Thomas Lennox Watson (1850-1920)

Sunday, November 12th, 2023
Thomas Lennox Watson

Thomas Lennox Watson

by Colin Campbell

Thomas Lennox Watson was born on 21 August 1850 to Charles and Eliz Watson of St Georges Road, Glasgow. Educated at Glasgow High School he was apprenticed to Boucher and Cousland and studied at Glasgow School of Art. He studied in London for three years before returning to Glasgow in 1874.

Early in his career he secured very prestigious commissions for, amongst others, Adelaide Place Baptist Church, Hillhead Baptist Church and Wellington UP Church. In June of 1884 he was admitted to the RIBA as a Fellow with John Honeyman of Honeyman and Keppie being one of his proposers.

He also worked in close co-operation with Walter McFarlane of the Saracen Iron Foundry.

He was very active in professional and Civic affairs and was described variously as a man of, “great seriousness and thoroughness” and “precise and business like”.

A notable antiquarian, in 1901 he produced his great book on Glasgow Cathedral, “The Double Choir of Glasgow Cathedral” in which he carefully and thoroughly dissected the building history of the Lower Church.

In 1902, he restored one of the city’s oldest monuments: the 17th Century Hutcheson Monument, which stands beside the southwest door of Glasgow Cathedral and commemorates both George and Thomas Hutcheson the founders of Hutchesons’ Grammar School.

He was also a Governor of the Royal Technical College (now Strathclyde University) and designed their War Memorial (1920), his final work.

He died on 12 October 1920 at 11 Loudon Terrace, Hillhead, Glasgow.

(Ack: Who’s Who in Glasgow (image); ScotlandsPeople; Dictionary of Scottish Architects; Glasgow-City of Sculpture)

Thomas Lennox Watson Monument

Thomas Lennox Watson Monument

William Rae Wilson 1772-1849

Friday, June 11th, 2021

by Andrew Mitchell and Morag T Fyfe

Born in Paisley, near Glasgow on 7 June 1772, William Rae Wilson was the eldest son of Patrick Ray and Isabel Wilson, and grandson of William Ray who had been Provost of Haddington in East Lothian in 1738, 1748 and 1752. John Wilson A.M., his other grandfather was buried in Paisley Abbey Churchyard and William was responsible for erecting (or re-erecting) a stone in his memory in 1806.

William’s uncle John Wilson, one of Glasgow’s town clerks, encouraged him to enter the legal profession and William practised as a solicitor for some years. John Wilson died without children in 1806. After making provision for his widow and leaving legacies to his sister Mrs Rae and her children he left the bulk of his fortune to William, including the twelve acre estate of Kelvinbank and other property in Glasgow. William also assumed the name and arms of Wilson by Letters Patent.

Kelvinbank House photographed By Annan in 1870 eight years before it was demolished.

In 1811, William married Frances ‘Fanny’ Phillips, daughter of a wealthy sugar merchant John Phillips, owner of Stobcross House located south of Kelvinbank closer to the River Clyde. Fanny died childless in November 1812 after a lingering illness which at that date may have been some form of tuberculosis.

Perhaps spurred by grief, William became a writer. He wrote a tribute to Fanny, published in one of the poet Thomas Gisborne’s volumes of “Christian Female Biography”. As he pursued his writing, travel became the focus, and by combining the two William became an early exponent of the travel memoir.

In 1819 he journeyed to the Middle East, a region in which there was growing interest, but which was little understood. He returned in 1822 and was presented to King George IV at a Levee and Drawing room in June of that year. His presentation was sponsored by the Duchess of Kent and when he published the account of his journey in 1823, under the title of Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land, it was dedicated to the Duchess. The book was well-received, a popular success and went through several editions. The second edition of 1824 was published with the addition of A Journey through Turkey, Greece, the Ionian Isles, Sicily, Spain so that his whole journey from Britain and back was recorded. Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land was the most popular of Wilson’s books and ran to four editions.

“We shall never forget the pleasure with which we perused Dr. Wilson’s ‘Travels in Palestine’ when first published,” wrote one review. “The style, though somewhat rugged and careless, is vigorous and energetic; the scriptural quotations are remarkably apposite and instructive; and what is of far greater importance than mere elegance of language, the sentiments are warm and fresh.”

This image is the frontispiece from Travels in Egypt and the Holy Land. It is anonymous but one wonders whether it shows William in native dress during his travels.

William travelled widely through Europe in the following years and recorded his journeys in print. Travels in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Hanover, Germany, Netherlands was published in 1826, dedicated to the Duke of York, and was followed two years later by Travels in Russia which was dedicated to King George IV. Subsequently he wrote Records of a Route through France and Italy; with Sketches of Catholicism in 1835 dedicated to Queen Adelaide and finally Notes Abroad and Rhapsodies at Home by a Veteran Traveller appeared anonymously in two volumes in 1837.

The Dictionary of National Biography says “He was in some respects a pioneer, his publications had an immediate popularity, and they retain a certain historical interest.” It notes that his writing could be critical of Catholicism – “An upright man, a writer and a distributor of tracts, he was not of a specially tolerant spirit.” Those tendencies may explain perhaps why he was the target of a satirical poem Ode to Rae Wilson Esq. by the English poet, and humourist Thomas Hood in 1837 which ran to over five hundred lines.

On 7 December 1820, William remarried, to Anne Cates, in St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, London and she often accompanied him on his travels. He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, in 1822 but had to wait till 1844 before the University of Glasgow awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Law and in turn he bequeathed money to the University for an annual Rae Wilson medal on divinity.

William died in South Crescent, Bedford Square, London on 2 June 1849. His remains were brought to the Glasgow Necropolis and, after a temporary interment in one of the Egyptian vaults there, were placed in a magnificent Moorish style mausoleum tomb in July 1850, with the following inscription.

In Memory of
William Rae Wilson, LL.D.,
Late of Kelvinbank,
Who died 2d June, 1849, aged 76;
Author of
‘Travels in the Holy Land,’
And editor of
Works written in that and other countries
During many years.
‘Thy servants take pleasure in her stones,
And favour the dust thereof.’
This Tablet is inscribed by his affectionate Wife.”

The Wilson family burial place was in the Ramshorn Churchyard but William had arranged for those of his family already buried there to be removed to his new mausoleum in the Necropolis when it was ready. Thus his uncle John Wilson and John’s wife Jane Struthers, his brother John Rae, advocate and his first wife Fanny Phillips all joined him in the Necropolis. In due course Ann Cates was also buried there after her death at Bath on 31 December 1863 aged 82.

While William had no children, his influence flowed down through his wider family. His own nephew – named William Rae Wilson Smith – was a Glasgow councillor noted for his work in improving the city’s health and education. When Mary Louisa Orrock married in New York in 1876 the fact that she was a great grandniece of William Rae Wilson was felt worthy of recording in the newspaper announcements of her marriage.

William Rae Wilson’s mausoleum after its recent renovation
Image copyright Ruth Johnston



Alexander Woodrow

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

James George Walker

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

John Wright of Galston, poet

Thursday, November 7th, 2019
Taken from The whole poetical works of John Wright ... with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life, 1843.

Taken from The whole poetical works of John Wright … with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life, 1843.

A number of early nineteenth century poets can be found in the Necropolis. Dugald Moore, William Motherwell, and Alexander Rodger are all commemorated by gravestones but John Wright was laid to rest in an unmarked Single Grave in compartment Iota on 23rd May 1844. John Wright, fourth child of James Wright and Grizzle Taylor, was born at the farm of Auchencloigh in Sorn parish on 1st September 1805 and moved to Galston, his father’s home town, as a young child. His formal education amounted to only a few months and he did not learn to write until in his teens. He owed most of his education to the encouragement of George Brown, weaver in Galston, to whom he was apprenticed at the age of thirteen. His long poem ‘The Retrospect’ composed in 1825 was published in 1830 with the encouragement of Professor John Wilson (Christopher North of Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine).

He settled in Cambuslang where he met and married Margaret Chalmers, a grand-daughter of the parish school-master, in June 1832. Their first child was still born and must have been a difficult birth as Margaret’s health was affected. In an effort to raise some money John decided to publish a second edition of his poems. This entailed seeking subscriptions in various towns including Greenock, Port Glasgow, Dumbarton, Dumfries and Dollar. Margaret is said to have accompanied John as the travel was hoped to help her recover from the difficult birth.

The profits from the second edition were soon spent and John returned to weaving in Cambuslang. He and his wife had a son, James, 1835 and a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1837 but by 1841 he had abandoned his family. In the census of that year Margaret can be found in Cambuslang with her two children and supporting herself and her children by working as a cotton winder. She falls out of the records after that though an 1843 memoir of the poet suggests that she was still alive then.

Judging by this memoir which prefaces the collection of Wright’s poems published by his friends in 1843, The whole poetical works of John Wright … with a portrait of the author, and a sketch of his life Wright may have suffered from periods of some form of mental illness exacerbated by heavy drinking. The memoir records two serious incidents when Wright suffered head injuries which could have led to his illness. He died at the age of 38, from bronchitis, probably in the Royal Infirmary, Glasgow, if we take at face value the fact that one of the men who arranged his funeral was Mr Brown ‘of the Royal Infirmary’.


Robert Downie Wylie

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Robert Duncan Wilson

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

John Guthrie Wight

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Wilfred Robert Whitson

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Harold White Whitson

Thursday, July 24th, 2014
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