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Famous Scots - Archibald Mclellan

Archibald McLellan NEW MARCH

The son of a coach-builder, McLellan was educated at Glasgow University before becoming a partner in his father's business. He was appointed as a magistrate aged 25, was Deacon-Convener from 1831-33 and again from 1834, and arranged that the holders of this position and that of Dean of Guild would become ex offico councillors.

He was interested in the arts and suggested architectural improvements to Glasgow cathedral. Much of his wealth was spent on paintings and sculpture, and on compiling a library. This, along with his collection of gold and silver plate, was later bequeathed to the city.

His name remains known through the McLellan Galleries on Sauchiehall Street, although their construction was a financial burden. The council acquired the galleries for £44,500, and for a time they were known as the Corporation Halls before reverting to their founder's name. McLellan died at Mugdock Castle on 22 October 1854.

ARCHIBALD McLELLAN, the founder of the McLellan Galleries, now designated the Corporation Halls, was a native of Glasgow, where he was born in 1795. His father, who was in respectable circumstances, carried on an extensive business as a coach-builder, his works being situated on the large open space fronting Queen Street and Miller Street, now occupied by part of the warehouse of Arthur & Co.

Mr. McLellan received a liberal education, passing through the regular curriculum at the University. Although destined to follow the mechanical occupation of his father, he derived the benefits of a thorough classical training, and his assiduous devotion to polite literature endued him with all the attributes of a gentleman and a scholar.

Early in life, having made himself practically acquainted with the labours of the anvil and the painting shop, and distinguished himself as an accomplished heraldic draughtsman, he was admitted as a partner in the coach-building business which had long been carried on by his father. Before he attained his majority he was appointed Deacon of the Incorporation of Hammermen; and he had the honour of becoming a Magistrate of the city when only twenty-five years of age.

The Trades' House was for many years the scene of his public labours. Here he soon rose to a high position, being appointed Deacon-Convener in 1831, an office which he held for two years, during which period he rendered important service, both to the Trades' House and the Merchants' House, in securing for the Deacon-Convener and the Dean of Guild the position of Town Councillors ex offico, an honour which was proposed to be taken from them under the Burgh Reform Act. The members of the Trades' House marked their appreciation of his services by re-electing him for another term in 1834, and placing in the Trades' Hall his full-length portrait, painted by his life-long friend, John Graham Gilbert.

Although for many years a prominent member of the Town Council and the Trades' House, the distinguishing characteristic of Mr. McLellan's life was enthusiastic devotion to every object calculated to elevate his native city, not only as regards its external improvement, but more especially in the cultivation and advancement of art in architecture, sculpture, painting, and music. His well-known and able essay on Glasgow Cathedral gave the first impulse to the improvement of our ancient minster, which from the date of the Reformation had been sadly disfigured in its adaptation to the forms of Presbyterian worship, with unsightly galleries and pews filling up the whole interior both of the nave and choir. Many lovers of Gothic architecture offer exception to Mr. McLellan's views regarding the Western Tower and Consistory House, which, mainly through his instrumentality, were removed by Her Majesty's Commissioners when they undertook the restoration of the Cathedral.

Mr. McLellan was the first to suggest a new western approach to the Cathedral, and for the attainment of this object acquired the ground between Weaver Street and Stirling's Road, which was ultimately transferred to the municipal authorities and the Merchants' House for the purpose of carrying out the district improvements. His desire to improve the architectural appearance of the city is evidenced by the handsome structure he built on the west side of Queen Street, to the north of Exchange Square, on the site of the old theatre.

He was a liberal patron of the Fine Arts, and enjoyed the friendship of Sir David Wilkie, Sir Francis Chantrey, Sir Daniel Macnee, R. A. Smith, William Motherwell, and most of the distinguished painters, sculptors, musicians, litterateurs, and other eminent men of his day. He was a strong supporter of native talent, as was exemplified in the part he took in the discussion which preceded the erection of the Wellington Statue. He expended all his surplus means in the purchase of paintings and sculpture of the highest class, the whole of which, as well as his fine library, and his collection of gold and silver plate, he bequeathed to the city, leaving an imperishable monument to his memory.

During all his lifetime Mr. McLellan bore a leading part in the management of the several public trusts, and in the many questions emerging in the government of a large city. Among others which excited attention for some years was the mode of levying assessment for the support of the poor. He being at that time a member of the Town Council was nominated by the "means and substance" party for the office of Lord Provost, in opposition to Mr. Robert Stewart of Omoa, and received the support of an influential minority. With the exception of a brief interval, he had been a member of the Town Council, under the "old and new regime," for more than thirty years.

At the time of Mr. McLellan's death, investments in unproductive property, and the erection of the galleries and adjoining buildings in Sauchiehall Street, had compelled him to incur heavy obligations to the banks, who, as security for their advances, had a lien over his heritable and personal estate, and his intention of bequeathing his whole property for the benefit of art was thus completely frustrated. Many of the leading municipal rulers, however, felt that an opportunity now presented itself for forming the nucleus of an Art Gallery, which, if allowed to pass, might not occur again. Glasgow had at that time lagged somewhat behind other cities in the appreciation of art, and this consideration induced the Town Council, after long and angry discussion, to acquire from the trustee on the estate the Sauchiehall Street buildings, with the pictures, sculpture, and other works of art, for the sum of £44,500. Like many other questions debated in representative bodies such as the Glasgow Town Council, this evoked eager partizanship: one party extolling the purchase as in the highest degree beneficial to the public, and the price named far below the real value - the property alone being worth the sum asked by the trustee; while the other denounced the whole scheme in strong language as a job by which the public were paying for the buildings and the art treasures they contained a sum far beyond what they were worth.
Mr. McLellan died at Mugdock Castle, a favourite residence of his during the summer months, on the 22nd October, 1854, in the fifty-eighth year of his age.

Headstone Photograph

Further Information

Firstname: Archibald

LastName: Mclellan

Date of Death: 22nd Oct 1854

Age at Death: 58

Cemetery: Glasgow Necropolis

  50 Cathedral Square

Town: Glasgow

PostCode: G4 0UZ

Region: Glasgow and Clyde Valley

Country: Scotland


Please Note, the marker on this map indicates the Cemetery location, not the location of a particular grave. is a privately owned website with no affiliation to any Local Councils.