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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XXXIII - Manufactures and Manufacturers


ONE of the chief difficulties of the merchants who carried on Glasgow's great business of importing tobacco, rum, and sugar was the scarcity of native manufactured goods to export in exchange. Jupiter Carlyle in his autobiography describes the situation as he knew it in 1744. "There were not manufacturers sufficient," he says, either there or at Paisley, to supply an outward-bound cargo for Virginia. For this purpose "the Glasgow traders were obliged to have recourse to Manchester. Manufactures were in their infancy. About this time the inkle manufactory was first begun by Ingram & Glassford, and was shewn to strangers as a great curiosity. But the merchants had industry and stock, and the habits of business, and were ready to seize with eagerness, and prosecute with vigour, every new object in commerce or manufactures that promised success." [Autobiography, p. 73.]

By 1760, the situation had only partly improved. Richard Pococke, bishop of Meath, who visited Glasgow in that year, thus describes it. "The city has above all others felt the advantages of the Union, by the West India trade which they enjoy, which is very great, especially in tobacco, indigoes, and sugar. The first is a great trade in time of war; as they send the tobacco by land to the ports of the Frith of Forth, almost as far as Hopton, and supply France. They have sugar houses, and make what is called Scotch indigo, which is composed with starch, so as to make a fine light blue. In order to carry on this trade properly they have gone into a great variety of manufactures, to have sortments of goods to be exported, as all the inkle smallwares, linnens of all kinds, small ironwares, glass bottles, and earthenwares, which latter they make in great perfection." [Pococke's Tours in Scotland. Scottish History Society, p. S3. The bishop's description of the appearance of Glasgow at that time is itself interesting. "The town," he says, "is finely built of hewn stone. Most of the houses are four stories high, and some five. The streets are extremely well paved, and in the middle of them is a stone a foot broad, and in some a stone also on each side, on which the people walk, but mostly in the middle. Several merchants have grand houses. They have a fine old town house, and a beautiful new town house adjoining to it. There are four markets opposite one another," in King Street, "which are fronted with hewn stone, with three pediments over three doors, and false windows between them.... They have also a market for herbs."—Ibid. p. 48.]

That a certain progress was being made is shewn by the growth of the population. According to a census which the magistrates ordered to be taken in 1763 the number of inhabitants was 28,300, an increase of 2754 in six years. At the same time, from the list of the city's exports in 1771, given by Gibson in his History, the list of goods actually of Glasgow origin is by no means lacking in variety. It includes ale, books, coal, cordage, glass, hats, linen handkerchiefs, wrought iron, tanned leather, sail-cloth, soap, candles, woollens, and herring. [Gibson, History, p. 226. Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 145.] Wrought iron—spades, hoes, axes, etc.—was produced by the Smithfield Company at the Nailree established in 1737 at the Broomielaw, and exported to the annual value of £23,000. In 1748 there was set up on the site of the present James Watt Street at the Broomielaw a factory for the making of glazed pottery, or Delft-ware, so named from the place of its origin in Holland. [The earliest Glasgow pottery, however, was made at the old "Pig-house" off Gallowgate.—Burgh Records, 8th May, 1722.] Hat manufacture appears to have been fairly extensive. To Maryland 557 dozen were exported, and to Virginia 2971 dozen. [There was a hat factory near St. Andrew's Church. Burgh Records, 31st Aug., i 769. Perhaps the largest hat-making firm was that of Thomas Buchanan of Ardoch on Loch Lomondside, whose eldest son, John, was I.P. for Dunbartonshire from 1821 till 1826, and built Balloch Castle and Boturich Castle.—Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 184.] There were exported also, strangely enough, considerable quantities of snuff and manufactured tobacco. Similarly, among the exports to the West Indies—Jamaica, Barbadoes, Granada, Antigua, Tobago, and other islands, there invariably appears a considerable amount of refined sugar—a case, one might have thought, of sending coals to Newcastle.

This demand for goods to export by way of exchange acted as a strong incentive to the setting up of new manufactures, and under its influence one after another of the great industries of Glasgow came into existence.

Archibald Ingram, mentioned above as one of the partners in the inkle, or linen tape, manufactory, took an early part in this enterprise. Linen printing, the forerunner of calico printing had been introduced into Scotland in 1738, and in 1742 Ingram, with his brother-in-law, Glassford of Dougalston, and other partners, started the first bleachfield and printwork at Pollokshaws. He chose his site well, beside the main road into the city, and between the Cart and the Auldhouse Burn, from which abundance of water was to be had. There he persevered against many difficulties, spinning his yarns and weaving his cloth, training his bleacher and his colour mixer, and finding patterns where he could. After some years of loss he began to make headway. He levelled and irrigated his bleaching-green, built printing shops and drying sheds, and improved his printing processes, from wooden block to copper cylinder, until his works covered thirty acres of land and represented a great and thriving industry. [Brown, History of Glasgow, ii. 212; Burgh Records, 15th March, 1765; Glasgow Mercury, 20th Oct., 1789 advt.] Ingram was the father of the industry, which, before the end of the century included more than thirty printfields around Glasgow. In civic affairs he was twice Dean of Guild and twice a bailie, and at last, in 1762, Lord Provost. He was also one of the founders of the Glasgow Arms Bank. He died in 1770, and eleven years later, when the Town Council straightened and laid out the old winding Back Cow Loan, they honoured his memory by giving the thoroughfare the name of Ingram Street. [Cleland, Annals, i. 36, ii. 479. In 1763, shortly after Ingram's election as Lord Provost, a serious difference arose in the Town Council over the method of appointing a minister to a seventh city church, the re-erected Wynd Church. In that controversy the Provost showed himself to be a "bonnie fechter," and incidentally his reasoned protest, and the answers of the opposite parties stand among the best expositions of the question of church patronage which was to have such notable effects at the Disruption eighty years later.—Burgh Records, 10th and 26th Feb., 13th may, 1st Sept., 2nd Nov., 1763 and onward.] His effigy is to be seen in a bas-relief above the fire-place in the directors' room of the Merchants' House. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 117.]

About the time when Archibald Ingram started his print-field at Pollokshaws another industry was begun in Glasgow, which also reached considerable importance, and figures creditably in Gibson's list of exports to the continent and the West Indies. In 1756 seven individuals, "all framework knitters or stocking-makers in Glasgow," applied to the Town Council for an act of incorporation to enable them to control the industry, safeguard the quality of its products, and levy a fund for the support of its decayed workers and their families. The difficulties which were encountered in starting a new industry are set forth in the petition. The petitioners say that when they started their enterprise in 1741, "very few having knoulege thereof," they were obliged to bring workmen from England, Ireland, and other parts, that some of these workmen had fallen sick and died, and that the expense of supporting them and sending their families home had been considerable. Among the powers granted by the Town Council was one of imposing a fine upon every imperfect pair of stockings produced, while every pair passed as perfect by the searcher was to be stamped with the word GLASGOW. Precautions like these must have helped materially to build up a business. Probably it was only because of the fact that no man of outstanding ability was at the helm of the enterprise that this industry did not extend and prosper to the same extent as that of bleaching and printing. [Burgh Records, 6th May, 1756.]

Three years later the Town Council granted a similar seal of cause to another company of citizens which seems to have been partly charitable and partly industrial in its purpose, but which marks the beginning of the dyeing business in the city. "The Society for encouraging the dyeing of Mather Red" imported its "mather," or madder, from Holland, while logwood was imported in much larger quantities from America and the West Indies. [Ibid. 30th July, 1759; Gibson, History, pp. 214, 218, 220.]

This madder dyeing industry was to be greatly improved and developed later tinder the name of Turkey Red, and was to be taken over and transferred to the Vale of Leven by a family which, generation after generation, produced members of remarkable sagacity, enterprise, and energy. The Stirlings were a race which could count its descent through distinguished representatives from the days of William the Lion. In 1537, the head of the house, Robert Stirling of Lettyr, was slain in a feud with his neighbour, Campbell of Auchenhowie. A century later the family was securely settled in Glasgow, Walter Stirling being chosen Dean of Guild in 1639 and 1640, as well as commissioner to represent the town in the Scottish parliament and the General Assembly. He married Helen, daughter of David Wemyss, the first presbyterian minister of Glasgow, and widow of Dr. Peter Lowe, founder of the Faculty of Physicians and Surgeons. [Lowe is commemorated not only by his portrait in the hall of the Faculty but by the inscription on his tombstone in the Cathedral burying-ground, which describes him as a man

Who of his God had got the grace
To live in mirth and die in peace.]

Walter Stirling's son, John, was one of the Glasgow merchants condemned to imprisonment for three months in Edinburgh Tolbooth for hearing outed ministers. John had three sons, all distinguished citizens. The youngest, Walter of Shirva was a magistrate, and ancestor of the Stirlings, baronets of Faskine. The second, William, was a surgeon in Glasgow, and one of the little company who set up a linen factory at Graham's Hall near the city, described by McUre in 1736 as "for weaving all sorts of Hollan-cloth wonderful fine, performed by fine masters expert in the curious art of weaving, as fine and well done as at Haarlem in Holland," and "wonderfully whitened at Dalwhern's bleaching field." [Dalquhurn in the Vale of Leven.] It was Surgeon William's son, Walter Stirling, who founded and endowed Stirling's Library, the first public library in Glasgow. The eldest of the three brothers, John Stirling, was a bailie at the time of the Shawfield riot, and, though out of town at the time, was arrested with Provost Miller, carried to Edinburgh by the dragoons and put on trial, and on the return home he shared in the demonstration by the citizens, the jubilant shouts and ringing of bells. Three years later he was chosen Provost of the city. The provost and his brother Walter were among the merchants named by McUre as "undertaking the trade to Virginia, Carriby Islands, Barbadoes, New England, St. Christopher's, Montserat, and other colonies in America."

One of the provost's sons, James, was minister of the Outer High Church in the cathedral. The other, William, was the founder of the great firm of William Stirling & Sons. He lived in a plain two-storey house among woodyards and vegetable gardens at the head of a close off Bell Street. [Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 124.] He began business by selling on commission India cottons printed in London, [Brown's History of Glasgow. Advt. in Glasgow Journal, 10th May, 1756.] and his shop, opposite the Blackfriars Wynd in High Street, was greatly frequented by the Glasgow ladies eager to see the latest fashion in wavelets and sprigs. Already in 1750, however, he had set up a printwork at Dawsholm, where the pure water of the Kelvin admirably served his purpose. Twenty years later he followed the lead of his uncle, Surgeon William, to the Vale of Leven, where an even purer and more plentiful supply of water was available from Loch Lomond—Smollett's

Pure stream in whose translucent wave
My youthful limbs I wont to lave.

There he feued Cordale, beside Dalquhurn, from Lord Stonefield, and started the famous printfield of William Stirling & Sons.

The "sons," Andrew, John, and James Stirling, were among the founders of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, became the wife of Professor Hamilton, and mother of Thomas Hamilton, author of the fine romance, "Cyril Thornton," the Glasgow scenes and characters of which may be set beside those of Smollett's "Humphry Clinker" and Scott's "Rob Roy."

Of the three brothers, Andrew bought the estate of Drumpellier in West Monkland, which had belonged to his grandfather, Provost Andrew Buchanan. It was probably that fact which brought about the firm's purchase and development of the Monkland Canal, already described. Like Richard Oswald he proceeded to London, and founded there the first house for the sale of Scottish goods on commission, and, with the Scotsman's pride of ancestry, he claimed and obtained in the court of the Lord Lyon the arms and supporters of the Stirlings of Cadder, chiefs of the name. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, pp. 2, 8.] James, the youngest brother, purchased the estate of Stair in Ayrshire; and John, who chiefly carried on the family business, acquired the estate of Tillie-Colquhoun, or Tilliechewan, in the Vale of Leven, and built the present Tilliechewan Castle. He also occupied as a town house, first the famous Shawfield Mansion in Trongate, and afterwards the still finer Lainshaw Mansion, which was purchased by his firm in 1789, and now forms part of the Royal Exchange.

When the country was overwhelmed by the great "slump" of 1816, which followed the Napoleonic wars and our victory at Waterloo, and when the bankruptcies in Glasgow in three months amounted to more than two millions sterling, the great firm came down. [Mitchell, Old Glasgow Essays, p. 127.] John of Tilliechewan was dead by that time, but his sons, William and George Stirling, set themselves in earnest to bring back prosperity to the industry. They succeeded magnificently, and built up a great business at Cordale and Dalquhurn, which flourished almost without pause for a hundred years, till the "slump" following the Great War, and our victory over the Germans in 1918, again caused their chimneys almost to cease smoking for a time. One of the principal means of that revival was the fortunate acquisition in 1816 of the important process of Turkey Red dyeing, which has since that year had its chief home in the Vale of Leven. The introduction of this process is closely connected with the fortunes of another notable Glasgow family.


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