Monday, 28 July 2014

The White Lady

There are many articles both in print and online about this quite famous memorial in the Glasgow
Southern Necropolis none of which have been particularly well researched, so hopefully, the
following information will reveal some previously unknown details.

The monument is located in south part of the Central Section of the Cemetery to the right of
the main path from the gates and is part of the Southern Necropolis Heritage Trail.

The ‘White Lady’ was born Magdelene Blair,
29th June 1850 in the Gorbals.

She was one of seven children born to
Archibald Blair, a Coppersmith and Magdalene Ireland,
who married on 29th December 1843 at West or Old Parish, Greenock

Her siblings were:
Helen Ireland Blair, born 7th October 1844, Glasgow
Catherine Blair, born 6th June 1846, Cathcart
Margaret Blair, born 5th August 1848, Glasgow
Agnes Blair, born 29th August 1852, Gorbals
Duncan Blair, born 23rd August 1854, Gorbals
Janet Blair, born 18th March 1857, Tradeston, Glasgow
(sourced from the IGI,

Little can be found about Magdalene’s early life, until in 1880 when she
married John Stewart Smith, a carpet manufacturer.
Their marriage took place on 19th October at 96 Regent Terrace, Glasgow
(Magdalene’s home)
Her husband was John Stewart Smith, age 40 of 23 Carlton Place,
son of Thomas Morton Smith and Margaret Smith nee Kitely.
Magdalene’s age is stated on their Marriage Certificate as 25,
and her occupation is Fancy Goods Dealer.
Her father Archibald in listed as deceased.

In 1881 however, father Thomas is found living with John and his new
bride, still at 23 Carlton Place:
John Stewart Smith, Head, age 40, Carpet Manufacturer
(employing 13 men, 3 boys, 6 women and 5 girls)
born Kilmarnock
Mrs. (Magdalene) Smith, Wife, age 25, born Glasgow
Thomas Smith, Father, age 71, late Carpet Manufacturer's Manager,
born Kilmarnock
Samuel Smith, Brother, age 38, Carpet Manufacturer, born Glasgow

Still at 23 Carlton Place in 1891
John S. Smith, Head, age 50, Carpet Manufacturer,
born Kilmarnock
Magdalene Smith, Wife, age 40, Milliner, born Glasgow

The Glasgow Post Office Directory 1891-92 lists the following which indicates
where John (and younger brother Samuel) carried out their business:

South York Street was re-named Moffat Street and can be seen on the 1912
Ordnance Survey Map to the left of St. Andrew’s Suspension Bridge on the south side
of the River Clyde opposite Glasgow Green.

On the Bird’s Eye view below, Moffat Street is marked by red arrows.

Thomas Martin Devine’s book ‘Glasgow 1830 to 1912’
lists the following: 

John and Magdalene continued to live at 23 Carlton Place
and are found on the 1901 Census:
John S. Smith, Head, age 60, retired Carpet Manufacturer,
born Kilmarnock
Magdalene Smith, Wife, age 50, Millinery Shopkeeper,
born Glasgow

An article can be found on the firm of J.S. & S. Smith here:

Not very much of the detail remains on the inscription, but the details
from his Death Certificate read:

At 23 Carlton Place
of Prostatic Enlargement (Chronic), Retention of Urine & Cystitis
John Stewart Smith, retired Carpet Manufacturer, aged 68
Married to Magdalene Blair
Son of Thomas Morton Blair (deceased) & Margaret Smith nee Kitely

JOHN S. SMITH, Carpet Manufacturer, Nursery Mils, S. York Street
Died 24th January 1909 Aged 68 Years

Almost four years later, Magdalene re-married.

Her second husband was widower Charles James Reid, age 67,
100 Bothwell Street, Glasgow
Son of Charles James Reid, Gas Office Official & Agnes Reid nee Scott
(both deceased)
Magdalene is listed as age 62, a Milliner and a widow,
residing at 92 Langside Avenue, Glasgow
The Marriage took place at 193 Bath Street, Glasgow

The details of her tragic death is published in the Glasgow Herald
30th October 1933 issue:

"Killed on way from Church - Glasgow Lady knocked down by Tram

An elderly Glasgow woman, Mrs Magdalene Reid (82) 92 Langside Avenue, was
knocked down and instantaneously killed by a tram-car last night at Queen’s Drive
near Queen’s Park gate, Glasgow, while she was returning from church.
Her housekeeper, Mary McNaughton was also knocked down and
sufferered (d…….?) injuries. She was removed to the Victoria
Infirmary. A long line of tramcars were held up for some time at the scene
of the accident."

Her Death Certificate has the following details:
On October 29th 1933 at about 8 p.m.,Magdalene Reid, age 82, 
residing at 92 Langside Road,
 died at Queen’s Drive near Langside Road or in ambulance between
there and Victoria Infirmary
Widow of
1st - Widow of 1st John Stewart Smith, Carpet Manufacturer
2nd Charles Reid, Printing Type Metal Traveller
Daughter of Archibald Blair, Gas Engineer and Magdalene Blair nee Ireland
(both deceased)
Cause of Death: Fractured Skull (Fatal Accident)
Informant: M? Scott, Nephew, 21 Hallside Street, Glasgow.

Her death being classed as a Fatal Accident went before the Procurator Fiscal and it
was recorded in the Register of Corrected Enries attached to the Death Certificate with
the details “Injuries sustained through being struck and knocked down by tramcar
per verdict of jury.”

The Monumental Inscription on the base of the stone reads:
Widow of John S. Smith
Accidentally killed 29th October 1933, aged 82 years
Devoted housekeeper of the above for almost
25 years died as the result of the same accident
4th November 1933 aged 55 years.

The announcement of Mary McNaughton’s death appears in the Glasgow Herald
on the 6th & 7th November issues, 1933.
“McNaughton – At the Victoria Infirmary, on 4th November 1933, the result of an accident
on 29th October 1933, Mary McNaughton, youngest daughter of the late Peter McNaughton.
Funeral from house of the late Mrs. Reid, 92 Langside Avenue, Langside
on Wednesday 8th November at 3 p.m.”

Her Death Certificate has the following details:
Mary McNaughton, age 55, Housekeeper (Domestic Servant)
Died 4th November 1933 at the Victoria Infirmary, Glasgow,
Usual residence: 92 Langside Road, Glasgow
Daughter of Peter McNaighton, Carpet Factory Timekeper
and Janet McNaught nee Guthrie (both deceased)
Cause of death: Fractured Skull (result of an accident)
Informant: Sister, Sarah Mackie, 41 Srathcona Drive, Glasgow.

Also attached to her death certificate is a note of an entry in the Register of
Corrected Entries. but details were not viewed and they most likely are the same or
similar to that of Magdalene.

Bird's Eye view of 92 Langside Avenue

Above photo courtesy of Dave Forrest photography

So ........ the ‘White Lady’ isn’t very mysterious after all!

(but the white highlighting on certain lines above are!)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The New Tidal Weir at Glasgow Green

Sketch of structure with sluices up

Glasgow Herald, Thursday December 26th 1901

This structure, which is to be opened by the Lord Provost on Saturday, is a somewhat unique type of cross-river bridge, the only similar one in Britain being across the River Thames at Richmond.

The Lord Provost of Glasgow at that time was Samuel Chisholm.

Somewhere about 20 years ago, after much discussion, it was decided by the then Town
Council that the old weir, which consisted of a rough bank of stones and boulders of various
sizes submerged at high water, and which extended across the river about 100 yards east of
Albert Bridge, having a lock for the passage of boats at it’s north-end, should be removed, in the
expectation that various good results would follow, including less dredging in the harbour, and
unimpeding navigation as far as Carmyle.

Far from improving maters, however, the immediate effect of this step was an enormous
amount of scour in the river bed, causing the river banks for long stretches to cave in, and also
seriously injuring the foundations of several of the river bridges, the old Rutherglen Bridge being
the first to show dangerous symptoms, which ultimately led to its being taken down and replaced
by the present handsome structure, whilst the amount of dredging in the harbour was probably
increased by the deposit of the scoured-out material.

After considering the question for some time, and studying the result of the new weir just them
finished at Richmond on the ‘stoney’ principle, the Corporation decided to erect a similar structure
on the site of the old weir, as a result, Parliamentary powers were obtained in 1892.

The work of construction was not begun until a year or so later, but following very severe
flooding, the coffer-dam, which had been constructed by the first firm of contractors who
undertook the work, was undermined and a great amount of damage done, the final result
being that the Corporation took over the works from them. Sir Benjamin Baker, the well known
engineer, was called in by the Corporation, and, after a careful examination, be recommended
the carrying out of the works by the sinking of a series of caissons extending from bank to bank
by the pneumatic process, which he had employed so successfully at the Forth Rail Bridge.
Fresh designs were prepared under the supervision
of the City Engineer, and a new contract was let, the successful offerers being Messrs
Morrison & Mason Limited, and work was again resumed in the latter end of 1896.

The firm of Morrison & Mason specialised in building waterworks, docks, railway
construction, tenements, villas and public and commercial buildings.

Amongst some of their work in Glasgow between 1875 – 1908:
The General Post Office, George Square
Her Majesty’s Theatre (Citizen’s Theatre), Gorbals Street
Clyde Navigation Building (Clyde Port), Broomielaw
Great Western Road Bridge
Ruchill Hospital , Extension to Rottenrow Hospital
Colliseum Theatre
And possibly most famously – Glasgow City Chambers (1882 – 1890)

Progress Of The Work

Since that date the work has been quietly but steadily carried on under many difficulties,
particularly during the winter seasons, which since the work was resumed have been of a
very wet description, the river being in flood to a greater or less degree for weeks at a time.
The delay has arisen chiefly from the great difficulty which was experienced in sinking the caissons
through the solid masonry foundations of the old lock already mentioned and through the boulders
etc., forming the old weir, which had made their way many feet down into the sandy bed of the
river, and caused great deal of trouble when getting below the cutting edges of the caissons.
The series of sill caissons, which were sunk right across the river, had to be finished one by one,
the work at one being completed and the water-way restored before another was started,
this being absolutely necessary owing to the amount of scouring action which immediately took
place when the water-way was restricted by their presence. As only four men could be employed
in one of these caissons at a time, the rate of speed was necessarily slow, and the daily amount
of sinking accomplished, even in the easiest material, very small. They are sunk to a depth of 45
to 50 feet below high water, so that their foundation is well below the limit of any scour which
could possibly occur in the future.

Operations Below Low Water Mark

Very great amount of accurate work had to be carried out below low water mar by the aid of
pumps or by divers, and as even the most powerful pumps were unable to control the water
except for a short period at low water of each day during the period of spring tides, the
operations were necessarily prolonged. In fact, many of the portions of the work carried out
have no precedent in engineering operations, in that no benefit was obtainable from prior
experience gained in similar work, and many expedients were tried from time to time by the
contractors to solve the various problems, and great credit is due to them for the manner in which
they have finally overcome all difficulties. It is also a matter for congratulation that, in spite of the
somewhat risky nature of the pneumatic process of forming foundations, especially in tidal
rivers, no fatal accident has occurred since the commencement.
The structure is now quite complete and the sluices in working order, the only thing remaining
to be done being the drawing of old piling and the placing of a new skin of heavy slag all over the
river bed, so as to prevent any scouring action in the future.

Division Of The Weir

The type of weir adopted, as already mentioned, is that patented by the late F.G.M. Stoney
and consists of three large sluice gates 80 feet long by 12 feet deep, each closing up one of
the three 80 feet spans into which the weir is divided. These gates weigh about 45 tons, but
20 tons of counter-balance weight is provided at either end, so that only five ton net lift remains.
The lower edges of these gates, when down for the purpose of damming up the water on the
upstream side, is in very close proximity to a massive granite sill by the caissons formerly
mentioned, but is not closed right down on it, a sufficient space being left so that just enough
water gets away underneath to ensure that the ponded up water on the upstream side shall
remain at a constantly uniform level. When there is a large amount of water in the river these
openings will be increased, and when a small amount, diminished. At high water, or shortly
after it, the gates are shut down and while the tide recedes on the down-stream side as it does
ordinarily on the up-stream side, the water remains at the level it held when the gates were shut
down, thus ponding up the water, and forming practically a long lake extending beyond
Dalmarnock Bridge, and as a consequence preventing that unsightly exhibition of
mud and garbage, and in summer the objectionable smell from decaying matter which
are observed at the present.

Navigation Arrangements

On the incoming tide rising and reaching the level of the ponded-up water on the up-stream
side, the water pressure on the gates is naturally equalised, and the gates are then lifted and
navigation allowed to go on unimpeded as through an ordinary bridge. As the gates rise they are
tilted over into a horizontal position, until the face of the sluice gate is at the same level as the
crown of the arch, and the appearance of an ordinary bridge is obtained. Each gate is raised and
lowered by a small hydraulic engine situated in the centre of each span, and the process of lowering
or lifting a gate takes about three minutes. As a final result of the undertaking, the dilapidation of
the river banks will be stopped and it is confidently expected that when they are restored, the
stretch of river lying to the east of the weir will once more become a boating centre, and with a
purified river, which is not very far distant, will once more prove an attraction to the citizens, and,
instead of being an eyesore, become the scene of much healthy and enjoyable recreation, not
very different from what obtains on the Thames at present.

Engineers and Contractors

It should be mentioned that the engineer in chief for the whole works has been Mr. A. B.
McDonald, M.Inst.C.E., the City Engineer, with Mr. John Cowan, Assoc. M.Inst.C.E., as
resident engineer, while Messrs Ransomes & Rapier (Limited) of Ipswich, have erected all the
steel work of the superstructure, as well as the ‘Stoney’ sluices, the foundations, masonry, and
general work being executed by Messrs. Morrison & Mason (Limited), Polmadie.

Completed Bridge, 1901 

The bridge remained until 1941 when flooding to the surrounding area
occurred - scour undermining the abutment foundations. At this time, both the structure and
the tenements on Adelphi Street on the south bank were demolished.

The present bridge was completed in 1949 and carries pipes across the river.

Bird's Eye View showing Glasgow Green on the north bank.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The Thomson Family, Ireland and Glasgow

James Thomson, born 13th November 1786 in County Down, Northern Ireland.
He matriculated at Glasgow University in 1810 and graduated in 1812, M.A.
After his graduation, he continued to attend classes in Medicine and Divinity
with the intention of becoming a minister.

In 1814, he was appointed to the Belfast Academical Institution where he taught arithmetic, geography and book-keeping for a year before moving to the college department becoming professor of mathematics.

In Belfast, he met Margaret Gardner, the daughter of a Glasgow Merchant, who he married in 1817. The couple lived in Belfast and went on to have seven children there.

Margaret died in 1830 and James arrived in Glasgow in 1832 after being offered the Chair of Mathematics at Glasgow University bringing with him his young family.

Sixteen years later, James was struck by a second Cholera epidemic to hit Glasgow and died on 12th January 1849.

Glasgow Herald, January 15th 1849

James Thomson Senior

James Thomson and Margaret Gardner’s children:
Elizabeth, born 1818, died 1896 (married Rev. David King)
Anna, born 1820, died 1857 (married William Bottomley)
James, born 1822, died 8th May 1892
William, born 1824, died 17th December 1907
John, born 1826, died 7th February 1847
Margaret, born 1827, died 1831
Robert, born 1829, died 9th September 1905 (Australia)

James Thomson Junior,
eldest son of James Thomson and Margaret Gardner
matriculated at Glasgow University in 1834
studying Engineering and Natural Philosophy.
He graduated B.A. in 1839 and M.A. (Hons.) in 1840.
Became a consulting civil engineer in Belfast 1851 to 1857 during which time
He was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at Queen’s College.
He married Elizabeth Hancock c.1853 in Ireland
Returned to Glasgow on appointment to the Regius Chair
at Glasgow University in 1873.
In June 1877 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
Served as President of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland
from 1884 - 1886

The Regius Chair of Civil Engineering had been founded by Queen Victoria in 1840 - it
had originally been entitled the Regius Chair of Civil Engineering and Mechanics.

James Thomson Junior and younger brother William are found on the 1851 Census as follows:

Living at College Buildings, High Street, Glasgow
William Thomson, Head, age 26
Master of Arts, Professor of Nat. Phil., University of Glasgow, born Belfast
James Thomson, Brother, age 29
Master of Arts, Civil Engineer, born Belfast
Agnes Gall, Aunt, age 53, born Glasgow

William Thomson,
second son of James Thomson and Margaret Gardner
matriculated with his elder bother James at Glasgow University in 1834
also studying Engineering and Natural Philosophy.
He did not graduate at Glasgow but went on to study at Peterhouse, Cambridge.
He became Professor of Natural Philosophy at Glasgow University aged 22,
holding the post for 53 years (1846 – 1899)
Married Margaret Crum, daughter of Walter Crum and Jessie Graham
14th September 1852 at Glasgow
In 1866, he became the first scientist to be elevated to the peerage when knight by
Queen Victoria becoming Lord Kelvin of Largs.
He was Chancellor of Glasgow University from 1904 until his death in 1907.

In 1861, the brothers  are recorded as Living at Nelson Street, Largs, Ayrshire
William Thomson, Head, age 35
LL.D., University of Glasgow Philosophy, born Ireland
Margaret Thomson, Wife, age 34, born Eastwood, Renfrewshire
James Thomson, Brother, age 39
Master of Arts, Professor of Civil Engineering, born Ireland.

Elizabeth eldest daughter, born 1818, died 1896
Anna, second daughter born 1820, died 1857, married William Bottomley
On 8th March 1844 at Glasgow.
John Thomson, fourth son born 1826, died 7th February 1847

Margaret, third daughter, born 1827, died 1831

Youngest and seventh child, Robert Thomson, born in 1829,
Emigrated firstly to New Zealand around 1853 then to Sydney, Australia.
He died in Australia 9th September 1905.

Margaret Thomson nee Crum, Lady Thomson, wife of Sir William Thomson
died on the 17th June 1870.

A Death Notices appears Glasgow Herald and reads as follows:
“At Brooksby, Largs, on the 17th instant, Margaret Crum,
wife of Sir William Thomson, Professor of Natural Philosophy
in the University of Glasgow.”

Death Notice from The Argus, Melbourne (Australia), Issue: Wednesday 31st August 1870

William re-married 4 years later, on 17th June 1874.
His second wife was Frances (Fanny) Anna Blundy,
Daughter of Mr. Charles Blundy of Madeira

Neither James nor William can be found on the 1871 Census.

James Thomson Jnr.

In 1881, James is found with his family
Living at Oakfield House, Hillhead, Glasgow
James Thomson, Head, age 59,
Professor of Civil Engineering, born Ireland
Elizabeth Thomson, Wife, age 62, born Ireland
Mary Hancock Thomson, Daughter, age 26, born Ireland
James Thomson Jnr., Son, age 23, Master of Arts, Glasgow University,
Born Ireland

Also enumerated with James and his family is:
William J. Hancock, Nephew, Student in Arts, Engineering, age 17,
Born Ireland.

In 1881, Frances is alone, living at ‘College No. 11’, Kelvin district of Glasgow
Frances A. Thomson, Wife of Bachelor of Arts & Professor, age 43,
born Madeira (British Subject)

In 1891, William is found with his wife Frances
Living at 11 University (?), Kelvin district of Glasgow
William Thomson, Head, age 66
Professor of Natural Philosophy, born Ireland
Frances A. Thomson, Wife, age 53, born Madeira (British Subject)

In 1891, James is found with his family
Living at 2 Florentine Bank  House, Partick district of Glasgow
James Thomson, Head, age 69
Emeritus Professor of Engineering, born Ireland
Elizabeth Thomson, Wife, age 72, born Ireland
Mary Hancock Thomson, Daughter, age 36, born Ireland
Bessie Thomson, Daughter, age 34, Artist (Painting), born Ireland.

William Thomson (Lord Kelvin)

In 1892 William Thomson was made Baron Kelvin of Largs, but it was also the year
in which his brother Professor James Thomson, niece Bessie and
sister-in-law Elizabeth Hancock all died within a week of each other at
2 Florentine Gardens, the family home.

Florentine Gardens

Their causes of death were as follows:
James, Lobar Pneumonia in both lungs (6 days)
Bessie (Elizabeth), Progressive Muscular Atrophy (22 years) and Pleuro Pneumonia
Elizabeth, Acute Pneumonia (about 10 days)

‘Death of Professor James Thomson’
Glasgow Herald, 9th May 1892

We deeply regret to have to record the death of Dr. James Thomson, lately Professor of Civil
Engineering and Mechanics in the University of Glasgow, which took place yesterday morning
at his residence, 2 Florentine Gardens.

Professor Thomson had not been in robust health for some time, but his death, after an illness
of three or four days, which was the result of a chill, will come as an unexpected sorrow
to many friends.

Professor Thomson was born in Belfast in 1822. His father, also James Thomson, was for
many years lecturer on, and afterwards professor of, mathematics in the Royal Belfast
Academical Institution, but subsequently became professor of mathematicsin Glasgow University.
He was a highly successful teacher and original investigator in mathematics, and was the author
of many important school books. There are not a few persons living who remember well the
spirited mathematical classes of those days, and also in particular the brilliant progress of the
professor’s two sons, James Thomson and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), who passed through
every class with credit and through many with unrivalled distinctness. The two young men early
showed that high inventive genius which had distinguished them through life, and James Thomson
chose for his career that of a civil engineer, serving his apprenticeship (after he had taken the
degree of M.A.) in the works of the late Sir William Fairbairn.

Mr Thomson, after the term of his apprenticeship was concluded, commenced business in
Belfast as a civil and mechanical and hydraulic engineer. His inventions of a vortex water wheel
and a centrifugal pump became widely known, and he was entrusted with work of much
importance both at home and abroad; and, in particular, designed and constructed great
pumps for the drainage of sugar plantations in Demerara. He was also engineer to the
Belfast Water Commissioners, and to the Lagan Navigation Works.

In 1857 he became Professor of Civil Engineering in Queen’s College, Belfast, an office which
he held till the death of the late Professor Macquorne Rankine in 1872. He was then elected to
fill the Glasgow chair, and he continued to fulfilhis duties of that office till 1889, when he was
obliged, owing to failure of his eyesight, to seek retirement. In spite of the sad blow which had
thus fallen upon him, Professor Thomson maintained undiminished all his zeal for scientific
pursuits and investigations; and, in March of this year, he completed a substantial paper on
‘The Grand Currents of Atmospheric Circulation’ which was rewarded by the Royal Society
as the Bakerian Lecture for the year.

Professor Thomson was the author of very numerous original papers on various subjects
connected with physics. In 1847 he communicated to the Royal Society of Edinburgh a
most important paper on the ‘Lowering by pressure of the freezing point of water.’ He led the
way to the development of thermo-dynamics which in the hands of Clausius, Rankine,
and others have done so much for the great modern improvements of the steam engine.

A man of singular purity of mind and simplicity of character, Professor Thomson was greatly
beloved by all with whom he came in contact. His gentle kindness and his unfailing courtesy
endeared him greatly to his pupils, and many will mourn the loss of so good and true a teacher.
He was conscientious to a degree, and clear-sighted in all that pertained to moral right and
wrong. Thus, never a public man, he held the strongest views on many burning political questions
– for example, the late American War, and still more recent Irish questions; and he was at all
times ready to uphold his convictions with keen logic and with the firmest decision.

Professor Thomson was elected Fellow of the Royal Society in 1877; he received the
honorary degree of D.Sc. from the Queen’s University in Ireland and of LL.D. from his own
University of Glasgow and from the University of Dublin.

In 1853 he married the only daughter of the late Mr. William John Hancock, J.P.,
of Lurgan, Co. Amagh, who survives him. He leaves also one son, Mr. James Thomson,
civil engineer, and two daughters.

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin’s statue, Belfast Botanical Gardens


William Thomson was President of the Royal Society from 1890 to 1895.
He died on 17th December 1907 at his home 'Netherhall' near Largs in Ayrshire
and was buried in Westminster Abbey,
London on 23rd December.  His grave lies in the nave beside that of Sir Isaac Newton
and a stained glass window designed by J. Ninian Cooper was erected within the Abbey
in 1913. More information can be found here:

The Thomson Family’s Lairs are located in Section Beta of the Glasgow Necropolis, on the
first level above the Egyptian Vaults at the main entrance from Glasgow Cathedral Precinct
across Wishart Street.

The smaller stone topped by a cross is to Annie Elizabeth Bottomley, a relative
of the Thomson Family.

Strangely, none of the Thomson Family appear to be listed amongst the
‘Who’s Who’ on the Necropolis Heritage Trail.