Moses S Buchanan (1796-1860)

Thursday, November 9th, 2023
Moses Buchanan

Moses Buchanan

By Colin Campbell and Morag T Fyfe

Moses Steven Buchanan born in 1796, was the third son of George Buchanan a calenderer, of the firm George Buchanan and Sons and his wife Isabella Stevenson. Two of Moses’ brothers became partners in the family firm.

He studied medicine at both Glasgow and Edinburgh Universities, qualifying as MD at Edinburgh in 1816 and was admitted to the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow in 1818. In 1846 at the age of 50 he had occasion to list his most important positions to date which included his current position as Professor of Anatomy at Anderson’s University, a Member and Treasurer of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons [Glasgow], late surgeon and Lecturer on Clinical Surgery in the Royal Infirmary, consulting surgeon to the General Lying-in Hospital, member and councillor of the Medico-Chirurgical Society [Glasgow].

He had become a surgeon at Glasgow Royal Infirmary in 1830, was a lecturer in anatomy at the Portland Street Medical School between 1836 and 1841 and from 1841 until his death he was Professor of Anatomy at Anderson’s University. In 1846 he applied unsuccessfully for the Chair of Anatomy at the University of Edinburgh and furnished 28 testimonials from the great and the good of the Glasgow medical establishment in his support. However, Edinburgh’s loss was to be Glasgow’s gain as he went on to be a much sought after Lecturer and Surgeon in Glasgow. After his death, the Chair of Clinical Surgery at the University of Glasgow was founded in his honour and one of his sons George Buchanan (1827-1905) held the chair from 1874-1900.

In 1832 he published, “A History of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary 1787-1832” being a detailed account of not only the history of the Hospital but analyses of its functions, structure, funding, medical statistics, patient diets and professional organisation. Some of his lectures were also published.

Moses Buchanan married Agnes Leechman on 12 December 1824 in Glasgow. The couple had ten children, seven of whom lived to adulthood and four of whom are buried with their father in Compartment Omega in the Glasgow Necropolis; the last two surviving daughters chose to buy a separate lair in compartment Epsilon and be buried there. Agnes Leechman died in 1867 at Ventnor, Isle of Wight and is not buried in the Necropolis.

He died on 4th June 1860 at home, 14 Lynedoch Place, Glasgow and was buried in the Necropolis on 8th June.

(Ack: The Wellcome Collection (image), Scottish Medical Directory, 1860, the Matriculation Albums of Glasgow University, 1913 p237)

Moses Buchanan Monument

Moses Buchanan Monument

William Muir

Friday, April 7th, 2023

by Morag T Fyfe
Originally published in Grave Matters 3, Spring 2018

A young man who met an untimely end was William Muir a 23-year-old painter buried on 24th March 1842. At this date the cause of death was recorded in the burial registers and his was very informative. It said ‘accident from explosion of boiler on board Telegraph steamer at Helensburgh’. This was the second time the victim of a steam ship explosion was buried in the Necropolis. In 1835 the boiler of the Earl Grey steamer blew up when she was alongside at Greenock killing six people and severely injuring fifteen. One of the injured, Ebenezer Bell, later died from his injuries and is buried in the Necropolis.

The Telegraph was a wooden paddle steamer built by Hedderwick & Rankin in 1841 for the Glasgow-Greenock-Helensburgh service. She was lightly built for speed, with an experimental high-pressure engine provided by John Rowan of Glasgow, in order to compete with the Glasgow and Greenock Railway. On Monday 21st March she had just disembarked some passengers at Helensburgh and was backing away from the quay to proceed to Gareloch when her boiler violently exploded. The force of the explosion completely shattered the hull and threw the engine and boiler, which were combined into one piece and weighed 8 tons, 100 feet from the ship. The noise of the explosion was heard on the other side of the Firth of Clyde at Greenock from where steamers immediately set out to render assistance. Sixteen people were killed immediately and about fifteen seriously injured while the final death toll reached twenty.

William Muir was one of a group of six or eight painters (reports vary) travelling to Gareloch to work on the painting of a new ship launched by Hedderwick and Rankin in October 1841 called Precursor (below). Precursor was a completely different type of vessel to Telegraph, the river steamer. Her first owner was the Eastern Steam Navigation Co and she plied the Suez-Calcutta route until she was withdrawn in 1858. Another passenger travelling to Gareloch was Peter Hedderwick partner in Hedderwick & Rankin who also lost his life that day.

It has proved impossible to identify William any further than the details given in the burial register. His father, William Muir, weaver, was already dead and William was buried by an unnamed brother in common ground in compartment Iota. It is not known whether he was married and he could not be identified in the 1841 census.

The Telegraph Paddle Steamer

The Telegraph Paddle Steamer


James Menzies (1799-1844)

Friday, November 18th, 2022

By Morag T Fyfe

In August 1820 adverts were placed in a number of newspapers offering a reward of 100 guineas (£105) for the capture of James Menzies.



WHEREAS, JAMES MENZIES, Herring Merchant and Fish Curer, lately residing in Jamaica Street of Glasgow, who stands charged with making FRAUDULENT INSURANCES, and PROCURING A VESSEL TO BE FELONIOUSLY SUNK AT SEA, and OF HAVING DEFRAUDED THE UNDERWRITERS, ESCAPED this morning from those who had him in custody, upon a warrant from the High Court of Justiciary,


Is hereby offered to any person who shall give such information as may lead to his apprehension; the reward to be paid by Charles Stewart, Procurator Fiscal of the Justice of Peace Court, 71, Hutcheson Street.
The said James Menzies appears to be about 50 years of age, is a little pitted with the small pox, and freckled, has reddish whiskers, is about 5 feet 10 inches in height, [stout?] made, and speaks rather thick and quickly with a Highland accent.
Insurance Brokers and Underwriters who are in the knowledge of any particulars regarding insurances effected on the Brigantine Friends, to a voyage from Greenock, Port-Glasgow and Glasgow, to Hamburgh, in the year 1816, are requested to communicate them to Mr Stewart.
Glasgow, 2d August, 1820.

James Menzies and his co-accused, John M’Dougal were due to stand trial in the High Court of the Admiralty on 9th May 1821 but only John M’Dougal appeared and James Menzies, still on the run, was outlawed. Notwithstanding this set back, James Menzies was able to resume his life as a Glasgow merchant and, on his death in 1844, left his estate, both heritable and moveable, to establish four bursaries at Scottish universities (and to be buried in the Glasgow Necropolis).

Menzies and M’Dougal were accused of removing insured cargo from a barquentine called Friends before arranging for it to be sunk in the North Sea in 1816 and of defrauding the underwriters who insured the vessel and its cargo. M’Dougal’s trial proceeded in May 1821 resulting in his conviction and a sentence of transportation for life. Menzies remained at large until March 1823 when he was found in Lochee, Dundee living under the assumed name of James Murray. On 30th June he was put on trial on the original charge but the Solicitor-General, who was prosecuting, announced that due to the absence of an important witness (Daniel Bannatyne, mate of the Friends and a witness at M’Dougal’s trial in 1821) he would reluctantly have to give up the case. The prisoner was then dismissed from the bar, a free man.

James Menzies was born about 1779 according to best calculations though no birth/baptism record has survived to confirm this. His place of birth is likewise unknown but bearing in mind the emphasis he places on the parishes of Fortingall, Dull and Weem in north west Perthshire in his will it seems likely he was born in one of them. He moved to Glasgow as a young man, went into business as a grocer and was sufficiently established to marry Elgin Menzies (1780-1840) on 26th June 1801 in the new Gaelic Chapel opened in Duke Street in 1798. The Post Office directory of 1801 lists “Menzies, —-, grocer, Bridgegate” and in 1803 the entry is expanded to “Menzies, James, grocer, 98 Bridgegate” confirming James’s arrival in Glasgow.

Only one child is known to have been born to James and Elgin, a daughter Elizabeth c1805. She died from TB in 1840 three months after her mother and both are buried in the family lair in the Necropolis. Two further burials in the lair had been tentatively identified as a brother and sister of James. It turned out that although Thomas (c1782-1842) may be a younger brother of James, Jean Menzies, spinster, (c1772-1843) is a sister of his wife as she appointed her brother-in-law James Menzies her executor in her will. The last burial in the lair (Agnes Menzies) took place nineteen years after James’s death and looks more likely to be a niece. James certainly had Menzies nephews and nieces according to his 1837 will which also mentions nephews and nieces with the surnames of Forbes and Robertson, children of married sisters.

As stated previously James started trading from 98 Bridgegate first as a grocer and from 1816 as a herring merchant. Between 1817 and 1819 he can be found in Stockwell Street and then Jamaica Street before disappearing from the directories for a few years while on the run. In 1824 he returned to the listing as J Menzies & Co, herring merchants and from then until his death in 1844 he can be found at various addresses in Stockwell Street centred on number 116 and under various designations – herring merchant, fish curer, merchant, provision merchant. In 1821 during James’s time as an outlaw he was evidently regarded as a well-established and respected member of the Glasgow community as shown by the fact that nine merchants and fish curers of Glasgow supported his wife’s petition to the Crown regarding the unfortunate position he found himself in.

Corner of Stockwell and Great Clyde Street from William Simpson, Glasgow in the “Forties”. 1899 (Author’s collection) The original sketch for this watercolour was made in 1846 (2 years after James’s death) and the view would have been very familiar to him. His own property lay just off view to the right. The corner building was replaced by the Victoria Buildings in 1854.

Corner of Stockwell and Great Clyde Street from William Simpson, Glasgow in the “Forties”. 1899 (Author’s collection)
The original sketch for this watercolour was made in 1846 (2 years after James’s death) and the view would have been very familiar to him. His own property lay just off view to the right. The corner building was replaced by the Victoria Buildings in 1854.

James and Elgin’s marriage in the Duke Street Gaelic Chapel in 1801 seems to mark the start of a close connection with the chapel as he appointed the current minister, Lewis Rose, to be one of the Trustees under his will of 1837. The managers of the chapel were also to receive a bequest of £50 for the benefit of the chapel funds. However only three months after the original will was signed in November 1837 James added a codicil to it in which he cancelled the appointment of Lewis Rose as one of his Trustees and the bequest of £50 to the chapel funds “having seen good and sufficient reasons for so revoking said legacy.” The most likely reason for James’s actions is that he was worried about the financial state of the chapel. In 1798 when Duke Street Chapel was built £3000 was borrowed to finance this and by 1837 only half of that sum had been repaid and the managers approached the Trades House of Glasgow hoping for a loan of £1200. The outcome of this approach is unknown but the subsequent history of the chapel suggests it was unsuccessful. The Disruption of 1843, the year before James died, resulted in a majority of the congregation leaving to form a Free Church congregation and the remaining members of the original congregation soon sank under the burden of the continuing debt until by 1851 the congregation dispersed and the church building lay in ruins. In happier times the congregation of the chapel had presented James with a walking stick which he bequeathed to John Menzies, innkeeper, Taybridge, [Aberfeldy?], Perthshire in his last codicil drawn up in August 1844 two months before his death. In that last codicil James appointed Rev James Boyd of the Tron Church as a Trustee showing his split with Duke Street Gaelic Chapel was complete.

One further personal detail about James to be found in his will is that by the time the last codicil was written his eyesight had deteriorated to such an extent that although the will was “subscribed by myself personally subscribing and also in furth corroboration thereof and on account of my rather imperfect writing caused by my blindness is subscribed by me through Notaries Public under named acting at my request at Glasgow the 2nd August 1844 … We James Hamilton jnr and John Monteith Notaries Public … in the premises and at the request of the above named and designed James Menzies who declares that he cannot write properly on account of blindness and after he had touched our pens respectively in token of his said request and our authority do hereby subscribe these presents for him the same having been previously read over to him in presence of us and the witnesses subscribing … “

Mention has been made previously that James Menzies left a will the main purpose of which was to establish four bursaries for students attending the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh or St Andrews after suitable provision had been made for his wife and other family members. His heritable estate comprising property in Stockwell Street, Glasgow made up the bulk of the potential capital. He owned wholly or had a share of three pieces of ground with the buildings thereon. The location of one piece of ground extending to 897 square yards which he bought from Mrs Hamilton Dundas in 1833 is unknown except for the general description ‘adjoining Stockwell Street’. It is clear from the descriptions of the other two pieces of ground that they adjoined each other on the west side of Stockwell Street, one plot of 295 square yards fronting Stockwell Street and the neighbouring plot of 434 square yards (of which Menzies owned ¾) immediately to its rear. These Stockwell Street properties remained in the hands of trustees until advertised for sale in the Spring of 1855.

Extract from Ordnance Survey 25” to the mile 1st edition. Lanarkshire VI 11 published 1860. Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland James Menzies’s property was located in the block in the centre of the image, facing on to Stockwell Street to the east and with access to Ropework Lane to the west and the unnamed Ropework Entry to the north.

Extract from Ordnance Survey 25” to the mile 1st edition. Lanarkshire VI 11 published 1860.
Reproduced with the permission of the National Library of Scotland
James Menzies’s property was located in the block in the centre of the image, facing on to Stockwell Street to the east and with access to Ropework Lane to the west and the unnamed Ropework Entry to the north.

The advert refers to one plot of roughly 1600 square yards, formerly belonging to James Menzies, which suggests that all three plots described above were, in fact, contiguous with one another. The property is presented as a prime development site being at the southern end of Stockwell Street close to Victoria Bridge with shops and dwelling houses facing onto Stockwell Street and vacant ground behind with separate access to Ropework Lane and Ropework Entry (later East Howard Street). Apart from the purchase in 1833 it is not known how James Menzies acquired his properties nor what price was paid for them when they were sold.

By 1861 the Menzies Bursaries were up and running, applications being made to Archibald Campbell, Camserney Cottage by Aberfeldy. The choice of candidates was governed by fairly standard conditions laid down by James Menzies in his will – firstly, members of his family, secondly, persons of the name of Menzies, thirdly, persons born on the estate of Sir Neil Menzies of Castle Menzies in the parishes of Fortingall, Dull or Weem. If none of these conditions could be fulfilled then the bursaries would be awarded to whichever of the applicants was best qualified. The Patrons of the scheme were to be Sir Neil Menzies, his heirs and successors and the Church of Scotland ministers of the three parishes. The bursaries are still available today.

No portrait of James Menzies is known but by drawing on such written sources as exist we can construct a picture of a tall, well built, freckled, red-headed Gaelic-speaking highlander. He was the centre of a large extended family comprising several sisters, a possible brother, a sister-in-law and numerous nephews and nieces for all of whom he made provision in his will. His last years were overshadowed by the loss of his wife and daughter within a few months of each other and his own deteriorating eyesight. It was not the loss of his wife and daughter that spurred him to set up his bursaries as he did so in 1837 while they were still alive.

James Menzies Grave - Lambda section - Glasgow Necropolis

James Menzies Grave – Lambda section – Glasgow Necropolis

A brief notice of James Menzies’s death on 7th October 1844 appeared in the local newspapers and he was buried by an unnamed nephew in the Necropolis on the 11th of the month. Puzzlingly James left his gravestone blank and if it wasn’t for his name at the top of the gravestone his burial place would be unidentified.



This profile would not have come about if Professor Aileen Fyfe and Dr Isabel Robinson, University of St Andrews hadn’t been curious about a fish curer in Glasgow.


Scotlands People ( for James Menzies’s Trust Disposition and Settlement (1844 SC36/51/20) and Inventory (1844 SC36/48/30); James’s entry in the 1841 census of Glasgow (644/1 34/ 15); James and Elgin Menzies’s marriage entry in the Old Parish Registers for Glasgow (1801 644/1 270 309); Jean Menzies’s Will (1843 SC 36/51/19)
Post Office directories of Glasgow
Scottish newspapers on
Joan MacKenzie. The Highland community in Glasgow in the nineteenth century: a study of non-assimilation. Thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Stirling. Department of History. October, 1987.


Allan MacDiarmid and Family

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

By John Park

Allan MacDiarmid – From ‘These Fifty Years: The Jubilee Story of Hillhead Baptist Church’

Allan MacDiarmid – From ‘These Fifty Years: The Jubilee Story of Hillhead Baptist Church’

Allan MacDiarmid (1836 – 1890)

Allan MacDiarmid was born in the Fortingall area of Perthshire about 1836. He was one of eight children for his parents Duncan MacDiarmid and Catharine Stewart who had married there in June 1824. They lived at Craigeanie Farm which is situated in the picturesque Glen Lyon about eight miles west of Fortingall. Allan’s siblings were Marjorie, Angus, Jean, Catharine, James, John and Elizabeth, who were all born between 1825 and 1843. Craigeanie farmhouse appears to be still in use today as a holiday let.

M01 Craigeanie farmhouse

M01 Craigeanie farmhouse

Allan was recorded at Craigeanie Farm as a five year old in the 1841 census but he appears to have left the family home by the time of the next census ten years later.

He had moved to Glasgow by 1861 and was living with his cousin James Anderson at 48 Abbotsford Place in the Gorbals district. His occupation was recorded as a clerk and he was probably working at his cousin’s Starch Manufacturing business. The firm of ‘James Anderson & Co’ employed 25 people at the time, and this would have been Allan’s introduction into what became his business interest for the rest of his life.

The 1871 census recorded Allan visiting the family of his future wife Elizabeth Tulloch at their home in Edinburgh. His occupation was now listed as a Starch Manufacturer and it seems likely he had gone into partnership with James Anderson by this time.

He and Elizabeth married on 6th June the following year at Newington in Edinburgh, after which they settled in the Crosshill area south of Glasgow to start their family. Elizabeth’s brother William Tulloch joined the business around this time and he also relocated to the Glasgow area.

The business was based at 124 St Vincent Street in Glasgow city centre and appears to have become rather successful. It enjoyed a period of steady expansion which saw the workforce increase from 25 staff in 1861 to around 80 employees twenty years later. The firm added gum manufacturing to its portfolio and at some point became ‘Anderson, Tulloch & Co’. It also established a registered office at 9 Great Tower Street in London. James Anderson died at Cathcart in 1874, leaving Allan and his brother in law William Tulloch as joint partners in the business.

Away from their commercial interests, Allan and William Tulloch also combined their shared interest in the church when they co-founded the Hillhead Baptist Church on Cresswell St in 1883. Their fellow co-founders were John Alexander and Alexander & Charles Rose. The building was designed by Glasgow architect Thomas Watson who also designed the very similar Adelaide Place Baptist Church in Glasgow city centre which had opened six years previously. It continues in use to this day as a Baptist Church and is now a grade B listed building.

Hillhead Baptist Church, photo credit WF Millar

Hillhead Baptist Church, photo credit WF Millar

Elizabeth Morrison Tulloch (1849-1926)

Allan’s wife Elizabeth Tulloch was born at Elgin, Morayshire on 10th September 1849. She was the second of eight children for her parents William Tulloch and Margaret MacDonald who had married there in June of the previous year. Elizabeth’s father was a Baptist minister and was originally from Blair Athol in Perthshire, while her mother was a native of Elgin. Her siblings were William, Margaret, Patrick, John, Alexander, Ebenezer and James.

Elizabeth’s early childhood was spent at 14 Academy Street in Elgin until her family moved south to Edinburgh in 1856. Her three youngest siblings were born in the capital. She was still living at home with her family at Sciennes Hill Place in Edinburgh at the time of the 1871 census, a year before she married her husband Allan and moved to Glasgow.

Family life in the Glasgow area

As mentioned above, Allan and Elizabeth married in the Newington area of Edinburgh on 6th June 1873 and then settled in the Crosshill area of Cathcart. This was still an independent burgh at the time and not yet part of the city of Glasgow. Their first child Duncan was born there in 1873 and he was followed by William in 1875 and then Margaret in 1876.

The family then moved north of the river to ‘Marston’, a substantial villa at 4 Dundonald Road in Kelvinside in either 1877 or 1878. Following the move, daughter Katherine was born there in 1879 and she was followed by Allan junior who came along in 1880 to complete the MacDiarmid family.

The 1881 census captured all the MacDiarmid family at home together at ‘Marston’, with the children’s ages ranging from seven years (Duncan) to seven months (Allan), and five servants also living at the house. Allan’s occupation was listed as a “Starch manufacturer employing 80 men”.

Allan MacDiarmid died at Kelvinside on 12th April 1890 aged 54 and was buried in the MacDiarmid family lair at the Necropolis four days later. Elizabeth was still residing at Marston in 1918, but she had moved to a property on Queens Gate (now Dowanhill Street) by the time she passed away on 16th August 1926. She was 76. She was laid to rest beside her husband three days later.

The subsequent lives of the McDiarmid family children are summarised below.

Duncan Stewart MacDiarmid (1873 – 1954). Duncan attended the Leys School at Cambridge and then Glasgow University.

Leys School Cambridge from picture postcard

Leys School Cambridge from picture postcard

He gained his law degree there, became an Advocate and had moved to Edinburgh by 1903. He married his wife Robina (Ruby) Grierson at Hillhead in 1908 but continued to live and work mainly in Edinburgh. Their two daughters Hope and Elizabeth were born in the city. Duncan served as Legal Secretary to the Lord Advocate of Scotland between 1910 and 1912 and the family appear in the 1911 census living at Hampstead in London. They later returned to Edinburgh. Duncan was appointed Sheriff Substitute for Stirling in 1912, and held subsequent appointments in Dumbarton, Airdrie and then Glasgow. This brought Duncan and his family back to the Hillhead area by 1921. They were residing at 1 Kirklee Circus in Kelvinside when Robina passed away in early 1939. She was buried in the MacDiarmid family lair at the Necropolis.

Duncan appears to have moved to Kensington later that year, with his daughters although he did not retire from his position of Sheriff Substitute until 1946. That same year he married Phyllis Gray, widow of John Bartholomew another Scottish advocate and the couple set up home in Camberley where he died in August 1954 aged 80.

William Tulloch MacDiarmid (1875 – 1950). William attended the Leys School at Cambridge at the same time as his elder brother Duncan. He followed his father’s career path and by 1901 was living at 30 Palace Road in the Buckingham Gate area of London working as a chemical merchant. During WW1 William served in the London division of the Royal Naval Reserve. From 1920 to 1923 he was listed in the London Aldgate electoral register as a Business Premises Occupier at Mark Lane, which is immediately adjacent to Great Tower Street. This was the location of the registered office for ‘Anderson, Tulloch & Co’ and it appears that William was working for the company at their London office. His Buckingham Gate residence was also listed as part of the same entry. William married his Walthamstow born wife Hilda Lamarque at Kensington in 1925, after which they lived in the South Kensington area until about 1936. They later moved to Minster Lovell in Oxfordshire, where William passed away at home in 1950 aged 75. Hilda died nine years later at Oxford aged 70. They did not have any children.

Margaret Elizabeth MacDiarmid (1876 – 1956). Margaret was recorded in the 1901 census as a guest at the aptly named Grand Hotel on Trafalgar Square during a visit to London. Her brother Duncan was also listed as a guest at the hotel. Margaret lived at the MacDiarmid family home in Kelvinside until she married her Baptist Minister husband John Forbes at Hillhead in 1922. John was a widower nineteen years Margaret’s senior, and was born in Nottinghamshire to parents who were originally from Perthshire. He had served congregations in Newcastle and Edinburgh before moving to Glasgow in 1901 to become minister of Hillhead Baptist church, co-founded by Margaret’s father. He had performed the marriage ceremony for Margaret’s sister Katherine in 1920. They resided at 104 Dowanhill Street in Hillhead until John died in 1936 aged 78. Margaret subsequently moved to the London borough of Hampstead, an area where other relatives lived, and resided there until she passed away in 1956 aged 80. They did not have any children.

Katherine Stewart MacDiarmid (1878 – 1969). Katherine married her husband William McClure at Hillhead Baptist church in 1920. Her future brother in law Rev John Forbes performed their wedding ceremony. This was the second marriage between MacDiarmid and McClure siblings as Katherine’s brother Allan had married William’s sister Grace in 1910. William served as a Captain in the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders during WW1 and was awarded the Military Cross. He became a director with the Glasgow based steel tube manufacturers Stewarts & Lloyds who also had steel plants in various parts of England, and he and Katherine moved south at some point in connection with his position. They were listed in a 1939 electoral roll residing at Copse Hill in Bovingdon near Hemel Hempstead, however William died there the following year aged just 48. Katherine survived him by almost thirty years until she passed away at Thanet in Kent in 1969 at the age of 90. They had no children.

Sir Allan Campbell MacDiarmid (1880-1945)

Sir Allan Campbell MacDiarmid (1880-1945)

Allan Campbell MacDiarmid (1880 – 1945). Allan attended Kelvinside Academy and Uppingham boarding School before qualifying as a Chartered Accountant. He married his wife Grace McClure at Hillhead in 1910, she was the sister of William McClure mentioned above. They resided in Hillhead where they had five children, Grace, Allan, James, Niall and Elspeth. Allan joined the Glasgow based steel tube manufacturers Stewarts & Lloyds as company secretary in 1909, becoming a director of the firm in 1918, and was appointed chairman and managing director in 1927. The firm also had major manufacturing plants in England and the family had moved south to live at Westbrook Hay near Hemel Hempstead by 1933. They resided there until at least 1939, after which they moved to Kingshill House in nearby Berkhamstead. They also maintained a residence in the Westminster area. Allan received a Knighthood in the New Years’ Honours list in 1945, but he sadly passed away only eight months later at Westminster Hospital in London aged 64. His death was widely reported in the press. Lady MacDiarmid passed away at Tunbridge Wells in Kent in 1970 aged 85.

MacDiarmid Stone - Glasgow Necropolis

MacDiarmid Stone – Glasgow Necropolis



The following sources have been invaluable in providing some of these details and are gratefully acknowledged here:

The British Newspaper Archive website
The National Records of Scotland and the excellent ScotlandsPeople website.
Morag Fyfe at the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis website for accessing the Necropolis database.


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.

Back to top