Auld Scottish Sangs

Glasgow's Great Exhibitions

Thomas Graham,
page 4 of 7

more than a century and a half had a large and honourable part in Glasgow’s greatest interests. Their family history is as interesting as a novel. About the period of the Restoration a James Oswald, from Kirkwall, settled in Wick, and had two sons, James and George. They illustrate in a singular way the changing aspects of the time. The elder, the Rev. James Oswald, became an Episcopalian minister, settled in Watten in 1683. The younger, the Rev. George Oswald, was ordained minister of Dunnet in 1697, and was Presbyterian. Differing as they did in religion and politics, this did not diminish their affectionate intercourse, nor that of their families after them.

The sons of the Prelatist minister of Watten, Richard and Alexander, came early in the last century to Glasgow, and prospered abundantly. In 1751 they acquired Scotstoun from the old Walkinshaw family. Here as bachelors they lived in hospitable and generous fashion. Alexander died in 1763, and Richard in 1766.

The Presbyterian minister of Dunnet had also, among other children, two sons — James, who succeeded him as minister of that parish in 1726, and Richard, who followed his cousins to Glasgow. From Glasgow he went to London, where he became a prominent merchant. As the sole British Commissioner, he signed at Paris the preliminary articles of agreement between Great Britain and the United States, along with Franklin and Adams. He bought the estate of Auchincruive, in Ayrshire, and died without issue. The three sons of his brother, the Rev. James Oswald of Dunnet -- George, James, and Alexander -- next came southward to our city shortly after the Prince Charlie period. Their success was great. James died at the comparatively early age of forty-three. George became the leading partner in the Virginia firm of Oswald, Dennistoun, & Co., and also in the Ship bank. On the death of his cousin-german he succeeded to Scotstoun, where his father, after being Moderator of the General Assembly, spent with him the evening of life. The other brother, Alexander, acquired Shieldhall. He was the father of James Oswald, M.P., the subject of our present sketch. Alexander Oswald was a shrewd and enterprising man of business, and of spotless integrity. His word was always as good as his bond. The result was that men of business had the fullest confidence in him, and the various branches of commercial enterprise on which he had entered, increased steadily in value from year to year. One instance of, his strict obedience to the dictates of his conscience may be here mentioned, in the fact that he had many most tempting offers for partnerships in West Indian houses, but he firmly set his face against them all, as he had resolved that he would neither amass fortune nor build commercial reputation on the basis of negro slavery.

Possibly his greatest commercial success was the South Sugar House Company, which he carried on with one Casper Claussen, a Dutchman, as managing partner. He also became sole proprietor of M’Ure’s great ropework, the frontage of which, a massive building, stood till within two years ago at the corner of Ropework Lane. Rigid in his own personal expenditure, he was a generous though discriminating giver and lender, and had great contempt for those who openly boasted that they would take care that they should never lose by a friend. Though a grave and silent man, he was brimful of quiet, pawky humour, and was possessed of a great fund of general information. In his political opinions and sympathies he was liberal and courageous.


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