Contributed by John Taylor Park

Formative years

John Taylor, junior was born in Paisley on 19th May 1815, the first of seven children for his parents John Taylor (senior) and Janet (Jessie) Barr. His parents were both from Paisley and had married there in July of the previous year. His Grandfather (also named John Taylor) was a co-pastor at the Storie Street Baptist Church in the town during the first half of the 1800s.

Younger sisters Margaret and Elisabeth came along after John, after which the Taylor family moved from Paisley to the Gorbals area of Glasgow sometime between 1820 and 1825. Following this move, John gained four Glasgow-born siblings in Jean, Agnes, Janet and Thomas.

The Trinidad years

Employment led John to pastures new when he began working for the Croil family of Glasgow as a West Indies merchant. He left Glasgow sometime between 1835 and 1840 to live at Port of Spain on the island of Trinidad. This proved to be a most successful move for him and he went on to become a partner in the business.

Croil Taylor and Co Advert

By 1842 John was listed as a Port of Spain Burgess living at Kings Wharf.

John married his wife Catherine Michie at Port of Spain in Trinidad on 17th June 1842. The Michie family were originally from the Milton area of Old Kilpatrick but they had moved to Partick by 1841 when the census for that year recorded Catherine still living at home with her family.

It is not clear how John and Catherine actually met each other. They grew up on opposite sides of the River Clyde and by 1841 were living and working on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Their paths would not have crossed often but they may have met during one of John’s occasional business trips back to Glasgow. Another possibility is that the minister who married them, a “Rev Mr Kennedy”, shared the same surname as Catherine’s mother’s family and may have been related to Catherine. Perhaps it was John’s connection to the Baptist church in Trinidad which brought them together.

Two months after their wedding news arrived from Scotland that John’s mother Janet had passed away in Glasgow. This sad event would ultimately bring about major changes for John and the rest of the Taylor family.

This loss prompted John and his father (John senior) to form a business partnership together trading as West Indies merchants. His father subsequently moved to Trinidad the following year along with most of the Taylor family, and the Croil Taylor partnership was dissolved in August 1843 ahead of the two men forming their new business. The new business traded as “John Taylor, Junior & Co” and had become well established at Port of Spain’s Marine Square before the end of that year.

The father and son business appears to have been hugely successful during the following six years. There were a surprising number of Scots trading as merchants in Trinidad at this time and the two men developed close business links with a number of them. A few would become trusted life-long friends and business associates, while three of them became part of the family when they married John’s sisters Elisabeth (Alexander Taylor), Agnes (James Wilson), and Janet (William Graham).

With John and Catherine now settled in Port of Spain and John’s business interests performing well, they began a family of their own and were initially blessed with three children. Their first child John was born in 1843 while daughter Catherine arrived towards the end of the following year. Isabella arrived in 1846, however she appears to have travelled from Trinidad to Glasgow at a very early age and may have had health problems. Sadly, Isabella died in Glasgow at just a year old and she was buried at the Necropolis on 11th September 1847.

Isabella’s early death had brought about an urgent need for a family burial plot and this resulted in John purchasing one half of a large lair from a Todd family of Glasgow. There was a merchant by the name of James Todd trading in Trinidad at this time who may have been part of this family, and if so it seems possible that he and John knew each other and that this connection led to the divided lair agreement. The outcome found John owning a family lair some years ahead of his father John Taylor senior, who later purchased his own family lair in another part of the Necropolis. It seems a little bit unusual that father and son did not co-operate and jointly purchase a large lair to share or subdivide.

Return to Scotland

1849 brought about substantial business and family changes for John. His father’s personal circumstances had now changed and he would return to Glasgow and marry his second wife Margaret Simpson later that year. Possibly because of this, the two men decided to end their business partnership and trade independently of each other. Their partnership was formally dissolved on 15th May.

2-28 Abbotsford Place in 1964

2-28 Abbotsford Place in 1964

John and Catherine took the decision to relocate back to Scotland around the same time. They returned to Glasgow and settled initially at 22 Abbotsford Place in the Gorbals. John continued to trade as a West Indies merchant and set up business premises at 28 Cochrane Street in the city, sharing the premises and business links with his brother in law Alexander Taylor who had also returned to Glasgow to take over his own family’s Calenderer business.

Busy times in Glasgow

Once John and Catherine were settled back in Glasgow their young family began to expand again and son Thornton arrived in the spring of 1850. The 1851 census captured the family together at Abbotsford Place on 30th March, with children John and Catherine recorded as scholars and baby Thornton recorded very precisely at 10 months old. This family scene changed abruptly only two weeks later when Thornton died of Bronchitis. He was buried at the Necropolis on 14th April.

Shortly after this the family moved to the grander surroundings of 3 Newton Place, a large terraced townhouse situated just off Sauchiehall Street immediately west of Charing Cross.


3 Newton Place in 2021

3 Newton Place in 2021

This large house would become a busy home over the next few years as John’s family grew once again. Eliza was born in 1853, Amelia in 1855, Jessie in 1857, and finally Helen in 1859.

While his own family was growing John also gained a number of half-siblings following his father’s second marriage. John senior lived a short distance along Sauchiehall Street at Royal Crescent.

John continued with his own merchant business but became increasingly involved in local civic matters. He became a city councillor in the early 1850s and went on to serve on the council for over 25 years. He was appointed depute River Bailie in 1853, becoming River Bailie the year after. He became a magistrate in 1855 and served a full three year term. He was appointed again in 1865 but this time served only one year in office. He also served at different times on the Gas Committee and Water Committee, and was chairman of the Finance Committee for a number of years.

In addition to his civic duties, he was also a director of the Glasgow Blind Asylum on Castle Street and a preceptor at Hutchesons Hospital on Ingram Street. The Blind Asylum building is now part of the Royal Infirmary while Hutchesons Hospital (Hall) has undergone a number of reincarnations but is now looking for a new occupant (2021) since the restaurant in it failed to reopen after the COVID lockdowns.

The Blind Asylum, Castle Street

The Blind Asylum, Castle Street

John’s merchant business broadened its horizons during this period. A newspaper notice in 1873 advertised that he had been “Actively engaged for the last 30 years in the West Indian Dry Goods Trade” and illustrated the fact that his trading connections now extended beyond Trinidad to include Barbados, Grenada, and Demerara (then part of British Guiana).

Family changes

The first of John’s children to marry was his son John, who wed Christina Primrose Shaw in Glasgow in July 1865. Daughter Catherine made it two family weddings in quick succession when she married John Renison four months later, also in Glasgow.

John lost his father the following year when John senior passed away in February. He was buried at the Necropolis on 12th of that month, but the year ended on a much happier note when young John and Catherine both presented him with the first of his Grandchildren, born just four months apart.

A further family wedding took place in October 1873 when daughter Eliza married James Reid in Glasgow, but tragedy struck the following year when Eliza died a week after the birth of her first child. She was just 21. Eliza was the third child John had lost during his lifetime.

John suffered a severe bout of Bronchitis in early 1876 which resulted in him most unusually being laid up for a spell, and although he recovered and resumed his many business and civic duties he suffered from the disease at regular intervals thereafter. A further setback came later that year when his brother in law and close associate Alexander Taylor passed away at Shawlands.

In the end

Two years later John fell ill after returning home from a meeting of trustees at Hutchesons Hospital. His condition steadily worsened and he passed away two days later on 9th May 1878 at home at the age of 62. He was laid to rest at the Necropolis on the afternoon of Monday 13th May. The following day the Glasgow Herald reported a large attendance at his funeral service including the Lord Provost, magistrates, and members of the city council and Hutchesons Hospital. It also reported the bells of the city’s churches, and that of the hospital, tolled in the forenoon prior to the service.

John’s will thoughtfully took care of his surviving family, while the John Street Baptist Church in the city centre was another beneficiary of his estate. His accounts revealed a substantial debt incurred as a result of his son John’s overseas business failing although the precise details were not given. John’s will included an option for his son to take over his merchant business upon his demise, and a Glasgow Herald notice in November 1878 six months after his death confirmed this had taken place.

Taylor Memorial

Taylor Memorial

John’s surviving family

Wife Catherine outlived John by less than two years and she passed away on 12th February 1880 in Glasgow at the age of 66. She was laid to rest at the Necropolis four days later. Catherine’s parents, George and Catherine Michie, had been buried in the Taylor family lair in 1849 and 1864.

Son John and his wife Christina Primrose Shaw had five children and lived most of their married lives at Sardinia Terrace (now Cecil Street) in the Hillhead area of Glasgow. He also became involved in overseas trading but his business suffered some considerable losses which led to his firm going into liquidation. He described himself as a “West Indies merchant” in the 1881 census three years after taking over his late father’s business, but reverted back to a “Commissions clerk” in all subsequent returns. He passed away at home in Hillhead on 5th March 1910 at the age of 66 and was buried in the Shaw family lair at the Necropolis. Christina died in South London in January 1927 and was laid to rest beside John.

Daughter Catherine and her husband William Renison had nine children and lived most of their married lives at Hillsborough Square on Bruce Street (now Bower Street) Hillhead. Gorbals born William owned a Power Loom manufacturing business, Renison, McNab & Co, which was based at Hozier Street (now Queen Mary Street) in Bridgeton and employed several hundred staff. He later sold the business and by the 1901 census had become a fine arts dealer. He died in January 1915 at Hillhead and was buried in the Renison family lair at the Necropolis. When Catherine passed away at Hillhead on 4th April 1930 she was 85 years old and had become John’s last surviving child. She was laid to rest beside William.

Amelia never married but appears to have been well travelled. Census records often find her in other parts of the country “living on private means”, usually in the company of sisters Jessie or Helen. The 1911 census recorded her staying at the Royal Hotel at Babbacombe in Devon with Helen and her family. Her usual residence was at Redwood Mansions on Elliot Street (now Cresswell Street) in Hillhead. Amelia passed away at home on 19th May 1916 at the age of 61 and was laid to rest beside her father at the Necropolis three days later.

Jessie also remained single and never married. Like Amelia, she also appears to have been well travelled while “living on private means”. The 1891 census recorded Jessie and Amelia together at Abington Villa in Moffat, Dumfriesshire with Helen’s children although Helen herself was not present at that time. Jessie died on 9th March 1920 in London aged 62 and she too was laid to rest beside her father at the Necropolis four days later.

Helen married Donald MacLeod at the Taylor’s Newton Place home in April 1879 a year after John’s death. Glasgow born Donald had been working for John at the time of his passing. They had six children and raised their family at Bearsden near Glasgow before later moving south to the Birkenhead area. The MacLeod family also maintained a London residence in South Kensington. Donald founded a successful tobacco importing business “MacLeod, Reid & Co” which had premises in Glasgow, Liverpool and London. Donald died at their South Kensington home in May 1927, while Helen passed away just eight months later on 5th January 1928 at Torquay in Devon at the age of 68.

A famous Grandson

John’s eight children produced a total of 21 Grandchildren but sadly he did not live to see all of them. One of them in particular went on to achieve great things and is worth a mention here.

Helen’s youngest son Kenneth MacLeod found fame as “Scotland’s Greatest Sporting All-rounder”. He was a remarkable character who performed at a very high level in athletics, cricket and rugby, achieving the prestigious “Blue” status in each of these three sports during his time at Cambridge University. He was also a keen footballer and golfer with a handicap of 3.

Kenneth MacLeod

Kenneth MacLeod

He was an excellent rugby player and was first capped for Scotland at the age of 17 while attending Fettes College in Edinburgh. He went on to win a further nine caps for his country before giving up rugby at the age of 21.

He played cricket for Fettes College and Cambridge University before going on to play first class cricket for Lancashire County Cricket Club. He was considered one of the finest fielders in English County Cricket of his day and was also well known for his big hitting at the crease.

His athletics abilities lay mainly in sprint and long jump but he also competed in other classes. He dominated in these during his time at Fettes and went on to produce some Olympic standard performances during his Cambridge career. He set a number of records at each establishment.

After a relatively short sporting career he went on to lead a very full and colourful life and was married a remarkable five times. He passed away at his home in South Africa in 1967 at the age of 79. He was inducted into the Scottish Sports Hall of Fame at a ceremony in the City Chambers in Glasgow in 2010.


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

The Mitchell Library website for their “Glasgow Story” series of articles.
The National Records of Scotland and the excellent Scotlands People website.
The British Newspaper Archive website
Susan Taylor of the Guildford and District Philatelic Society for her extensive knowledge of the history of Trinidad and archive material available.
Morag Fyfe at the Friends of Glasgow Necropolis website for accessing the Necropolis database.
John W Keddie for his book “Then came a cloud, the story of KG MacLeod”, published by Scottish Sporting Heritage Publications in 2016.


John Taylor, junior 
Port of Spain            
Glasgow Blind Asylum
Hutchesons Hospital
Kenneth MacLeod 

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