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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XL - The Oldest Glasgow Charity


A PERSONAGE, who figured constantly in the civic annals of the later decades of the eighteenth century was John Campbell of Clathic. The family name was originally Coats. In the early days of 1746, when the Jacobite army moved out of Glasgow and carried with it two substantial citizens, as hostages for the completion of the subsidies which had been demanded, Archibald Coats was one of the pair. One would like to think it was during his march with the rebel force, and by way of a reward for his hardships on that occasion, that he met the heiress of Campbell of Clathic, near Crieff, who became his wife. On succeeding to that estate his son added Campbell to his name, and became John Coats Campbell of Clathic. With the substantial family possession in Strathearn behind him, John Coats Campbell became one of the great Glasgow "Tobacco Lords." He himself acquired the estate of Ryding to the east of the city, which is now, in the twentieth century, the property of the Corporation, and he married a daughter of Laurence Colquhoun of Killermont, through whom that estate also came into his possession. [Curiosities of Citizenship, p. 138.] His son accordingly took the name of Campbell-Colquhoun, and his descendant is Campbell-Colquhoun of Killermont and Garscadden, on the western borders of the city at the present day. [It was to the first Campbell-Colquhoun of Killermont and his wife that Lady Nairne is said to have addressed her fine song, "The Land o' the Leal," in sympathy for the loss of a favourite child. This laird, Archibald Campbell-Colquhoun, was Sheriff of Perthshire, Lord Advocate in 1803, Lord Clerk Register in 1816, M.P. for Elgin from 1807 till 1810, and for Dunbartonshire from 1810 till 1820.]

Meanwhile John Coats Campbell of Clathic held a succession of high offices in Glasgow. He was one of the original partners in the aristocratic Thistle Bank in 1761, and one of the founders of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce in 1783. He was elected Dean of Guild in 1767, 1775, and 1781, and in 1784 succeeded Patrick Colquhoun as Lord Provost. After retiring from the office of Chief Magistrate, he set himself to restore and consolidate the fortunes of one of the oldest of the city's charitable institutions.

St. Nicholas Hospital had been founded by Bishop Andrew Muirhead about 1460 for the support of twelve poor old men and a priest to perform service for them. Martin Wan, chancellor of the cathedral, bequeathed it some small ground rents in 1501, and Archbishop Leighton in 1677 left it £150 as a further endowment. [Macgeorge, Old Glasgow, p. 117.] Between these two last gifts, in 1590, John Painter, master of the Sang Schule, left three pounds to the twelve poor men in St. Nicholas Hospital, and twenty shillings to the four poor men in the Back Almshouse. This latter was the hospital founded by Roland Blackadder, sub-dean of Glasgow, which stood a hundred yards or so further north, near the Stable-green Port, and which appears ultimately to have become united to the foundation of Bishop Muirhead. Nisbet in his Heraldry in 1772 describes the curious little chapel of St. Nicholas Hospital, which is to be seen in old Glasgow prints. It was not demolished till 1808. Nisbet also states that beside the hospital Bishop Muirhead built a residence for the priest on which, as on the chapel, he placed his arms—three acorns on a bend. These are still to be seen on a Corby stone of the building now known as Provand's Lordship, the oldest house in Glasgow. [For the history of this house, and its association with James IV. and Mary Queen of Scots see The Story of Provand's Lordship, a brochure by Dr. R. B. Lothian, and The Oldest House in Glasgow, Provand's Lordship, by William Gemmell. The dwelling seems, at an early date, to have become the manse of the Canon of Barlanark and Laird of Provan, and therefore the official residence of King James when he officiated in the cathedral. After the Reformation William Baillie, President of the Court of Session, became by royal charter owner of the great estate of Provan, and the broken sundial on the wall of the building seems to have borne the inscription, including his initials, "W—Provand's Lordship—B." Sir William was Queen 'Mary's friend, and as this was the best house available in Glasgow at the time, it is conjectured that the queen resided within its walls when she paid her memorable visit to her husband, Darnley, in 1567. In 1807 the Town Council ordered enquiry to be made as to the ownership of the house, and sold it along with an adjoining small building which had been the abode of the Glasgow hangman. —Burgh Records, 13th Feb., 2nd May, 1807.]

After the Reformation St. Nicholas Hospital, as a charitable institution, was taken in charge by the Town Council. In 1589 it was inspected by the bailies, who inserted a careful account of it in the Town Council minutes. [Burgh Records, 30th Dec., 1589. See also Presbytery Records, 12th Feb. 1606.] During the next two hundred years, however, dilapidations seem to have occurred. At last, in 1783, John Brown, master of works, who was also preceptor of the hospital, placed a statement of the revenues before the Town Council. These were derived in small sums, partly payable in bolls of meal, from properties scattered throughout the town, and amounted to £139 2s. 5d. [Ibid. 22nd Jan., 1783.]

Five years later Campbell of Clathic had become preceptor, and he set himself to discover items of revenue which had been allowed to lapse. He found, for instance, that a hundred years previously, in 1686, in purchasing from Robert Rae three acres of Kinclaith, one of the most ancient possessions of the Glasgow bishopric, to add to the New Green, the Town Council had taken the ground burdened with a payment of three bolls of bear annually to the hospital. The payment had not been made since 1748, and its accumulated total now amounted to £80 15s. 2d. sterling. [Ibid. 26th Nov., 1788.] Campbell next proceeded to turn the derelict properties of the hospital into real revenue. All the buildings except the chapel were ruinous, and, on the plea that the Town Council would probably require the ground for the making of a street, he induced the city fathers to take it over at an annual ground rent of £5 sterling. [Burgh Records, 10th Dec.,1788; 20th Aug., 1789. In 1808, when St. Nicholas Chapel had also become ruinous, the town took it over, the ground rent was cancelled, and the Town Council granted the hospital a bond of annuity for 5 yearly payable for all time.—Burgh Records, 13th Feb., 1807; ix, pp. 558, 705.] Finally, discovering that considerable doubt existed regarding the patronage of the hospital, whether it belonged to the Town Council or the Crown, he induced the magistrates to apply to the Court of Exchequer for a gift of that patronage. [Ibid. 16th May, 1791; 23rd June, 1794.] As no copy of Bishop Muirhead's original deed of mortification, founding the hospital, could be produced the application lapsed, but in the search upwards of fifty seisins were discovered granted upon charters by early preceptors of the hospital, many of them of subjects not included in the existing rent-roll. [Ibid. 5th May, 1796.] Evidently there had been serious carelessness in the management of the hospital's affairs in former times; but Campbell of Clathic brought the subject into the limelight, and this oldest existing Glasgow charity, sadly dilapidated though it is, remains solidly indebted to him for the stoppage of its decay. [St. Nicholas Hospital has been the subject of reports to the Town Council by James Reddie in 1844, by John Strang, LL.D. in 1861, and by James D. Marwick in 1881. Of these the fullest is that on "Bursaries, Schools, Mortifications, and Bequests," by Dr. Strang. Till the Revolution of 1688 the duties of Magister or Preceptor appear to have been discharged by the Archbishop. Following that event the Lords of the Treasury and Exchequer appointed a preceptor. In 1716, however, they ordered that the magistrates of the city should do what the preceptor used to do, till further directions were issued. On the strength of this order, since then the Town Council has appointed a preceptor to manage the affairs of the hospital. Since 1844 the Magister or Preceptor has been the Lord Provost during his term of office. In 1919 Dr. William Gemmell bequeathed £loo to what he termed "the most ancient existing Hospital, the poorest, the most neglected, the veritable Cinderella of hospitals in Glasgow." The hospital has now a capital of L1277 and an annual income of £79 17s. 2d., out of which 27 pensioners receive £3 each per annum.]

In the time of Campbell of Clathic two innovations were made which, seemingly trivial enough, must have altered considerably the conditions of life in Glasgow. The appearance of the first umbrella was one of these. That ingenious contrivance was brought from Paris in 1782 by a Glasgow surgeon, John Jameson. It was made of yellow or green glazed linen, with a ring at the top by which it could be hung on a peg, and was large enough to shelter a small family group. [Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 155.] But it made a signal difference in the possibilities of passing through the streets in wet weather, and must have been welcomed hardly less by the city magnates who wished to preserve the powder in their perukes than by the dames fearful for the stiffening in their muslins and calicoes.

The second innovation arrived six years later, when a committee of magistrates, following the example of Edinburgh, proceeded to appoint a body of caddies, to assist in watching and patrolling the streets in the night time and lighting strangers home in the dark. In the upshot a seal of cause was granted to a company of "Running Stationers or Cadies," who were to serve the public by going messages, by hiring as servants, by assisting at balls, dinners, suppers, and public entertainments, and in other ways. The number of acting caddies was limited to twenty, and each had to find security to the amount of £50 for his honesty and compliance with the rules. The caddies were made a regular corporation, with office-bearers and a common fund. They were to wear a badge, ply for hire opposite the Exchange, and carry a lighted lantern after sunset. Two of them were to patrol the city during the night, by way of help to the police. Their charge was to be one penny for carrying a message any distance under a mile, or two shillings for a day of twelve hours. [Burgh Records, 29th Dec., 1788; 30th Dec., 1789.] The institution of this highly useful body of men was probably felt to offer as great additional facilities to business communications in the end of the eighteenth century, as the installation of the telephone did a hundred years later. Neither these caddies, however, nor the small body of police, and the night-guard of citizens, already mentioned, which were appointed about the same time, appear to have been able to prevent an alarming occurrence which took place shortly afterwards in the heart of the city.

On the night of 15th February, 1793, the citizens' night watch, which used the session house of the Tron Church as its guard room, made its usual rendezvous there. At three o'clock in the morning it departed on its rounds, leaving a fire burning, but no one in charge. By evil chance, in the absence of the guard, there happened to come along certain members of a society, students of the works of Tom Paine, who called themselves the Hell-fire Club. Somewhat elevated with their evening's refreshment, they invaded the session-house, and by way of testing their qualifications for residence at the club's headquarters, proceeded to heap fuel on the fire, and even went so far as to wrench away some of the timbers of the session-house, and place them on the burning mass. Soon the session-house itself caught the flames, and before seven in the morning both it and the church were a mass of ruins. Only the steeple, built in 1637, escaped the conflagration, and still stands forth on the pavement of the Trongate.

A serious part of the loss was the damage to the records of the Glasgow Presbytery and General Session, which used the Tron session-house as their meeting place. The burning of the church itself was not so great a loss, as the building had become dilapidated, and the Town Council were just then debating the taking of it down. A new church was built on the site in the following year, to the design of James Adam, one of the famous brothers, and the life currents of the Trongate and the city flowed on steadily, as before. [Glasgow Courier, Feb. 16th and 19th, 1793; Burgh Records, 28th Jan., 27th Feb., 14th March, 25th March, 1793; 4th March, 1794. As late as 1832 Glasgow Presbytery appealed to the Town Council for pecuniary assistance towards the transcription of its records, which by their exposure to the fire were in danger of becoming completely illegible.—Ibid. 3oth Nov., 1832. Extracts of these records, from 1592-1601, are printed in the Miscellany of the Maitland Club, vol. i. pp. 51-96.]

It is of interest to note that, in the building of the new Tron Church, the Town Council departed from its previous practice of employing the workmen directly. This had been the plan followed in the erection of St. Andrew's Church and St. Enoch's Church. In the case of St. Andrew's Church the workmen's demands and payments went on for sixteen years, and formed a serious drain on the resources of the city. Later experiences of similar sort appear to have incited the Town Council to seek a different plan. In 1791, the committee appointed to examine tradesmen's accounts recommended that the whole of the town's works should be done by contract. With this the Council agreed, and ordained that in future all works of importance should be done in this way. [Burgh Records, 29th Sept., 1791.] Following this rule, for the rebuilding of the Tron Church, the Town Council made contracts with a mason and a wright, and arranged for definite sums to be paid at certain stages of the building. Under this arrangement the work was finished and the keys handed over in some eight months' time. [Ibid. 4th March, 1794.]

The same plan was adopted in another important undertaking of that year. Following the partition of the Gorbals estate among its three bodies of owners a demand had arisen for better means of reaching and developing that region. A new bridge over the Clyde was demanded, to carry passengers directly across the river from the foot of the Saltmarket. The patrons of Hutchesons' Hospital and Robert Houston Rae, the proprietor of large interests in Little Govan and its coalfields, subscribed handsomely to the project. An Act of Parliament was accordingly obtained, [The Town Council now constantly followed the plan of applying to Parliament for powers to carry out enterprises of any importance. The same Act which sanctioned the Saltmarket Bridge authorized the rebuilding of the Tron Church.—Burgh Records, 3rd Jan., 1794.] and contracts were signed for the erection of the bridge at a cost of £3300. [Burgh Records, 11th May, 1794.] In this case the city enjoyed an additional advantage from its adoption of the plan of building by contract. The builders undertook to complete the work by Martinmas, 1796. Before that date, however, a disaster occurred. In the great flood of 18th November, 1795, which has been already mentioned, the bridge, then nearly finished, was thrown down, carrying with it a breastwork on the river bank which the contractors had undertaken to maintain for seven years. [Ibid. 10th Dec., 1795.] Had the work been carried out by the Town Council directly the loss would have fallen entirely on the citizens. As it was, after some bargaining, the contractors offered to repay all the money which had been advanced to them, and to remove all the stones and other material from the bed of the river, on condition that they be allowed to cancel their undertaking. To this the Town Council agreed. The only inconvenience suffered by the citizens was the absence of a viaduct over the river at the spot for several years, till a wooden footbridge was erected by the feuars of Hutchesontown
in 1804. [Ibid. 1st April, 1803; 5th Sept., 1804. Further up the river a passage was afforded by Rutherglen Bridge, built in 1775 at a cost of £1800. It was the erection of this bridge which changed the name of "Barrowfield" to "Bridgeton."]


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