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The History of Glasgow
Volume 3 - Chapter XIX - James Macrae, Governor of Madras, and Glasgow's First Equestrian Statue

IT is not commonly known that Glasgow possesses what are probably the earliest portrait sculptures in Scotland. It is matter of frequent regret that no contemporary portraits exist of the great national heroes, Sir William Wallace and King Robert the Bruce. Of Wallace there is nothing but the verbal description by Henry the Minstrel, and of King Robert there is only the rather unreliable representation on a few coins of his reign. Glasgow, however, possesses authentic portraits of royal and notable personages of fifty years' earlier date. The only earlier portrait of any kind known to exist in Scotland is contained in an illumination in the Kelso chartulary, which is believed to represent King David I. The Glasgow sculptures form bosses in the vaulting of the lower church of the Cathedral, and are believed to date from about the year 1248, and to represent King Alexander II., Bishop William de Bondington, Comyn, Lord of Kilbride, and his lady, and King Alexander III. as a boy. All these personages were concerned with the completion of the building of the Cathedral, and their likenesses are vivid and realistic after the lapse of nearly seven centuries. [Casts of these sculptures, made for the Scottish National History Exhibition of 1911, are to be seen in the city's Art Galleries at Kelvingrove.] Next in date of portrait sculptures in possession of the city is the bust of the redoubtable Zachary Boyd, minister of the Barony, whose faithful dealing with Oliver Cromwell on his visit to the city in 1651 is a familiar tradition. For two centuries it occupied a niche above the doorway in the quadrangle of the old College in High Street, and now occupies a place of honour in the University at Gilmorehill. Of about the same period are the fine statues of the brothers Hutcheson, founders of Hutchesons' Hospital and Schools, which at first stood on each side of the tower of the original hospital in Trongate, looking northward over the garden acre, and which now look down Hutcheson Street from the front of the more modern building.

Next in date came Glasgow's first equestrian statue, the representation of King William II. and III., which stood for more than a century and a half at Glasgow Cross, but, as part of the work of widening the thoroughfares, has now been removed to a grassy plot among the trees in Cathedral Square. This statue was presented to the city in 1734 by a very remarkable personage, whose figure, as he passed along the streets in his gold-laced hat and coat, must have been regarded by most of the townsfolk with not a little curious awe. The steed and its rider were looked upon by the citizens of its time with pride and wonder. John McUre, whose History of Glasgow was published just two years after the erection of the statue, bursts into enthusiastic song on the subject:

Methinks the steed doth spread with corps the plain,
Tears up the turf, and pulls the curbing rein,
Exalts his thunder neck and lofty crest,
To force through ranks and files his stately breast!
His nostrils glow, sonorous war he hears,
He leapeth, jumpeth, pricketh up his ears,
Hoofs up the turf, spreads havoc all around,
Till blood in torrents overflows the ground!

But the actual life story of the donor was still more calculated to inspire the epic muse. James Macrae was the son of a poor washerwoman at Ayr, and was born in 1677. Against his mother's wishes, it is said, he ran away to sea in 1692. The years that followed are clouded with a good deal of mystery. The ship in which he sailed is said to have been captured by pirates, and it has even been suggested that Macrae himself sailed for a time, willingly or unwillingly, under the black flag. Ultimately he entered the service of the Honourable East India Company, and in 1720, as Captain Macrae, was sent on a special mission to the west coast of Siam. There he dealt so shrewdly and successfully with the commercial abuses which were imperilling trade, that on his return he was made Deputy Governor of Fort St. David. From that post he was promoted presently to Fort St. George, and in 1725 took over the Presidency of Madras. There he effected great reforms, reducing expenditure and rearranging the mint. At the same time he appears to have "shaken the pagoda tree" in not less effective fashion, for in 1731 he returned home with an immense fortune in specie and precious stones. In his native town he made enquiries regarding his mother. She was dead, but he learned that in her last years she had been cared for by her niece, Bell Gardner, the wife of Hugh McGuire, a joiner, who was also in request as a fiddler at penny weddings and other merrymakings, in the Newton of Ayr. McGuire and his wife had a family of four, a son and three daughters, and, by way of return, Macrae undertook to educate and provide for them. This he did in no perfunctory fashion. To the eldest, Lizzie, when she married the Earl of Glencairn, he gave the fine estate of Ochiltree, with diamonds, it is said, to the value of £40,000. The second daughter, Margaret, he dowered with the estate of Alva, and she married James Erskine of Barjarg, who, as a judge of the Court of Session, took the title of Lord Alva. The third daughter, Macrae, married Charles Dalrymple, sheriff-clerk of Ayr, and succeeded the benefactor of the family in the neighbouring estate of Orangefield. To the son, James McGuire, who adopted the name Macrae, the nabob gave the Renfrew-shire estate of Houston. The son of this laird of Houston was the notorious swashbuckler who shot Sir George Ramsay in a duel on illusselburgh links, and was in consequence outlawed and died in poverty.

Meanwhile Macrae had become a burgess of Glasgow, and presented the city in 1735 with the bronze equestrian statue of King 'William which, for over a century and a half, stood, the pride of the citizens, at the Cross. [A curious and perhaps unique feature of the statue is the horse's tail, which is hung on a ball and socket joint, and waves in the wind. Four cannon planted at the corners of the pedestal in the statue's original situation are said to have been relics from King WiIliam's great victory at the Boyne. (Burgh Records, 24th March, 1737.) Two of these cannon have disappeared. The remaining two, no longer required to protect the pedestal from street traffic after the removal of the statue to Cathedral Square, were presented to the author of these pages by the Town Council in 1932.] He resided chiefly on his estate of Orangefield near Ayr, though in the title-deeds of that property he is designated as "of Blackheath in Kent"; and he died at Orangefield on 21st July, 1744. But Glasgow was still to benefit in another detail from the wealth of the mysterious old nabob. In December, 1745, when Prince Charles Edward and his army took up their quarters in the city, and made heavy demands for money and clothing, Macrae's adoptive son-in-law, the Earl of Glencairn, lent the magistrates £1500 at 42 per cent, to meet the requisition. [It was the son of this Earl of Glencairn and Lizzie McGuire who proved so useful a friend to Robert Burns when he made his first venture in Edinburgh, and he owed his information regarding the poet to his cousin, the laird of Orangefield.] Macrae himself lies in Monkton churchyard, where a monument was erected to his memory in 1750. [Curiosities of Glasgow Citizenship, p. 29; Glasgow Past and Present, i. 362 Paterson's History of Ayrshire, 596; Cochrane Correspondence in Maitland Club, p. 123; Cleland's Annals, i. 102; Burgh Records, 2nd January and 23rd July, 1733, 15th September, 1736.]

The gift of King William's statue was all the more acceptable to the citizens of Glasgow, since it made a very elegant ornament for the front of their new Town Hall and Assembly Rooms, the erection of which followed almost immediately.

Until the eighteenth century there was no place of public meeting in the city, and the Town Council held its deliberations in the Tolbooth. As early as the year 1400, and perhaps much earlier, a pretorium, tolbooth, or seat of the civic authority, had stood at the market cross, on the site adjoining the existing Tolbooth steeple. The stone with the city arms now built into the wall of that steeple is said to be a relic of this early pretorium. Its carving is held by experts to be work of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, the salmon supporters of the shield bearing a close resemblance to the same insignia in the Cathedral chapter-house. About 156o, the time of the Reformation, when the civic authorities began to aspire to independence of their ancient superiors, the archbishops, the early pretorium was taken down, and a second Tolbooth built on its site. This continued in use till 1626, when the really fine building was erected, of which the remaining Tolbooth steeple formed a part. For over a century this building continued to serve both as a prison and as the meeting-place of the Town Council and the Town Clerk's office.

The Town Council, however, had begun to feel the need of more spacious accommodation. Accordingly the foundation stone of the first Glasgow Town Hall was laid by Provost Coulter in 1736 on the site adjoining the Tolbooth in Trongate, where the town house and place of business of George Hutcheson had formerly stood. [The tenement on the site was bought from John Graham of Dougalston for 1840, and the "lands" in its rear for £122 10s. (Burgh Records, 2nd May, 18th November, 1735.)] The building had an arcaded front with Corinthian pilasters, and the keystones of the six arches were ornamented with grotesque faces from the chisel of the builder's foreman, Mungo Naismith, which long excited the wonder of the gaping crowd, and some of which, after more than one removal, figured later in the cornice of Messrs. Fraser and Sons warehouse at the foot of Buchanan Street. [Strang, Glasgow and Its Clubs, p. 9. When the spire of the Cathedral was struck by lightning in 1756, Mungo Naismith was the genius who devised the scaffolding for its repair. When the Town Hall was taken over and extended by the Tontine syndicate in 1781, four masks were added by another hand, and the carvings altogether got the name of the "Tontine Faces." There was also another "mason and carver," David Cation, who, with an apprentice, spent fifty-nine weeks in decorating the new Town Hall, and who carved most of the capitals and other sculptured decorations in the new St. Andrew's Church (Burgh Records, 22nd September, 1741).] There were three chambers in the top storey for clerks and committee meetings, a splendid apartment on the first floor with six Iarge windows, a twelve-foot marble fireplace, and a magnificent domed ceiling. This formed the new meeting place of the Town Council and was decorated with the royal portraits. Another fine apartment, 47 feet long, provided an Assembly Room for fashionable gatherings. There was also a coffee-room, which, like the arcade in front of the building, served as an exchange, while on the ground level, behind the covered arcade, were four shops. [Burgh Records, 26th October, 1738; Gibson's History, p. 144.]

When the building was finished in 1740 the Town Council moved out of the Tolbooth (there was a connecting doorway from the Tolbooth stair) and proceeded to hold its meetings in the more spacious quarters. [The Tolbooth of 1626 survived till 1814, when it was taken down by Dr. Cleland, Glasgow's superintendent of works and annalist, who erected a tenement for bank and offices on its site. This building in turn was demolished in 1915, when the High Street was widened, and, after much debate, the old Tolbooth steeple was left standing by itself in the middle of the thoroughfare.]

At the same time social fashions and ideas were changing. The strictness of the Covenanting spirit was being modified by wider and more generous views of life acquired from increasing intercourse with the world abroad. As early as 1723 there had been started in Edinburgh a weekly "assembly" at which young people met for the purpose of dancing. The ball there opened at four in the afternoon, and closed strictly at eleven. Tickets, without which there was no admission, were half a crown each, and discreet matrons ruled the proceedings and upheld the proprieties with a rod of iron. [Chambers, Domestic Annals, iii. 480.]

Notwithstanding the opposition of the stricter sort of ministers, and the writings of perfervid Cameronians like Patrick Walker, who regarded dancing and all social enjoyment as actual lures of the devil, the fashion was not likely to be long in reaching Glasgow. For some time the teaching of dancing had been subsidised by the magistrates, one Daniel Barrell, a dancing master, being paid £10 a year "for his encouragement." [Burgh Records, 27th Sept. 1734.] So far, however, there was no hall in the city available for the holding of social gatherings of this kind. There was only a small assembly room, built by subscription, in the Trongate. But the opening of the grand new Town Hall and Assembly Rooms made a new departure, and thenceforth, on the evenings of these social occasions, sedan chairs in numbers were to be seen making their way along the dim-lit streets, to set their fair burdens down at the doors of this new and fashionable gathering place. [Strang, Glasgow and Its Clubs, p. 14.]

A still more important undertaking of the same date was the building of St. Andrew's Church. The enterprise may have served to placate the more serious minded of the citizens, as the new church was not too urgently required, and the preparations for it, as well as the actual work of erection, were spread over a period of years. The town, however, had been divided into six parishes, and so far there were only five churches and a meetinghouse to provide for them. There were the Inner and the Outer High Churches, occupying the Cathedral, the Laigh or Tron Church near the Cross, the Blackfriars Church in High Street, and the North-west or St. David's Church at the Ramshorn. The sixth congregation was accommodated in a meeting-house in the New Wynd. [The New Wynd Church was built by a party of privileged Presbyterians during the period when Episcopacy prevailed in Glasgow. It was covered with thatch, and opened in 1687."óCleland, Transactions of Glasgow and Clydesdale Statistical Society, 1836, p. 19.] Besides these, there was, of course, the congregation of the Barony, or landward part of the ancient domain of the archbishops, which had its home in the crypt or lower church in the Cathedral. In 1722 the stipends of the six city ministers had been raised, out of the proceeds of the two pence per pint tax on ale, from £ro8o Scots (ego sterling), to 2000 merks (£111 sterling). [Burgh Records, v. p. xxiv.]

There was no immediate hurry for the re-housing of the congregation in the New Wynd meeting-house, when in 1734 the Town Council began preparations by purchasing a "yard" or garden, belonging to Patrick Bell, on the south of the Gallowgate and the Molendinar. The price demanded was £300 sterling (twenty-four years' purchase) with the right to a table seat in the church to hold nine or ten persons, rent-free, to Patrick Bell and his heirs as long as they lived in the burgh. [Ibid. 25th June, 1734.] Further purchases of "alleys" and "yards" were made from "Fair John" Luke of Claythorn [Ibid. 1st Nov. 1734, 24th June, 1735. The site of the Claythorn estate, patrimony of the Lukes for several generations, is commemorated in the name of Claythorn Street, off Gallowgate.] and others, and in course of time St. Andrew's Lane and St. Andrew's Street were opened from Gallowgate and Saltmarket respectively. Stone for the building was secured from the Crackling-house quarry, the site of the present Queen Street railway station, and the erection of the church was begun in 1740. Thirteen years later the work was still going on, when the meeting-house in the New Wynd threatened to collapse, and its materials were sold, "timber, glaswork and iron work and thatch rooff." [Ibid. 20th Feb. 1753.] The new place of worship was not opened till 1756, having been twenty years in preparation, but St. Andrew's Church remains till the present day one of the noblest churches built for Presbyterian worship in the kingdom. [Its Corinthian pillars and other carved work were the handicraft of David Cation,whose charges and those of the other tradesmen were constantly being paid by the Town Council, and must have amounted altogether to a prodigious sum.]

The rate of progress of this building would seem to indicate some slowing down of the religious fervour of the community. These, nevertheless, were the years of the great ecclesiastical movement known as the Secession in the Church of Scotland. The movement owed a large part of its origin to certain occurrences in Glasgow itself. In the early years of the century there had been a growing feeling among the stricter adherents that the Church was becoming too tolerant of changing opinion, and too moderate in its own attitude towards life and thought. The first open clash of battle was brought about by the teaching of a professor in the University of Glasgow. John Simson, who occupied the Chair of Divinity in the College in High Street, was a metaphysical thinker suspected of teaching erroneous doctrines not far removed from the Rationalism of the present day. He was arraigned before the General Assembly on a charge of heresy, and the case dragged on before the church courts with protracted debates and ever-increasing bitterness, but without decision, for some fifteen years. While controversy was raging over the case, the Rev. Thomas Boston of Ettrick, author of The Fourfold State, discovered, among the few books left by a soldier who had died in his parish, an old volume, The Marrow of Modern Divinity, by Peter Fisher, an author of the Puritan period. The book fascinated him, was passed from hand to hand among his friends, and was presently republished as an awakening fiery blast against the Moderatism and toleration of the Church. In 1720 the General Assembly passed an Act denouncing the book, and forthwith there arose over it the great " Marrow " controversy, which was to have serious and far-reaching consequences. [Hill Burton, viii. p. 399.]

Feelings were further inflamed by an Act of the General Assembly in 1732, regulating the method of calling ministers to vacant churches. The Act ran on the lines of a model which had been adopted in Glasgow eleven years earlier, but with the important difference that the actual call was not to be made by the church members, but by the elders and heritors, who might be Episcopalians, Jacobites, or freethinkers. [Burgh Records, 25th April, 1721.] The quarrel reached a crisis when Ebenezer Erskine, moderator of the Synod of Stirling and Perth, preached a sermon before that body denouncing the General Assembly and all its works. From that hour the movement grew and the Secession Church gradually took form, denouncing in its "Testimony" not only the grievances of patronage and the toleration of popery, but the toleration of "the profane diversions of the stage, together with night assemblies and balls" and the repeal of the penal statutes against witches. [Hill Burton, viii. p. 408 and 409 note.]

In 1740 this first great secession from the Church of Scotland took effect in Glasgow, and a body of the seceders, forming themselves into an Associate Congregation, built themselves a church in Shuttle Street. Seven years later the seceders split over the question of the burgess oath, and the Antiburgers set up a church for themselves. And three years later still, as an outpost of the Church of England, St. Andrew's Episcopal Chapel beside Glasgow Green opened its doors. [Burgh Records, vi. p. xv. Previous to this there was a Scottish Episcopal congregation in the city. Survivors of the Revolution, its members gathered themselves together in 1703, and they met successively in various quarters, but they never had a regular built church till the nineteenth century, when they built St. Mary's in Renfield Street. It is this congregation which now worships in St. Mary's Cathedral, Great Western Road (Mitchell's Old Glasgow Essays, p. 61.)]

The religious fervour of certain sections of the people of Glasgow and its neighbourhood at that period was no doubt increased by the visits of George Whitefield the evangelist. His great Calvinistic revival, the "Cambuslang dark," took place in the summer months of 1742, and cannot have been without effect in the city, though the magistrates, in compliance with the orders of the Synod, are said to have refused him the use of the Cathedral churchyard when he returned six years later. [Whitefield visited Glasgow several times. In 1742 he led the Cambuslang "Wark"; in 1748, refused the Cathedral churchyard, he preached in a field near Gorbals; in 1753, permitted the churchyard, he preached the sermon which is said to have incited his hearers to destroy Glasgow's first theatre at hand; in 1757 at the request of the magistrates he preached a sermon ęhick brought a collection of £58 for the poor of the city; and in 1758 he preached the sermon whose proceeds enabled the Highland Society to build the Black Bull Inn.

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