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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
"Picture Gordon"


MR. ALEXANDER GORDON, of the eminent firm of Stirling, Gordon & Co., from his well-known taste for the fine arts, was familiarly known by the name of "Picture Gordon." He had a house built for him about the year A.D. 1804 or 1805, on the site now occupied by the Royal Bank, the background of which extended over a portion of what is now Royal Exchange Square. The stable stood upon the site of the South Arch at Royal Exchange Place, and several of Mr. Gordonís young friends, who long survived to tell the tale, spent many a happy evening in a part of it which the kindly and genial-hearted gentleman had fitted up as a theatre for their amusement. In it some of the youngsters performed such plays as the tragedy of Douglas, the comedy of She Stoops to Conquer, and other popular pieces, to the great delight of all.

To preserve the amenity of his mansion, Mr. Gordon purchased the then vacant ground on the opposite side, which was subsequently formed into Gordon Street, and hence its name. A venerable Glasgow antiquary states, that "to the north of the house in question, and separated from it by a passage of some eight feet in width, stood another dwelling-house, which had been erected in 1794 by Mr. Robert Muir-head, a respectable merchant, but which, at the time in question, was occupied by Mr. Gordonís relative, Mrs. Buchanan." The locality was then an entirely rural one; and, as a proof of it, we may mention that in the autumn of 1803, when one of this ladyís sons was looking out of the window he observed a covey of partridges to alight upon the spot long occupied as premises by the late Councillor Forrester and his son, upon which he took his gun, went out, and immediately returned with a brace of them.

"In these days, however, it was no unusual thing to kill game in the locality; and a venerable and respected member of the Faculty of Procurators records that he has shot many a hare in the cabbage gardens, the site of which is now taken up by the fashionable Buchanan Street shops. Indeed all the space around was occupied by garden ground, and the families, who then resided in the thinly built Buchanan Street, used to pay a guinea per annum for the privilege of walking through the parterres to the Grammar School, then situated in George Street.

Mr. Gordon was the father of the first corps of light-horse raised in Glasgow during the Revolutionary War, and he was the last remaining member of the old race of Glasgow West India merchants. He was also the first of our Glasgow merchants who possessed a fine collection of paintings, the value of which was estimated at no less than £30,000; but, unfortunately, some of them were burned in London, where Mr. Gordon had gone to reside, after his removal from Glasgow.

Various interesting particulars regarding how the collection was formed, with descriptions of two very fine Guidos, which had long formed the boast and ornament of the Sala Palace at Rome; of a small but brilliant Rubens, formerly in the Collona Palace at Rome; and a statement, on good authority, "that Mr. Gordon was offered by a great London collector £5,000" for these three pictures, appeared under the signature of "Mercator" in the Reformersí Gazette.

Mr. Alexander Gordon died in 1850, in Upper Canada, at the advanced age of 95.


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