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Sir James Lumsden 
Lord Provost

James Lumsden (1778–1856) was a Scottish stationer and merchant who served as Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1843 to 1846.

He was born on 13 November 1778 in Glasgow, the son of James Lumsden, an engraver and publisher, and his wife, Jean Adamson. The family lived in a second floor flat in Craigs Land at the head of the Old Wynd in central Glasgow. He was educated at Glasgow Grammar School. Their family publishing firm J. Lumsden and Son was founded in 1783 and specialised in children's books. [3]


In 1797 he was "elected" knight companion of the Coul Club under the pseudonym of Christopher Copperplate.[4]  When his father retired in 1810, he then took over the publishing firm.

In 1812 he was one of the several people including Henry Bell and Sir Walter Scott on the maiden voyage of the Comet.[5]

He developed the business James Lumsden & Son based at 20 Queen Street in Glasgow.[6] In 1840 he was living at 208 St Vincent Street.

In 1838 he was one of the founders of the Clydesdale Bank.[5] He served on Glasgow Town Council from 1833 and was elected Lord Provost of Glasgow from 1843 to 1846,[7] having previously been a Town councillor and baillie, and a commissioner of the City of Glasgow Police.[1] His most important achievement as Lord Provost was the crearion of the Glasgow School of Design.[8]

He retired in 1852 and died on 16 May 1856. He was buried in the churchyard of Glasgow Cathedral.

Gazetteer for Scotland

Businessman and Lord Provost of Glasgow. Born in Glasgow, the son of an engraver and publisher, Lumsden was educated at the Glasgow Grammer School. He was apprenticed to his father and went on to build James Lumsden & Sons into a successful stationery business.

In 1812, Lumsden accompanied Henry Bell of the maiden voyage of the steam-ship the Comet. Between 1822 and 1825, he sat on the Glasgow Town Council and again from 1833. In 1843, he was elected Lord Provost of the city and in this capacity visited Paris in 1845.

In 1838, Lumsden was one of the founders of the Clydesdale Bank.

Lumsden served as President of the Incorporated Company of Stationers in Glasgow on three occasions (1815, 1822 and 1830). He gave generously to the City of Glasgow Benevolent Association and served as treasurer of Glasgow Royal Infirmary for nineteen years.

He was buried in the High Churchyard and is remembered by a statue in front of the Royal Infirmary.

100 Men of Glasgow

The eldest son of an engraver and publisher, Lumsden was born in Glasgow on 13 November 1778. He became an apprentice to his father before being made a partner, and he developed James Lumsden & Son into a successful stationery business.

He sat on the Town Council from 1822-25, then again from 1833. In November 1843 he was elected Lord Provost. He was thrice president of the Incorporated Company of Stationers in Glasgow, in 1815, 1822 and 1830, and undertook charity work with the City of Glasgow Benevolent Association. He was also treasurer of Glasgow Royal Infirmary for 19 years and, in 1838, was one of the founders of the Clydesdale Bank.

He died on 16 May 1856, and a statue in his honour was erected in front of the Royal Infirmary.

MR. LUMSDEN was the eldest son of James Lumsden, an engraver and publisher in Glasgow, whose name appears in the first Glasgow Directory. He was born in Glasgow on 13th November, 1778. At that date the population of the city, whose highest civic honours he was destined to attain, and with whose progress and development as one of the greatest of British marts and industries he was destined also to be so closely identified, did not amount to more than 45,000. He received his education at the Grammar School of Glasgow, then housed in a building which was situated almost immediately opposite to the Old College in High Street; this school, begun as far back as 1598, was not removed to other and more suitable premises until the closing years of last century. Among his school-fellows Lumsden was privileged to rank three youths -the Rev. Ralph Wardlaw, D.D., and the Rev. John Muir, D.D., both of whom became noted as theologians and preachers, with both of whom, too, he was destined to maintain a life-long friendship; and Thomas Campbell, who was likewise a native of Glasgow, and who, even if he had not written "The Pleasures of Hope," which Byron pronounced the best didactic poem in our language, would still have won undying fame as the author of "Hohenlinden," "Ye Mariners of England," "The Battle of the Baltic," and "The Exile of Erin."

After leaving school, Lumsden, whose tastes inclined him to mercantile rather than to professional life, became an apprentice to his father, whose business, always prosecuted with no ordinary care and shrewdness, had greatly prospered; and shortly after attaining majority he was admitted a partner, the firm becoming that of James Lumsden & Son. A younger brother, Mr. Lachlan Lumsden, was educated as a writer in Glasgow, and ultimately attained a high position among his professional brethren and in the estimation of the public. This gentleman died in 1837, leaving to our Royal Infirmary the sum of £4,000, by far the largest bequest it had ever received. A portrait of him, painted in recognition of his gift, now adorns the board room of that Institution.

Several years prior to 1816, the business had become a great mercantile establishment in the department of stationery, both for home and for foreign and colonial use, and there were few, if any, Glasgow houses whose names were more widely or extensively known than that of James Lumsden & Son.

Amid the engrossments of active mercantile life, however, Mr. Lumsden still found time to promote the interests of others; and we question whether any citizen of Glasgow ever exerted himself more, or more successfully, than he did to foster and encourage talent whether in the art of painting or in the walks of literature. Of two Scottish artists now no more, Mr. Horatio MacCulloch and Sir Daniel Macnee, he was the early friend and patron; and we know that to the very last hours of their lives these distinguished men never spoke of Mr. Lumsden otherwise than in terms of grateful recollection. To him, indeed, each of them owed his first start in life. We should mention, also, that he was ever the kind friend and generous patron of the late Dugald Moore, one of the best of the minor poets of Scotland.

As early as 1822, Mr. Lumsden, then in his forty-fourth year, became a member of the Town Council, then, and for eleven years afterwards, a close corporation, as, indeed, was the case as regards all the other Town Councils of Scotland. At that date our population amounted to about 150,000; and in the matter of parliamentary representation we were grouped with Rutherglen, Dumbarton, and Renfrew, three burghs not one of which contained more than two thousand souls, but each of which was vested with an amount of political influence in every respect equal to that possessed by the city of Glasgow. Mr. Lumsden had not been without some training for municipal life, for from the very beginning of the century he had acted as a Commissioner of Police.

Leaving the Town Council in the end of 1825, he did not return to it until the great change of 1833, when he was elected to represent what was then the fourth district of the city, and when, too, he became one of the magistracy - the chair being filled by Robert Grahame of Whitehill, who had been one of the most prominent and most respected of the Whig party for upwards of forty years.

Mr. Lumsden's term of office as one of the magistrates ended in 1837, but he still continued to sit as a councillor, and ultimately, in November, 1843, he was unanimously elected to the office of Lord Provost, in immediate succession to Sir James Campbell.

In the month of November immediately following, the Incorporated Company of Stationers in Glasgow, a body comprising many of our most eminent citizens, entertained him to dinner in the Trades' Hall "for the purpose of testifying the gratification which they felt on the occasion of a member of their body being for the first time elevated to the civic chair, and also of showing the respect which they entertained for his Lordship as a public-spirited citizen." Of that Association Mr. Lumsden had been president at three different periods - in 1815, in 1822, and in 1830; and its Charter of Incorporation, obtained in 1832, was obtained mainly through his unwearied perseverance and great exertions. Forty years have elapsed since he was thus honoured by the body with which he was so long and so usefully connected, and of those who welcomed him on the occasion the great majority have passed away, but among the few who survive we may name his son, Mr. George Lumsden, now of Edinburgh, Mr. Charles Cowan, late M.P. for Edinburgh, and James Hedderwick, LL.D., the accomplished editor of the "Glasgow Evening Citizen."

His provostship was distinguished by several important events, not the least important of which was the great Free Trade Banquet in the City Hall in 1843, at which Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright, the famous leaders of that movement, were present, and at which he presided. In the following year he had the pleasure of presenting the freedom of the city to one with whose political views his own had long been in unison - Lord John Russell. In 1845 he visited Paris, and had the honour of dining with His Majesty Louis Philippe at the palace of Neuilly; an occurrence of which he often spoke with justifiable pride, for both from His Majesty and from Queen Amelia he received the most marked kindness and attention. It may be mentioned that among those in attendance on the Royal Family on that occasion was General Gourgaud, who had accompanied his former chief Napoleon to St. Helena, and whose name must be familiar to every reader of the life of Sir Walter Scott, for, taking offence at something said in our great countryman's life of Napoleon, he actually threatened him with a duel. But perhaps the most notable event in the provostship of Mr. Lumsden was the extension of the municipality, whereby it was made commensurate with the parliamentary boundaries of the city. We speak within limits when we say that to his unwearied perseverance and extraordinary energy and activity that change, so long needed and so anxiously longed for, was mainly owing.

While acting as one of the ordinary councillors Mr. Lumsden had frequently to act also as one of the Clyde Trustees, and during the whole duration of his provostship he presided over that body. To him, whose memory carried him back to 1812, when he accompanied Henry Bell on the first trip of the original "Comet," it must at all times have been a matter not only of great wonderment, but also of much pride and gratification, to see his native stream become one of the world's greatest highways, through the unwearied exertions of the Trustees, himself one of the most sagacious and energetic of the number.

We should, however, be doing Mr. Lumsden's memory very great injustice were we to confine our remarks to his services on behalf of, or in connection with, the municipality. He was throughout life one of the most zealous advocates and promoters of every measure tending to the weal and comfort of his fellow-citizens, more especially of the humbler classes: indeed, it is impossible to point to any name more associated than was his with schemes of benevolence and charity. We owe to him the Model Lodging-Houses, and the City of Glasgow Benevolent Association; to him, too, the Royal Infirmary of Glasgow owes an unceasing debt of gratitude, for he officiated as its treasurer for upwards of nineteen years, and during the whole of that period he was unwearied in his efforts, every one of them crowned with success, to increase its resources and extend its usefulness. We should add that the system of subscriptions from public works, which was previously unknown, and which has proved so successful, was suggested and put into operation by him during his treasurership.

Gifted with marvellous mental activity, and blessed with excellent health and singular buoyancy of spirits, he prosecuted business with great zeal, and also with great success. In matters of banking he naturally took a deep interest, and he was, in 1838, one of the five or six founders of the Clydesdale Bank. Of these founders only one now survives, Mr. Robert Galbraith of Greenhead, Govan.

But his efforts took still a wider range. In 1835, and probably in recognition of his own early school days, he founded a gold medal for competition in the Grammar School, and twenty-five years later he founded a bursary in the University for the benefit of students of theology.

We have alluded to his visit to Paris in 1845. Long previous to that date, however, he had, in his great desire to see something of the world, visited Germany and also the United States of America. On these visits he often dwelt; and as he had been a shrewd and sagacious observer both of men and things, it will readily be understood how very interesting was his narrative of the scenes through which he had passed.

We have adverted to one great feature of Mr. Lumsden's - his extraordinary buoyancy of sprits. In truth, until very late in life, he had all the liveliness of a school-boy. This, in conjunction with a quick temperament and singular sagacity and shrewdness, together with a thorough perception of character and a disposition that ever leant to the charitable and the kindly side, made him a most pleasing member of society. Moreover, whatever was the task which he assigned to himself, or whatever was the enterprise, whether one of charity or one of business, in which he was expected or asked to take part, he engaged in it, not as if the result were a doubtful one, but as one which was attainable beyond question, provided only it was prosecuted cheerfully and energetically. Assuredly he never on any occasion failed to set the example both of cheerfulness and energy. With such a man at the head of or assisting any movement, success was never wanting.

Mr. Lumsden died on 16th May, 1856, at the ripe age of seventy-eight, and was buried in the family burying ground in the High Churchyard. He left two sons, both his partners in business. The elder was the late Sir James Lumsden, from 1866 to 1869 Lord Provost of Glasgow; and the younger is Mr. George Lumsden, of Drumsheugh Gardens, Edinburgh.

Shortly after his decease his fellow-citizens resolved to erect a statue to his memory. That statue, the work of our townsman, John Mossman, stands in front of the Royal Infirmary, the institution with which the deceased had for so many years been so usefully and so honourably associated.


  1. ^ a b c d James Lumsden, 100 Glasgow Men (published 1885)

  2. ^ Jones Directory og Glasgow 1787

  3. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: James Lumsden

  4. ^ "(30) - Towns > Glasgow > 1787 - Reprint of Jones's directory; or, Useful pocket companion for the year 1787 - Scottish Directories - National Library of Scotland".

  5. ^ a b James Lumsden 1778 - 1856, Gazetteer for Scotland

  6. ^ Glasgow Post Office Directory 1840

  7. ^ James Lumsden (Mitchell Library, Glasgow Collection), The Glasgow Story

  8. ^ Illustrated Catalogue of the Exhibition of Portraits in the New Galleries of Art in Corporation Buildings

  9. ^ Illustrated Catalogue of the Exhibition of Portraits in the New Galleries of Art in Corporation Buildings

  10. ^ Sir James Lumsden (Mitchell Library, The Bailie), The Glasgow Story

  11. ^ Sir James Lumsden, 100 Glasgow Men (published 1885)

  1. James Lumsden, 100 Glasgow Men (published 1885)

  2. James Lumsden 1778 - 1856, Gazetteer for Scotland

  3. Glasgow Post Office Directory 1818

  4. Sir James Lumsden, University of Glasgow

  5. Glasgow Post Office Directory 1840

  6. Sir James Lumsden (Mitchell Library, The Bailie), The Glasgow Story

  7. Sir James Lumsden, 100 Glasgow Men (published 1885)

  8. Glasgow Post Office Directory 1875

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