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Book of the Month

September 2009

Collection of original

watercolour drawings

Glasgow: 19th century
MS Murray 590-594

This month's book of the month features a collection of illustrations that depict the ordinary people of 19th century Glasgow. Bound in five volumes, these images offer a unique insight into Glasgow's social history. A diverse range of different people have been depicted, including schoolchildren, university students, policemen and railway workers. Many of the illustrations are the only known record of various costumes and uniforms being worn at the time, and they are particularly important for having been executed in colour.

Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Guard (MS Murray 590)

Each of our five volumes has a manuscript title page, detailing that it is a collection of original watercolour drawings compiled from an old collection. Also noted is the name Richard Cameron, Bookseller, his address and the date 1889. Presumably, this date relates to the date of compilation of these volumes and not necessarily the date of the images themselves. A further note simply says unique. While the identity of the original illustrator is a mystery, it is fair to say that his (or her) work offers a rare look at the people of Glasgow from over a century ago.
The first volume of illustrations details the various uniforms of the staff of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway company, which was founded in 1838. The line, which initially ran from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Haymarket, opened on 18 February 1842, having cost over 1.25 million. It was later extended to Waverley. In 1865 it amalgamated with the North British Railway Company.

 Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Superintendent
of Goods and Porters (MS Murray 590)
The superintendent would have the responsibility for managing the transportation and delivery of goods that were carried by the railway company. Porters would have worked under him, delivering correspondence and transporting goods in the Gorbals district of Glasgow
Although it is not possible to date the guard's uniform illustrated to the left, it is likely to be from before 1865, when the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway Company became part of the North British system.
The second volume of illustrations is the most diverse, offering a glimpse not only of the life of the ordinary Glaswegian, but also political and business leaders. It includes a range of illustrations showing the schoolchildren of the period, from a range of different schools, including two of the oldest schools in Glasgow - the High School and Hutchesons' Hospital School (now known as Hutchesons' Grammar School).

Teacher from the High School,
Glasgow (MS Murray 593)

The High School of Glasgow evolved from the Grammar School, which can be dated back to the 15th century. The school's name was changed to the High School of Glasgow in 1834, and in 1872 it was transferred to the Glasgow School Board. There are no images of the pupils, although an image of a teacher is included in one of the later volumes (above).

Hutchesons' Hospital School was founded as a charity school in the 17th century by Thomas Hutcheson whose brother George established a charitable foundation for the care of the old. The first pupil was enrolled in 1643. A separate girls' school was opened in 1876. A history of the school details the different uniforms which included moleskin trousers, probably like those shown in the illustration here. They were replaced in 1846 by 'breeks' of blue army cloth.

Pupil from Hutchesons' Hospital School (MS Murray 591)

Pupil from Wilson's School, Glasgow
(MS Murray 593)

Pupil from the Highland Society's School, Glasgow
(MS Murray 593)

Pupil from Miller's School, Glasgow
(MS Murray 593)

Many schools were founded in the 18th century, by philanthropic businessmen and organisations. In Glasgow, these included Wilson's School, Miller's School and the Highland Society School.

Wilson's School was founded by George Wilson, a Glasgow merchant who moved to London and died in 1778. He left 3000 managed by trustees for the purpose of educating and clothing boys. At one time the school was located north of the Trongate and Wilson Street got its name from the institution. The Highland Society's School was founded in Glasgow in the 18th century. Its purpose was to educate and clothe the children of parents who had moved to Glasgow from the Highlands, and could not afford to do so themselves. Founded in 1727, it built the famous Black Bull Inn on Argyle Street which provided rent and revenue. Miller's School was founded in Glasgow by Andrew Miller, a merchant in the city. He died in 1790 and bequeathed his entire estate, then worth upwards of 7000, for the clothing and education of girls. Pupils attended the school for five years, and were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, needlework, knitting, and the principles of religion.

Clyde regatta participants. Note the picture on the right is dated 1844. (MS Murray 591)

In the 19th century, rowing was a popular pastime in Glasgow and the illustrations above show the outfits of the participants. There were a number of clubs in the city and, under the aegis of the Amateur Rowing Association, they participated in the annual three days' regatta, which was held every Saturday in the summer on the River Clyde (between Nelson's monument on Glasgow Green, and Rutherglen Bridge). It was a popular spectator sport, attracting thousands of onlookers.

Glasgow Sledman (MS Murray 591)

 Glasgow woman (MS Murray 591)

Glasgow egg seller (MS Murray 591)

 Glasgow woman (MS Murray 591)

Glasgow City Poor House (MS Murray 591)

The third volume of illustrations offers an insight into the world of political  and mercantile Glasgow.

The Provost of Glasgow is shown in 18th-century costume to the right. Early provosts were nominated by the Archbishops of Glasgow under the Charters of Barony and Regality. The lists of provosts go back several centuries and include John Stuart of Minto in 1472, and Sir George Elphinston in 1605.

John Aird and Robert Saunders (MS Murray 592)

While the bulk of the images relate to ordinary people, two of the subjects are better known, being copies of paintings which hang in the Merchants' House of Glasgow, on the corner of West George Street and George Square.

John Aird (1655-1730) was an eminent Glaswegian merchant and politician; highly influential, he was elected provost on ten occasions between 1705 and 1722. Robert Saunders (d.1730) of Auldhouse was one of Glasgow's leading businessmen. His father had been the only printer in the west of Scotland for some time, and following his death, at around the end of the 17th century, he succeeded him in the business. In both cases, the original background has been omitted from the copy.

Provost of Glasgow (MS Murray 592)

Provost Officer, Glasgow (MS Murray 592)

Glasgow Bellman (MS Murray 592)

Glasgow Town Officer (MS Murray 592)

The Provost Officer (shown above left) was responsible for attending to the Lord Provost. He would accompany the Lord Provost when he was wearing the chain of office, attend functions and occasionally act as toastmaster. Now also known as a Council Officer, the red jacket is still a part of the uniform.

The Glasgow Town Officers (to the left) had a wide range of duties, including the removal of magistrates' bibles and attendance at the circuit court and executions. Records from the 1820s detail the cost of clothing the town officers. Their outfits included a scarlet coat, blue vest, blue breeches, and milled flannel drawers.

The Glasgow Bellman or Public Crier (above right) was an important source of public information. Some of the bellmen became very famous. Dougal Graham, for example, was the bellman when Prince Charles Edward Stewart arrived in Glasgow. He wrote doggerel including the  'History of the Rebellion' of 1745. George Gibson, better known as 'Bell Geordie', was another character who walked through the streets in the 1790s in his red livery coat, with its gilt buttons decorated with the city arms.

Detail from Royal Exchange Porter. (MS Murray 593)

The porter was employed by the Royal Exchange. In the 1820s the Exchange Room in the Tontine on the Trongate was found to be too small for the growing amount of business, and the former Cunningham mansion on Queen Street, then occupied by the Royal Bank of Scotland, was chosen as its new location. David Hamilton designed the new building which opened in 1827, the date on what is presumably the porter's button in the right hand corner of the drawing. The Royal Exchange building is now the Gallery of Modern Art.
The next set of illustrations are of particular interest to those interested in the history of the University of Glasgow, as they depict staff and students of the time.

Lord Rector of Glasgow University
(MS Murray 593)

The Lord Rector (shown to the left) was one of the most important positions in the running of the University; the executive head of the University from its foundation in the 15th century, he was elected annually. After 1858, the Rector was elected by matriculated students. The current incumbent is former leader of the Liberal Democrats, Charles Kennedy.

The post of Bedellus was originally that of church warden, and it is recorded in the first constitution of the University of Glasgow. It was one of his duties to attend to examining professors, and he was to be present at all public examinations and deputations, including the famous Black Stone examination.

Detail from Bedellus of Glasgow University.
Note the key in his hand.
(MS Murray 593)

On ceremonial occasions he bore before him the official mace or rod. The University mace is one of the oldest objects in the institution's history. An unsuccessful attempt to procure a mace was made in 1460, but it was only five years later that sufficient funds were raised. Its shaft is made of silver, and other metals were used in the engraved and ornamental portions. One of the illustrations provides details of its engravings, which include the City of Glasgow Arms (second from the left below), as well as the arms of the Earl of Morton, and Lord Hamilton, the University's first benefactor.

The duties of the modern Bedellus are also formal, and encompass more areas including planning janitorial duties and liaising with other departments in the University.


Detail from Glasgow University Mace (MS Murray 593)

Used in examinations, the Black Stone Chair (shown below) was believed to date from the early 18th century; it was made of oak with a slab of black marble which formed the seat. A sand-glass was suspended on the back within a laurel wreath. There was a special ritual surrounding the Black Stone examination. The sand-glass was turned while the student was examined on his knowledge of his subject. The sand took 20-30 minutes to run through.

Black Stone Chair, Glasgow University. (MS Murray 593)

The drawing shows the elaborate and deep carving of the Royal Arms of Scotland in the upper section, and those of England, as adopted by King James VI.

Another drawing of the chair in the album shows the brasses attached to the back which include the arms of the University and of the College respectively. The other brasses commemorate the foundation of the University.


 Dean of Faculties, Glasgow University. (MS Murray 593)

Student, Glasgow University (MS Murray 593)

Students at Glasgow University used to be distinguished from the general population by their red cloaks, described by the expression 'Town and Gown', a popular expression in ancient university towns. In the 19th century, younger students wore cloth caps possibly like the one in this drawing (right), while older students wore tall silk hats (left). This drawing appears to record the artist's initials, which appear to be J G H.

Student, Glasgow University (MS Murray 593)

Detail of Student, Glasgow University (MS Murray 593)

The final volume documents the uniforms of the various police forces in and around Glasgow. The Glasgow Police Force was established by an Act of Parliament in 1800, after several previous failed attempts, which predates the London Metropolitan Police by 29 years. On 30 June 1800 John Stenhouse, a city merchant was appointed Master of Police, with 2 sergeants, 6 officers, and 68 watchmen.

Supernumery (MS Murray 594)

A Supernumery policeman was probably a reserve or special constable. The drawing shows the policeman wearing what appears to be civilian clothes, rather than the uniform of a regular officer. When the police force was short of manpower, or required extra numbers, the supernumery would have been called upon.

Glasgow Policeman
(MS Murray 594)

Lieutenant of the Calton Police (MS Murray 594)

River Clyde Police (MS Murray 594)

Lieutenant of the Gorbals Police (MS Murray 594)

The villages of Calton and the Gorbals founded their police forces by Acts of Parliament in 1808 (Gorbals) and 1819 (Calton). When the villages were absorbed into Glasgow in 1846, these forces were merged, along with the Anderston and Glasgow forces, to form the City of Glasgow Police. Calton was located to the east of Glasgow and remained independent of the city until 1846. The area was considered to be very dangerous and officers were provided with cutlasses.

The Gorbals Police Force was constituted by an Act of Parliament in 1808, and the burgh took over the old Elphinstone mansion house as a police office. From 1826 they worked from a new building at the corner of South Portland and Norfolk Streets.

The Lieutenant (left) is shown with a walking stick in this illustration, and one of the jacket buttons is detailed at the bottom of the drawing.

The River Clyde Police (above right) were established in 1858. Responsible for policing the river as far as the tail of the bank, in 1866 they were absorbed into the Glasgow Police.


Glasgow and Paisley Railway Police
(MS Murray 590)

There were also private police forces: for example, the individual railway companies which were privately owned employed their own police. They would have had the same powers as a police officers, but only within railway property.

 Illustrations of these can be found in the first volume (MS Murray 590). The Glasgow and Paisley Joint Railway policeman illustrated here was employed to serve on the railway between Glasgow and Paisley.

Glasgow and Paisley Railway Police
(MS Murray 590)

Detail from Glasgow and Edinburgh Railway Police
(MS Murray 590)

Like many of the other uniforms which are included in this album, this drawing includes a detail of the button from the policeman's jacket. Unfortunately, such items of clothing have rarely survived.

When the railways were nationalised by the government in 1947, the officers from every company were combined into the British Transport Commission Police.

As well as documenting the costumes of the time, the albums also include illustrations of items such as medals, plaques, batons and seals.  

Old Glasgow token (MS Murray 591)

Convenor of Glasgow Trades Medal (MS Murray 592)

 Day Police baton (MS Murray 594)

These volumes of illustrations were received by Glasgow University as part of the Murray Collection. David Murray (1842-1928) was a Glasgow lawyer, antiquary and bibliographer. In 1927 he presented the University with his collection of over 15,000 printed books and 200 manuscripts. The collection is particularly strong in material relating to the city of Glasgow and surrounding area.

The following have been useful in creating this article:

Bewsher, C (1927) The Glasgow Royal Exchange centenary: 1827-1927 Glasgow : McCorquodale and Co. Limited Level 12 Special Collections Sp Coll Mu Add 229

Cleland, J (1816) Annals of Glasgow: comprising an account if the public buildings, charities, and the rise and progress of the city Glasgow : J. Hedderwick
Sp Coll Mu23-d.9-10

Cleland, J (1878) The History of the High School of Glasgow Glasgow : David Bryce & Son Level 12 Special Collections Sp Coll Mu25-b.6

Coutts, J (1909) A history of the University of Glasgow from its foundation in 1451 to 1909 Glasgow : James MacLehose and Sons Level 12 Special Collections Sp Coll Mu21-a.2

Cowan, J (1951)  From Glasgow's treasure chest: a miscellany of history, personalities and places Glasgow : Craig and Wilson Level 12 Special Collections
Sp Coll Mu Add 174

Devine, T. M. (1975) The tobacco lords : a study of the tobacco merchants of Glasgow and their trading activities, c.1740-90 Edinburgh : Donald Level 6 Main Lib Economics K605.G5.

Hutchesons' Educational Trust An account of Hutchesons School in Glasgow, since the date of its foundation in 1641 to the present time, submitted for the general information of the patrons, and specially with reference to a proposal to establish a school for girls in connection with the institution
Glasgow : [Bell & Bain] Level 12 Special Collections Sp Coll Mu23-c.21

Maver, I (2000) Glasgow Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press Level 8 Main Lib History DX200 MAV

M'Dowall, J K (1970) The people's history of Glasgow : an encyclopedic record of the city from the prehistoric period to the present Wakefield : S.R. Publishers Level 12 Special Collections  Sp Coll Bh11-b.27

Moss, M et al (2000) University, city and state : the University of Glasgow since 1870 Edinburgh : Edinburgh University Press for the University of Glasgow Level 4 Main Lib Education S271 MOSS

Smart, A (1988-1996) Villages of Glasgow Edinburgh : John Donald Level 8 Main Lib History DX200 SMA vol. 1

Stewart, G Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship, as exhibited chiefly in the business career of its old commercial aristocracy Glasgow : James MacLehose and Sons Level 12 Special Collections Sp Coll Mu23-a.28

Whitaker, D et al (1988) Auld Hawkie and other Glasgow characters Glasgow : Glasgow District Libraries Level 8 Main Lib History DX207 WHI

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Sharon Lawler, adapted from original work by George Fairfull Smith September 2009