten years. During this period he is described as of a kindly, enthusiastic, and somewhat convivial temperament, and, poet though he was, there is no sign that in his official life he occupied the position of the proverbial square peg in the round hole. His official career had not, however, been one of unbroken smoothness, for there is record of his being seized by an angry mob, whilst in the performance of duties which rendered him unpopular, and actually raised to the level of the parapet of a bridge over which it was intended to throw him. This was in 1818, during what was known in the West Country as the Radical War. Later on, the liberal emoluments of his office enabled him to indulge his tastes by forming a library.

What we are most concerned to know, however, is how in the meantime his pen had been occupied. His first writings which have been traced are contributions to a Greenock Visitor, dated 1818. In the next year The Harp of Renfrewshire – an anonymous publication, but known to have been brought out under his care – appeared at Paisley. It consists of a collection of local and other songs and poems, of which many are original, with notes and an Introductory Essay on the poets of the county, from Sir Hugh Montgomerie (d. 1545) to Tannahill. This volume was followed by the Minstrelsy, Ancient and Modern, published by Wylie of Glasgow in 1827 – a work of permanent value in its own department. It is prefaced by a careful and well-informed Historical Introduction, and, in the respect for antiquity which it exhibits, approaches more nearly to modern comparative methods than the work in the same kind of other writers of the period. Indeed Motherwell had a much more real feeling for the essential beauty of the old ballads than had most of his better known contemporaries, as the comparison of such a delicate piece of imitative work as his Ettin o’ Sillarwood with the gross labours of, for instance, Leyden, will readily suffice to show. Among the men of literary distinction with whom the Minstrelsy brought Motherwell acquainted was Scott, who, in a letter (1) relating to Gil Morrice, frankly confesses to having done wrong ‘in endeavouring to make the best possible set of an ancient ballad out of several copies obtained from different quarters’ – a liberty, which, compared with those taken for instance by Cunningham, appears venial. Scott and Motherwell never met; but the latter, after Scott’s death, made a pilgrimage to Abbotsford, and is said to have declared that nothing there affected him so much as Sir Walter’s staff ‘with the bit dibble at the end of it.’

In 1828 Motherwell took a principal share in starting the Paisley Magazine, to which several of his poems were contributed. He was now manifestly gravitating towards his true vocation of literature, and, having become a contributor to the recently started Paisley Advertiser, on the retirement of its editor, who was his intimate friend, in the same year, he was appointed to succeed him. This editorship he held – for a time, as would appear, conjointly with his legal office – until he was invited to Glasgow to undertake that of the Glasgow Courier – a position on which he entered February 2nd, 1830. His connection with this journal was maintained until his premature death in November 1835. At first sight the change in his circumstances appears beneficial, but it remains very questionable whether for his best literary interests it really was so. A literary career was, indeed, that for which his temperament had marked him out; but the class of literature required by a newspaper demanding to be fed with the product of his brain three times a-week was not that for which he was best fitted. On the contrary: his mind worked slowly, his preference was for careful elaboration – in proof of which we may cite the statement that he worked upon the draft of Jeanie Morrison over a period of twenty years. Then, the times were against him. Political party-feeling waxed to an unprecedented height over the Reform Bill, and Motherwell – a Tory by conviction as well as by constitution – entered keenly into the war of opinions. We cannot wonder that his muse fell silent. In an account of a visit paid by him to Hogg’s farm at this date, it is said that he ‘affected to care for neither literature, nor sentimentalism, nor song,’ his ambition being to shine as a wit and to talk politics. (2) Nevertheless it was during this period, in 1832, that his Poems, Narrative and Lyrical, were collected and published. Considering the perturbation of the time, and the merit of most of the poems was largely esoteric, their reception is said to have been on the whole favourable. A preface to Henderson’s Scottish Proverbs, the humorous Memoirs of a Paisley Bailie, contributed to The Day, and a share with the Ettrick Shepherd in an edition of Burns, which Motherwell did not live to complete, make up the tale of his literary works.

Amid the bewilderment of the time, the poet had somehow been misled into joining the Orange Society, whose principles he embraced with warmth. In 1835, when Government contemplated to suppress that organisation, he was summoned to London to give evidence, touching its constitution and practices, before a Committee of the House of Commons. He was not by temperament fitted to acquit himself well on such an occasion, and it has been suggested that he was already the victim of premonitory symptoms of the disease known as ‘softening of the brain.’ At any rate he ‘broke down’ in his evidence. He was able, however, to return to Glasgow and resume the train of his everyday life. On the evening of the 31st October, whilst attending a party at the house of a friend, he was attacked by bleeding from the nose, which was followed, in the small hours of the next morning, by a shock of apoplexy, so violent as in a few hours to prove fatal. He was buried in the Necropolis [Gamma 37], his death at the early age of thirty-eight being deplored by a large circle of friends and by the inhabitants of Glasgow generally.

In person Motherwell was of very short stature, but strong and well formed, and of features which, by differing standards, might be characterized either as ordinary or as comely. In attire he retained the scrupulous spruceness characteristic of his early employment. Except in the company of his more intimate friends, he spoke little,
and, save in rare moments of enthusiasm, did not shine in conversation. But that he was no recluse or mere bookworm is shown by the fact of his having served at different times both in the Paisley Rifle Corps and the Renfrewshire Yeomanry, as well as by his possession of a taste for boxing and fencing, and even, in early days, for practical joking. In private life, he harboured one or two inoffensive eccentricities: for instance we are told that he believed firmly in ghosts, though not that he had ever seen one. In his reading he wisely preferred to follow up particular lines of his own, rather than to aim at the banale universality of the ordinary well-read man. Thus he deliberately neglected physical science, philosophy, and modern history.

In a word, his culture was that of the artist rather than the savant: he studied that for which he had affinity, to which he was capable of imparting life. But, of course, it is possible to carry this principle of study to the point where it begets prejudice, and it is possible that at some points he did not steer quite clear of this fault. His love of Scotland and of Scottish literature was ardent and enthusiastic.

We have said that Motherwell is a poet for literary men, and what need have these with ready-made criticism? For them, if not an impertinence, it is at least generally an encumbrance; so the briefer our observations on his poetry the better. In the first place, then, Motherwell is remarkable, almost unique it might be said, among modern Scottish minor poets, for this very characteristic – that he was a ‘literary’ poet, or one whose inspiration, if not drawn mainly from books, was at least much modified by study. So, in place of giving us the spontaneous carol of a Hogg or a Tannahill, he adapts his song to a carefully thought-out melodic scheme. And one point at which he gains over his compeers is that his work is of much more even quality than theirs: he wrote little or nothing that was worthless.

But we may go further than to say that he was a literary poet, and may add that, among literary poets, he was a raffine – one curious as to form, apt to abandon each form in turn when he had mastered its secret. In this respect he may be ranked with the initiators. Thus, in Jeanie Morrison, he was the first, or one of the first, to write the Scots tongue, not intuitively, but deliberately and with linguistic research – thus starting a fashion which was long afterwards followed with success by Stevenson and ‘Hugh Haliburton.’ After this, taking his cue from Gray, he experimented in the, to our poets, still almost virgin ground of themes derived from Scandinavian mythology. The results which he obtained have won the praises of connoisseurs in that domain. Then the rhapsody entitled The Witches’ Joys shows a Gothic or Elizabethan luxuriance of fantasy akin to that of Beddoes; whilst with what success he tried his hand at the ‘art ballad’ has been already seen. But, indeed, the ‘revival’ side of the Romantic Movement in which he has his place is in him particularly strong. Several of his poems are even deliberately imitative of particular authors – as, for instance, the Cavalier’s Song of Lovelace, Melancholye of Beaumont, The Solemn Song of a
Righteous Hearte of Raleigh perhaps, or of the mournful lines written on the eve of execution by the young and misguided Chidiock Tichborne. (3) From all these things of course it follows, as the night the day, that the poet has no very distinctive style of his own. And hence perhaps arises the fact that, fine man-of-letters as he was, Motherwell has never yet been generally awarded his full dues of appreciation and applause.

Jeanie Morrison, by which he is generally known, and which is said to have been sketched by him at the age of fourteen, is a sweet and pathetic poem, telling of a childish love which lasts a life-time. Its sentiment may perhaps appear a little strained; yet the school-children who

‘. . .on the knowe abune the burn
For hours thegither sat,
In the silentness o’ joy, till baith
Wi’ very gladness grat,’

were obviously children of very exceptional sensibility of temperament – exceptional, but not necessarily unnatural; and it is with the exceptional that the romantic poet delights to deal. Another way of looking at the poem is to view the poet’s love for the little girl as the form into which the natural yearning backward toward a happy childhood has been crystallized by time.


1 Quoted in Memoir of Motherwell prefixed to his Poetical Works,

  1. 1881, p. xviii.

2 Memorials of the Ettrick Shepherd, p. 302.

3 ‘My prime of youth is but a frost of cares,’ etc.


From James Hogg, by Sir George Douglas (Famous Scots Series), Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier 1899, pp 129-136.

In 1849 fundraising started to erect a monument over Motherwell’s grave. This was finally accomplished in 1851.


(From the Courier.)

On Wednesday, nearly sixteen years after the departure of William Motherwell from the busy scene of life, the reproach to the surviving friends of that “sweet singer” was removed, by the erection of a beautiful gothic temple over the resting place of the remains of the poet in the Necropolis. According to previous arrangements, the committee of subscribers, Charles Hutcheson, Esq., Thomas Davidson, Esq., James Howie, Esq., D. C. Rait, Esq., David Robertson, Esq., and George Miller, Esq., met Mr. Fillans, the artist, to whom the execution of the monument had been intrusted in the Necropolis about eleven o’clock, when Mr. Rait performed the ceremony of laying the foundation-stone after the usual style of the craft. There was deposited, in the cavity of the stone, a bottle, hermetically sealed, containing a copy of Motherwell’s works, a portion of his manuscripts, Dr. Strang’s Census, and Rise and Progress of Glasgow, an abridgement of Clelland’s Statistical Tables, the Western Supplement to Oliver & Boyd’s Almanac, copies of Tuesday’s Glasgow papers, the Glasgow Directory, Murray’s Time Tables, and the names of the members composing the Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Paisley Committees, to whom was intrusted the duty of completing the arrangements. In the course of the day the monument, the various parts of which had been previously wrought and merely required to be put together, was finished, and it now stands immediately over the grave of the departed, at the north-eastern corner of the burying-ground, and at the bend of the road which leads up the hill to the right hand, a fitting tribute we trust to the memory of one who has enriched the language with many noble specimens of manly song. As a work of art the monument is highly creditable to the genius of Mr. Fillans; it is “a shrine graced with the beauty which lives in the Poet’s line.”

William Motherwell MonumentWilliam Motherwell Monument

William Motherwell Monument

William Motherwell Monument

William Motherwell Monument

William Motherwell -Chivalry Frieze (Photo by Gary Nisbet)

William Motherwell -Chivalry Frieze (Photo by Gary Nisbet)


We are not aware that we can very intelligibly describe the style of the monument. As before stated it is a gothic temple, in height we should say about 16 feet. On the front side of the pedestal is carved the following inscription :—


By admirers of the Poetic genius of
William Motherwell,
Who died 1st November, 1835, aged 38 years.

“Not as a record he lacketh a stone!
‘Tis a fond debt to the singer we’ve known-
Proof that our love for his name hath not flown,
With the frame perishing—
That we are cherishing
Feelings akin to the lost poet’s own.”


The lines are by Motherwell’s old friend and poetic ally, Mr. William Kennedy. On the other side of the pedestal are carved in bas reliefs three line representations suggested by the works of the poet, namely chivalry, in which are grouped a number of figures, the more prominent two gallant knights who have been engaged in combat, one of whom is mortally wounded. The ladye fair,” is standing aside, weeping for the fate of her lover, while another knight per force carries off on his horse’s back the object of his regard, she struggling to remove his visor, in order, we suppose, to discover whose property she has become. The representation suggested by the poem of “Jeanie Morrison” is exceedingly happy and touching. Who ‘does not know the story ? The artist has seated “Jeanie” and her admirer side by side—”Cheek touchin’ cheek, loof lock’d in loof,” and with a fine conception, while her “lips are on her lesson,’ we have the eye of the youthful poet fixed in steady gaze on the three primitive muses, whose fairy forms are seen floating in the air. The other representation is “Halbert the Grim” lashed by the fiends with scourges, with emblems of hypocrisy and avarice. We may mention that these bas reliefs are executed in a style somewhat novel. The carving is in no instance above a quarter of an inch in depth, and while durability is thus secured the effect is excellent. On the pedestal is placed a Sarcophagus, surmounted in the centre of four pillasters by a termini bust, of the, poet in Parian marble, while over all is fixed a beautifully designed canopy, upon which are carved shields and fleur de lis. Altogether, the design is exceedingly happy; and while we accord great merit to Mr. Fillans for that and his execution of the bust and bas reliefs, it is only justice to say that Councillor M’Lauchlin of Irvine is also deserving of credit for his share in the workmanship. The mason work, we believe, was performed by him in the town named, and the whole affair set up in the Necropolis without requiring the use of a chisel. The marble bust is perhaps one of the most life-like productions, as well as truthful likenesses, that have emanated from the chisel of the distinguished artist. We had almost forgotten to mention that amongst the gentlemen present at the laying of the stone we observed Mr. James M’Nab (late of the Constitutional), who now that we have got something worthy the genius of Motherwell erected, it should not be forgotten, for many years was in the habit of repairing to the Necropolis with his printed label, as the previous one had worn off, for the purpose of indicating to the stranger where the poet slept, “life’s fitful fever o’er.” Many a one will remember the board on which were inscribed these lines—Motherwell’s own-


When I beneath the cold red earth am sleeping

Life’s fever o’er,
Will there for me be any bright eye weeping .

That I’m no more?
Will there be any heart still memory keeping
Of heretofore?
* * * * * *

Lay me then gently in my narrow dwelling

Thou gentle heart;
And though thy bosom should with grief be swelling-

Let no tear start;
It were in vain—for Time hath long been knelling—
Sad one, depart!


Glasgow Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), Friday, June 27, 1851; Issue 5051.


A more modern assessment of Motherwell can be found at


The biography found at supplies the text for the article on Wikipedia.

Euphemia Morrison 1814-1884

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

Euphemia Bell Higgin, daughter of William Higgin and Grizle Maxton was christened on 18th September 1814 in the parish of Larbert, Stirlingshire. She came from a family of at least five children, all christened in Larbert and living at Carronshore in the parish.

She married a local Larbert man, James Morrison, on 11th June 1839 in Barony, Lanarkshire. He was a son of John Morrison and Ann Welch christened at Larbert on 28th May 1813. James is described in the census records as a river pilot and the couple lived just south of the river Clyde between 1841 and 1871 close to James’s place of work. In the Merchant Navy Seamen Records for 1835 James Morrison of Carron [Larbert] is recorded as a mariner on the Gentoo of Greenock and in 1845 a James Morrison of Grangemouth is recorded but no ship is named. Gentoo was a wooden sailing ship, newly built in 1832 and from newspaper references it seems she traded to India and North America. As James is not at home when the1841 census was taken it may be that he only became a pilot after that date so that he did not have to be away from home on long voyages. It would be possible to find out more about James Morrison’s career as a river pilot at Glasgow City Archives which holds an indexed record of licensed pilots, 1826-2003 (ref: T-CN35/5/1-2).

Euphemia and James had two daughters Grace (13th June 1840-1917) and Annie (3rd March 1842-1933). Grace married David Arthur in 1862 and Annie married John Black in 1867.

James died on 8th November 1869 which led to the purchase of a lair in Compartment Upsilon of the Glasgow Necropolis. His death was intimated in the Glasgow Herald on 9th November:

At 94 Alma Place, Paisley Road, on the 8th inst., Captain James Morrison, pilot. – friends will please accept of this intimation

Several Arthur and Black grandchildren, who died young, were also buried in the Necropolis in the following years and Euphemia herself followed in 1884. In the 1881 census Euphemia had returned to Larbert and was living with her daughter Annie Black and several grandchildren and that is where she probably died, on 19th July 1884. Annie and her husband with their five surviving children emigrated to Minnesota, USA later in the 1880s while Grace, her husband and two adult daughters presumably remained in Glasgow as they are buried in the family lair.

Euphemia Morrison Funeral Notice

Euphemia Morrison Funeral Notice

William McGavin

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

McGAVIN, WILLIAM, was born August 12th, 1773, on the farm of Darnlaw, near Auchinleck in Ayrshire, which his father held on lease. He attended school when about seven years of age but his parents moved to Paisley in 1783, when he was sent to work. He tried silk weaving, but eventually was apprenticed to John Neilson, printer and bookseller. His duties included reading proof-sheets which led McGavin to study the English language and, despite the limited nature of his education, he was able to attract notice as an author under the age of twenty.

He left Mr Neilson’s business in 1793 and assisted his elder brother in the management of a school, where writing, arithmetic, and mathematics were taught eventually becoming the headmaster; but he ultimately abandoned teaching. In 1798 he was employed as book-keeper and clerk by David Lamb, an American cotton merchant and acted as tutor to his two sons at the same time. Some years later when Lamb returned to America, McGavin became his partner and the business was carried on in Glasgow. In 1805, McGavin married Miss Isabella Campbell of Paisley but had no children. After the death of his original patron, Lamb, he entered into partnership with one of Lamb’s sons and carried on a West India’s business under the firm of McGavin and Lamb. This ultimately proved unprofitable, and in 1822, he began work at the British Linen Company’s bank and was there until his death in 1832.

McGavin was brought up by his parents strictly in the Presbyterian faith. About 1800, dissent from the views of church government induced him to join the Rev. Ramsay in the formation of an independent or congregational church. He began to preach, receiving from Mr Ramsey the ordination which was necessary for the pastoral office. Eventually, in 1808, he joined the congregation of Mr Greville Ewing in the Nile Street meeting-house, Glasgow, where he was soon afterwards invested with the office of deacon. Here he might have also continued to preach but he was now unable from the pressure of business. He did occasionally consent to perform public worship in the neighbouring villages, or in places where he thought such ministrations necessary.

McGavin however did find time, to write a number of religious tracts and stories. The most distinguished of all McGavin’s writings was his “Protestant,” a series of papers, designed to expose the errors of the church of Rome, commenced in 1818, and finished in 1822. The celebrity acquired by this work, is a testimony to the powers of the author. In its collected form of in four volumes it went through seven editions in the first ten years. One of the most eminent bishops of the church of England offered to give him holy orders. The most gratifying to the author, was the interest which he was honoured to excite in the public mind, with regard to the subject of popery. It is matter of notoriety, that McGavin was prosecuted for certain articles in the Protestant, and had a verdict against him, imposing on him a fine of £100, which, with expenses, amounted to above £1200. £800 of the £1200, was raised by public subscription. Mr McGavin was obliged to pay the balance out of his own pocket. The publishers afterwards came forward to reimburse the author, which, from the sale of the work, they were enabled to do without loss to themselves.

McGavin, in 1827, superintended a new and improved edition of “The Scots Worthies,” a work commemorating the lives of the most eminent Scottish clergy of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and originally written by an unlettered individual named John Howie, of Lochgoin. The book was greatly improved by the notes. Not long before his death, McGavin superintended a new and improved edition of Knox’s History of the Reformation; and aided with an introduction, a work by the Rev. Mr John Brown of Whitburn, entitled “Memorials of the Nonconformist Ministers of the Seventeenth Century.”

He died suddenly of apoplexy, August 23, 1832 and McGavin’s published writings are a sufficient and lasting memorial. However his work in promoting religious and worldly interests of all who came under his notice and his friendly character must be added. Two of his most conspicuous qualities were the power of a satirist and a certain precision which appeared in all he spoke or wrote. Those, who knew him only from his controversial writings, may thought of him as austere but he actually was the reverse. The profits of the ‘Protestant’ he once offered as a subscription to the society in this city for the support of the Catholic schools. The offer was declined, as it was taken the wrong way and was thought of as an insult. They say that had they known him as his friends knew him, they would have accepted it as it was offered as a mark of good-will.

John Adam Whitson Douglas Myles

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Charles James Carlton Mowat

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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