The Glasgow School

Tracing Your Family Tree

Thomas Graham,
page 2 of 7

The little town of four streets and a few lanes grew rapidly. In twelve years after the Rebellion of 1745 the population had increased to 25,000.Many of the merchants ventured on large enterprises and acquired fortunes. Andrew Buchanan, the aforesaid, built his grand house on the north of the Westergate, purchased Drumpellier, and extended his town property. His relatives, Provosts Dunlop and Murdoch, erected their mansions beyond the Westport. Dunlop’s house still remains, 51 Argyle Street, with its grand drawing-room turned into a restaurant. Murdoch’s house became the “Buck’s Head” hotel, and has but shortly since given way to the City Clothing Co., corner of Dunlop Street. There was William Stirling, son of the minister of the High chureh, who founded the firm of William Stirling & Co. of the Cordale works, whose cousin gave to our city the Stirling library. Although more prominently a printer of cloth, he also ventured in the tobacco trade. There was his neighbour in Stirling Square, and brother-in-law, George Bogle, who purchased Daldowie. There was Campbell who acquired Killermont, and whose descendants still hold it, and there was Robert Dreghorn of Ruchill, a very different man from his nephew “Bob.” There was James Dennistoun, whose family had occupied Colgrain since the days of Bruce and Wallaee. In his earlier years he would fain have followed Prince Charlie in 1745. He was advised past this, and entering the lists of commerce in Glasgow, he came to the front as one of the great “Virginia dons.” He was also one of the most active in building the first Episcopal Church in Greenside Street. This was the outcome of his old Jacobite feeling. These and some others formed “The Great Company,” of which M’Ure speaks, “undertaking to the trade to Virginia, Caribbee Islands, Barbadoes, New England, St. Christopher,Montserrat, and other colonies in America.” Their families had all been identified with the city for a long period. They were nearly all connected with each other by marriage, and they formed a circle somewhat exclusive both in their commercial and their social relationships. They formed the first of the “tobacco lords.” But they were sorely shaken by the outbreak of the American War in 1775. Some of them — among them the Buchanans — lost all they had and were obliged to sell their estates. Indeed we can form an idea of the extensive trade of these days by the amounts they owed. The liabilities of the bankrupt firms in Glasgow in those disastrous years amounted to upwards of two millions sterling. They fell, however, only to rise again. The stoppage of trade with America made them push out in other directions and seek other materials of merchandise. Their commerce was extended and placed on better foundation. The Buchanans were able to buy back their estates, and all of them were re-established in all the glory of their former position. Exclusive as they were, they could not prevent young men of energy coming from the country districts, and gaining the prizes of commerce. Among these the following may be specially remembered:—

Alexander Speirs came from Edinburgh, married a daughter of Archibald Buchanan of Auchintorlie, and became associated with the Murdochs, the Buchanans, and the Dunlops, in their varied enterprises. He also purchased the holdings of the “bonnet lairds” of Govan and formed the estate of Elderslie, which his successors were able to extend and hold to this day.

James Ritchie, who came from Dreghorn and became proprietor of Craigton. His house in Queen Street is now the National Bank.


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