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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter III - John Anderson, younger, of Dowhill


THE most active and capable of the managers of the civic affairs in the latter years of the seventeenth century has hardly till now received the attention which his services and somewhat dramatic career seem to deserve. The Andersons of Dowhill were merchants whose family estate lay close to the burgh boundary on the east. They represented the Andersons of Stobcross, who held that property on Clydeside as rentallers under the Archbishop as early as 1545. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. '79; Senex, Old Glasgow, p. 16.] The Dowhill, or Dew-hill, is mentioned in the twelfth-century Life of St. Mungo as a favourite resort of that holy man. It rose beyond the Molendinar, on the line of the present Gallowgate, and was the site, in the feudal centuries, of a fane known as Little St. Mungo's Kirk. In the middle of the eighteenth century it became the site of the famous Saracen Head Inn. Dowhill estate extended from the Molendinar eastward to the Butts, and from the Gallowgate northward to the College grounds. The Andersons of Dowhill come into the limelight of Glasgow history as men of substance in the years following the Restoration of Charles II. McUre, the earliest Glasgow historian, says they were the first to import cherry sack direct to Glasgow. That delicacy had previously been procured only through Leith and Edinburgh. In 1663 and again in 1665, probably to preserve the amenities of his own estate adjoining, John Anderson, elder, took a lease of the grass of Little St. Mungo's Kirkyard at the rent of a rix-dollar. His position as a man of substance is shown by the fact that in 1665 he advanced considerable sums for the purchase of land by the town. Among his other enterprises he was a partner with Sir George Maxwell in the famous Whalefishing Company of 1667. [Cleland's Annals, ii. 367.] He was provost in 1655 and again in 1667, and it was under his guidance that in the latter year the burgh acquired the great estate of Provan from Sir Robert Hamilton of Silvertonhill. Among his possessions the laird of Dowhill owned a tenement in the Saltmarket, which was destroyed in the great fire of 1677. In rebuilding it two years later he availed himself of the subsidy, amounting to 1507 Scots, offered by the magistrates, and when a dispute occurred between him and his neighbour regarding a mutual gable, the magistrates built the gable and deducted the cost from their subsidy. [Burgh Records of dates named; Regality Club Transactions, i. 1-7.] More was to be heard of this tenement at a later date. In his latter days the fortunes of this worthy man seem to have suffered something like eclipse, for in 1684 he was reduced to supplicate the Town Council, in view of his heavy loss by the fire, the decay of trade, and "the ill condition he was in," to forgive him a debt of 370. This they duly did.

But much more notable than John Anderson, elder, was John Anderson, younger, of Dowhill. There are records of his disbursing sums for the town's purposes in 1665 and 1666. When the magistrates were looking for a location for a new harbour on the firth in 1667 he was commissioned to go to Greenock with the provost and the deacon-convener to settle the purchase of the lands of Kilburnie. He was chosen a bailie in 1666 and in 1683, and in 1669 he was elected Dean of Guild. In the following year he was sent to London to endeavour to secure for the burgh from Charles II. the free election of its own magistrates, as well as the rights of the bailiary and barony of Glasgow, with liberty to spend what he pleased in the enterprise. And in 1677, after the great fire, he was one of the commission sent to Edinburgh to secure help from the Privy Council for the rebuilding of the town. But his greatest triumph was his mission to London in 1689 already described, in which he obtained from King William that right of free election of the provost and magistrates which had been coveted by Glasgow since the Reformation. His success on that occasion was probably helped by the fact that he was of the party which supported the Revolution. He had suffered for his views in 1671 when his leet for the election of magistrates was rejected, and in 1674, when his complaint on the subject was over-ruled, and he was excluded from the council for refusing to take the Declaration. Also, during the provostship of the notorious John Barnes in 1685, he had been deposed from the town council for non-attendance at its meetings.

In recognition of his success in London, Dowhill was appointed Commissioner to the meeting of the Estates—in other words the burgh's member of Parliament, in August, 1689, and was elected Provost in October.

He was appointed to the office of chief magistrate no fewer than four times, [The provost's term of office was then two years. Anderson was elected in 1689, 1695, 1699, and 1703.] and during his terms of office and out of them did much notable service to the city. Among the acts of his provostship was the vindication of the rights of certain incorporations of trades. In particular the Incorporation of Surgeons secured a decision which carried them a long way towards the position which safeguards the public against the imposition of unqualified practitioners at the present day. In 1679 the Town Council, without the consent of the Surgeons' Incorporation, had granted permission to a Mr. Henry Marshall to practise as a surgeon in the burgh. Now, twelve years later, in their appeal to the magistrates, the Faculty cited the grant by King James VI. in 1599, empowering them to make rules for the admission of members, and the exclusion of unqualified persons. In the case of a dearth of practitioners the magistrates had power to invite a surgeon to settle in the city, but he must pay the usual burgess fee and pass the professional tests of the Faculty. Marshall, though from his title of "Mr.," evidently a university graduate, had not apparently fulfilled these requirements, and the Faculty demanded the withdrawal of the licence granted him by the magistrates. With this demand Provost Anderson, with his bailies and council, complied. The licence was withdrawn. At the same time the Incorporation of Surgeons was earnestly desired to use Marshall "civillie and discreetlie," as, it may be hoped, they did. [Burgh Records, 9th May, 1691.]

In similar fashion the Incorporation of Coopers complained of infringement of their privileges. Their rule was that no piece of cooper-work should be brought into the burgh by an outsider, and exposed for sale, without being submitted to the deacon and other masters of the craft. If it failed to meet their approval as an efficient piece of work it was subject to immediate confiscation by the magistrates, and its "inbringer" was liable to fine and other punishment. In defiance of this rule, it appears, several persons had gone out of the town to have cooper-work made and repaired, and had brought it back for use without due submission. There were evidently coopers outside the town, who were doing the work more cheaply than the Glasgow craftsmen, and the latter, seeing their monopoly in danger, demanded that the prices should be those fixed by their own deacon. They also demanded that the coopers working at Port-Glasgow in the time of the fishing should, like the craftsmen in Glasgow itself, be required to subscribe twopence Scots weekly to a benevolent fund, half to be used for their own poor and the other half to be remitted for the poor of the craft in the city. A further complaint was that the coopers of Gorbals had "forestalled" the market by buying rungs, staves, and splits in wholesale quantities without these being first exposed for public sale. This they demanded should be forbidden under a penalty of ten merks each upon buyer and seller for every offence. This petition also was granted, after due consideration, by Provost Anderson and his council. They placed it on record that they thought the demands "reasonable and just," a verdict which would seem to show that the ex clusive policy of trade unions at the present day is not so modern as some people may imagine. [Burgh Records, 15th May, 1691.]

Two criminal events which occurred in Glasgow in his time show the character of Provost Anderson of Dowhill in another interesting light. A certain James Peadie was provost when the former of these took place. By some action which does not transpire, Peadie had given offence to Robert Brock, a goldsmith and former bailie of the town, and in consequence, in the house of a certain widow, and in the presence of the provost and several other persons, Brock had told the provost exactly what he thought of him. The opinion appears to have been expressed in somewhat lurid language—"In manifest contempt of their Majesties authoritie, represented in the magisstrats, and without all regard to his burges oath, without all fear of God," he did "revile, slander, and defame the said James Peadie, proveist, by calling him ane villaine, ane rascall, ane cheat, ane knave, void of all religion and fear of God, ane wolfe in sheepes cloathing, and that he had bein the cause of ruine to the said Robert Brock and his familie." Brock had gone even further, and declared that the provost had hazarded the ruin of his soul by bringing him to take the name of God in vain, a thing which he had not done for four years past, till provoked to do so by Peadie.

At that time it was a serious matter to shew discourtesy to a magistrate. Even to fail in raising the bonnet to a bailie when passing him in the street might involve unpleasant consequences. The outrageous behaviour of Brock therefore was made the subject of formal trial before two of the magistrates. The goldsmith was duly summoned at his own house and by the "crying" of "three severall oyesses" at the market cross, and afterwards from the top of the Tolbooth stair; but he failed to appear, and the trial went on without him. Three respectable witnesses, duly sworn and "purged of partiall counsell," testified against him. The two first agreed without hesitation to every point made against the accused, and rather revelled in repeating his most opprobrious words. The third witness was Anderson of Dowhill, and his evidence was in notable contrast. He weighed his words, testified only to the exact expressions he had himself heard, and reduced a charge of threatening to assault to the mere shaking of his staff in defiance by the accused man.

In the upshot the charge was found fully proven. Brock was fined five hundred merks, deprived of his rights as a burgess and guild brother, and ordered to be detained in prison till he should pay the fine. [Ibid. 14th Aug., 1693.] He evidently, however, made his peace afterwards with the magistrates, for he frequently in later years was employed on jeweller's work by them.

The incident illustrates not only the custom and attitude of mind of the time, but the calm judicial temper of John Anderson of Dowhill.

The second occurrence of the kind in which Dowhill played a part was much more serious. It arose out of nothing less than the murder of the Town Clerk. The facts of the tragedy were dramatic enough. A certain Major Menzies, commanding Lord Lindsay's regiment, then quartered in Glasgow, had seized and imprisoned several burgesses on the plea that they were deserters. On complaint being made, the magistrates desired the Major to bring the accused persons before them for trial. This he absolutely refused to do. A conference was then arranged, at which the provost, two of the bailies, and the Town-Clerk, Mr. Robert Park, met Major Menzies and three of his captains in the Town Clerk's office. In the course of the discussion a dispute arose. Menzies struck the Town Clerk with his cane, and, the latter springing to his feet, there was a struggle. The two were separated by the company, then, while the Town Clerk was being held by Captain Jarvis, the Major drew his sword and ran him through the body, so that he died instantly. Menzies then marched off, sword in hand, to the guard-house, called out his men, drew them up, with loaded muskets three files deep across the street, and set them to guard the passes, while he mounted his horse and escaped. [The large round table at which the Town Clerk was sitting when this tragic event took place is now in the refectory room of the South Court at the Judiciary Buildings in Jocelyn Square.]

One of the Lords of the Privy Council, Mr. Francis Montgomery, who happened to be at hand, forthwith ordered such of the inhabitants as could soonest get ready to pursue and apprehend the murderer. In obedience to this order John Anderson, of Dowhill, with Robert Stevenson, glazier, and John Gillespie, a tailor and burgess, set forth, and came upon the Major, skulking in a garden at Rainfield, near the site of the present Constitutional Club. [J. O. Mitchell, Regality Club Papers, i. 3.] They charged him with the murder, and desired him to yield himself prisoner, but he refused, and came at them with a drawn sword. In the emergency of the moment a shot was fired, and Menzies fell dead.

In consequence of this unfortunate affair the three pursuers were tried for murder in the High Court of Justiciary at Edinburgh. The fatal shot had apparently been fired by Gillespie, and part of the charge against the three was that Menzies had offered to surrender. The Town Council, however, sent three of its magistrates to witness for the defence, and the Court found the prisoners' defence sufficient and discharged them from the bar. [Collection of Trials by Hugo Arnot, pp. 163-9; Burgh Records, and Nov., 1694.] The town's expenses in connection with the trial, in which no fewer than seventy-four witnesses were retained, amounted to 3540 0s. 4d. Scots. The fees to advocates, clerks of justiciary and macers came to 1027 5s. 4d. [Burgh Records, 23rd Feb., 1695.]


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