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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XLVII - Dr. James Cleland and Sir John Moore


DURING those years of the Napoleonic War the population of Glasgow continued to increase rapidly. From 66,578 in 1791 it rose to 83,769 in 1801, the increase being more than the entire number of inhabitants in 1740, when the population numbered 17,043. By 1811 it had risen still more rapidly to 110,460.

Nor were the developments of the community in other directions checked. In 1804 its benevolence was directed to the sad condition of those mentally deranged. Till then these unfortunates, when paupers, had been confined in cells at the rear of the town's hospital or poorhouse, looking out on Rope-work Lane, while those in better circumstances were relegated to private asylums, the possible abuses of which were to be pictured at a later day in such writings as the novel of "Valentine Vox." The citizens of Glasgow were much ahead of their time in projecting an asylum under responsible and enlightened management, and in 1806 the Town Council granted a seal of cause to the managers of the institution, which at the present hour carries on its beneficent work as the Royal Glasgow Asylum at Gartnavel. [Burgh Records, 28th Dec., 1804; 26th May, 1806. The principal promoter of the asylum was Robert McNair of Belvidere.]

Though the ancient public "meithing" or riding of the marches had been stopped on account of the rabble and abuses which attended it, the magistrates found time to perambulate the boundaries of the royalty to make sure that these were not infringed upon, a precaution which, as the facts shewed, was not without reason. [Ibid. 2nd Aug., 1805.]

For the third time, by way of ease to the public in the upper part of the town, the Town Council attacked that famous feature of the city, the "Bell o' the Brae," at the upper part of High Street, and lowered it still further. [Ibid. 20th Aug., 1805. This, however, was not the final alteration of the ancient landmark. In the course of the work of the City Improvement Trust in the latter part of the century, when the picturesque but insanitary old closes and houses of the region were swept away, a still further lowering of the thoroughfare took place. In early times the Bell o' the Brae must have been a really considerable eminence, entirely preventing a view of High Street from the Bishop's Castle, and rendering highly feasible an exploit such as that attributed to Sir William Wallace in the thirteenth century. This fact seems hitherto to have entirely escaped the notice of historians.]

The city fathers also continued to provide generously for the wives and children of the Glasgow men who were fighting the country's battles; [Ibid. 23rd May, 1805 and onward.] and when news of Lord Nelson's great victory over the French and Spanish fleets at Trafalgar reached this country, the magistrates and Town Council joined the pagan of national rejoicing over that immortal achievement by writing a letter of congratulation to the king, and the citizens rose promptly to the occasion by erecting a monument to the fallen admiral on Glasgow Green. [Ibid. 23rd Nov., 1805; 26th May, 1806. On Sunday, 5th August, 1810, during one of the most terrific thunderstorms which ever broke over GIasgow, Nelson's Monument was struck by lightning and rent nearly from top to bottom.—Scots Magazine, 1810, p. 633.]

The business and amusements of the citizens, however, went on. When the news of Trafalgar arrived there was pending before the Town Council a request for the use of a vacant piece of ground next the Theatre in Queen Street for a temporary circus, and the Council agreed to the request, though the projectors of the circus did not proceed with their enterprise [Ibid. 27th Dec., 1805; 27th Jan., 1806.] More important was the building of another church, the eighth under the patronage of the Town Council. Once again the Wynd Church, in the crowded region south of Trongate, was becoming dilapidated. Fifty years earlier St. Andrew's Church had been built to take its place. But the Wynd Church remained. Its minister was the redoubtable Dr. Porteous, "for forty years the great clerical leader of the west," and the building was no longer large enough to contain those who wished to attend his services. The Town Council therefore proceeded to build St. George's Church. The site first proposed was at St. Vincent Street, but Camperdown Place, now West George Street, was finally fixed upon, and the building was thus made to close another fine city vista, westward from George Square.

The erection of this church brought into public notice a personage who was to be one of the most outstanding figures in the life of Glasgow during the next thirty years. The whole work of superintending the building was undertaken "in the most handsome manner," free of charge, by Bailie James Cleland, who himself laid the foundation stone. The work was expeditiously carried out, and in recognition of his services the Town Council presented Cleland with a piece of plate. [Burgh Records, 8th Aug., 26th Aug., 1806 ; 23rd April, 1807; 22nd Sept., 5th Nov., 1808.] This was the first of many important services done for the City by James Cleland, who is best remembered to-day by the "Annals of Glasgow," in two volumes, which he wrote for behoof of the funds of the Royal Infirmary in 1816. The annalist was a wright and builder, and it was upon his plans that the new Grammar or High School was erected between upper Montrose Street and John Street in 1807. [Ibid. 21st Oct., 1807. ] Seven years later he purchased the tolbooth at the foot of High Street, excepting the beautiful old steeple, and erected a handsome building on the site. [Ibid. 4th Feb., 1814.] In view of his shrewdness and services a new office was created for him, and he was made Superintendent of Works. [Ibid. 4th Feb., 6th Sept., 1814.] So well pleased was the Town Council with his labours that a year after his appointment it raised his salary from £200 to £500. [Ibid. 25th July, 1815.] This was the beginning of a highly interesting and useful public career. During the times of hardship which culminated in the "Radical Risings" in 1819 and 1820 he directed the labours of the weavers and other unemployed in the work which was found for them in improving Glasgow Green, a service for which the Town Council made him a complimentary gift of £50. [Ibid. 2nd May, 1820; 10th Feb., 1821.] This work was in compliance with "A Description of the Manner of improving the Green of Glasgow" which he had drawn up and printed seven years earlier. It included the making of sewers and a parapet wall in front of Monteith Row, the covering in of the Camlachie Burn, and the draining and levelling of the Calton Green and part of the High Green, resulting in the addition of several acres of grass land to the city's public park. [Ibid. 16th Jan., 1821. The most complete account of the Green and its history is that furnished by Cleland in his Annals of Glasgow, ii. 457, reproduced verbatim, with additions, by Senex in Old Glasgow and its Environs, p. 56.] Cleland also carried out a census of the population of Glasgow and its suburbs, printed in 1820, which contained several new features, and earned the high commendation of the Town Council. [Ibid. 29th May, 1820.] Three years later a special vote of thanks was recorded for his erudite and successful labour in adjusting the different weights and measures used in the city, and for the ability and accuracy of his historical treatise on the subject. [Ibid. 4th Feb., 1823.] Following this achievement his salary was spontaneously raised by £100, and two years later, when he had superintended the rebuilding of the Ramshorn Church, he was awarded a special gift of a hundred guineas, and had his salary increased by another £150. [Burgh Records, 13th Oct., 1824; 27th Jan., 14th Feb., 17th Aug., 1826.]

One of Cleland's numerous suggestions for the improvement of the city, which was not carried out, would have made a curious difference in the appearance of Glasgow to-day. St. George's Church, the building of which had been superintended by himself, had certain architectural shortcomings. The four large statues with which Stark, the designer, had proposed to ornament the tower, had proved too expensive, and had been replaced by four much less effective stone pinnacles. Also, while the front towards Buchanan Street was dignified enough, the rear was barnlike and commonplace. It was probably in view of these facts that Cleland made his suggestion. In a letter to the Lord Provost in 1829 he proposed that St. George's Church should be converted into Council Chambers, with Guild Hall, Court Hall, and Committee rooms, and that the congregation should be removed to a new church in Nile Street, facing the end of Regent Street. By selling the crypt and surrounding ground for burying-places, the cost of the two buildings would, he estimated, be reduced to £3000. [Frazer, The Making of Buchanan Street, P. 66. Cleland's proposal was strongly opposed by a committee of citizens, who feared that the removal of the Council Chambers westward would depreciate the value of property east of the Cross.—Burgh Records, 31st March, 1829.]

This was one of the very few of Cleland's schemes which definitely missed fire. [Another was his suggestion in 1813 for raising a sum of 30,000 by taxation for the building and endowment of two new churches in the city, and the increase of all the city ministers' stipends by £100. He calculated the rental of the city at that time to be not less than £200,000.—Burgh Records, 16th Sept., 7th Dec., 1813. Still another of Cleland's suggestions which was not accepted was to roof over the burying-ground round the Ramshorn Church and use the space thus provided above the arches as a market. The burying-ground would then have become a sort of crypt.—Glasgow and its Clubs, p. 544.] It has been stated, no doubt with justice, that "no one man in Glasgow ever had to do with the getting up of so many churches, monuments, and public works of all kinds." As late as the year 1837 he was chairman of the committee which organized the great dinner to Sir Robert Peel, and erected for the purpose the famous Peel Pavilion in the orchard behind the house of Gordon of Aikenhead in Buchanan Street, which is now Princes Square. [The Making of Buchanan Street, p. 74.] He was the author also of many treatises on public matters which were notable for their accuracy and practical utility. Of these Dr. Dibdin, the celebrated bibliographer, wrote "I hold in my hand the accurate and triumphant folio volume of the great statist of the north, Dr. James Cleland, by which we are carefully initiated into all the mysteries of commerce and mazes of prosperity."

From his letters recorded in the town's minutes, Cleland appears to have had a personality of much modesty, graciousness, and tact, and from first to last the Council held him in the highest regard. He was held in similar regard by the authorities of the University, who conferred on him the degree of LL.D. When he retired from the office of Superintendent of Works in 1834 a meeting of the most prominent citizens was held in the Black Bull Hotel, a subscription of £4603 6s. was raised, and a building known as the "Cleland Testimonial," erected with it at the south-east corner of Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street, was presented to him as a token of public esteem. [Ibid. p. 75.]

While Cleland was still at the beginning of his career of public utility, two proposals were made which for a considerable time failed to secure accomplishment. One of these was the making of a wet dock at the Broomielaw to provide accommodation for the increasing number of vessels coming up the river. The original proposal was to make the dock on the north side of the harbour, and apparently the plan was to enclose part of the river for the purpose. The suggestion however, was opposed by the owners of houses in the low-lying parts of the town above the bridge, who feared that the obstruction would bring about the flooding of their property in times of spate. [Burgh Records, 13th Feb., 19th March, 15th April, 1807.] In 1819, partly by way of relieving the serious unemployment and discontent of that time, the Government agreed to lend £30,000 for the making of the dock, and Telford, the celebrated engineer, was employed to make a plan. [Ibid. 27th Dec., 1819; 22nd Aug., 29th Dec., 1820.] In 1832 the project was removed to the south side of the river, and the Town Council, for £7370, sold to the Clyde Trustees part of the Windmillcroft opposite the Broomielaw [Ibid. vol. xi., p. 683.]; but it was not till 1867 that the Kingston Dock, Glasgow's first artificial harbour basin on the Clyde, was actually opened. [Merwick, The River Clyde, p. 206 note.]

Of more ambitious scope was the next proposal of CleIand's time, which was still longer in attaining fulfilment. Glasgow was then supplying large numbers of recruits for the army, while its proportion of militia was greater than that of all the rest of Lanarkshire, and considerable difficulty arose from the fact that the whole management of these Crown matters was centred in the headquarters of the Lord Lieutenant of the county at Hamilton or Lanark. In the absence of the Marquess of Douglas, who was Lord Lieutenant, the magistrates approached the vice-lieutenant, Lord Belhaven, with the suggestion that the Lord Provost might be made, ex officio, a deputy-lieutenant. The suggestion, however, met with a rather definite snub. The Town Council then sent a letter to the Lord Advocate, to be laid before the Ministers of the Crown, asking that the city should be disjoined from the county of Lanark, and made a separate district, with a Lord Lieutenant of its own. The reply of Lord Melville, then all powerful in Scottish affairs, for the Government, was that a Lord Lieutenant could not be appointed till the city was made a county in itself. [Burgh Records, 19th Dec., 1806; 21st Oct., 28th Oct., 1807; 28th March, 1808.] Thus the matter stood for something like a hundred years, till the city was made a separate county, with the Lord Provost as its Lord Lieutenant, in 1893.

Though these important projects were seriously delayed at the time, they were significant as proofs that the city was instinct with energy and alive with the spirit of progress. The narrower burghal ideas of previous centuries, it is true, had not yet all passed away. In 1808, for example, the Lord Provost was thanked for his zeal, when Dean of Guild, in the previous year, in compelling large numbers of unfreemen carrying on trade in the city to become burgesses. But the fact that the fees collected on the occasion amounted to £1200 shows that the old rule was breaking down, and that more and more strangers were settling in the city to contribute to its productiveness. [Ibid. 20th Oct., 1808.]

Glasgow was shewing its spirit in military efforts not less than in industry. When Lord Macleod, eldest son of the Earl of Cromarty attainted for his part in "the '45," was in 1777 raising the first battalion Macleod's Highlanders, he was joined at Elgin by 236 Lowlanders and 34 English and Irish recruits, enrolled in Glasgow. In consequence of his distinguished service with that battalion, Lord Macleod had the forfeited Cromarty estates restored to him In 1786 the regiment took the name of the 71st. In 1804, when a second battalion was embodied at Dunbarton, the recruiting was carried on so successfully in Glasgow that the regiment got the name of "The Glasgow Highland Light Infantry," and four years later the name was approved by King George III. The fact that Lord Macleod's family name was Mackenzie accounts for the tartan still worn by this famous Glasgow regiment. [Adam, Clans, Sepls, and Regiments of the Scottish Highlands, p. 297.]

In 1808 the city also offered to raise another regiment, but Lord Castlereagh declined to sanction the raising of a new corps while the existing forces remained below their appointed strength. [Burgh Records, 4th March, 1808.]

At the same time Glasgow was not slow to do honour to the military heroes of the hour. It conferred its honorary burgess-ship on Viscount Cathcart and Admiral Hood,  [Ibid. 2nd Dec., 1808.] and, two months later, on receiving news of the death of Sir John Moore in the hour of victory at Corunna, it at once took measures to raise a monument to his memory, the Town Council opening the subscription with £100. [Ibid. 7th Feb., 1809.]

That famous native of Glasgow, son of Dr. John Moore, the author of "Zeluco" and friend of Robert Burns, shares with Colin McLiver or Campbell, Lord Clyde, the honour of being Glasgow's most illustrious soldier son. As a British general in the Napoleonic wars, his achievement ranks second only to that of the Duke of Wellington, but lie had the fate of nearly every leader who makes the first essay in a campaign for this country, of being inadequately supplied with men and means. [Another notable Glasgow soldier of the same period was Major-General Sir Thomas Monroe. Of him George Canning said, "Europe never produced a more accomplished statesman, nor India, so fertile in heroes, a more skilful soldier." Born in 1761, Monroe was the son of a substantial merchant who resided in the Stockwellgate. After three years at Glasgow University he went to India at the age of eighteen, as an infantry cadet. He served in the war against Hyder Ali, acted as secretary in the administration of Mysore, and formed a lasting friendship with Colonel Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington. He greatly distinguished himself in organizing and developing Indian administration. After the second Mahratta war, in which he served as a brigadier-general, he was made a K.C.B., and appointed Governor of Madras, and for his services in the first Burmah war he received a baronetcy. He was making a farewell tour of the ceded territories when he died of cholera in 1827.]

In the hour when Sir John Moore fell at the battle of Corunna the fortunes of Britain in her war with Napoleon on the continent of Europe were at their lowest. The French despot was master of all that continent, and had placed his brothers on four of its thrones. When Spain rose against the usurpation of its crown the British minister Canning had poured supplies into that country, and sent Moore with his small army to its help. But Napoleon asserted his power by marching upon Madrid with two hundred thousand men, and the defeat of the Spanish forces on the Ebro, and the retreat and death of Moore, seemed to end the campaign. Following that event the second Earl of Chatham had lost a British army in the marches of Walcheren, Napoleon had crushed an Austrian effort at the battle of Wagram, and Wellesley, who had taken up the forlorn hope in Spain, after winning one desperate battle and a peerage at Talavera, had been forced by Marshal Soult to retire on Badajos. In view of these reverses something like a panic seized London, where a petition was signed for the withdrawal of the British forces from the Peninsula. [Green, Short History, p. 825.]

It is of interest to find that, in that trying time, the spirit of Glasgow remained undaunted. Nothing could better shew this to be the case than the account of the proceedings in the northern city on the occasion of its celebration of the jubilee of King George III. The date was the 25th of October, 1809, and in describing what took place the records of the Town Council furnish a vivid picture.

"This being the day,"runs that account," on which our gracious Sovereign entered into the both year of his reign, the same was celebrated in the city of Glasgow with every demonstration of affection and joy. At 8 o'clock in the morning the great bells of the city commenced ringing, and continued till ten. At half-past ten the lord provost, magistrates, and council, with the ministers of the city in their gowns and bands, the lord dean of guild and members of the Merchants House, the deacon-convener and members of the Trades House, the lord rector of the University of Glasgow and the principal and professors in their gowns, the officers of the 1st, 4th, 5th and 6th Royal Lanarkshire local militia, assembled in the town hall, and went in grand procession to Saint George's Church, where an excellent sermon was preached by the Rev. Dr. Porteous from Chronicles c. xxix. v. 20: 'And David said unto all the congregation, "Now bless the Lord your God." And all the congregation blessed the Lord God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the Lord and the King.' After the service an appropriate hymn was sung by the band, and the King's anthem in full chorus. The procession then returned in the same order to the town hall. The streets were lined by the permanent staff of the before-mentioned regiments of local militia. From 12 till 2 appropriate tunes were played on the music bells. At 6 the magistrates gave a grand entertainment in the town hall, which was numerously attended, enthusiasm and joy beaming in every countenance. After a short address by the lord provost, admirably suited to the occasion, many loyal and constitutional toasts given by his lordship were drunk with the most rapturous applause, the band of the Stirlingshire Militia playing appropriate tunes." [Burgh Records, 25th Oct., 1809. More than once, at that period, Glasgow Town Council celebrated some notable event with a procession. At the laying of the foundation stone of St. George's Church in 1807, the city fathers, with the ministers and representatives of other public bodies, walked in procession from the Council Chambers to the spot, and in i8io the magistrates and council walked in procession to the Low Green, where the Lord Provost laid the foundation stone of the new court house, public offices, and jail at the foot of Saltmarket.—Ibid. 3rd June, 1807; 18th Sept., 1810.]


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