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Joseph Johnstone Glover


THE tolling of the bell from the Midsteeple, and the drooping of flags half-mast high at Midsteeple, Municipal Buildings, and Junior Conservative Club, on Monday, 13th April, 1908, conveyed the sad intelligence to the people of Dumfries of the death, on Sunday night, at the comparatively early age of fifty-five years, of Mr Joseph Johnstone Glover, who only a few weeks before demitted the office of Provost of Dumfries after a period of service during which ho had so laboured for the public weal that his name will go down to future generations as that of a man who, with singular fixity of purpose and pre-eminent ability, achieved much for the honour and well-being of the people who in life delighted to do him honour and in death remember him with admiring affection. The head of an important business, an enthusiastic worker on a vast number of public bodies, political and patriotic speaker with demands on his services from all quarters of the kingdom, it is no wonder that his labours in these different spheres of action told heavily even on his robust nature, and about three years ago, at Rockcliffe, where he had gone to spend the Easter holidays, canto the first serious break-up in his constitution. There was an evident diminution in his recuperative power of body though not in the willing spirit, for he afterwards with all his wonted zeal fought in the general election as the Unionist candidate for the burghs of Dumfries, and, despite the rising tide of public opinion throughout the country, secured the highest vote ever given for a Unionist in the constituency. But a little over a year ago he had a serious relapse, an internal trouble having alarmingly developed, complicated by heart affection, and he then sustained a slight paralytic seizure, and came very near to the end. His physician, Dr Murray, who had often urged him to slacken the reins of office, called in Professor Byron Bramwell, Edinburgh, who advised complete rest. But in a few months with a seemingly renewed measure of strength the Provost returned to his public obligation, his very nature being such that he could not allow himself to sink into seeming sloth, and in Council or in other assembly he still was able, when necessity arose, to take a firm stand for order and to electrify and influence his fellows by those powers of eloquence which were so marked a feature of his personality. It was evident, however, that continued service was a weariness of the flesh, and at the beginning of this year he yielded to the solicitation of his family and the advice of his doctors and reluctantly consented to give up public life. He resigned the Provostship on 25th February last, and on March 5th attended and bade farewell to the Council, the members of which paid hearty tribute to his great work for the burgh and for national causes, and amid a spontaneous outburst of acclamation, moved beyond words he left the bench which for years he had occupied with splendid dignity.

During the short time that elapsed since then he appeared to improve somewhat in health, and on the Saturday evening and again on the day of his death he himself remarked that he had not felt so well for several months. On the Sunday forenoon he attended Troqueer Parish Church, of which he was an elder, partook of communion at the first table, and assisted at the second table in the distribution of the sacred elements. On the Sunday evening, after tea, he walked in the garden of his residence at Hazelwood, Maxwell town, with his eldest son, Mr John M. Glover, and enjoyed the company of his little grand-child and name-sake.' Shortly after six o’clock, the evening having set in with a chill air, his son advised him to go indoors, and soon after going in he complained of feeling unwell. It was at once seen that he was seriously ill, and he was assisted to bed while Dr Murray was sent for. He retained consciousness for about an hour, and his intellect was perfectly clear. He knew of himself that the end was at hand, and he called each member of the family to his bedside and bade them an affectionate farewell. About seven o’clock unconsciousness supervened, and at eleven o’clock he passed peacefully away.

Joseph Johnstone Glover was born on 20th February, 1853, at Maxwelltown, the Brig en’ of Dumfries, and was the son of Mr James Anderson Glover, who also did public service on Parish Council and Water Commission, and died only about eight years ago. The family has had a very long connection with Galloway and the trades of Dumfries, the direct line of ancestors being traceable for over two centuries in the inscriptions on tombstones in Tioqueer Churchyard. An ancestor of his won the famous “siller gun” which was presented to Dumfries by King James VI. to be competed for by members of the trades, and the shooting for which, after a lapse of very many years, was revived on Provost Glover’s suggestion as one of the events in the celebrations in connection with the coronation of King Edward, our present sovereign. His mother, whose maiden name was Jane Renwick, and who resides at Rotchell Park, is the great-granddaughter of a doughty Highland soldier, Colour-Sergeant Angus Sutherland, - who received a medal for having proved himself the most powerful man in his regiment. The Provost’s great-grandmother, the daughter of Angus Sutherland, was bora in Edinburgh Castle when her father’s regiment was stationed there, and she married a member of a Galloway family of the name of Renwick. Her son, James, was endowed with the splendid physical qualities of her soldier sire, for it is on record that in a trades’ procession in the town of Dumfries he marched with the shoemakers as their elected King Crispin, and looked every inch a king.

Educated at Mr William Martin’s Academy and afterwards at Dumfries Academy, the Provost—we can as yet think of him only by that familiar title—was, as he himself often said, more distinguished as a boy in the realm of athletics than in that of learning, though in after manhood he achieved prominence as a scholarly speaker and writer of verse. He was a powerful swimmer, and at quite a young age saved several persons from drowning in the river Nith in days when the Royal Humane Society’s medals were not agitated for with so little excuse as too often is worked up to-day. When serving his apprenticeship as a house decorator with the late Mr Thomas Costin, he * one day in mid-winter, when the river was In high spate, after a great struggle saved a boy from drowning near Crindan, and as a result was himself confined to a sick bed for six weeks. He took another boy out of the “gullet pool” near the caul one summer evening, but the lad expired after being brought to the bank. On another occasion he saved a man who had fallen through the ice on Babbington Loch, pulling him out by means of a dog strap. Only eight or nine years ago he saved two of his own sons from a watery grave at Rockcliffe. Both were swimmers, but had exceeded their strength, being seized with cramp, and sank in deep water. The Provost went to the rescue, dived and brought one ashore and then the other, and succeeded in restoring animation on the bank.

After serving his apprenticeship he went to the establishment of Messrs J. G. Grace & Son, Wigmore Street, Cavendish Square, London, and studied the higher branches of the trade, gaining third-class honours in the advanced course of instruction in art in his first season at South Kensington, and being engaged in the embellishment of some of the finest mansions in the British Ides. In 1877 he established the business in Dumfries .which has become the most important of its kind in the South of Scotland. In later years he has had as his partner his eldest son, Mr John M. Glover, who was a distinguished art student in London, while his third son, Charles, has charge of a branch of the business which was opened some years ago in Newton-Stewart. His work has marked a new era in the art of interior decoration in the district; some of his earlier efforts still stand as monuments to his skill, and the decoration a few years ago of St Michael’s Parish Church after original and beautiful designs is a triumph of ecclesiastical embellishment.

It was in his civic career that Mr Joseph Johnstone Glover came perhaps most prominently to the front. He was elected to the Town Council in 1886, was promoted Treasurer, and afterwards Bailie, and in 1896 was chosen Provost in succession to the late ex-Provost John Luke Scott. Since then, with a unanimity which has been the best tribute to his ability and tact as a leader, the Town Council at every successive period returned him to office. As we have indicated, his reign has been practically a record one for the important schemes initiated and carried through, and in which he was always in the forefront, including the erection of baths and wash-houses by the late Miss M'Kie of Moat House, for whom he was the intermediary in many benefactions; the erection of the Ewart Public Library, for which by his instrumentality Dr Andrew Carnegie gave the magnificent sum of .10,000; the institution at a cost of over 40,000 of sewage purification works, and which but for the Provost’s leading in the purchase of Castledykes, thus obviating a more extended system with pumping, would have brought the total cost to over 60,000; the introduction of electric light by the Silvertown Company in the end of 1906, on terms considered favourable to the town, though the Provost all along maintained that this should have been kept as a subject for municipal enterprise ; and at the close of his reign there were being brought to an end difficult negotiations attended by much disputation between the Town Councils of Dumfries and Maxwell-town for the erection of a joint hospital for infectious- diseases. Apart from all these greater schemes he performed great service in the ordinary routine of office, and either ex officio or by special appointment laboured on a multiplicity of public bodies. On the Bench he on all possible occasions exercised the quality of mercy, he was ever ready to “help a lame dog,” or by kindly word to point an erring one to a better path.

His twenty-two years of service on the Town Council was practically concurrent with that on the Dumfries and Maxwelltown Water Commission, of which he was for years the chairman, and he took a keen part in obtaining an amended Water Works Act, appearing before committees of both the Lords and Commons, and displaying in cross-examination that readiness of wit and thorough grasp of the situation which were characteristic of all his appearances in public life. He was a Justice of the Peace for both Dumfriesshire and the Stew-artry of Kirkcudbright, chairman of the Gas Commission, Dumfries and Maxwelltown Water Commission, Moorheads’ Hospital, Dumfries and Maxwelltown Ewart Public Library, Dumfries Town Band, Nith Navigation Commission ; and for a number of years acted as chairman of Dumfries Drill Hall Trustees, governor of Dumfries Savings Bank, president of Glasgow Dumfriesshire Society, councillor from the first for the South Ward of Maxwelltown on the Stewartry County Council, director of the Crichton Royal Institution, member of Dumfries Burgh School Board, member of Hutton Trust-, member of newly-created Dumfriesshire Territorial Army Association, Past-Master >r St Michael’s Lodge of Freemasons, his mother Lodge, at the last meeting of which it r.^s agreed to confer on him an honorary life membership; a Past Provincial Grand Master Depute, having previously held many other offices in the Provincial Lodge of Dumfriesshire; and honorary member of many Friendly Societies, and director of Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary. In the last-named connection, it may be recalled that he acted as convener .if a committee which raised a jubilee offering of nearly 4000 to found the Victoria Fever Ward. He also headed committees which raised 1000 in aid of our soldiers’ and sailors’ families during the Boer War, and 600 to give a welcome home to the officers and men of the 3rd K.O.S.B. He served, too, on various trusts and philanthropic bodies, and his dealings with the poor were characteristically kindly and generous.

The fame of Provost Glover of Dumfries has been of no parochial order. Especially has this been shown in the recognition of him by many of the important cities and towns in Scotland and England as a splendidly versed and thrilling speaker on the life and works of Scotland’s bard, Robert Burns; and for years he was in great request to attend gatherings at various centres in the United Kingdom and give the leading address on the celebration of the 25th of January. He was the head of the movement which culminated in the Burns’ Centenary celebration at Dumfries on 21st July, 1896, at which Lord Rosebery was the chief speaker, and which attracted world-wide attention. It was he also who initiated the annual pilgrimage by the Town Council on 25th January to the poet’s tomb, and the placing of a wreath over the grave. He also took part in the sex-centenary celebration of Robert the Bruce’s rising in Dumfries, which preceded his struggle for the independence of Scotland. He was the chief promoter oi a very successful exhibition of art nine years ago in Dumfries Academy, which was opened by Lord Balfour of Burleigh. During his regime the freedom of the burgh was conferred on more distinguished people than in any similar length of time possibly in the history of Dumfries—these including the Right Hon. A. J. Balfour, then Prime Minister; the late Miss M'Kie of The Moat, the lady bountiful of Dumfries; Lord Wolseley, then Com-mander-in-Chief; Lord Balfour of Burleigh ; Dr Andrew Carnegie ; the Active Service Volunteers of Dumfries and Maxwelltown ; Lieut. Robertson, V.C., the Gordon Highlanders, a Dumfries man; the officers of the 3rd K.O.S.B. on their return from the South African War; and the late Lord Young, who, as a distinguished judge, brought honour to his native town of Dumfries. On these occasions the Provost’s speeches were marvels of eloquence, and he lent a dignity to his position which could not fail to create—and did create —a deep impression on those being honoured by the town. These dignitaries and many others, including the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch, who were on occasion municipal guests, were entertained by Provost and Mrs Glover at Hazelwood.

One of the most important stages in the career of Provost Glover was his appearance as champion of the Unionist cause in the Dumfries Burghs before the election of 1906. A life-long Conservative, he had on many occasions given yeoman service to the cause, and on December 15, 1903, he was unanimously adopted as the candidate of the party, in opposition to Sir Robert Reid. He fought in manly fashion, and won golden opinions by his speeches and his straightforward demeanour under the ordeal of “heckling,” and this, too, as we have stated, when he was beginning to feel the effects of the illness which in a few years ended his life of usefulness. Sir Robert’s elevation to “ the Gilded Chamber ” brought a new opponent, Mr J. W. Gulland, whose supporters resorted to a good many meannesses in warfare, and, although the swing of the pendulum made the fight seem hopeless in what had for many years been regarded as a "hopeless” constituency, Provost Glover, while beaten, was not disgraced—for he secured by far the largest vote ever recorded for a Unionist candidate in the burgh, viz., 1402, the Radical majority being 633, while they themselves had been sanguine of making it four figures. The subsequent march of events, and the change of feeling evident in the country, for a time buoyed up the hopes of the Unionist party that Provost Glover would make another effort, and not in vain, for the representation of the burghs—but it was not to be.

Provost Glover took a keen interest in and was a generous supporter of manly sports. He was a keen angler, and recently when the local Angling Association made representations to endeavour to obtain extension of the fishing season he in that, as in every other request for help, gave yeoman service in advocating the case. In his younger days he was an enthusiastic bird and dog fancier, and a very successful exhibitor. His school days ended when he was fifteen years of age, and the strenuous iife then began, and in one of his political speeches he recalled the fact that as an apprentice lad he on occasion, when tramping out to the country to a prolonged job, carried his box of herrings on his back with which to eke out the provender. When we recall these facts his attainments in after life are all the more remarkable, especially that wide reading and culture upon which he could draw to such purpose in public assembly.

In 1897 Mr Glover was one of the Provosts and Mayors who were commanded to the Diamond Jubilee reception by Queen Victoria, when he received the decoration. He was present in Westminster Abbey at the Coronation of King Edward, and received the medal issued to Provosts and Mayors. In 1903 he and Mrs Glover received the King’s command to attend the Court at Holyrood on the occasion of King Edward’s State visit to Scotland. Another interesting episode was the entertaining of Provoet and Mrs Glover at a public banquet 01 May 5, 1898, and the presentation to them of a silver cradle, silver tea and coffee service, and other gifts, in honour of the birth of a daughter (Jessie M‘Kie Glover) during the Provost’s term of office.

When he retired from office a few short months ago, it was suggested that he should not be allowed to pass into private life without some acknowledgment from a grateful people of his many great services and sacrifices for the good of the community. The idea was taken up by the Council and public with a most gratifying enthusiasm. People all over the South of Scotland, from the Lord Lieutenant of Dumfriesshire, His Grace the Duke of Buccleuch, to the humblest artisan, joined in the movement, and, while the Provost was not destined to see the actual realisation of it, we know that he was cheered and made the happier in his later days by so general a manifestation of the public love and esteem. It was only a day or two before his end that the lists were called in, and it was seen that the response amounted to about 450. The circumstance is sadly tragic, and recalls that other recent episode when another distinguished son of the South, the late Colonel Malcolm of Burn-foot, a venerable nonagenarian, died almost immediately after being honoured by a public presentation. A general desire is expressed that the presentation should be made to the Provost’s widow, who, during his public career, so ably aided him in his work in many ways, and proved a graceful and tactful hostess to municipal guests at Hazelwood. The fitness of this desire will be all the more readily recognised when it is remembered that Dumfries— unlike the larger centres—gives no grants to the civic head for the discharge of social duties, and in this particular Provost and Mrs Glover for many years must have been put to great expense in maintaining the dignity of the town.

Mr Glover leaves a widow and a family of seven sons and five daughters. Of the sons, John has for some years been identified with his father in the business at Dumfries, while Charles, the third son, is in charge of the Newton-Stewart branch. The second son, James, is connected with the Canadian Press at Montreal, and the fourth and fifth, Joseph and Angus—the latter being named after the redoubtable Highland ancestor, and being himself a proven athlete—are in London, Joseph being in the service of the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co., and Angus being with Messrs Maple, the great furnishing firm. The younger boys are at home. The eldest daughter is at home, and the second is in Germany undergoing a course of training in modern languages and music, while the others are at Dumfries Academy, the youngest of the family being the god-child of the late Miss Jessie M'Kie, the lady burgess and benefactress of Dumfries.


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