Rev Doctor Robert Muter DD (1771-1842)

Sunday, November 12th, 2023
Rev Doctor Robert Muter DD

Rev Doctor Robert Muter DD

by Colin Campbell

Robert was born on 13th August 1771 at Stonehouse, Lanarkshire, the son of Thomas Muter (Mutter) and Margaret Denovan.

He was originally a member of the Church of Scotland but left to join the United Associate Church in 1794.

This Church had broken from the established Church of Scotland in 1732 over the matter of patronage, or who had the right to appoint Ministers to Congregations

In 1799 he was licensed to preach in the Associate Church in Duke Street, Glasgow as a junior Minister. His senior Minister strenuously objected to his appointment. A long controversy was to follow. Despite this he was ordained on 14th August 1800 to preach in the Associate Church and was confirmed in his charge of the Duke Street, Glasgow, United Associate Congregation only (the third Minister). Originally in Cow Loan (Queen Street), the Church moved and built a new building in the classical Greek style in 1801 on Duke Street and it was in this building that he held his charge until his death.

On 20th March 1804 he married Janet Mitchell, they originally set up home at 213 George Street, Glasgow but by 1820 they lived at Broompark, closer to the Church.

He is listed as having taken his Doctor of Divinity at Rutger’s College, New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA in 1832.

He died on 5th May 1842. His Daughter Lilias had married Dr William McGill.

(Ack: Thomas Annan Collection, Mitchell Library (Image), the Matriculation Albums of Glasgow University, The Glasgow Story, ScotlandsPeople, History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian, from 1733 to 1900 Vol 2 by Robert Small pp28-29)


Robert Muter monument

Robert Muter monument

Robert Kettle

Sunday, November 12th, 2023
Robert Kettle

Robert Kettle

by Colin Campbell and Morag T Fyfe

Robert Kettle was born in the village of Kintillo, parish of Dunbarney near Bridge of Earn, Perthshire on 18 December 1791. There seem to have been more than one family of Kettles in the parish at the time but it has proved impossible to identify his parents. He must have had a sister as two nieces surnamed Geddes were living with him in Glasgow from at least 1841.

He seems to have been a studious and pious boy who would have liked to study for the ministry had his parents been able to support him financially.  Instead he was apprenticed to a weaver. At the end of his apprenticeship he became a clerk in a firm in Perth for five or six years before moving to Glasgow in 1815 where he joined the firm of William Kelly and Co, cotton trader. In his early days in Glasgow he rented a room in Balmanno Street for 2s 6d per week. He paid 5s for a ticket which allowed him to attend lectures at the Andersonian Institution for three months and was impressed by Dr Ure’s lecture, with demonstration, on coal gas.

Soon after settling in Glasgow Robert came under the influence of Dr Thomas Chalmers of the Tron Church. At first he had to stand on the stairs or in a passage way to hear Chalmers preach as the church was so crowded. Through his attendance at the Tron, he became a deacon, and set up a Sunday School. He became a close friend of Thomas Chalmers and also of the Rev Edward Irving, Chalmers’ assistant and missionary in St John’s parish. In 1832 Robert left the established Church of Scotland and in 1834 he joined a Baptist congregation.

In 1829, he encountered some financial difficulties when William Kelly and Co. went bankrupt but he overcame them to set up his own business as a cotton yarn merchant and eventually became very successful.

That same year a group of gentlemen including William Collins, the bookseller, were attempting to establish a temperance society. Robert Kettle did not join immediately but after an accident on a steamboat due, he was sure, to him having drunk too much toddy, he changed his mind. By July 1830 he was about to commit to the temperance movement and in December 1831 he became one of the treasurers of the Scottish Temperance Society; the following year he became secretary, a position he held until 1836.

The earliest temperance societies tended to focus on abstinence from distilled spirits which left the door for consumption of wine and certain other alcoholic beverages. In 1832 the first attempts were made to form total abstinence societies. In 1836 the Glasgow Total Abstinence Society was formed open to men and women alike. The third rule contained the following pledge: “I voluntarily promise to abstain altogether from Ale, Porter, Cyder, Wine, Ardent Spirits, and all other intoxicating liquors, (except as a Medicine, or in a Religious Ordinance); that I will neither give nor offer them to others; and, that I will discountenance all the causes and practices of intemperance.”

Robert does not seem to have been associated with the very early days of the total abstinence campaigns but in 1838 he became President of the Glasgow Abstinence Society a position he held until 1846. He also became President of the newly formed Scottish Temperance Union in 1838. The Scottish Temperance Union produced the Scottish Temperance Journal, from 1839 until 1847 and Robert very soon became its editor and a contributor. Due to holding these two presidencies he travelled and lectured widely in the west of Scotland promoting the benefits of abstinence. The year after the Scottish Temperance Journal closed he was elected President of the Scottish Temperance League and it was during this period that his portrait was commissioned from Danile M’Nee. This shows a tall slim man with a thoughtful expression. His face was scarred by small pox. He was always most particular in his dress at all times, not just in his portrait.

The last public meeting in which he took part was held in the City Hall, Glasgow on 10th February 1852 to promote the advantage of Savings’ Banks for the working classes. He attended church on the 7th March as usual but felt he had a slight cold that evening. By Thursday 11th he was confined to bed and died on 23rd of March 1852. He was 61 years old. It was estimated that his funeral to compartment Omega in the Necropolis on Monday 29th March was attended by some two thousand mourners.

(Ack: National Galleries of Scotland (picture), ScotlandsPeople, Aird’s Glimpses of Old Glasgow, Temperance Memorials of the late Robert Kettle)

Robert Kettle Monument

Robert Kettle Monument

Robert Stewart (1810-1866)

Thursday, November 9th, 2023
Robert Stewart

Robert Stewart

by Colin Campbell

He was born in 1810 to William Stewart and Helen Miller.

After training in Accountancy, he took over his father’s mineral business at Cleland in Lanarkshire.

He became a Councillor in Glasgow in 1842 and held several posts before becoming Lord Provost from 1851-1854.

Inspired by the 1848 Public Health Act, the City in 1852, under Stewart’s leadership, purchased 66 acres of land to the west of the City which was to become Kelvingrove Park. He brought Sir Joseph Paxton to Glasgow to commence design the layout of this park (completed by Charles Wilson and Thomas Kyle) and Queen’s Park on the south side of the City (completed by John Carrick).

His other great contribution to the City was the passing of the Water Act through Parliament in July 1855 under which authority a public fresh water supply was brought to the City from Loch Katrine 35 miles away. He was assisted in this by his friendship with the then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston and was accomplished in the teeth of particularly fierce local opposition. Work commenced in 1855, was completed by 1859 and was opened at Loch Katrine by Queen Victoria. The Chief Engineer was John Frederick Bateman.

During his tenure of office as Lord Provost, he married Isabella King of Leverholme, Renfrewshire on 29th June 1852, they were to have a daughter and two sons.

Robert retired from the Council in 1855 and bought the estate of Murdostoun near Shotts in Lanarkshire in 1856. He died on 12th September 1866.

In 1872 a Memorial Fountain to him was erected in Kelvingrove Park.

(Ack: One Hundred Glasgow Men (image), Glasgow City Council, ScotlandsPeople, NLS Maps)

Robert Stewart monument

Robert Stewart monument

Jane Somerville Rough

Saturday, June 19th, 2021

Helen Marshall Rough 1839-1932

Sunday, May 30th, 2021

By Keith Clark and Morag T Fyfe

According to records May 1819 was an unusually cold month when 17-year old Margaret Gardner, daughter of a hairdresser, married 27-year old Archibald Rough who ran a successful upholstery business in Edinburgh. Soon the family was growing; Margaret (1821), Jane (1826), Isabella (1827), Archibald Jr. (1829) and George (1831). By 1832 the family had moved to Leith Walk the long street connecting Edinburgh to the port of Leith where the last of their eight children were born; Lewis (1834), Elizabeth (1836) and Helen (1839). It was the couple’s youngest child, Helen Marshall Rough, who was to have an influence on the nursing profession in Scotland, an influence that extended for several generations beyond her death in 1932.

We know little of Helen’s childhood. At the time of the 1841 census 2-year old Helen was living on Leith Walk with her parents and maternal grandmother. As a 4-year old, Helen probably attended the wedding of her sister Margaret in 1843, and, at age 7 she most likely was at the 1846 wedding of her sister Jane to Mr. James Bell, a highly respected educator in Edinburgh who had moved to Glasgow in 1844. Her sister’s marriage to James would later have a significant influence on Helen’s life. Eight year old Helen felt the anguish of her mother’s death in 1847 from “fever”, either cholera or typhoid, which were sweeping over the country at this time.

The 1850’s brought more changes to the growing Helen. In 1851 she was living with her father, four of her siblings and a servant at 18 Leith Walk while attending school. Her sister, Elizabeth, had moved out of the house to live with her married sister, Jane Bell, in Glasgow for a period of time. An elder sister, Isabella, emigrated to Canada West and married there. Her brother Archibald, who had been living at home, was declared bankrupt in 1858 and the next year her father followed suit. By the time Helen was twenty her mother had died, her brothers and sisters were moving out, getting married and having children, and her father and brother had declared bankruptcy. Certainly her teenage years would have been challenging for her.

No much is known about Helen’s story during the 1860s. The 1861 census shows Helen living at home on Leith Walk with her father, who had apparently recovered from his bankruptcy as he was still a master upholsterer and employed three men. Living with them were Helen’s sister Elizabeth, her brother Archibald as well as her six year old nephew James Johnson, her sister Margaret’s son.

It was during this decade that Helen’s family dispersed and left her childhood home on Leith Walk. In 1861 her brother Archibald married but died in 1863. Her sister Elizabeth left home and married in 1864 and her father quit the house in Leith and moved in with his daughter Margaret.

By 1871, 32 year old Helen was living with her brother-in-law, James Bell, at 8 Kew Terrace in Glasgow. Her sister Jane had died suddenly the year before; had Helen come to Glasgow to keep house for her brother-in-law after her sister’s unexpected death?

The Bell household on Kew Terrace that Helen moved into was an energetic one. James Bell was a devout Christian who was active in the church and reached out to the poor, sick and underprivileged of the city. As English Master at the High School of Glasgow, Bell was respected in the community and an inspiring and highly effective teacher. As his students assumed their adult roles in the community some of them became friends with their former teacher.

In 1878 James became unwell and Helen tended to him in his final days. On the night of Friday 25 July 1879 he was ill and she sat up the night with him. The next day he died of a stroke. It was Helen who received letters of condolence from several of the organizations that her brother-in-law had served, so she was obviously associated with him in their eyes. Was it from James’ network of friends and associates that Helen was able to draw support from when she embarked on founding her organization over a decade later?

After the death of her brother-in-law James Bell, Helen took some time for herself. Her father had died in Edinburgh in 1875 so she had no family home to return to. The census of 1881 shows her visiting at 15 Westfield Park, Westbury upon Trym, Barton Regis, Gloucestershire, England with the family of Rev Richard Glover, an influential Baptist Minister. Helen is listed as a visitor “Deriving Income from Her Property”. Rev. Glover was a friend and admirer of James Bell and Helen probably became acquainted with him while she was living in Glasgow with her brother-in-law. It is also unknown how she supported herself during this time. When James Bell died in 1879, he left an estate of just over £3,500, the bulk of which was split between Helen and her sister Elizabeth so Helen now had some money of her own.

Sometime in the 1880’s Helen may have enrolled in the Glasgow Training Home for Nurses on St. George’s Road to train as a nurse, most likely under the supervision of a Miss Annie Stewart. In 1889 Miss Stewart left the Glasgow Training Home for Nurses and established the Blysthswood Nursing Institution at 20 & 22 Burnbank Terrace. The purpose of the institution was for the reception of patients, and supplying of medical and surgical nurses to private families. The 1891 shows 52-year old Helen employed there as Sick Nurse.

In her work, Helen must have realized the critical role that nurses were now playing in both the medical community and in serving the needs of those who needed private nursing. To help link these three groups Helen set out to create the Glasgow and West of Scotland Co-operation for Trained Nurses (The Co-operation) towards the end of 1892. The organization was based on a model of a nurses Co-operation that had been developed in London by a Miss. Hicks the year before.  Helen solicited money and sought the help of friends and by April 1893 she had created a working committee to establish a nurses Co-operation for Glasgow and area.

The stated aim of the Co-operation was to improve nurse’s working conditions. This was to be done by establishing a register for trained nurses in Glasgow, providing them with regular employment and full remuneration, and providing a central home where nurses could live comfortably for a moderate fee. Each member nurse paid the Co-operation a commission and the Co-operation matched them to appropriate nursing cases at the request of the medical community. The nurses had to be supervised and Helen became the first Lady Superintendent of the Co-operation. A house was leased in late 1893 at 18 Sardinia Terrace in Glasgow for use as the organization’s headquarters and nurses’ residence, and by year’s end Helen had enrolled 31 nurses.

Sardinia Terrace, Cecil Street

Sardinia Terrace, Cecil Street

On Friday afternoon 12 January 1894 the first annual meeting of members of the Board of Directors was held at Sardinia Terrace. Dr Joseph Coats took the chair and Mrs Isabella Elder agreed to become first president of the organization. Throughout its history the Board of Directors had many well connected people on it, probably through Helen’s association with her brother-in-law James Bell and his ties to the church and Glasgow in general.

The first few years were a struggle for the young organization and it was noted in the minutes of one of the meetings that Helen did not draw a salary during this time. However by 1897 the Co-operation was starting show a profit and become self-sustaining. The Co-operation continued to grow under Helen’s leadership and between 1899 and 1903 the nurses of the Co-operative handled nearly 7000 cases.

The war years presented a challenge for Helen and the Co-operation. She remained Lady Superintendant, living and working at an expanded Sardinia Terrace building. During this time, nurses left the Co-operation to join the war effort resulting in a loss of £2,093 in revenue in one year alone. However with Helen’s leadership the organization was still able to continue functioning at a small profit. Helen continued to work for the nurses of the Cooperation and it was proposed to add a pension fund to its existing benevolent fund for member nurses.

Insight into the feelings of the nurses towards Helen can be seen in this excerpt from The British Journal of Nursing (March 11, 1916)

“They (the nurses) write to Miss Rough ……. at the home in a bright and cheerful manner.

With the end of the war Helen decided to retire and in 1919, at age 80, she left the organization that she founded, nurtured and grew into one that had served over 40,000 clients during her tenure. She had established a safe home for nurses in Glasgow and provided them with a benevolent fund and a pension fund. The medical community of Glasgow knew that the organization Helen founded would provide them with well trained and reliable nurses.

Eagleton, Bridge of Allan

Eagleton, Bridge of Allan

Upon retirement, Helen left Glasgow and moved to Abbey View in Bridge of Allan to the north of Stirling. She later took up residence at the Eagleton Hotel on Henderson Street there where she resided until her death on 5 April 1932 leaving an estate of just over £3,300. Helen is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis beside her sister and brother in law Jane and James Bell in Compartment Upsilon.

Helen’s monument in compartment Upsilon

Helen’s monument in compartment Upsilon

Helen Rough Memorial - Inscription

Helen Rough Memorial – Inscription

The Glasgow & West of Scotland Co-operation for Trained Nurses continued to operate until 27 October 1964. At that time its business was wound up and its funds were transferred to The Trades House of Glasgow that continued to administer the pensions and the benevolent funds – the tangible legacy of Helen’s organization. For more information on the Co-operation see here.


References for Helen M. Rough

Alloa Advertiser 23 April 1864
British Journal of Nursing  Issues: 16 July 1910 p. 49; 25 Jan 1913 p. 71; 13 Feb 1915 p. 134; 111 March 1916 p. 234; 13 April 1918;
British Weather from 1700 to 1849 (
Burdett’s Hospitals and Charities 1899 p. 672
Census of Scotland Years: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
City of Glasgow City Directory Years: 1902, 1904, 1917-18, 1918-19, 1920
Dundee Advertiser – 15 January 1894
Dundee Courier 6 Nov 1862
Dundee Evening Telegraph 12 April 1932
Edinburgh City Archives; Edinburgh, Scotland; Register of Voters For the City of Edinburgh and the Burgh of Leith Years: 1832, 1856-57, 1857-58, 1858-59
Edinburgh City Directory Years: 1829-30, 1841-42,
Edinburgh City Voters List 1852
Edinburgh Evening News 18 Dec 1903
Glasgow Herald  – 20 Jan 1896 page 9
Glasgow Herald – November 1894
Glasgow Herald 22 December 1893
Glasgow Medical Journal. v.89 1918 p. 74
Glasgow Saturday Post, and Paisley and Renfrewshire Reformer 28 Dec 1861
Greenock Advertiser 28 April 1864; Archive: Scottish Indexes; Archive Location: Glasgow, Scotland
In Memoriam James Bell, David Bryce & Son, 129 Buchanan St, Glasgow, 1879
North Briton – 21 July 1858
Old Parish Registers Deaths and Burials 685/2 590/14 St Cuthberts – National Records of Scotland
Old Parish Registers Marriages 685/3 190 249 Canongate Page 301 – National Records of Scotland
Sun (London) – 10 July 1858; 15 Feb 1859
The Canadian Nurse Volume 4 1908 p. 77
The Lancet Issues: 20 Jan 1894 p. 186; 28 March 1903 p. 921;
The Nursing Record, No 176 Thursday, August 13, 1891
The Scotsman Issues: 20 Nov 1912; 26 Nov 1920; 29 Nov 1922; 7 April 1932
Will of Helen Marshall Rough
Will of James Bell


Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

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Sir David Richmond

Wednesday, May 9th, 2018
John Lavery. David Richmond (1843–1908), City Treasurer of Glasgow (1887–1890) (sketch), photo credit: Glasgow Museums. Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND licence.

John Lavery. David Richmond (1843–1908), City Treasurer of Glasgow (1887–1890) (sketch), photo credit: Glasgow Museums. Distributed under a CC BY-NC-ND licence.

A stone in compartment Zeta commemorates one of Glasgow’s Lord Provosts, , his wife Bethia Shanks, his son Alexander and his sister in law Margaret Shanks.

The following paragraphs are taken from Who’s who in Glasgow in 1909:

THE late Sir David Richmond, managing director of the firm of David Richmond & Company, Ltd., iron tube manufacturers in Rose Street, Hutchesontown, and Govan, was born at the village of Deanston, near Doune, 14th July, 1843, was educated at Glasgow High School, Athenaeum, and Mechanics’ Institute, and spent three years, on account of delicate health, in Australia and New Zealand. He returned to Glasgow in 1867, however, and began tube manufacture and brass-founding. He was also latterly chairman of the Broxburn Oil Company and the Clyde Valley Electrical Power Company, and a director of Messrs. Henry Widnell & Stewart, John Gray & Co., the local board of the Scottish Union and National Insurance Company, the Tharsis Sulphur and Copper Company, and the United Collieries.

Sir David first entered Glasgow Town Council in 1870 as a representative of the old 14th ward, and he remained associated with the same constituency till his retiral in 1899. He was a bailie from 1882 to 1886, in which year he was senior magistrate. Among other offices he was Convener of the Parliamentary Bills Committee for a number of years, and from 1887 to 1890 he was City Treasurer. He was the first Lord Provost after the rearrangement of the municipal wards, and the re-election of the whole Town Council in 1896 consequent on the recent vast extension of the city. During his term of office, Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee and Mr. Gladstone died. To commemorate the former event, Sir David proposed the reconstruction of the Royal Infirmary, and for that purpose, before he retired, £86,000 had been raised; and as a memorial to Mr. Gladstone, at a meeting convened by the Lord Provost, it was determined to erect the statue now in George Square, for which £4,000 was subscribed. Sir David was also called upon to collect and transmit £57,983 for the relief of the famine in India in 1807; and £3,633 as the citizens’ contribution towards the Gordon College at Khartoum, advocated by the Sirdar of Egypt, Lord Kitchener. Sir David had also the honourable task of entertaining the Duke and Duchess of York, when they visited the city in 1897 to name the Princes Dock and lay the memorial stone of the Fine art Galleries at Kelvingrove. In 1898 the Convention of Royal, Parliamentary, and Police Burghs met in Glasgow contrary to its previous custom, and Sir David was appointed Chairman. In the same year the union of the old City and Barony Parishes took place, and the Lord Provost acted as returning officer at the election of the new combined Parish Council. He also, in 1876 and 1899, respectively, opened Tollcross Park and Richmond Park, to the latter of which he was asked by the Corporation to allow his name to be attached. Under his reign the Corporation decided to adopt the over head electric system for the street cars, and arrangements were made for the great Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901, while Lady Richmond formally opened the new Glasgow Bridge across the Clyde.

In recognition of his many services the Lord Provost received the honour of knighthood from Queen Victoria in 1899. A further testimony to his ability and fairness was given more recently, when on the appointment by Government of a Commission to enquire into the condition of hospitals at the seat of the Boer War, regarding which damaging allegations had been made by Mr. Burdett-Coutts, M.P., Sir David Richmond was one of the three sent out. He was also appointed a member of the extraordinary panel under the Local Government Act to consider Scottish applications for Provisional Orders; and on the retiral of Sir Nathaniel Dunlop in 1907 he was elected Chairman of the Clyde Trust. Sir David died at his residence in Pollokshields on 15th January, 1908.

David Richmond Grave

David Richmond Grave

Please contact or for more information or if you have information/photographs to offer.

Further information can be found at:


James Richardson of Ralston 1790-1860 and Catherine Wemyss 1792-1839

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017

Photographs and information supplied by Great Grandson of David Richardson, David Steel.

James Richardson of Ralston and his wife Catherine Wemyss, 1792-1839, were married in 1814 and are buried in the Glasgow Necropolis. James founded the firm of James Richardson and Co, Sugar Merchants. The firm began business in Edinburgh and the family moved to Glasgow about 1830. James purchased Ralston, Paisley in 1841. Following the death of James Richardson in 1860 the firm was run by Thomas Richardson (See 100 Glasgow men

Thomas Richardson joined the family business at the age of 17 following a classical education in Edinburgh. When the sugar market moved to Glasgow’s Royal Exchange in 1829, the firm’s established premises in, variously, Virginia Street, Miller Street and Wilson Street. The West Indian market meant that the firm also retained property in Mauritius.

In 1867 Richardson chaired an inquiry into the Caledonian Railway Company, of which he was a major shareholder. He was also a director of the Glasgow and South-Western Railway and, in 1869, a member of the Audit Committee of the London and North-Western Railway. He died in Budapest, following an attack of dysentery, on 26 June 1872.
Following his death it was run by my great grandfather David Richardson till it was wound up in 1896 on his death.

James Richardson by Sir Daniel MacNee 1858

James Richardson by Sir Daniel MacNee 1858

Catherine Wemyss, wife of James Richardson

Catherine Wemyss, wife of James Richardson

The portrait of Catherine is a miniature and that of James was painted by Sir Daniel Macnee in 1858. There is a similar portrait in Paisley museum and art gallery and an Annan photograph of a Macnee portrait in the Mitchell library.

Alexander Rodger 1784-1846

Friday, February 10th, 2017

This notice of Alexander Rodger is taken from “The Glasgow Poets: their lives and poems” edited by George Eyre-Todd and published by William Hodge & Co. in 1903. ( Eyre-Todd’s text, in turn, is based on the biography of Rodger which appears in “Whistle-Binkie; a collection of songs for the social circle” published by David Robertson in 1853. (

Alexander Rodger

Alexander Rodger

WHEN the first series of “Whistle-binkie ” was issued in 1832 from David Robertson’s shop at the foot of Glassford Street, then the favourite literary howf of Glasgow, its best and most characteristic contributions were from the pens of William Motherwell and Alexander Rodger. It was the pawky humour of pieces like Rodger’s ” Robin Tamson’s Smiddy” and “Behave yoursel’ before folk,” contrasting with the pathos of poems like Motherwell’s “Jeanie Morrison” and “My heid is like to rend, Willie,” which struck the public taste so strongly, and made the curious poetic venture a success. Not less striking was the contrast between the characters, opinions, and careers of the two contributors.

The “Radical Poet,” as Rodger has been called, was born at East Calder, Midlothian, 16th July, 1784. His mother was in weak health, and for the first seven years of his life he was cared for by two maiden sisters named Lonie. His father, meanwhile, having given up the farm of Haggs, near Dalmahoy, of which he had been tenant, had become an innkeeper in Mid- Calder, and there the future poet was put to school. Five years later the family removed to Edinburgh, and the boy was set to learn the trade of silversmith with a Mr. Mathie. This apprenticeship, however, was cut short in twelve months by the financial collapse of his father, who fled to Hamburgh. The lad was then brought to Glasgow by his mother’s friends, who had become strongly attached to him, and who apprenticed him to a weaver named Dunn, at the Drygate Toll, near the Cathedral. In 1803, seized with the prevailing fever of patriotism, he joined the Glasgow Highland Volunteers, in which regiment, and its successor, the Glasgow Highland Locals, he remained for nine years. Meanwhile, in 1806, being twenty-two years of age, he married Agnes Turner, and removed to what was then the village of Bridgeton, to the east of the city. There, to support a quickly -growing family, he added the profits of music-teaching to those of weaving, and in his leisure hours solaced himself with
the making of poetry. Perhaps his earliest effort was a poem, “Bolivar,” written on seeing in the Glasgow Chronicle, in 1816, that that patriot had set free seventy thousand slaves in Venezuela. The peculiarities, also, of the Highland members of his volunteer regiment furnished him with subjects for several satirical pieces.

This furor scribendi however, was presently to bring him to trouble. 1816-1820 were the Radical years, when, amid the distress following Waterloo, political agitation rose to a dangerous pitch. In 1819 The Spirit of the Union, a strongly political paper, was started in Glasgow by Gilbert Macleod, and Rodger became sub-editor. But after the publication of the tenth number Macleod was arrested, tried, and sentenced to transportation for life, and Rodger became a suspect. In after days he used to tell how, when his house was searched for seditious publications, he placed his Family Bible in the officer’s hands, that being, as he said, the only treasonable book in his possession, and he pointed to the chapter on kings in the second book of Samuel. Nevertheless, on the appearance of the famous “treasonable address” on the walls of Glasgow, signed by a “Provisional Government,” Rodger was actually arrested, and imprisoned for eleven days in Bridewell. There, in solitary confinement, he consoled himself, and aggravated his gaolers, by singing his own political compositions at the loudest of his lungs.

In 1821 he obtained employment as inspector of cloths at Barrowfield Printworks, and during his eleven years in that situation he composed most of his best pieces. At the same time the poet’s political sympathies were by no means hid under a bushel. When George IV. , in 1822, visited Edinburgh, an anonymous squib from Rodger’s pen, “Sawney, now the King’s Come,” appeared in the London Examiner, creating much speculation in the mind of the public, and no little annoyance to Sir Walter Scott, whose loyal “Carle, now the King’s Come,” had appeared simultaneously. And when Harvie of West Thorn blocked up the footpath through his property by Clydeside with a wall, it was by Rodger’s strenuous energy that the public movement was directed which vindicated the right of way.

A friend started a pawnbroking business in Glasgow in 1832, and induced the poet (of all men) to become its manager. In a few months, as might have been expected, he threw up the position, and in a rhymed epistle to the managers of Barrowfield works declared his readiness to do anything “fire their furnaces, or weigh their coals, wheel barrows, riddle ashes, mend up holes,” rather than stay where he was

“Obliged each day and hour to undergo
The pain of hearing tales of want or woe.”

He found a place shortly, however, as reader and reporter on the Glasgow Chronicle; and a year later, on John Tait starting a Radical weekly, the Liberator, Rodger became his assistant. Tait died, and the paper came to grief, but in a few months the poet found a place in the office of the Reformer’s Gazette, which he kept till his death. In 1836 some two hundred of his fellow-citizens entertained him to dinner and presented him with a silver box full of sovereigns “a fruit not often found on the barren slopes of Parnassus.” He died 26th September, 1846, and was buried near William Motherwell in Glasgow Necropolis, where a monument marks his resting-place [Compartment Mnema]. On hearing of his death the Scotsmen in Cincinnati collected and sent to David Robertson, the publisher, a sum of £12 as a gift to the poet’s widow and children.

Rodger’s first avowed appearance as an author was in 1827, with a volume, “Peter Cornclips, a Tale of Real Life, and Other Poems and Songs.” In 1838 he published another volume of “Poems and Songs, Humorous and Satirical “; and in 1842 “Stray Leaves from the Portfolios of Alisander the Seer, Andrew Whaup, and Humphrey Henkeckle” these being the nommes de plume above which the satirical contents had appeared in periodicals. Since then select editions of his poems have been edited by Mr. Robert Ford in 1896 and 1902. But the poet’s name is chiefly associated with “Whistle-binkie,” in which his best pieces appeared, and of which, after the death of Carrick in 1835, he became editor.

The political heat of that time has passed away, and in consequence “Sandy ” Rodger’s satires have lost both point and sting, but his songs, touching slily and not unkindly the foibles of ordinary human nature, remain amusing as ever, and the hot-headed, tender-hearted, Radical poet is not likely to be forgotten. The late Crimean Simpson has recorded of him: “I was familiar with his round, short figure when he was connected with the Reformer’s Gazette, Peter Mackenzie’s paper. I used to see him regularly about Argyle Street, and I have often heard him sing his own songs at the Saturday Evening Concerts, which he did in a genial, pawky way.”

Alexander Rodger Monument

Alexander Rodger Monument

In the Glasgow Herald of Friday July 28 1848 is the following report:

A few gentlemen, who have interested themselves in the erection of a monument over the resting place of the late Mr. Alexander Rodger, along with two of the deceased poet’s sons, assembled, on Monday afternoon in the Necropolis, for the purpose of seeing the ceremony performed of laying the foundation-stone. The monument, which is nearly completed, is of the Grecian order, and is surmounted by a sarcophagus, upon which is carved a very correct medallion portrait of Rodger. Mr. James M’Nab of the Glasgow Constitutional Office, previous to laying the stone deposited a bottle, hermetically sealed, in a cavity in the basement, containing a volume of the poet’s works, the manuscript of his latest production, copies of the Glasgow newspapers, the card of Mr. Mossman, the artist, and several other documents. The inscription upon the monument, which, it may be mentioned, overlooks Drygate Bridge, the scene of one of the poet’s earliest and most humourous songs, is as follows :—

“To the Memory of
Alexander Rodger,
A poet
Gifted with feeling, humour, and fancy;
A Man
Animated by generous,
Cordial, and comprehensive sympathies,
Which adversity could not repress,
Nor popularity enfeeble;
This Monument
Is erected in testimony of public esteem.
At Mid-Calder, 16th July, 1784;
At Glasgow, 26th September, 1846.

“What though with Burns thou couldst not vie,
In diving deep, or soaring high.
What though thy genius did not blaze
Like his to draw the public gaze;
Yet thy sweet numbers, free from art,
Like his can touch—can melt the heart.”

The inscription was penned by Mr. Kennedy, author of “Fitful Fancies,” and the concluding lines of poetry are from an Ode to Tannahill, by Rodger. The design of the monument is exceedingly chaste, and the execution of the likeness does much credit to Mr. Mossman— Guardian.

William Bruce Hope Robertson

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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