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Glasgow Herald
Fifty Years of Newspaper Life 1845 - 1895 By Alexander Sinclair


Alexander Sinclair Glasgow Herald Building

ALEXANDER SINCLAIR

From:- 'Who's Who in Glasgow in 1909'

Alexander Sinclair, the late managing partner of the Glasgow Herald was born in 1828 at Campbeltown, and was educated there and in Glasgow, whither he came in 1843. His business connection with the Herald began in 1845 by his answering an advertisement for a boy. He was the first boy clerk the company employed, and he rose by successive stages in the office from keeper of the petty cash to the positions of cashier, manager of the commercial and publishing departments, and finally managing partner.

During the fifty-three years in which he served the company vast changes took place. Five successive gentlemen occupied the editorial chair - George Outram, James Pagan, William Jack, LL.D., James H. Stoddart, LL.D., and Charles Russell, LL.D. In 1845 the Herald had one printing press, wrought by two men, turning out 400 copies per hour; now it has nine presses driven by electric motors, one of which alone can print, fold, and deliver 1,000 complete Heralds in six minutes, and the paper printed off for a morning issue runs to the extent of 126 miles. In 1845 the electric telegraph was unknown for newspaper purposes - the first two or three lines of telegraphed news appeared in 1848; but in August, 1904, the judgment and speeches of the Law Lords in the Free Church appeal case, extending to 23 columns, or about 45,000 words, came over the wires as a single telegram. In 1845 the "taxes on knowledge" still existed - a penny stamp on every printed copy sold or unsold, three halfpence per pound on every kind of paper, and eighteenpence on every advertisement. To-day, thanks to the legislation of 1853, 1855, and 1861, the entire industry is duty free. In 1845 a copy of the Herald cost 4d.; it was reduced to 1d. and the issue made daily in 1859. Latest of all the improvements under Mr. Sinclair, the Linotype composing machine has been introduced, by which the operator fingering a keyboard can set, cast, and deliver in lines upwards of seven thousand letters per hour.

The City of Glasgow itself has changed not less in Mr. Sinclair's time. When he came to town the entire space from Blythswood Hill to Argyle Street was laid out in corn fields, and Sauchiehall Street, from Douglas Street to Sandyford, was a somewhat marshy lane with a decayed dyke on the south side. To the architectural changes which have taken place Mr. Sinclair has contributed his part, for one of his last undertakings in the active management of the Glasgow Herald was the erection of the great new offices which form one of the most striking features of Buchanan and Mitchell Streets.

On the completion of his fifty years' connection with the paper his co-partners presented him with his portrait by Sir James Guthrie, now P.R.S.A. (reproduced here), and all the employees combined to present him with a hall clock with chimes and bells.

As with the Herald connection, Mr. Sinclair's more public career was begun in a small way. When he went to live at Langside about 1870 the roads of the district were almost impassable, Battlefield being a mere narrow watercourse in much the same state as at the time of Queen Mary's overthrow. He took an interest in these roads, and improved them with ashes from the Herald furnace. Presently he was made a Road Trustee, afterwards a County Councillor for Renfrewshire, and when Langside was absorbed by the city he became representative for that ward. Lastly, on the reconstituting of the whole Town Council in 1898, by the rearranging of the twenty-five wards, he was elected third senior Magistrate of Glasgow. It was upon his motion that in 1894 Camphill estate and mansion were purchased by the Corporation from Hutchesons' Hospital for 63,000 and added to the Queen's Park. He also took the initiative, as treasurer, along with Mr. A. M. Scott as secretary, and Mr. Wylie Guild as convener, in the setting up of the Battle Monument at Langside. And he was one of the founders of Camphill U.P. Church. In recognition of his practical interest in the district the committee of the Corporation gave his name to the road running from Battlefield to the River Cart - which is now Sinclair Drive.

Mr. Sinclair has travelled a good deal abroad, his latest and fourth ocean excursion being one to Valparaiso, to visit his youngest son in business there.  He is the author also of a highly interesting volume, "Fifty Years of Newspaper Life," printed for private circulation in 1895.

Contents

Note: The Chapters below are to pdf files.



James Pagan (1811-1870)
Editor of the Glasgow Herald.

James Pagan

MR. JAMES PAGAN was for nearly thirty years a prominent figure on the "Glasgow Herald." He was for nearly sixteen years reporter and sub-editor, and for the last fourteen years of his life editor and managing proprietor. Mr. Pagan was born in 1811, at Trailflat, in the parish of Tinwald (about ten miles from Dumfries), where his father was engaged as a bleacher. The family left Tinwald for the county town a few years after Mr. Pagan's birth. He received a sound education in the Academy there, getting as much Latin as served with his retentive memory to cap a quotation not infelicitously. He was subsequently apprenticed as a compositor in the office of the "Dumfries Courier," then owned and edited by Mr. John McDiarmid, in his time one of the best known editors in Scotland. McDiarmid, of whom Mr. Pagan used to tell numerous stories, was a man of culture, of enlightened views, based upon a substructure of strong common sense and Scotch humour. After serving his apprenticeship as a compositor, Mr. Pagan became a reporter on the "Dumfries Courier." In those early years of the Scottish press the passport to the reporter's note-book was through the case-room. The late Mr. Russel of the "Scotsman," who was an early reporting associate of Mr. Pagan, also served his time as a compositor. As a reporter he had to do all sorts of literary work for his newspaper, and Mr. Pagan, having a clear and penetrating mind, with considerable power of expression, soon made his mark upon the "Courier." I have often heard him describe, as if it had only occurred the day before, the exhumation of the body of Robert Burns in St. Michael's Kirkyard, Dumfries, when Burns' widow, Jean Armour, was buried. A host of phrenologists, headed I think by Mr. George Combe - phrenology was then in its believable period - had assembled at midnight to take a cast from the skull of Scotland's greatest poet. Mr. Pagan was present to describe the proceedings for the "Dumfries Courier" - an admirably graphic account by the way - and he used to tell with reverential awe how he had held for a moment the skull of Robert Burns in his hands.

With his proficiency as a short-hand and his skill as a descriptive writer, Dumfries soon became too narrow a sphere for Mr. Pagan's energies. His first ambition, however, was to start in business for himself - a mistake as it turned out - for his talent was that which the newspaper press most required. He was for a short time partner of a printing firm in London, which was not a success and he returned, as he would himself have said, "to his old tunes again." In 1839, in the same year, and we believe on the very week in which Samuel Hunter died, Mr. Pagan joined the staff of the "Glasgow Herald," then published twice a week, on Mondays and Fridays. It is needless to say that he threw all his energies into the service of the journal upon which he was engaged. One of his first bits of newspaper reporting, which attracted much attention, was his description of the famous Eglinton Tournament, which took place amid torrents of rain at Eglinton Castle. Pagan, in fact, was the first in Scotland who really understood that the public wanted something more and better than the bald and brief notices which then appeared of public events.

He gave new significance and freshness to Town Council and other meetings in Glasgow and in the West of Scotland; and even the General Assembly, at that time distracted by the non-intrusion controversy that led to the Disruption, was, in its proceedings, brought graphically before the readers of the "Herald." Looking at the side of the scenes, with the keen eye of the professional newspaper describer, he saw what the public did not see, and what he could not always describe as he saw it; but the discussions of those days left a strong impression on his mind, and I have often heard him describe them, with the side lights which his retentive memory was able to throw upon the singular scenes that preceded the Disruption. Mr. Pagan had not long been settled in Glasgow, and done good work for the "Herald," till his high qualifications as a reporter and descriptive writer, naturally enough, became widely known. He was offered the chief place as reporter for the "Times," and with perhaps some reluctance refused it, but he remained till his death the most trusted correspondent of the leading journal in Great Britain. His well known works, "Sketches of the History of Glasgow" and "Glasgow Past and Present," were really the fruit of his enterprise as a newspaper reporter. The "Sketches of the History of Glasgow" originated in some slight descriptions of lithographic views published by Messrs. R. Stewart & Co. in 1847; and his "Glasgow Past and Present" was the outcome of his report of the proceeding, of the Glasgow Dean of Guild Court, when, warned by the fall of a sugar-house in Alston Street in 1848, by which several persons lost their lives, the authorities thought it right to inspect the condition of the many old buildings then remaining in Glasgow. Mr. Pagan was the chronicler of their investigations, and as he added original research to his descriptive reports, the matter grew rapidly on his hands. Learned correspondents assisted him greatly with their extensive knowledge of Old Glasgow, and among these may be mentioned as facile princeps Mr. Reid, or "Old Senex," as he was tautologically called, Dr. Mathie Hamilton, a personal friend of the late Pope Pius IX., who wrote under the signature of "Aliquis," and J. B., who was afterwards well known as John Buchanan, LL.D., a plodding and really well-informed archaeologist. Mr. Pagan also wrote a "Guide to the Glasgow Cathedral," a model of what a guide ought to be.

In 1841, two years after Mr. Pagan joined the staff of the "Glasgow Herald," he married Miss Ann McNight-Kerr, a native of Dumfries, and a relative of Mr. McDiarmid of the "Dumfries Courier." Miss Kerr had long been a personal friend of Burns's widow, Jean Armour, to whom she was in the habit of ministering till her death, and of whom she related many anecdotes, greatly to the credit of Mrs. Burns's strong common sense and kindliness of disposition. Mr. Pagan himself was a relative of Allan Cunningham, though "honest Allan" was rather before his day, but to the last he kept up some correspondence with Peter Cunningham, a clever litterateur, but hardly a successor to his father. At the time of his marriage Mr. Pagan had become tolerably well known among the wits and geniuses of the Glasgow Bohemia - Motherwell, Sandy Rodgers, Peter McKenzie, and others. Sandy celebrated Mr. Pagan's singularly happy marriage by a copy of verses which has only appeared, we believe, in a privately printed "In Memoriam."(1)

In 1856, when Mr. George Outram died, Mr. Pagan was appointed his successor as the editor of the "Glasgow Herald." He had practically assumed the duties some time before in consequence of the failing health of his chief, the sprightly laureate of the Scottish Bar. At that time the "Herald" was a tri-weekly paper, but Mr. Pagan was not long firmly established in the editorial chair when the abolition of the last of the taxes upon knowledge determined the proprietors of all the principal journals in Scotland to reconsider their position. Some time before the newspaper penny stamp was taken off, several new penny daily papers had appeared in Scotland in defiance of the law, and when the tax actually ceased and made it possible for journals to appear daily at a penny, those which were spirited enough, not to be behind their times, had to bestir themselves. The proprietors of the "Herald," of whom Mr. Pagan was one at this time, rightly and promptly decided to "grasp the skirt of happy chance" in this case, fortunately almost a certainty, and they produced the paper daily at one penny. The productive power of the printing press had about that time been enormously increased by the ingenious invention of a New York firm, and with the aid of the new rotatory printing presses the "Herald" at its cheap price could be turned out to meet the greatly increased demand. Of course the task of editing a daily paper was a new experience to Mr. Pagan, an onerous and highly responsible one. The establishment of the paper as a first-class daily cost him years of hard, incessant and worrying work; but he had a genial temperament not too easily excited, and he was ready in invention, quick in suggestion, and unfailing in sagacity. He was hardly ever deceived by a sham, and he had the true instincts of the trained newspaper man, for newspaper work. It is enough to say that he succeeded thoroughly in establishing the "Glasgow Herald" as one of the first provincial daily papers, and when he died in 1870 at a comparatively early age - under sixty - his true work on the paper may be said to have been completed.

Of the man himself, as of every man, it is difficult to give a living picture. As many of the readers of this sketch know, he was a little man, scrupulously dressed, somewhat in the old fashion, scrupulously clean, with a fair, reddish face, light grey and scanty hair, mutton-chop whiskers, and the brightest of steel blue eyes, round and full. He was always cleanly shaved, and if a speck could be seen on his glancing shirt, be sure it was a speck of taddy from his snuff-box. He wore his old large watch in his fob, attached to a black silk ribbon, at which depended a large gold seal. There was a look of the old Glasgow gentleman about him quite unmistakable, but different from the Glasgow gentleman of his later days. The following slight sketch written immediately after his death may recall the successful editor and genial companion:-

"Mr. Pagan's social days were on the wane when I became acquainted with him, but I have often heard old friends talk of pleasant evenings spent in his company, when he was the first and the last with song, jest, and story. He heartily loved the old melodies, with which he had a most extensive acquaintance, and could render them with fine effect in a clear, sweet voice. When he died, the man who knew most of Burns died also. My knowledge of most of the unbiographical details of Burns's life, especially in Dumfries, was wholly derived from his great store. In capping a story he was inimitable. It hardly mattered what was the subject, there was sure to come ready at hand from his humorous wallet something so funny and so pat that the table was instantly in a roar. Latterly, however, it was only his intimate friends who had an opportunity of hearing and relishing these humorous sallies. He sang his friend Outram's songs with rare liveliness, and it was a treat to hear him in half recitative trill over the best Glasgow song ever written, 'Captain Paton.' And that reminds me that Mr. Pagan was one of the last in Glasgow who could mix a 'bowl of punch' as they mixed it long ago.

"Seated at the editorial table Mr. Pagan has often restored harmony when some little jar occurred, by a quaint story beginning 'That reminds me.' Friends who called on him for a minute's talk on business were sure to go sniggering away at some racy jest or story; and prosy bores, who, to use his own expression, 'exhausted time and encroached upon eternity,' with their long windedness, were deftly cut short and sent away smiling. I can see him in his sanctum, his grey hair, and clear, bright eyes, silver snuff-box in hand, ready for any kind of reception. The snuff-box was indispensable. It was always consulted with frequency and energy in every decision requiring careful consideration and wise decision. It was generally poised in his hand when he gave judgment, and its contents always used when he wished to give energy to his words. It served also as a sort of memorandum box, for amid the 'best brown taddy,' there were sure to be numerous little slips of paper with short-hand hieroglyphics upon them reminding him as he opened the box on arriving in the morning - the first thing he did - of some little business to be attended to, or of some good-humoured wigging to give to a subordinate."

Mr. Pagan was the third editor of the "Glasgow Herald," counting from the time when the paper emerged from the Saltmarket as the "Glasgow Advertiser," and became in 1802 the "Glasgow Herald and Advertiser." It says something for the stability of the editorial profession - if the phrase may be used - that during the 103 years that the newspaper has existed there have only been six editors, and when it is considered that the reign of one - and one of the ablest - only extended to five years, it may be granted that the seat of honour has been occupied on an average by each for a long period. The birth of the "Herald" or "Advertiser" is somewhat obscure.(2)

The "Advertiser" was started in 1782 by John Mennons, aided by his son Thomas Mennons, printers and publishers in the Saltmarket. Mr. Pagan used to say that, according to tradition, the rent of the entire premises was only five pounds yearly. The "Advertiser" began as a weekly evening newspaper, being issued on the afternoon of every Monday, and it was printed by one of the old wooden screw presses which had been in almost exclusive use at that time and from the days of Caxton. The fragments of this old press are still in existence. It was capable of producing one hundred complete copies in an hour.(3) In 1793 Mr. Mennons removed from the Saltmarket to a shop at the mouth of the Tontine Closs, the first shop west of the (then) Glasgow Exchange. The removal was signalized by the "Advertiser" becoming bi-weekly, Mondays and Fridays. Looking over what copies I have seen of the "Advertiser," all of them belonging to the nineties of the last century, it must be admitted that they afford curious and interesting studies. Editorial duties were certainly light in those days. There was no reporting - reporting would not have been tolerated.

Yet I can easily understand how this newspaper, so absolutely different from a newspaper of the present day, maintained its position, flourished, and got numerous advertisements. It was a newspaper without attempting to be a guide of public opinion. It sold news and nothing else. There were few methods in those days by which public opinion could be expressed in an independent manner by a newspaper. The official opinion was considered the only public opinion worth recording, and it was recorded in the briefest fashion.

The Mennons were the publishers and conductors of the "Advertiser," but there were other partners in the concern, as Mr. Pagan believed, though who these were is not now known.

In 1802 the "Advertiser" entered upon a new career. Dr. James McNayr was the printer and publisher, and new blood had been brought into the concern. Thomas Mennons still retained an interest, but there was a new copartnery, and the chief moneyed man was Mr. Benjamin Mathie, the uncle of the Dr. Mathie Hamilton, to whom reference has already been made. Dr. James McNayr had been for many years the principal conductor of the "Glasgow Courier," and his connection with the metamorphosed paper, the "Herald and Advertiser," lasted only two months. As he had evidently during that short time controlled the destinies of the paper, it may be fairly assumed that his exertions had not been appreciated, for on January 3rd, 1803, an announcement appeared to the effect that the proprietors, Messrs. Mathie & Mennons, had formed a connection with a gentleman of "considerable literary abilities," from whose exertions "they trust the public will receive satisfaction." Next week it was stated that the gentleman was "Mr. Samuel Hunter of this city." The connection of the Mennons with the "Herald and Advertiser" ceased in 1805, but it may be interesting to state that the man who started the "Advertiser" had enlarged views, and before he came to Glasgow had been concerned in literary work in Edinburgh, and had devoted his attention to the development of the coal and iron fields of Ayrshire. Others reaped advantages from his intelligence and foresight. Some members of the Mennons family are still living.

The appointment of Mr. Samuel Hunter as editor and chief proprietor of the "Herald and Advertiser" in 1803 marked a new era in its career. When Mennons finally retired in 1805 the title of the paper became, what since it has always been, the "Glasgow Herald," and thus two years after Mr. Hunter was installed he became universally known in Glasgow as Sam Hunter of the "Herald." Associated with Mr. Hunter as proprietor and literary assistant was Dr. William Dunlop. His father, Alexander Dunlop, was an eminent surgeon in Glasgow. His son William was an able man, and surgeon, but had no great love for his profession, and this probably is the reason that he drifted to Mr. Samuel Hunter.

Dr. Dunlop's health failed, and he died in the island of Tenerife in 1811.

Mr. Samuel Hunter, the real founder of the "Herald," was the son of the parish minister of Stoneykirk, Wigtownshire, and was born in the manse there in 1769. He was educated for the medical profession, and at the close of the century he served with the troops in Ireland as surgeon, and thus took part in the suppression of the rebellion of 1798. He became a magistrate of Glasgow, and colonel of the Glasgow Highland Volunteers. He was for many years one of the most popular men in Glasgow, perhaps the most popular, and people never tired of repeating his latest bon mot. His wit was infinite in its variety, and the stories told of him are endless, but many of them are so well known in Glasgow society that they need not be repeated here. Probably the wittiest and the most humorous of them could hardly be translated into modern English.

He was a tall, stout man, with commanding features, as his portrait by Macnee shows. To put it plainly, he was very fat, and I can never forget, as illustrative of the physical infirmities of the big man, Mr. Pagan's story of Hunter walking along the Trongate in a melting August day, puffing and whispering to himself, "I wish to heaven it was frost."

Mr. Hunter retired in 1837, and about two years afterwards died in the manse of his nephew, Dr. Campbell, minister of Kilwinning. He lies in the churchyard of the old abbey, a "throughstone" over his grave. As a convivialist and diner out he had no equal in Glasgow, and has had no successor. But his judgment was as good as his wit. It only once failed him, for it led him astray on the great Reform Bill of 1832. He opposed it, and nearly perilled the prosperity of his paper, but the bad time passed over and Mr. Hunter's popularity revived. Many years ago, when residing for a few holidays at Kilwinning, I almost daily visited the last resting-place of Sam Hunter. It lies in a kindly nook beneath the three lance windows that are nearly all the remains of the ancient abbey of Kilwinning. When seated on his "throughstone," many years ago, I remembered some lines that an admirer had written:-

"Fun ever still the banquet lit,
Where Sam was present guest or host,
And Glasgow lost its broadest wit
When Death took off his laughing ghost.
Alas! poor Yorick: few remain
Who now recall the jester's ways,
To whom his stories still retain
The flavour of his happiest days.
The jest is gone; the work is o'er,
Laborious work it lasteth yet,
And may for generations more
Forget the worker and the wit.
Sleep sweetly in this nook obscure,
A quiet nook wherein to stay,
Till the last summons finds thee sure,
And jest on lip thou goest away."

Mr. Hunter was succeeded as editor and as one of the proprietors of the "Herald" by Mr. George Outram, advocate, a humourist in some respects superior to his predecessor, though not with the same force of character. He edited the "Herald" from 1837 to 1856, a period of nineteen years, and it is sufficient evidence of his editorial qualities that the "Herald" greatly flourished under his reign. There is nothing particular, however, connected with the history of the newspaper which calls for special record during his occupancy of the editorial chair. Things went smoothly as he sat there, and perhaps the only notable event which may be recorded is that, though a Tory of the old school, he cordially and thoroughly adopted the principles of free trade as enunciated by Cobden and Bright. Hence in the struggle for the abolition of the Corn Laws the "Herald" was on the right side.

Mr. Outram's reputation, however, rests upon his humorous poems, embodied in the "Legal Lyrics," a little volume which is likely to live as long as Scottish wit and humour are understood and appreciated. Mr. Outram, who was a cousin of Sir James Outram, the Bayard of India, was a man of high culture, of loveable disposition, and the friend of nearly all who were in his day eminent at the Scottish Bar and on the Scottish Bench. His name is reverently remembered, and his songs are still joyously sung in lawyers' convivial feasts in Edinburgh. At his death, as I have already stated, Mr. Pagan took his place and held a firm grip over the "Herald" for fourteen years. After his death Mr. William Jack, the distinguished mathematician, succeeded him, and reigned over the destinies of the "Herald" till 1875, when he left for a place of greater ease and dignity. Since then the history of the "Herald" is modern history, and not in the meantime to be related.

(1) One verse very fairly describes Mr. Pagan when he had just entered upon his thirties -

"He spins a good story, he weaves a good tale,
He lilts a good sang owre a tankard o' ale;
He cracks a sly joke too, wi' humorous glee,
But nane lashes vice so severely as he.
And ilk body likes him whaurever he gangs,
Sae fond o' his stories, his jokes, and his sangs;
But the thing he's maist prized for by every degree,
Is the generous heart ever open and free."

(2) The exact date of its first appearance is not known. Mr. Andrew Macgeorge in his History of Glasgow, a careful book, states that the "Advertiser" was first published in 1783. This I have ascertained is a mistake by a year. Mr. Pagan, who naturally knew more of the early history of the paper than any other person living, produced in 1868 several facts to show that the "Advertiser" first appeared in June or July, 1782. What has led to this uncertainty is the complete disappearance of the "Advertiser" files They were at one time, it is understood, in the possession of Mr. Mackenzie of the "Greenock Advertiser," but after his death nothing further could be heard of them. Through the perseverance, however, of Mr. Sinclair, one of the managing proprietors of the "Herald," a number of the yearly volumes of the "Advertiser" have been recovered, and though it is evident from these files that great carelessness was shown in the numbering of each paper (complicated by the want of knowledge of the exact date at which the "Advertiser" became bi-weekly), still the date 1782 cannot be disputed after making every allowance.

(3) The "Herald" machines can now each produce 100,000 copies per hour, printed and folded, of the "Evening Times" size, which is about double the size of the "Herald" of 1802.

Sketches of the History of Glasgow
By James Pagan


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