Of William Stirling and Co., Turkey Red Dyes (Vale of Leven), Glasgow. Resident Chamber of Commerce. Patron of Arts. Also of Cordale and Dalquhurn Works.
Long biography in Glasgow Herald a day or two after his death.
John Matheson, Junior
Born 6 Oct. 1817. Irvine's History of Dumbartonshire, Vol 1, pages 359-362 gives the following: John commenced business in the sales-room of his father, and in 1846 he joined the firm of William Stirling and sons. This firm had moved from Dawsholm, Maryhill, Glasgow in 1770 to works in the Vale of Leven. This was the oldest firm in the Turkey Red trade in the Vale, with works at Cordale and Dalquhurn. In 1857 John resided at Dalquhurn Cottage and was Superintendent of the Works. Married Jessie Forrester of Glasgow. 1866 moved to Cordale House. In 1864 and again in 1875 he made tours of India. In 1874 he read a paper before the Social Science Congress in Glasgow. 1876, President of Chamber of Commerce, Glasgow. 1870, he published "England to Delhi".
There is a splendid photo of John Junior in Volume 3 of the above book. He died on 12/11/1878 suddenly, in Sauchiehall Street, while speaking to a friend. He appears to have used a Matheson Coat of Arms, a Right Hand grasping a short curved sword or dagger, with the motto FAC ET SPERA. !!! (The present Chief of the Clan Matheson, Sir Bertram Matheson, M.C. did not matriculate his arms until 1964!).
In "Historic Families and Notable People of the Lennox", by D. Macleod, 1891, page 14: "William Stirling severed his connection with the old firm in 1876, leaving the business in the hands of his sole co-partner, John Matheson, Junior, of Cordale, who worthily stepped into the shoes of the old Stirlings, and marched onward in their footsteps, blessing and being blessed. Besides having business capacities of a high order he had literary acquirements of no mean description. (He was at Glasgow Academy! RLM). His Volume "England to Delhi" was well received by the public. His status in musical and scientific ranks was high - On 4th June 1879 a memorial bust of him was presented to the Corporation of Glasgow by Sir Peter Coats and others, to be placed in the Corporation Galleries among the memorials of other honoured citizens". Macleod then finished by quoting a poem of John Junior, entitled "Concerning them that are Asleep". (I'll spare your that! RLM).
Another book by Macleod mentioned that John was also interested in currency problems, and in the subject of cruelty to animals. He left no will. His penultimate address was 5, Claremont Terrace, and his ultimate one Epsilon No. 46, with his wife, Jessie Mary Bertram Forrester, by the Cathedral.
His business was bought by his younger brother, Sir Donald, by a local worthy Alex Wylie, and by his brother-in-law, Henry Forrester. John Junior was also a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, so he may have had a telescope mounted in his garden in the Vale of Leven, and possibly have written papers for the Journal of the Society.
When I read a book I often think of poor Job, xxxi, 35 - "Oh, that mine adversary had written a book". I think that Job meant that one could learn more about a man from his writings than from published accounts about him, or from his conversation. All that I have written so far in these epistles about my ancestors and collaterals (except my parents and Grandfather Lindsay) is second hand. Further, I have avoided psychological analysis of any of these characters. However, I borrowed "England to Delhi" from the local library, and reviewed it in a pseudo-professional way!
Briefly: Published by Longmans, Green, of London. 1870. A book of 523 pages, plus a very good index of subjects at the end. Well bound, part cloth, part leather. Good print and paper. Plenty of good illustrations on wood by Robert Tennent, and engraved by Stephen Miller and George Pearson. There are 45 chapters, none too long, each headed by one or more quotations relevant to the theme. Lines from Shakespeare, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Chaucer, Suckling, Tennyson, Cowper, Byron (Did he know about Byron's real life?), Johnson, Pope seem to indicate wide reading and appreciation of our literature. He quoted Burns occasionally, and sometimes Holy Writ. Some of his quite common words have now gone out of fashion, e.g. "denizen, prolix". The object of the journey was primarily business, but he did not disclose its nature. In fact it would appear he was anxious to hide his own personality, and incidentally that of his wife, from the reader. Perhaps a feature of the times before the Feminist Movement got under way.
John Junior was certainly a very keen observer throughout his journey, apparently taking copious notes as he went along. Peoples, dress, customs, bird and animal life, scenery, food, weather - all for the reader! He had a very high opinion of the Christian Religion as superior to all others, and thoroughly condemns the idolatrous faiths of the Orient. After his observations on successive towns he collects further information from historical sources, and statistics too, for the education of the reader.
This becomes a boring pattern to me - None of John's fellow travellers appeared to possess a character. Even the Reverend Doctor with whom he travelled so many miles is no more than a name.
Rarely does the author participate or initiate: always he collects and observes. The British Empire of that day stands high in his estimation for the great benefits it brought to the mixture of races, creeds and confusions which made up the India of that day. One soon tires with the repetitive patterns of chapters, and the absence of living personalities. I managed to read 300 of the 523 pages, skimmed the rest, without learning whether John smoked or drank, or ever made a mistake in life, or whether he ever said anything to his wife, or she to him.
A superior person, member of the upper stratum of the Victorian Middle Classes. I've had better travelling companions than John Junior. A superior person, out to educate himself - and everybody else!
Well, that's what I wrote some months ago about the book!
From The Glasgow Herald, about 13th November 1878.
"Death of John Matheson, Junior".
We greatly regret to announce this morning the very sudden death of Mr. John Matheson, Junior, of Cordale.
In this sad event we have a peculiarly striking and saddening instance of the uncertainly of life. Mr. Matheson seemed in the very prime of manhood with many years of usefulness before him. His bodily strength, as far as his friends could judge, was unabated, and his vigorous intellect was never clearer or more variously employed in the furtherance of all schemes of social progress and improvement.
On Monday he was present at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, and delivered a short address with reference to a proposal to hold a convention and New Orleans next year, regarding American Trade, and yesterday he was engaged in business, bright and cheerful as he always was.
In these circumstances the intimation of his death creates a feeling of great surprise as well as profound sorrow. About four o'clock in the afternoon, while going home along Sauchiehall Street, and while speaking with a friend, he dropped on the pavement, nearly opposite the establishment of Messrs Copeland and Lye, and expired immediately. Dr. Cowan of Bath Street was called, but found life extinct. His opinion is that death was from disease of the heart. The body of the deceased was conveyed to his town residence at Claremont Terrace.
He was recognised as one of our foremost merchants, uniting business qualities of a high order with unswerving rectitude. He took a large share in the conduct of public business outside Trades Council, and was indeed one of our best and most highly esteemed representative men. In all schemes for the welfare of the community generally, he interested himself in a highly serviceable degree, sparing himself neither personal exertion nor money in carrying them to a successful issue.
The Chamber of Commerce benefited in a very special manner by his commercial experience, sound judgment and ready tact. He was Chairman of the Chamber for a time, and in that capacity, commended himself to the esteem of his colleagues by his admirable management and his unfailing courtesy. His views on all commercial questions were sound as well as advanced, and he always expressed himself with force and admirable clearness. As a Director of the Chamber, he worked in its interests not less usefully.
He represented the Chamber at the Manchester Committee of Experts held in June last for the purpose of considering the question of sub-dividing one of the clauses of The Trades Marks Registration Act, and at a meeting held in the following month, he made a lengthy report as to the result of his mission. The subject was again adverted to at a meeting held in September last when Mr. Matheson introduced to the Chamber Mr. H. Reade-Lack, Registrar-General of Trade Marks who was then his guest at Cordale. How far Mr. Matheson was thus enabled to get the view of the Chamber carried into practical effect need not now be stated. We allude to the visit to Manchester, as showing how readily he gave his time and his council in furtherance of the General Good.
It was indeed fortunate that our local Commercial Parliament, if it may be so-called, possessed a member who could so worthily represent its directorate in other cities. Mr. Matheson's work in India, its commerce and its peoples, gives evidence of quick observation, varied and exact information, and graceful writing. While his paper on the silver currency of India, read before the Economic Section of the British Association, on the occasion of the October Meeting and afterwards published, is acknowledged to be one of the most reliable treatises on the subject.
In public Mr. Matheson always spoke with a thorough knowledge of his subject, and with terseness and felicity. Where he differed in opinion from others he did so in a way which could not possibly give offence. Making his own views with firmness, he never referred to the views of others save with the respect to which they were entitled. His administrative ability was also very great. His SAVOIR FAIRE (sic) was perfect, his tact in managing men, added to his undoubted capacity for the arrangement of details, made him a valued leader in public enterprises.
In this connection we may allude to the Choro-Orchestral Scheme, another season of which was inaugurated last evening - in the absence, alas, of one whom we should all have been glad so see in his accustomed place. We know how greatly these concerts have prospered, and how materially they have elevated the musical taste of Glasgow, but the difficulties which have had to be overcome in carrying them forward to their present stand point, who shall estimate?
We do not seek to lift the veil beyond which it is not desirable the public eye should penetrate, but we venture to say that without the skillful pilotage of John Matheson Junior as Chairman of the Executive Committee, that scheme might have been ship-wrecked ere now. He laboured with all his might to keep things in the right line, entreating and advising here, conciliating there, and everywhere thinking only of how to make his colleagues good friends and willing co-workers.
We recollect how gracefully, at the close of last season's concerts, he presented Doctor Von Bulow with the souvenirs which the Committee wished the Professor to take back to Germany, and we know that since then Mr. Matheson has spent a great deal of time and taken endless trouble to secure that the season now entered upon may have an equally happy termination.
It will be remembered also that Mr. Matheson, at the recent meeting on behalf of the Bank Relief Fund, made a touching as well as a practical appeal in the interest of the shareholders. One likes to think of this as his last speech. It was so creditable to any man, so like John Matheson. His death, which is a great loss to Glasgow, in many ways, is mourned by his widow, with whom all must sympathise. He leaves no children.
To the Reader!
Your may wonder why I have added this dull Victorian stereotype biography to the Matheson Saga. The answer is that in this matter I am a collector of all the information available to me, and not a selector. You, Reader, can judge, if you wish, what type of lad John Junior was, confident that I have held nothing back. This newspaper sketch would be written by a conventional journalist of his period, against the clock or the hour at which all items for tomorrow had to be in the printers' hands. Nothing objectionable to relatives or powerful organisations could be mentioned.
John Junior was a second cousin to my father, who was only 12 years of age when Junior died.
The Bank Relief Fund refers to the distress caused not only in Glasgow but even in New Zealand when the City of Glasgow Bank failed, about 1875. Some of the Directors whet to prison. See Scottish Criminal Trials for that date. Donald Murray (1805-1872), Provost of Rutherglen was, I feel almost sure, agent for that bank, well before its failure. His son, R.S. Murray, succeeded him there.
I have forgotten the source from which I understood he was interested in astronomy.
The evening newspaper has just come in while I have been typing this page. It announces the deaths this morning of two of my hospital colleagues whom I have known for over 46 years. Between them they get ten inches of narrow column, and one was a world wide authority and writer on his subject! The paper circulation is about 200,000, so space is limited. How much was the reporter allowed to write?
O tempora! O mores!
R.L.M. 24th June 1972