Glasgow’s City Necropolis

[Guest Articles Contents]

A Tour of its History and a History of the Merchants.

by Thomas McCann.

Necropolis Greek Map

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According to the original plan the grounds are divided into a variety of compartments and are distinguished by the letters of the Greek alphabet.

The word Necropolis literally means The City Of The Dead.

The Necropolis

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The façade was built as a gateway to a subterranean crypt that would hold the bodies of the deceased safely from grave robbers. But the passing of the Anatomy act 1832 meant that bodies could be released for medical science, its now used as a store room.

The Bridge of Sighs

How many pass it in tears, How many never to return, Was designed by D and J Hamilton Necropolis 33in 1833, The foundation stone was laid by Mr Hutcheson Dean of Guild, Also James Ewing the lord provest,There was also a choir and children from local schools in attendance, A cavity was made at the foundation stone and a sealed phial was placed inside with coins ,newspapers also a list of the members of the merchants house.

Archibald McLellan

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The son of a coachbuilder, McLellan was educated at Glasgow University before becoming a partner in his father’s business Much of his wealth was spent on paintings and sculpture, and on compiling a library. This, along with his collection of gold and silver plate, was later bequeathed to the city. He was appointed as a magistrate aged 25, His name remains known through the McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street.

Graham Square Fire

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The tragedy occurred on 24th December 1927 While the Brigade were fighting a very serious fire on that night in a block of warehouses at Nos. 8 to 32 Graham Square, some of the floors suddenly collapsed, causing the deaths of four firemen, James Conn, Harry W. M’Kellar, David Jeffrey, and Morrison Dunbar. The men, were all attached to the Central Division.

William Miller

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The monument to William Miller (August 1810 20 August 1872) who wrote the Glasgow poem Wee Willie Winkie was born a short distance away at Ark Lane. His ambition to become a surgeon was ended by serious illness and he was eventually apprenticed as a woodturner. William was buried in the family plot in Tollcross Cemetery in an unmarked grave near the main entrance at the North wall.

Jewish Section

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The first burial was that of Joseph Levi in 1832, a jeweller who died of cholera. At the entrance to this section we see the Absaloms Pillar. The Jewish communities asked for more space but the merchants house would not agree. They then acquired a portion of ground in Janefield cemetery for future burials. Worth noting is the custom of leaving a stone on top of the grave. This is a mark of respect.

Corlinda Lee

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The Lees were a very prominent Gypsy family. In 1856 Corlinda married George Smith. Shortly after their marriage George became the head of ten Gypsy families. George and Corlinda become King and Queen of the Gypsies. Queen Victoria had her fortune read by Corlinda Lee. After that all well positioned ladies wanted an appointment. Corlinda Lee died on 28th March, 1900, aged 68 years at 42 New City Road in Glasgow.

Cheapside St. Fire

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On the evening of 28 March, 1960, a fire broke out in a bonded warehouse owned by Arbuckle, Smith and Company in Cheapside Street, Anderson Glasgow. Within minutes of arriving, an explosion blew the walls of the building out into Cheapside Street and Warroch Street, burying three fire appliances and killing nineteen men fourteen firefighters, and five members of the Glasgow Salvage Corps. The incident remains Britain’s worst peacetime fire services disaster.

Sir William Collins

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Sir William Collins (18171895) was a famous figure in the temperance movement who served as Glasgow’s Lord Provost between 1877 and 1880. He joined his father, William Collins, printing company in 1848 and helped expand the business into publishing. Sir William Collins was also politically active, campaigning for the temperance cause throughout his life. He was elected to the Town Council as a Liberal in 1868, became a magistrate in 1873, helped to form the Glasgow Liberal Association in 1878 and became involved in the Glasgow School Board. In recognition of his public service, in 1880 he was knighted.

William James Chrystal

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He was born in Glasgow in 1854, and was educated at Glasgow Academy and at Glasgow University. in 1873 he entered the laboratory of Messrs. Wallace, Tatlock & Clark, where by several years’ work he ripened his chemical knowledge. He entered Shawfield Works as an expert chemist, Shawfield Works are the largest and oldest of their kind in the world, their chief productions being the bichromates of potash and soda used in alizarine making, paints, printing, dyes,, etc. Mr. Chrystal is the inventor of many improvements in the processes of manufacture, and is patentee in particular of crystallized bichromate of soda.

William McGavin

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William McGavin (17731832) was a businessman who became an independent preacher and “controversialist.” Nicknamed “The Protestant” he was successfully sued by the Roman Catholic Church in 1821 for libel. In an almost fanatical religious manner he attacked the errors of popery. Born in Ayrshire and originally a weaver to trade McGavin tried his hand at a few other positions, teacher, merchant and Bank Manager.

Robert Stewart

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Lord Provost Robert Stewart of Murdostoun campaigned to pass the Loch Katrine Act (1855) which paved the way to a fresh water supply for Glasgow and consequent improvements in public health. The Stewart Memorial Fountain was erected in Kelvingrove Park in 1872.

Walter MacFarlane (1817)

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Walter MacFarlane’s was the most important manufacturer of ornamental ironwork in Scotland. Founded in Glasgow by Walter MacFarlane the firm opened its first premises in 1850, in Saracen Lane, behind the Saracen Head Inn, in the Gallowgate. and then moved to a purpose built foundry on Sir Archibald Alison’s former Possil Estate in 1872, and created the suburb of Possilpark to house the firm’s vast workforce.

Major Archibald Douglas Monteath

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Major Archibald Douglas Monteath served in the East India Company. Allegedly, Monteath made his fortune when an elephant carrying precious gems belonging to a Maharajah was captured and ‘relieved’ of its load by him. When he died £1,000 was left to build his monument. There was a shortfall, however, the Merchants’ House gifted the extra land needed and this spectacular mausoleum was built. Based on the Knights Templar Church of the Holy Sepulchre, though experts dispute whether it is modeled on the Jerusalem Church.

Charles Tennant (1768)

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In 1798 he took out a patent for a bleach liquor formed by passing chlorine into a mixture of lime and water. Before this form of bleaching was done it involved treatment with stale urine and leaving the cloth exposed to sunlight for many months. Tennant established his St. Rollox Chemical Works in 1799 which became the largest chemical plant in Europe. Charles Tennant died suddenly at his home in Abercrombie Place, Glasgow in 1838.

Charles Clark MacKirdy

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The Charles Clark MacKirdy monument which dates from 1891. MacKirdy was a wealthy Glaswegian businessman owning a large cotton spinning company and estates in the West Indies.

John Houldsworth

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The son of a Nottingham cottonspinner who moved to Cranstonhill and worked in Kelvinbridge, Houldsworth was educated in Glasgow, Geneva and Heidelberg. He entered the family business, and rose to become the head of spinning. The company expanded into iron, establishing the Anderson Foundry and Machine Works, later known as the Anderson Foundry Company. John Houldsworth 18071859 was the last Lord Provost of Anderson before it was incorporated into Glasgow.

John Knox

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John Knox (1510-1572) was a Scottish clergyman and leader of the protestant Reformation who is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination. He was educated at the University of St Andrews. When Mary Tudor ascended the throne and reestablished Roman Catholicism, Knox was forced to resign his position and leave the country. Knox first moved to Geneva and then to Frankfurt. In Geneva, he met John Calvin. On his return to Scotland, he led the Protestant Reformation there. Knox openly called for Mary, Queen Of Scots’, execution for supporting Catholic practices. He continued to preach until his final days.

Duncan MacFarlane (1771)

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He studied at Glasgow College and was ordained in 1792. In 1815 he became one of the King’s Chaplains for Scotland and in 1819 was elected Moderator of the General Assembly. In April 1823 he became principal of the University of Glasgow. In this position he commanded general respect and was able to render substantial service to the University on various important occasions. Reverend MacFarlane also attended the laying of the Bridge of Sighs foundation stone in 1833. Dr. MacFarlane died on the 25th of November, 1857.

John Henry Alexander (1792)

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An actor, owner and manager of the Theatre Royal in Dunlop Street He was famous for wandering round the stage during performances, moving the scenery, cajoling the band, scolding actors and counting the audience to make sure that the takings were correct. He would even perform “Alexander’s Jig” on request from members of the audience, But in 1849, 65 people were killed in a crush caused by someone falsely shouting ‘fire’, Mr. Alexander is said to have roared himself hoarse trying to prevent the disaster and never recovered, as he died shortly after.

William Rae Wilson

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Born in Paisley 7th June 1772. Wilson practiced as a solicitor. But after the death of his wife of only 18 months he went traveling in the Middle East, subsequently writing ‘Travels in the Holy Land’ and other books. No wood, iron or lead has been used in making this monument, all joints are concealed. The family arms of Rae and Wilson are depicted in white marble inside. Wilson adopted the middle name of Rae when he inherited money from an uncle of the same name.

George Lennox Watson (1851)

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Was a Scottish naval architect. He was born in Glasgow, and resolved to make naval architecture his living. At the age of 16 Watson became an apprentice draughtsman at the shipyard of Robert Napier & Son in Glasgow. Watson’s most famous design was commissioned by Edward Prince of Wales, subsequently King Edward VII, and had a long and successful career passing to his son King George V. H.M.Y. Britannia remains the most successful racing yacht of all time, with a racing career spanning 43 years.

William Doleman

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As well as winning the world’s first 25Hole Open, William Doleman is on record as the first person to play golf in North America. When he was 16, he joined the Merchant Navy and sailed to Quebec, where a newspaper reported on a lad by the name of William Doleman hitting ‘golf balls’ on a stretch of land which would later become Royal Quebec Golf Course. “William Doleman was born on September 16, 1838 in the club house at Musselburgh, where his father was the caretaker. According to a report in The Glasgow Herald William ‘began to play as soon as he could swing a club.’ “

Robert and James Dick

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Robert and James Dick were born in Kilmarnock and in the 1840s were apprentices in Glasgow. In 1843 the first samples of guttapercha (latex gum) arrived in Scotland, and in 1846 the brothers saw the possibilities of this product and formed a partnership for the manufacture of cheap rubber shoes A factory was built at Greenhead st, and the firm prospered. The shoe market declined, but guttapercha was discovered to be good insulation for electrical cables, and the firm’s product was used in the laying of transatlantic cables.

David Prince Miller

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David Prince Miller (1809?1873) was a traveling entertainer and the manager of the Adelphi Theatre. Miller came to Glasgow with his family in the late 1830s and set up a “penny geggie” on Glasgow Green. He stayed on after the Glasgow Fair to stage many popular entertainments. In 1842 Miller built and became manager of the Adelphi Theatre, a wooden building on the Green, opposite the Jail. The Adelphi was very popular, but in 1848 the (uninsured) theatre burned down and Miller ran into business difficulties. He went back on the road as a traveling showman, returning to Glasgow only near the end of his life.

Alexander McCall (1836)

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Alexander McCall was the Chief constable for Glasgow for 18 years. This monument is one of Rennie Mackintosh’s earliest works, a Celtic cross was erected by the police commissioners and friends.

Pictures of Monuments

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Glasgow Necropolis Great War Dead

A record of those who gave their

life and are laid to rest at

Glasgow Necropolis

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John Cockburn Loraine

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J.C., Private, PO/19949 Royal Marine Light Infantry, H.M.S. St. Vincent. Died at South Queensferry Naval Hospital 11/12/1918, age 19. The H.M.S. St. Vincent was in the 5th Division of the battlefleet at the Battle of Jutland, 20th in the line of battle, and engaged a German battleship believed to have been of the Konigclass. Sextus 461.

Private J. Osborne

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Private J. Osborne 136910 of the Royal Army Medical Corps Died 1st November 1918. Laid to rest at Sextus plot 340.

John Battison Johnson

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J.B., Sapper 321566 Royal Engineers died 19/02/1919, age 24. Secundus 24.

Thomas Fyfe Grant

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Chief engine room artificer 2nd class m/17547 Royal Navy. H.M.S. Conqueror. H.M.S. Conqueror was an Orion class battleship of the Royal Navy. She served in the 2nd Battle Squadron of the Grand Fleet in World War I, and fought at the battle of Jutland, 31 May 1916, suffering no damage. Died 20/11/1918, age 44. Mnema 145.

22 thoughts on “Glasgow’s City Necropolis

    1. Strange that it’s not, stereotypically, for a child or female. That it’s for an eminent male seems like it was an odd choice for a marker. But that’ll be looking at it with today’s sensibilities. Boys used to wear dresses until they were old enough to be trousered and pink was their colour. Maybe a heart-shaped gravestone meant something to them 😊

    1. I’m just about to post the photos I took during the Bridgeton History Group’s tour. I’d be interested in a women-focused tour. The Women’s Library is pretty much in my back garden and it still took me 5 yrs to make it in. I felt like I had to bring a present though (to make up for my reticence) so I donated a folio copy of ‘The Lifted Veil: Women’s 19th Century Stories’. I feel like I’d need to know someone “on the inside” to be more comfy visiting 😆

      1. That was very good of you! They are always very welcoming so I wouldn’t worry about not feeling comfy. The next programme launch is on Thursday, that’s often a good introduction:
        It will have a small number of walks in it but not, I think, a Necropolis one. The season for walks is almost over and will restart in the spring. I’m usually in the library cataloguing Wed and Thu mornings – say hello if you come in then, I’d love to meet you.

        1. I’m off Tues and Wed night so I’d be really up for meeting you on Wed. I’m afraid the Thurs event starts right when I’d hope to be asleep by. I’ll be the nervous chick with part-blue hair trying not to be a nuisance to anyone 😂

          1. Well, I’ll be in this Wed definitely, if you are in. I’m usually working at the long table at the end but if the staff are having a meeting there, who knows? Ask at the front desk, hopefully someone there will know (though with a range of volunteers no-one can know everyone!)

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