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The History of Glasgow
Volume 2 - Chapter XX - George Hutcheson, Notary, Banker, and Philanthropist


WHILE political affairs were in this critical posture throughout the country there died a man who stands conspicuous as a type of the better class of Glasgow citizen from that time till now. Sir Walter Scott has stereotyped the Glasgow shopkeeper magnates of a century later in his picture, of the worthy, pawky, generous, and warm-hearted Bailie Nicol Jarvie. A portrait, equally true and interesting, of the professional class in bygone Glasgow, is furnished by the career and character of George Hutcheson, the original founder of Hutchesons' Hospital.

All the known facts regarding the Hutcheson family, and in particular regarding the two brothers, George and Thomas, who founded the most important charitable institution in the city, have been brought together in the history of the hospital and school by their collateral descendant, Dr. William H. Hill.

In the latter part of the fifteenth century the Hutchisons or Hutchesons appear in the annals of the city as substantial people, making gifts to the Church, and holding office in the College; and in the next century, the days of James V. and Mary Queen of Scots, their sons are found enrolled as students of the University. They were rentallers, or tenants of the lands of Gairbraid, a mile to the west of the city, and when, after the Reformation, the old annual rents were converted into feu-duties, they became the owners of that property. Thomas Hutcheson, the younger son of John Hutcheson of Gairbraid, acquired from the archbishop in 1579 the two-merk land of Lambhill, and from the Lord Feu-farmer, Walter Stewart of Blantyre, in 1587, the merkland of Hutchesontoun at Nether Carmyle. He had also other properties in Provanside, Gallowgate, Drygate, and elsewhere. He had at the same time a house on the north side of Trongate, apparently adjoining the tolbooth, which was afterwards the dwelling-house and place of business of his son, the notary, George.

Thomas Hutcheson had two sons, George the eldest and Thomas the youngest of his family, with three daughters coming between; he died about the year 1594. His son George was then about forty years of age. The mother of the latter was Helen, sister of Sir William Herbertson, a Roman priest, and probably a cousin of the Hutchesons.

By the time he succeeded to his father's considerable estates, George Hutcheson was evidently in a substantial position as a writer or procurator and notary in the city. In 1587 he appears as the notary acting in the infeftment of Walter Stewart, afterwards first Lord Blantyre, as Commendator, or lay possessor, of the barony of Glasgow. That he was a man of strong passions is evident from the next item of his career in the annals of the city. In the records of Glasgow kirk-session in 1588 it is set forth that, having become the father of a "demesell bairn" by Elizabeth or Elspeth Craig, and having declared his willingness to marry the lady, he is ordered to make his public repentance on the first Sunday forenoon, and to marry "the said Elizabeth" within one month. For due compliance with these injunctions his father became his security to the amount of forty pounds. Elspeth Craig is believed to have been a sister or daughter of John Craig, writer and notary public in Glasgow, and the union thus irregularly begun lasted for the long period of forty-four years; but there is no evidence that any other children were born of the marriage. Outside the marriage tie, however, the redoubtable notary had another daughter, Janet, who lived and ended her days in Holland, and it is tragic to find that she came to be dependent on the public bounty of the city, of which her father was so great a benefactor. In 1679 the Burgh Treasurer was ordered "to pay to John Craig ten dukadounes, quhilk he is to send to Holland to Janet Hutcheson, naturall daughter to umquhile George Hutchesone, for her supply," and the payment was to be repeated yearly during her life. [See also Burgh Records, 24th July, 1680.] The gratuity was not long required. In 1684 the same records contain an order to the Dean of Guild to pay X30 Scots to Jean Main, "for helpin to pay the funerall of Janet Hutchesoune, ane pensioner of the toune, who deceist in Holland."

The Presbytery records also show that in 16oi George Hutcheson and a certain Ard Eglinton had drawn their "whingers" and engaged in a brawl in the High Kirk. And as late as 1633 an action of lawburrows was taken out against Hutcheson under a penalty of 400 merks by his neighbour at Partick, John Ross of Stobcross, to assure that his wife, bairns, men, tenants, and servants should be "harmless and skaithless " from Hutcheson's interference.

But these somewhat questionable episodes in his private career do not seem to have affected in any way George Hutcheson's repute as a citizen and man of business. In 1589, in the docquet to a sasine in favour of Mrs. Marion Luke of Claythorn, he excuses himself for not writing the whole docquet himself, as he should have done, by the statement that he was much engaged with other business. Part of that business was the feuing of the lands of the Barony and Regality of Glasgow, on behalf of the Commendator of Blantyre, to the old yearly tenants of the archbishops, and this work, according to Sir Robert Douglas of Glenbervie, "he performed to good purpose." He also in 1601 acted as procurator for the Commendator in presenting Mr. David Wemyss, the worthy minister of the city,

to the vacant parsonage of Glasgow. Probably a good deal of the initiative for these far-seeing acts lay with George Hutcheson himself, and to that far-sightedness the city no doubt owed much of its subsequent happiness and prosperity.

Hutcheson appears also to have acted in many matters as the Glasgow law agent both for Ludovic, Duke of Lennox, and for the archbishop. A charter by the duke endowing a bursary at the College in 1604 was written and witnessed by him, and his name also appears in a charter by which the archbishop, three years later, granted the College certain additional bolls of meal from the mill at Partick. It is true that, when he applied for the clerkship of the Dean of Guild Court in 1605 he was placed only second in a leet of four, the appointment going to Archibald Heygait, the Town Clerk and Clerk of the Burgh Court. But Heygait, as has been already seen, had special influences at work in his favour at that time. Hutcheson, all the same, was entrusted with important business by the Town Council. When the bailies of Glasgow and Dunbarton brought an action against a Dutchman, John Lubbart, master and owner of an Amsterdam ship, for disposing of his cargo of timber privately in Glasgow before offering it to the burgh authorities, George Hutcheson was the agent employed by the city.

From entries in the munimenta it is evident that he also acted as agent for the University. In 1606 and 1608 that body was "pursuing" a certain John Stewart. In the former year he received for advising the process at Edinburgh, and 11s. "for ane pynt of wyne quhen the proces was resavit"; and in the latter year he was paid 6 for his trouble in pursuit of the same John Stewart before the Commissary Court at Hamilton. Again, ten years later, he received 13 6s. 8d., with 3 6s. 8d. for drink money to his men, for carrying out the sasine of the kirks of Kilbride and Renfrew; and in 1628 and 1629 he acted for both parties in charters of confirmation, novodamus, and ratification of teinds and immunities granted by Archbishop Law to the College.

That the favours were not all on one side is shown by the fact that in 1632, when the Principal of the University was engaged in extending the buildings of the College, Hutcheson appears among the subscribers as the contributor of 100 merks.

A transaction which to our eyes at the present day appears somewhat questionable, is that by which the Glasgow notary became a Judge-Depute in the Commissary Courts of Glasgow and Hamilton. The Commissary Judge appointed by Archbishop Law was John Boyle of Kelburne, ancestor of the Earls of Glasgow, "a gentleman of so great legal knowledge and integrity as to have had the honour of being appointed to revise and improve the laws of Scotland." Kelburne did not himself act, but appointed a deputy. That deputy was George Hutcheson, and for the appointment Hutcheson paid Kelburne 900 Scots per annum. The commission, granted with consent of the archbishop, bears that Kelburne was too much distracted by the king's business and his own to perform his duties in the Commissary Court, while Hutcheson was well known to be in every way qualified. The latter was therefore empowered to pronounce and issue decreets, sentences, and interlocutors, confirm testaments, and examine witnesses. The document has its counterpart at the present day in the commission granted to a sheriff-substitute. There are, however, two important differences, significant of the contrast between the ideas of administering justice at that time and now. The sheriff-substitute of to-day does not pay for his judgeship, nor does the sheriff-principal oblige himself to abide by his substitute's decisions "without any revocation or gainsaying whatsoever."

While holding probably the foremost position as a notary and procurator in the city, George Hutcheson also carried on a

large business as a banker and moneylender. In this business Scotsmen seem to have given the lead to England, where the London goldsmiths only began to receive money and lend it out at interest and to honour their customers' cheques in 1645. [Annals of Commerce, ii. 427.] In Scotland George Heriot had been lending money to the king and queen on the security of the royal jewels as early at least as 1599. [Memoir of George Heriot, p. 6.] His business, however, was mostly confined to Edinburgh and the East of Scotland. In Glasgow and the West the Union of the Crowns in 1603 produced many developments. Industry and trade began to grow, and the city was able to build itself a stately new tolbooth. The colonizing project suggested to King James by Sir William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, began to waken golden dreams in the minds of the people. And, even more alluring, the possibilities opened to Scotsmen of winning appointments and titles at the English court made an irresistible appeal. For all these enterprises money was required. Among owners of heritable property the usual proceeding was to borrow money on the security of a wadset or mortgage over their estates. The proceeding, however, was cumbrous and expensive. For a merchant, also, whose possessions were cargoes at sea and widely scattered book debts, it was not available. In these circumstances George Hutcheson's capital came into great request. His plan was to lend money on simple bonds by the borrower, and the security of two or more persons of substance. For the drawing of these early promissory notes he allowed his clerk to charge no more than three halfpence sterling, and his own interest was seldom more than eight per cent. He must, therefore, be regarded as the earliest banker in Glasgow, anticipating the foundation of the Bank of Scotland by some three quarters of a century. Lists of these bonds still in existence, which were handed to his three sisters and his sister-in-law after his brother's death, show the sums in which lie dealt to have ranged from a hundred merks to five thousand, while among his borrowers were Sir James Hamilton of Fingalton, Cuninghame of Carlung, the lairds of Gadgirth and Achinemes, Sir Robert Montgomerie, Lord Montgomerie, and the magistrates and town council of Glasgow'itself. [ History Hutchesons' Hospital, p. 27.] The last-named seem to have paid the interest on their loan on at least one occasion by crediting "the said George" with a portion of the stent or rates payable by him. [Burgh Records, 5th June, 1637, 14th Jan. 1638.]

The notary had his counting-house or chambers on the ground floor of his house next the tolbooth, up the gable of 40 which he paid the Corporation two hundred merks for the right to train his chimney vents. In his business room stood "a long fixed oak table, with his papers at one end, and at the other a large silver drinking tankard, replenished with wine or ale, for the refreshment, without ceremony or invitation, of his clients." His bonds, ready money, and charters were kept in his bedroom in a Dutch-built, spring-locked chest, woven of strips of iron, now preserved in the Faculty of Procurators' Library. He had a stable behind his house, a garden at hand, and another property on the south side of Trongate, opposite the present Hutcheson Street. Also he built for himself a country house at the mouth of the Kelvin in Partick, on lands which had belonged to the archbishop. This house latterly, when a ruin, was popularly known as "the Bishop's Castle." It is so named by Chalmers in his Caledonia (iii. 629), and the ancient country seat of the archbishops very probably occupied the same site. But Hutcheson's original contract with a Kilwinning mason for the building still exists. It shows that the standard of measurement was to be "the said Georges awin fute." The price was five hundred and thirty merks, including a hundred merks "in satisfaction of all morning and efternoonis drinks, disjoynes, Sondays meitt, drink at onlaying of lyntalls, or onie uther thing that can be cravit fra ye said

George, in ony sorte." The house had large walled gardens and considerable lands belonging to it, and, with its beautiful situation, spoke eloquently for the good taste of its owners. [Hamilton of Wishaw's Description of Lanarkshire, p. 29; Hugh Macdonald's Rambles Round Glasgow; Hist. Hutchesons' Hospital, p. 29.]

George Hutcheson's other possessions included the lands of Barrowfield to the east of Glasgow, on which Bridgeton is now built; Gartsherrie, Auchengray, and Caldercruix in the Monk-lands; Yoker and Blawarthill to the west, which he acquired for 13,000 merks ; Deanfield in Renfrew; Grainges in the parish of Dunlop in Ayrshire; Over and Nether Gairbraid and part of Garioch in what is now Maryhill; Ramshorn and Meadowflat, including what is now George Square and the site of the City Chambers in the city itself; and the paternal estate of Lamb-hill to the north of modern Glasgow. He had also eighty-seven tenants paying him rent in kind—straw, hens, capons, herrings, and shop rents, while half the landowners in the West of Scotland, from the Earl of Wigton to Colquhoun of Luss were paying him money interest and annual rents. [Hist. Hutchesons' Hospital, p. 33.]

Such was George Hutcheson, probably the most capable and prosperous professional man in the Glasgow of his time. His character, however, is further revealed in the institution which so nobly perpetuates his name among the citizens of Glasgow at the present day. He died on the day after Christmas in 1639, and according to his own desire was buried in the tomb of his family on the east side of the Cathedral. In his last will and testament, which he declares to have been written while he was "somquhat seik in bodie, bot of perfyte mind and memorie," he left several kindly legacies to servants and relatives, fulfilled his wife's desire that he should give his sister's daughter fifty merks yearly during her life, and appointed as his heir and executor his brother Thomas Hutcheson, whom he exhorted "to follow sage advyce of counsell of friends in his adoes, because it hes not pleised God to give him sic knowledge as his place and affers now requires."

This brother, some thirty-five years younger than himself, George Hutcheson had reared and educated at the University. At first he was intended for the ministry, but took to law, and by his brother's influence was appointed Registrar of Sasines to the city. He was a graduate, a man of culture, and on terms of friendship with the professors of the College, subscribing 1000 to enlarge the library building and 2000 merks to found a bursary as an endowment for the librarian. Between the two brothers a very tender regard appears to have existed, and after the death of George Hutcheson his wishes were most loyally carried out by the younger man.

About that time two very notable benevolent institutions had been founded in Scotland. George Heriot, the Edinburgh goldsmith and financier, who figures as "Jingling Geordie" in Sir Walter Scott's Fortunes of Nigel, and who died in 1624, "mortified" or bequeathed a large sum of money for the foundation of the "hospital" which still commemorates his name in Edinburgh. The hospital itself was not built till 1759. Nine years after him, in 1633, died John Cowane, a wealthy burgess of Stirling, who in similar fashion "mortified" a considerable sum for the founding of a hospital or almshouse. His hospital, which is still one of the great benevolent institutions of Stirling, was built in 1639, the year in which George Hutcheson died. These beneficent bequests may or may not have furnished a suggestion to the wealthy Glasgow notary, but they show that the idea was in the air in his time. Whether he was inspired by a movement fashionable at that day, or was simply following the example of earlier founders of similar institutions in Glasgow itself, like Bishop Muirhead, who founded St. Nicholas Hospital in 1474, George Hutcheson ten days before his death bequeathed a tenement and twenty thousand merks, or 1111 2s. 2d. sterling, to found an almshouse for aged, decrepit, and destitute

men of good character. The foundation, he calculated, would support eleven beneficiaries, who were to be lodged in the Hospital, provided with fuel and a yearly gown, and receive for their maintenance four shillings Scots, or fourpence sterling per day. His brother and heir, Thomas Hutcheson, not only ratified the bequest, but added 10,500 merks (583 6s. 8d. sterling) and several other sums to the endowment, and himself laid the foundation stone of the hospital on the north side of Trongate in 1641. In the same month of March Thomas " mortified " an adjoining tenement in Trongate and 20,200 merks for the lodging and education of twelve orphan boys, sons of burgesses of the town.

The amount bequeathed by the two brothers for hospital and school has been estimated to amount altogether to 4017 15s. 6d. [Hist. Hutchesons' Hospital, p. 65.] By Thomas Hutcheson's direction the funds were invested in "the cheappist and best haldin arrabill lands they can gett to buy therewith, near to the said Burgh." By later benefactors several smaller sums have been added, and today the property of Hutchesons' Trust is valued at considerably more than 400,000 sterling. Hutcheson Street, off Trongate, occupies the site of the original hospital and its garden acre behind; the statues of George and Thomas Hutcheson decorate the front of the later hospital building opposite the head of the street ; and on the south side of the river a considerable district, the land in which the greater part of the funds of the hospital was ultimately invested, is known as Hutchesontown.


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