John Pollock (1789-1842)

Wednesday, April 26th, 2023

by Morag T Fyfe
An earlier version was published in Grave Matters 4, Summer 2018

Few of the families of the private soldiers and NCOs who retired from the army in the first half of the nineteenth century as out-pensioners of Chelsea Hospital and settled in Glasgow could afford to purchase a family grave in the Necropolis; most finished up in common ground.

Sergeant of the 90th Regiment of Light Infantry c1833

Sergeant of the 90th Regiment of Light Infantry c1833

One exception is John Pollock who was buried in the Necropolis on 17th October 1842 in compartment Eta lair 16. He was described in the burial register as ‘agent and house factor late of 90th Regt’.

His service record survives and shows he joined the 90th Regiment at Glasgow in 1807 at the age of 18 (born 1789 in Glasgow) and was discharged from Haslar Barracks, Gosport in 1831 with the rank of colour sergeant aged 42. During the course of his service he spent six years in the West Indies, one year in North America [Canada], six months in France and three years in the Mediterranean.

When Pollock enlisted in 1807 the 90th was already in the West Indies stationed on Saint Vincent and Pollock arrived there on 9th July 1808. The following year the regiment participated in the capture of Martinique before returning to St Vincent and in 1810 his service record is specifically endorsed that he was present at the surrender of Guadeloupe by the French. Between 1812 and 1815 the UK and the USA were at war and, as a result, the regiment moved to Canada in 1814 and spent twelve months at Montreal and other stations. On returning to England in August 1815 it was posted direct to Ostend to join the Army of Occupation in France. After the regiment returned to England it spent four years stationed in various towns in England seldom staying anywhere for more than six months.

At the end of 1820 the 90th sailed for Malta at the start of a decade’s service in the Mediterranean but disturbances in the Ionian Islands in 1821 resulted in the 90th moving there and being split between Cefalonia and Zante.

United States of the Ionian Islands (1815-1864)

United States of the Ionian Islands (1815-1864)

Zante, or Zakynthos is one of the Ionian Islands which were under British control between 1815 and 1864.  Pollock only spent three years on Zante before being transferred to a Depot [in the UK] at the end of 1825. Although he remained in the army until 1831 his active career seems to have been over and he was discharged to pension in 1831 as ‘his constitution is so exhausted that he is totally unfit for the service’. His ill health stemmed from a ‘protracted attack of remittent fever at Zante in 1824’. Remittent fever is a symptom, not a disease in itself, so it is impossible to know for certain what Pollock contracted but malaria or typhoid fever may be likely.

Zante c1820

Zante c1820

In the Victorian army soldiers could not marry (officially) without the permission of their commanding officer. Only those wives whose marriages were officially sanctioned could live in barracks with their husbands and accompany them abroad. John’s promotion within the regiment had been fast as he reached the rank of sergeant in 1812 five years after he enlisted; the fact that disease was rife in the West Indies could certainly have some bearing on the speed of his promotion. By the time he married in 1821 he had held the senior rank of Colour Sergeant for three years and one assumes he married with permission. The regiment sailed for Malta at the end of 1820 but Pollock was still in the UK at an unnamed Depot (in charge of a recruiting party?) and was able to marry Margaret Wright in Glasgow in July 1821. There was probably a degree of urgency in this as Margaret was three months pregnant at the time and John must have been expecting to leave for Malta at any moment. Their first child, Elizabeth Hastings was born in Glasgow in January 1822 but died on the Isle of Wight and was buried in Carisbrooke there on 19th August 1822. It is tempting to think that at the time Margaret was on her way to Zante as she gave birth to her first son, John, there in 1824. After Pollock’s attack of remittent fever, also in 1824, the family returned to the UK and five further children were born in Glasgow between 1827 and 1840. John was still in the army until 1831 so it may be that his wife travelled home to Glasgow to give birth to her children. Of the seven children born to John and Margaret Pollock four are known to have survived to adulthood and married and it is presumed the other three died young.

There is no longer a gravestone on Eta 16 but the burial registers record the burial of Margaret Wright, relict of John Pollock in 1843; Janet Pollock, who turned out to be a grand daughter of John and Margaret in 1873; and Mary Pollock, a daughter-in-law in 1878.

Very grateful thanks go to Rob Stephens who digested and summarized John Pollock’s service records for me, supplied copies of various death certificates and other family details. He was inspired in this research by his wife Jane Pollock.





James Paterson

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014

Ross Drysdale Plews

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Robert Park

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Granville Sharp Pattison

Saturday, November 19th, 2011

A profile of the Pattison family can be found here.

This profile was provided by Bob Crawford

On a visit to the Glasgow Necropolis, after crossing the Bridge of Sighs, go left and then take the first path on your right.  Some distance along this path you will see a full sized statue on a large plinth.  This is the site of the Pattison family enclosure.

The statue is of Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Hope Pattison, who died in Nassau in 1835 at the age of 48 years.  He was a brother of Granville Sharp Pattison.  There are many memorials, etc., to study but I will only refer to two.

“In Memory of John Pattison of Kelvingrove, Merchant in Glasgow, who

died 28 December 1807 aged 57, and his beloved wife, Hope Margaret

Moncrieff, of the ancient family of Culfargie, who died 3 September 1833

aged 77.  To fulfil his dying wish that they should be laid together in one

grave, three of their sons, John, Matthew Moncrieff and Frederick, on

9 September 1833 removed their father’s ashes from St David’s Church-

yard and deposited them with their mother’s in the vaults beneath.

Placide Quiescant

The following is the inscription on an adjacent memorial:

In Memory of Rebecca Monteith Pattison, spouse of Matthew Moncrieff

Pattison, only daughter of William Adam Monteith, who died 30 March

1829 and was reinterred in the vault beneath in April 1842″

Granville Sharp Pattison FRCS Esq. Professor of Anatomy in

University of New York, USA.  Died in New York 12 November 1851

and was deposited here 26 March 1852

Anne Scott, eldest daughter of the late John Pattison Esq. of Kelvingrove

and relict of Alexander Oswald Esq (Dunnikier).  Died 23 August 1857

Adam Monteith Pattison, died 1 August 1864 aged 37 years.

Margaret Robertson Pattison, died 30 July 1871 aged 77 years

Janet Thomson Pattison, daughter of Matthew Moncrieff Pattison,

died 13 February 1897 aged 78 years.

Janet Thomson Pattison, daughter of Matthew Moncrieff Pattison,

Died 13 February 1897 aged 78 years”

The Story of the Grave Robbery

Granville Sharp Pattison was born 1791 and educated at The Grammar School and The University of Glasgow.  He became a member of The Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons in 1813, and established The College Street Medical School at 10 College Street, together with Andrew Russel, a co-accused at the Grave Robbery Trial.  Respectively they taught Anatomy and Surgery.  Pattison also had an Anatomy Museum.

In the summer of 1813, at the age of 40 years, Mrs Janet McAlister, nee McGregor, a renowned beauty and mother of 8 children, fell whilst on holiday in Helensburgh, injuring a hand and toe.  She later died at home in Glasgow on 8 December 1813 and was buried on 15 December 1813 in the centre of the New Ground of the St. David’s Church Graveyard late that afternoon.  Early next morning the gravedigger, Henry Baird, returned to complete the burial discovering that the grave had been violated, and save for the grave clothes, the coffin was empty.  He immediately notified the appropriate authorities.  It was noticed that there was a trail of mud and footprints over the graveyard wall and in the direction of College Street.  (The is was possibly Inkle Factory Lane, since College Street was not extended so far until 1847).

At this point Mrs McAlister’s husband, Walter, a Wool Merchant, does not appear to be involved, but later he campaigned tirelessly to get a conviction in this case, and personally approached the Lord Advocate.  Her two brothers, James and Donald McGregor, presumed that the body had been taken to the Medical School in College Street and applied for a search warrant.  This was received by mid-day, but it did not include entry, which should be carried out by an official of the Court.  Therefore a group of people went to the Medical School, and knocked and banged the door for more than 15 minutes before an attendant, who said he had not heard them at first, opened it.  A search was now made, noting that Granville Sharp Pattison, Andrew Russel, together with Robert Munro and John McLean (the two students who were also charged) were in the room.  The search revealed several bodies and parts of bodies, earth covered spades, wet clothing and bags big enough to hold a body.  At this point a porter began to collect various body parts in an attempt to complete one whole body in the presence of Dr John Burns, Professor of Surgery and Midwifery at the Anderson College.  This proved to be a gruesome task as so many pieces were scattered in various vessels around the room.

The investigation continued for the rest of the week, in which time a scarred hand and a foot with a black toe were discovered and later identified by Mrs McAlister’s two sisters-in-law, who had cleaned her body before the burial.

Pattison was arrested, examined by a Glasgow magistrate, and made a signed declaration.  He was bailed on the sum of £100, Robert Munro and John McLean also signed declarations and were bailed on the sum of £30.  Several weeks later Pattison was recalled by another magistrate and signed a further declaration.  On both occasions he declined to answer any questions relating to Mrs McAlister.  Russel was examined by a third magistrate and also signed further declarations, but declined to answer questions relating to Mrs McAlister.  These declarations were read to the jury at a preliminary trial at the end of the Crown evidence.  The four were then indicted to stand trial at the High Court in Edinburgh, being released on bail.

The trial took place on Monday, 6 June 1814.  Five judges were in attendance indicating the importance of the case.  Counsel for the Crown were the Solicitor-General for Scotland, Alexander Maconachie, Francis Jeffrey and Henry Home Drummond, an Advocate-depute.  Counsel for the defence were John Clerk, a second cousin of Pattison and later Lord Eldin, and Henry Cockburn, later as Judge Lord Cockburn.  All the accused pleaded “Not Guilty”

John Clerk, for the accused, moved that the trial be held behind closed doors on account of the gruesome nature of the evidence.  The judges denied this by a majority, although the Lord Advocate announced that no newspapers were to publish the evidence given.

Evidence for the Crown included a medical report from three doctors and a surgeon, plus an account by Mrs McAlister’s dentist as to dentures he made that fitted one of the heads found in Pattison’s rooms.

Janet Grey stated that at 10 pm on 15 December she was guiding, by lantern, a visitor at her home in George Street, and when in College Street she heard voices in Inkle Factory Lane and saw people carrying a bundle.  When she returned home she told her husband, James Bruce, a Police Officer, that there was “evil about”.

Evidence was then led for the accused in support of their alibis for the night of 13/14 December when two doctors stated that the dentures fitted four other found heads equally well, and that the uterus of the body in question was non-parous, whereas Mrs McAlister had eight children.

After the Trial ended at 2 am on Tuesday 7 June 1814, the Jury were ordered to give their verdict by 2 pm that same day.  A signed unanimous verdict was presented at the appointed time, finding Andrew Russel and John McLean “Not Guilty”, and Granville Sharp Pattison and Robert Munro “Not Proven”.  Lord Justice-clerk Boyle addressed the four accused and discharged them.  To Pattison he gave a warning that he should be careful and circumspect in his profession, avoid all suspicion, and not to place himself in a similar situation again.

It was obvious that Mrs McAlister’s body had been raised by someone, and the body or parts of it were found in Pattison’s dissecting room.  However, although Pattison must have been aware of the grave robbery, he took no part in the removal, and was justifiably found Not Proven.  It was also obvious that there was great confusion in the assembling of the body from the parts found in the search, and that the wrong trunk was fitted to the head.  It is questionable as to which remains were actually re-interred in the McGregor family grave.

A profile of the Pattison family can be found here.

The Pattison Family

Monday, March 14th, 2011

A profile of Granville Sharp Pattison can be found here.

There is an elegant group of monuments to the Pattison family – one of these erected against the face of the rock and is partly concealed from view by ivy has the following inscription along with the arms of the family.

In memory of John Pattison of Kelvingrove, merchant of Glasgow who died 28th Dec 1807 aged 57 and his beloved wife Hope Margaret Moncrieff of the ancient family of Culfargie who died 3rd September 1833 aged 77.

To fulfil his dying wish that they should be laid together in one grave three of their sons, John, Matthew Moncrieff and Frederick on the 9th Sep 1833 removed their father’s ashes from St David’s churchyeard and deposited them with their mother’s, in the vaults beneath.

Placide Quiescant

The Merchant’s House granted the family the rights to have their son’s memorial near his father’s tomb – this is inscribed on the north side – see below for all the inscriptions.

The most impressive monument in the group is to :

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hope Pattison

The most impressive monument in the group is to :

the full length figure, head uncovered with a martial cloak around him.

West side inscription

Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Hope Pattison K H

Commander of the troops in the Bahamas etc

After serving his country twenty-eight years

With Honour and Fidelity

Died at Nassau New Providence on the 11th Jany 1843

Aged 48

This monument to his worth and services is erected

By his friends and fellow citizens


North side inscription


By a grant from

The Merchants’ House of Glasgow

Of the requisite ground

The Contributors

Were enabled to place Colonel Pattison’s Monument

Near his father’s tomb

On the central part of the column

The family armorial bearings with the motto ‘Hostis honoris invidia’ and on each of the other sides at the same height are the following inscriptions relating to the battles in which he was involved.

North side
Salamanca Madrid Retreat of Aranjuez Pyrenees

East side
Massena’s Retreat Campo Mayor Fuentes D’onoro Badajoz

South side
Busaco Redinha Casal Nova Foz D’aronce

At the left side of this family enclosure is another monument with battle sculpture – it supports a group of armour ; helmet, sword etc – this commemorates LIEUTENANT ALEXANDER HOPE PATTISON.  The inscriptions on his stone tell all;

Alexander Hope Pattison, Lieutenant and acting adjutant of the 2nd West India Regiment and secretary to his uncle Lieut. Colonel Alexander Hope Pattison, K H commander of the troops in the Bahamas. ëYoung, beautiful, and brave,’ he met his death at Nassau, New Providence, with the calm serenity of a Christian and a soldier, on the 28th day of September 1834 at the early age of 21. His brother officers have erected a cenotaph in the church at Nassau near where he was buried to express their ëvery high regard for his worth.’ And his afflicted parents, John and Rebecca Pattison, in full assurance of hope that they shall again meet a beloved son, whom God in the providence hath for the present taken from them, have raised this stone to tell where he sleeps. 1836 . My Son! My Son!

South side

Extract of a letter from M General Lord Fitzroy Somerset* KCB

Military secretary

“To John Pattison Esq

“Horse Guards June 16th 1835

” I avail myself of the earliest opportunity to express to you my sincere condolence on the irreparable loss you have sustained in the death of your son.

“It is hardly possible on such occasions to say anything which can afford comfort or consolation to an afflicted parent; but it must be a satisfaction to you to reflect that he was beloved by all; and that he had done himself as much credit as was possible in the situation in which he was placed, during the period of his service in the army.

kl*M General Lord Fitzroy Somerset – Lord Raglan

North side

He went with his glorious feelings yet

In their first glow

Like a southern stream that no frost hath met

To chain its flow

He went with his noble heart unworn

Warm and pure and high

An eagle stooping from clouds if morn

Only to die

He hath left a grief in this father’s breast

Deep deep and dear

And a memory to his mother blest

With faith’s mild tear

And a spotless name above the blight

Of earthly breath

Beautiful beautiful and bright

In life and death

East side

Quis Desederio sit pudor aut modus

Tam cari capitus

Translation of this extract from Horace :

Why be ashamed or why a limit set

To breathe for one so dear our fond regret

Most of the Pattisons achieved fame in one way or another. Alexander’s brother, Granville Sharp Pattison, (spelt Sharpe on the stone), was an Anatomist and set up Anatomy Departments in Glasgow, London and the USA (Philadelphia). He was never far from controversy, as described in his biography, “Granville Sharp Pattison – Anatomist and Antagonist 1791-1851” by a descendant. F. L. M. Pattison

The “antagonist” of the subtitle says a lot. Granville Pattison, the anatomist who kept a pair of pistols displayed on his desk, seems to have lived a strange life. As a young lecturer in Glasgow, he was indicted for body snatching at twenty-three (not proven verdict), accused of malpractice at twenty-six and left the city after an affair with a colleague’s wife. He moved to Philadelphia, where he made enemies. Then onto Baltimore ending up duelling and brawling. Next
to London University in 1827, where student accusations of incompetence led to riots and he was sacked. From there he went to Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1831 (where he gave himself an MD) and finally to New York University 10 years later bankrupt. Despite all this he did achieve much ; he helped to found the Glasgow Medical Society and to establish the Baltimore Infirmary, and his stature in America as a lecturer grew in his later years.

A picture of Granville Sharp Pattison can be found on the National Portrait Gallery website.

A profile of Granville Sharp Pattison can be found here.

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