The History of Leith

May 11, 2012

The Gladstone Family

In Peter Williamson’s Directory for Edinburgh
and Leith, 1786-8, we find—”James Gladstones,
schoolmaster, No. — Leith,” and “Thomas Gladstones,
flour and barley merchant, Coal Hill.” His
shop, long since removed, stood where a wood-yard
is now. James was uncle, and Thomas the father,
of Sir John Gladstone of Easque, who built the
church and almshouses so near where his thrifty
forefathers earned their bread.
The Gladstones, says a local writer, were of j
Clydesdale origin, and were land-owners there |
and on the Border. ” Claiming descent from this
ancient and not undistinguished stock, Mr. John
Gladstones of Toftcombes, near Biggar, in the
Upper Ward of Clydesdale, had, by his wife, Janet
Aitken, a son, Thomas, a prosperous trader in
Leith, who married Helen, daughter of Mr. Walter
Neilson of Springfield, and died in the year 1809 ;
of this marriage, the deceased baronet (Sir John)
was the eldest son.”
He was born in Leith on the nth December,
in the year 1764, and commenced business there 1
at an early age, but soon removed to the more j
ample field of Liverpool, where, for more than !
half a century, he took rank with the most successful
traders of that opulent seaport, where he
amassed great wealth by his industry, enterprise,
and skill, and he proved in after life munificent
in its disposal.
The names of Thomas and Hugh ..Gladstones,
merchants in North Leith, appear in the Directory
for 1811, and the marriage of Marion (a daughter
of the former) to the Rev. John Watson, Minister
of the Relief Congregation at Dunse, in 1799, is
recorded in the Herald of that year.
While carrying on business in Liverpool, John
Gladstones was a liberal donor to the Church of
England, and after he retired in 1843, and returned
to Scotland, he became a not less liberal benefactor
to the Episcopal Church there. His gifts to Trinity
College, Glenalmond, were very noble, and he
contributed largely to the endowment of the
Bishopric of Brechin, and he also built and endowed
a. church at Fasque, in the Howe of the
Mearns, near the beautiful seat he had acquired
there. In February, 1835, he had obtained the
father and grandfather had written the name, and
to restore it to what he deemed the more ancient
form of Gladstone, though it is distinctly spelt
“Gladstanes” in the royal charters of King David II,
(Robertson’s ” Index.”)
The eminent position occupied by this distinguished
native of Leith, as well as his talents and
experience, gave his opinions much weight in
commercial matters. According to one authority,
“he was frequently consulted on such subjects by
ministers of the day, and took many opportunities
of making his sentiments known by pamphlets and
letters to the newspapers. He was to the last a
strenuous supporter of that Protective policy which
reigned supreme and almost unquestioned during
his youth, and his pen was wielded against the
repeal of the Corn and Navigation Laws. He
was a fluent, but neither a graceful nor a forcible
writer, placing less trust apparently in his style
than in the substantial merits of his ample information
and ingenious argument.” Desire was more
than once expressed to see him in Parliament, and
he contested the representation of various places
on those Conservative principles to which he adhered
through life. Whether taking a prominent
part in the strife of politics had excited in him an
ambition for Parliamentary life, or whether it was
due, says Mr. George Barnett Smith, in his wellknown
” Life ” of Sir John Gladstone’s illustrious
son, the great Liberal Prime Minister, “to the
influence of Mr. Canning—who early perceived
the many sterling qualities of his influential supporter—
matters little; but he at length came
forward for Lancaster, for which place he was returned
to the Parliament elected in 1819. We
next find him member for Woodstock, 1821-6 ; and
in the year 1827 he represented Berwick. Altogether
he was a member of the House of Commons
for nine years.” In 1846 he was created a baronet,
an honour which must have been all the more
gratifying that it sprang from the spontaneous suggestion
of the late Sir Robert Peel, and was one
of the very few baronetcies conferred by a minister
who was ” more than commonly frugal in the grant
of titles.”
Sir John was twice married, and had several children
by his second wife, Anne Robertson, daughter
of Andrew Robertson, Provost of Dingwall. His
youngest son, the Right Hon. William Ewart Gladstone,
M.P., born in 1809, has a name that belongs
to the common history of Europe.
The venerable baronet, who first saw the light
in the rather gloomy Coal Hill of Leith, died at his
seat of Fasque on the 7th of December, 1851,
in the eighty-seventh year of his age, and was able
to transact business until a very short time before
his death. He was succeeded in the baronetcy
by his eldest son, Sir Thomas Gladstone, of Fasque
and Balfour, M.P. for Queenborough and other
places successively in England.
Gladstone Place, near the Links, has been
so named in honour of this family.

source-Old and New Edinburgh

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