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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XXIII - Certain Benefactions


MEANWHILE the city pursued its affairs with increasing efficiency. It went on with the building of St. Andrew's Church, paying Allan Dreghorn for his scaffoldings and woodwork and David Cation for his sculpturing of capitals and stone mouldings. It took steps towards the building of a lighthouse on the Little Cumbrae to guide ships into the channel between that island and the coast of Bute. [Burgh Records, 17th Feb., 1743, 6th Jan., 1755, 10th Jan., 1756. An Act of Parliament for the building of the lighthouse was passed in 1756. For his help in securing this the Town Council presented Richard Oswald, merchant in London, with a piece of plate costing £78 11s. 9d. The lighthouse was an open beacon in which coal was burned.—Ibid. 17th Jan., 1758, Act Par!. 29, George II. c. 20.] It sent a loyal address to George II. on his return to this country after his wonderful victory at Dettingen in 1743, the last occasion on which a British monarch was to take the field in person. [Burgh Records, 1st Dec., 1743.] It altered the dates of the fairs of Glasgow held in January and July, so that in neither case should a Sunday intervene and interrupt the proceedings. [Ibid. 3rd Jan., 1744.] It built a slaughterhouse on the Skinner's Green near the mouth of the Molendinar, and removed the meat and mutton markets to the same quarter. [Ibid. 3rd Jan., 1744.] It reprinted a pamphlet against smuggling, a practice which threatened to diminish seriously the revenues derived by the city and the country from the duties levied upon spirits and malt. [Burgh Records, 15th June, 1744.] And it agreed to support with its powers of criminal punishment a set of rules drawn up by the General Session of the city churches for suppressing the vices of "cursing, swearing, profanation of the Sabbath, lewdness, drunkenness, and other enormities," which, following the conspicuous depravity of the time, had become seriously prevalent in the city. [Ibid. 11th Aug., 1744. Green's Short History of the English People, chap. x.]

Notwithstanding the efforts of General Wade, following the Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, the roads of Scotland were still primitive enough. John Loudon Macadam, whose method of metal-laying was to revolutionize the roads of the kingdom and the world, was not born till 1756. In 1740 Lord Lovat in his chariot with numerous horses and a mob of running footmen took eleven days to reach Edinburgh from Inverness ; and when the provosts and bailies of Glasgow made their frequent journeys to Edinburgh on the city's business they covered the distance on horseback. In Glasgow itself, no doubt largely by reason of the conditions of the roads, there were, in 1744, neither post-chaises nor hackney-carriages. Only a few sedan chairs were available for carrying ladies to the assemblies. [Alexander Carlyle's Autobiography, p. 75; Cleland, Annals, p. 430.] It was still therefore a somewhat hazardous enterprise when in 1743 John Walker, an Edinburgh merchant, proposed to run a stage coach between Edinburgh and Glasgow, twice a week either way for twenty weeks in summer, and once a week for the rest of the year. The fare was to be ten shillings sterling, and each passenger might carry fourteen pounds weight of baggage. The coach or "lando" was to carry six passengers and to be drawn by six horses, and Walker asked that the Town Council should guarantee the sale of two hundred tickets from the Glasgow end of the journey each year. The Town Council remitted the proposal to its "annual committee" for consideration, [Burgh Records, 15th Oct., 1743.] but nothing further seems to have been done. [The first regular stage-coach between Edinburgh and Glasgow began to run in 1749, It ran twice a week each way, and took some twelve hours to the journey.—Scots Magazine, 1749. P. 253. An interesting account of the development of transport out of Glasgow in the latter half of the eighteenth century is given by Senex in Old Glasgow and its Environs, p. 343.]

The same fate seems to have befallen a request of the Merchants House that the Town Council should interfere to control the action of the carters who conveyed goods from the Broomielaw to the east country and elsewhere. These carters refused to do the work unless they got what the merchants regarded as "extravagant hires." Here again the matter ended in a reference to the magistrates for consideration. The ideas of that time do not seem to have included an apprehension of the working of the natural law of supply and demand—Adam Smith, Glasgow's future professor of moral philosophy, and author of The Wealth of Nations, had then only just taken his degree at Oxford; but no doubt that law itself effectively and before long solved the question of the carters' hires. [Burgh Records, 30th April, 1745.]

Fortunately two other proposals at that time made to the Town Council were not carried out. One was to use the vaults below the cathedral as a magazine in which to keep the city's stock of gunpowder. The other was to encroach upon the area of the New Green by feuing ground on the east side of the mouth of the Molendinar to a company which was to set up a woollen factory and workmen's houses on the spot. The former dangerous suggestion was avoided by assigning as a powder magazine the old horse guard-house built by the town at the head of the Limmerfield, opposite the tower of the Bishop's Castle. The proposal to feu part of the Laigh Green was actually agreed to by the Town Council, but dropped through "the general voice of the public being raised against it."  [Cleland's Annals, 1829 ed., p. 467; Burgh Records, 13th Nov., 1744; 22nd Jan., 1745; 26th March, 1745.]

The city fathers were also prevented from doing wrong in a matter of larger interest. Neil Buchanan, the Member of Parliament elected with so much questionable effort to secure the overthrow of Walpole's Government, died early in 1744, and the four burghs were called upon to choose a successor. At the moment there did not seem to be the same call for strenuous effort as in the previous election. But even if that call had existed the Town Council would have been precluded from indulging in the orgy of bribery and corruption which had disgraced the election of 1741. To restrain such abuses—abuses for which Walpole's Government itself had been chiefly notorious—an Act of Parliament had been passed in 1743. Under that Act the town clerks and the magistrates and councillors of burghs, if required by any of their number, were called upon to take an oath declaring that they had received no consideration of any kind to influence their vote or action in the election. As the magistrates and councillors of the burghs were the only electors the oath effectually stopped corrupt practices. The wild orgy of burgess making and free spending which had marked the election of Neil Buchanan was therefore Glasgow's first and last plunge into the mire of electoral corruption. [Burgh Records, 16th Mar., 1744.]

The town had greater difficulties at that time in its dealings with the funds of public charities. Chief of these charities was the town's hospital or poorhouse. To supplement the private subscriptions by which that institution was erected and maintained the Town Council had promised to contribute £140 yearly. The payments, however, had fallen into arrears till in 1743 these amounted to £590 sterling. Further, among subscriptions entrusted to the Council in 1734 was £5 from a person who desired to have his name concealed, but, after his death, was found to be Robert Wodrow, minister of Eastwood, the historian of the Covenanters. Wodrow's subscription was for the buying of medicaments for the poor, and had been accepted by the Council, but remained in their hands. The town's debt to the directors of the poorhouse therefore amounted to £595, and on the directors pressing for payment the Council found difficulty in raising the money, and compromised by granting a bond payable at the following Whitsunday, with interest at the rate of 4½ per cent. [Ibid. 8th Feb., 1743.] This sum was only repaid nine years later, out of the £10,000 received from the Government as compensation for the losses suffered by the city during the Jacobite rising of 1745. [Ibid. 23rd March, 1752.]

In another matter of the management of charitable funds the Town Council was merely asked to intervene, and did so with much wisdom. Robert Sanders of Auldhouse, near Pollokshaws, had entrusted the Merchants House with a legacy of 12,000 merks and the lands of Auldhouse, burdened with the payment of 1100 merks yearly for the apprenticing of eleven poor boys to trades or callings and £100 Scots yearly to support a bursar in divinity at the College. Five of the boys were to be sons of merchants and five sons of craftsmen, with one from each rank in alternate years, and the right of presentation was vested in the testator's nephew, Robert Colquhoun. In 1743, however, the Deacon-Convener of the Trades House complained to the Town Council that for several years no boys had been apprenticed under the legacy. On enquiry it was found that most of the 12,000 merks had been lent out and lost, while the interest on the remainder, and possession of the lands rent free, had been granted to Colquhoun on consideration of his refraining from the presentation of apprentices. The arrangement, in fact, appears as a very compromising piece of jobbery between the Merchants House and the testator's nephew, by which the latter may have hoped in time to secure permanent possession of his uncle's estate. Fortunately Sanders in his testament had named the Town Council as overseers of the trust, and the city fathers promptly straightened out the tangle. They ordered that no apprentices should be made from the merchants rank till the capital sum and accumulated interest should again amount to 12,000 merks; they induced Colquhoun to give up his right of presentation for an annuity of £12 sterling, and they vested in the Trades House the right to present five boys for apprenticing. Two years later the arrangement was reviewed, when the Merchants House was directed to proceed with the apprenticing of the full number of eleven boys yearly, and, to prevent a serious abuse which had been practised, it was ordered that, if any boy or his friends should offer the patrons a premium or gratification for his presentation, the presentation should be annulled and another boy apprenticed instead. [Burgh Records, 3rd Oct., 1743; 7th March, 5th Jan., 1745.]

Another "mortification," or legacy, of the same period, with curious implications, was that of Robert Tennent, a Glasgow merchant, who died in 1741. This philanthropist directed his trustees to pay to the Town Council three sums of money-5000 merks, £4000 Scots, and 10,000 merks respectively. The interest, at four per cent, on the first sum was to be devoted to the maintenance of the children in two charity schools erected by the testator's brother, Simon Tennent; that of the second sum was to go to the support of "three widows of good deportment and conversation"; while the third sum itself was to be lent out, in amounts of Soo merks each, free of interest, for periods of five years, to fifteen merchants and five tradesmen of the city, who could give sufficient security for repayment. The interest on any portions of the amount which might be unused for a time in the hands of the Town Council was to be used for the expenses of management. [Ibid. 27th Jan„ 1744. This money is still held by the Corporation, which pays four per cent to the trustees who administer the revenue.—See Strang's Bursaries, Schools, Mortifications and Bequests, p. 120.]

Still another bequest of the same period affords an example of the many charitable legacies which, in the course of time, have been entrusted to the Town Council and the Merchants and Trades Houses for administration. The case is an instance, at the same time, of wifely faithfulness and devotion which is worthy of permanent remembrance. The lady was Martha Millar, widow of John Luke, merchant. Stating that her husband had "verbally mortified" the sum, she paid to the Merchants House 4000 merks, with the arrangement that that House should pay the interest to "a poor, decayed, indigent, honest man of the merchant rank," to be named by herself and her daughters after her. As the first recipient of the pension she named George Luke, a near relation of her husband, who had fallen on evil days; and after his death, as his children had not sufficient means for their maintenance and upbringing, she by special request had the annuity continued to them. It was a womanly variation of the strict legal terms of the bequest, which, one is glad to know, both the Merchants House and the Town Council found it possible to homologate. [Ibid. 1st Oct., 1744.]

From first to last, however, the philanthropic spirit which has characterized the citizens of Glasgow has been fostered and furthered by the city fathers. A notable enterprise thus helped was the Buchanan Society, first of the many benevolent societies, associated with Highland clans and districts which have since formed a conspicuous feature of Glasgow life. The society was founded in 1725 by four brothers who were among the most notable citizens of Glasgow, George Buchanan of Moss and Auchentoshan, Andrew Buchanan of Drumpellier, Archibald Buchanan of Auchentorlie, and Neil Buchanan of Hillington. [Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 4.] In 1725 this society established a fund for putting poor boys of the clan to trades in the city. To secure its capital and increase its income it purchased an old thatched tenement at the corner of Trongate and King Street, pulled it down, and on the site, and an adjoining piece of ground given to it by the Town Council, erected a handsome stone building. The new tenement ran the society into debt to the amount of £300 sterling. Towards the repayment of that debt the society asked the Council for a further favour. This was promptly granted, and the Buchanan Society was allowed for five years to draw the increased rents from its new stone property while paying "stent" or rates only upon the small rental of the older building. [Burgh Records, 14th Jan, 1733; 2nd July, 1736; 4th Feb., 1737; 20th Feb., 1739; 5th Dec., 1753.] The society was, fourteen years later, granted the status of a legal incorporation by the city fathers.

Two years later in origin was the Glasgow Highland Society. In the year 1751 this society was granted a seal of cause by the magistrates, which enabled it to sue or be sued in any court of law in the same manner as any other corporate body. Its membership was limited to persons of Highland birth, or their children, and the entrance fee was a guinea and a half. The chief purpose of the society was to apprentice poor boys of Highland birth to respectable trades, and so enable them to become useful citizens. At the time of its incorporation it had apprenticed forty-seven boys, and its funds amounted to £416 16s. 6½d. In its behalf in 1738 George Whitefield preached a sermon in the Cathedral churchyard, when the collection, nearly £60, taken after the discourse, was the largest subscribed till then in Glasgow. With this and its other funds the society built the Black Bull inn on the west side of the Shaw-field Mansion, and the rent, which at first was no more than £100 per annum, increased till in 1825 it amounted, with its attached shops, to £1168. [Gibson's History, p. 175; Gordon's Glasghu Facies, ii. 1023, 1029; Burgh Records, 22nd Jan. 1751; Glasgow Past and Present, i. p. 82; Anecdotage of Glasgow, p. 115.]

Two years later still was the "mortification" of £2000 sterling by William Mitchell, a London merchant, and native of Glasgow, who died on Christmas Day, 1729. The money was entrusted to the magistrates of Glasgow, who were to devote its interest to the maintenance of poor burgesses, or children of burgesses, to be presented by the testator's executors and their heirs for ever, whom failing the Lord Provost and Magistrates. [Gibson, p. 180. When Mitchell's mortification was remodelled in 1794 its income was £113 17s. 9½d., which was apportioned among fifteen beneficiaries.—Burgh Records, 17th Sept. 1794. See supra, p. 147.


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