Old Glasgow Club
Minutes of ordinary meeting of Club held at Adelaide’s, 209 Bath Street on Thursday 14 October 2010 at 7.30pm
Mr Gordon (President)
Mr Gordon welcomed members to the meeting.
There were apologies from Brian Henderson, Gordon Kerr, Linda Muir, Joe Reid and Jim Robertson.
The minutes of the last ordinary meeting held on 9 September were approved, proposed by Margaret Thom and seconded by Karen Donaldson, with the amendment that the Tappit Hen Trophy had been won by Frank Gourlay and Isobel Haddow.
There was no report.
Mrs McNae reminded members to collect their membership cards and to look at the merchandise stall. A South Glasgow Heritage and Environment Trust (SGHET) meeting would be held on 26 October. The seeglasgow.com website was available regarding Historic Glasgow. Mrs McNae and Miss Cairns had visited the City Halls on 14 September. The “Clydebuilt” exhibition at Braehead would close on 16 October. The BBC had a History of the World exhibition next week which featured an Old Glasgow Club badge from 1931 and many other artefacts from Club member Robert Pool.
Mr Gordon introduced Mrs Jane Anderson, a guide at Kelvingrove Art Galleries, to speak on the topic of “Mr McLellan and his Galleries”.
Mrs Anderson had started to research the life of Archibald McLellan when the McLellan Galleries were in use as a “stopgap” during the refurbishment of Kelvingrove.
Archibald McLellan (1797-1854) was a coachbuilder, art collector and property developer, developing buildings in Queen Street, Miller Street, where he lived, and Sauchiehall Street, the latter as a home for his art collection. His plans, however, did not come to fruition, for he overreached himself financially, became bankrupt and died of a heart attack, leaving his gallery and pictures to the city.
He entered Glasgow College in the High Street at age 11 but was later expelled for vandalising the tomb of Bishop Wishart at Glasgow Cathedral. He became an apprentice in a business, painting coaches. He was a member of the Coul Club (under the alias of Sir Benjamin Bangup) which held talks and discussions in pubs. He loved music and owned a barrel organ. He joined the Guild of Hammermen in 1813 and became Deacon at the age of 21; his picture is in the Trades House, with a copy in the Glasgow Museum Resource Centre at Nitshill. He owned a country house beside Mugdock Castle, leased form the Marquis of Montrose, but the house became a ruin after his death. Not only did he have a town life and a country life, but a town common law wife (Isabella Hutchison) and a country common law wife (Elizabeth Park).
In public life, the Trade Guilds nominated members for the Town Council until the 1833 Reform Act. McLellan and others lobbied Parliament and succeeded in introducing a clause allowing the Deacon Convener and Lord Dean of Guild a place on the Council. As a Bailie, he was passionate about the restoration of the Cathedral, interested in purifying the water system, in promoting art and in poor relief. He was on the Loch Katrine Committee, but was pipped to the post of Provost shortly before his death. He was also involved in commissioning Wellington’s statue outside the present Museum of Modern Art, although his candidate was unsuccessful and Marichetti received the commission.
McLellan’s estate was null and void and he had no legitimate descendants. After his death the City had to decide whether to accept his bequest or not, and bought his art collection and Galleries for £44,000, and then sold off books, instruments and statues. The German collector Wager thought McLellan’s collection, unlike other Glasgow collectors, was excellent. At the start there were 700 paintings, there were now 250, including Dutch paintings, a Botticelli and a Titian.
From 1868 to 1902 the Galleries incorporated the School of Art. In the 20th century, the Trerons department store and dome were added, the upper stories were conflated, the curved staircase added, and a red sandstone extension at the back. The building was in danger after the 1986 fire but was refurbished for the Glasgow Year of Culture in 1990.
The significance of McLellan’s activities was not evident until after his death. He wanted to bring town and country together. He was brilliant in debate and well informed. His son and grandson both emigrated to Australia, where they flourished. His will stipulated a Chair of Fine Art at Glasgow University, but this was not instituted until the 1950s.
His obituary on 22 October 1854 (at the same time as the battle of Alma in the Crimea) noted that there was nothing flat or neutral about him; he was warm and generous, open hearted, yet irascible. He had a low key funeral and is buried beneath a numbered slab (142) in the Cathedral precinct with no memorial. A memorial was finally erected in 2004 in the Necropolis. He deserves to be saluted as the first donor of art to Glasgow; a reformed Scrooge, not a miserly one and more of a Mr Micawber.
In answer to questions Mrs Anderson said that pictures had been sold off to raise funds for conservation, after taking advice form the Head of the School of Art. Sadly, nothing is happening at present to the McLellan Galleries. Further information about McLellan can be found on the Necropolis website and in the book “100 Glasgow Men”.
Vote of thanks
In proposing the vote of thanks, Alison Sannachan complimented Mrs Anderson on the way in which she had brought a charismatic character to life.
The next directors’ meeting would be on 3 November and the next ordinary meeting on 11 November.
Mr Gordon wished all a safe journey home.
JN Gibson, Recording Secretary