James Scott (1810-1884)

First name:
Second name:
Date of birth:
Date of death:
Occupation type(s):

Industrialist (Textiles)
Sole Partner, Clippens Shale Oil Co.
Chairman, Clippens Oil Co. Ltd.


James Scott was a prominent Glasgow industrialist who made his fortune in the textile trade. His son, Thomas Inglis Scott, became partner in the Clippens Shale Oil Company along with oil manufacturer Robert Binning and his son John Binning. James Scott took an increasing interest in the affairs of the Clippens Shale Oil Company, ultimately becoming the sole partner. He then promoted a limited company, The Clippens Oil Co. Ltd to take forward the business, which he served as Chairman until his death.


Death of Mr. James Scott

We regret to have to intimate the sudden death of Mr James Scott, formerly of Kelly, and one of the number of old Glasgow merchants who in their day have so largely contributed to the commercial prosperity of the city. The sad event took place in the office of the Clippens Oil Company, Bothwell Street. Mr Scott, who resided at No. 1 Woodside Place, attended at the office of the company as usual yesterday morning, but in the course of the forenoon he was suddenly seized with illness, and shortly afterwards expired.

He had reached the age of 74 years, and his life had I been one of unbroken activity. James Scott was a native of Glasgow. He went into business at an early age, and his industry and intelligence were such that in his nineteenth year he became a partner in the firm of James Black & Co., calico printers. The senior partner of the firm, by the way, was the father of Lady Alison. It was an extremely successful business that of James Black & Co. Mr Scott went into it with characteristic energy, and in the opinion of experts did more at that time to develop calico printing than any one of his contemporaries. After a good many years devoted to this special industry, he went into another.

In company with his brother, William Scott, he acquired a spinning and weaving mill in the eastern district of the city and here again commercial enterprise resulted in the concern becoming the largest of the kind in Scotland. But his career was not wholly without its shadows. During the troubled incident to the American War he became involved in the failure of Messrs Collie, and was obliged to compound with his creditors. Nothing daunted, he set to work again, and, on a Christmas morning some years afterwards, his creditors received from Mr Scott a cheque for the full amount due.

About 10 years ago he originated the Clippens Shale Oil Company; and two years since, probably feeling that his life was nearing its close, he turned the business into a Limited Liability Company. Besides carrying through these various undertakings, Mr Scott was a large holder of heritable property. About 1850 . he purchased the estate of Kelly, Wemyss Bay, and took a prominent part in promoting the Wemyss Bay Railway. His public career was very much briefer, but not less notable, than his mercantile life. Many years ago he became a member of the Town Council of Glasgow, carrying into the conduct of public affairs the far-seeing shrewdness and decision which characterised his action in private matters. He was not long a member of Council, yet he achieved a great deal in a short time.

Glasgow was then in a transition state - emerging from the modest commercial town into the colossal city which it has since become. There were members of Council who failed to see that this significant change was going on, and who still preserved, in respect to local legislation, the narrow spirit of the town. Their faltering timidity was, however, counterbalanced by the decision of Mr Scott, who in clearness and breadth of outlook was far in advance of his time. As deputy, chairman of the Clyde Trust, he helped forward several of the most important undertakings of that day. ln his capacity as a Town Councillor, he strongly advised the purchase of the ground since known as the West-End Park for the use of the citizens. The project was regarded as too daring even for the community. In these circumstances Mr Scott bought it himself and held it until the authorities came to see what was for the public advantage.

Similarly, for the general good, he built at his own expense , the bridge connecting Bothwell Street with the west end of St Vincent Street, and thus forming the easiest line of access between Gordon Street and the west. As we have said, Mr Scott did not long remain in public life. He was an influential man, and did important work in his day, but the Town Council, we can readily believe, had few attractions for him. Essentially a man who decided promptly and executed vigorously, and who was rather impatient of speech making, he probably felt himself out of his element in the Town Council of Glasgow, and so he left it, and again devoted himself to his private concerns. He was vice-chairman of the Vale of Clyde Tramways Company, but in strictly public matters he had taken no active part for many years. We have indicated, in what has been said, some of the distinguishing qualities of Mr Scott, to which it may only be added that he was a man of singularly generous disposition. His death is mourned by his widow and a grown-up family.

The Glasgow Herald 25th April 1884

  • References
    • JAMES SCOTT was born in Glasgow in May, 1810, and was the eldest son of Thomas Scott, who came to Glasgow in 1800. His father was the seventh son of Alexander Scott, an extensive farmer in Muiravonside, where the family were settled for many years. His mother was Helen Inglis, daughter of Robert Inglis, of Flask, Linlithgowshire.

      Mr. Scott was educated at the Grammar School of Glasgow, and at Polmont School, Stirlingshire. Through the influence of his uncle, William Inglis, the senior partner of Inglis, McCalmont & Co. (now McCalmont Brothers), he was taken into the firm of James Black & Co., calico printers in Glasgow, at the age of sixteen, where he displayed so much energy and ability that Mr. Black made him a partner at the early age of twenty.

      In the next few years he devoted himself principally to the affairs of James Black & Co., his partner being frequently absent on account of ill health. Under his able management the business increased very rapidly, and in 1835 the firm acquired the property and print works of Dalmonach, in Dumbartonshire, which they largely extended and improved. Referring to this part of his career, Joseph Irving, in his work on Dumbartonshire, remarks:- "In the year 1835, Dalmonach passed into the hands of James Black & Co., through whom, and particularly by the extraordinary enterprise of the late Mr. Black's surviving partner, James Scott of Kelly, it has attained its present position in the foremost ranks of printing."

      Mr. Scott took a great interest in the railway movement from 1835 to 1845, and at a later period, through his connection with the estate of Stobcross, he was the means of developing the great mineral and goods depots adjacent to the Queen's Dock.

      He retired from business in 1847. He married in 1848 Jane M. Galbraith, daughter of Andrew Galbraith, merchant in Glasgow. They had five sons and five daughters, eight of whom survived him. In 1849 he purchased the estate of Kelly, which he disposed of in 1866.

      Mr. Scott was of too active a temperament to remain long out of business, and about the year 1852 he started with his younger brother the firm of J. & W. J. Scott & Co. In 1856 he rejoined by request his old firm of James Black & Co. The first-named firm developed into the largest cotton spinning work in Scotland, but the business was not prosperous and the mills were sold in 1869.

      In 1871 Mr. Scott's attention was drawn to the Scottish oil industry, then in its comparative infancy, and although upwards of sixty years of age he entered into it with great interest, and taking the mineral fields at Clippens, in Renfrewshire, he erected works there. The energy which he evinced in this new sphere of business was surprising. Acquiring extensive shale fields at Pentland, he erected works there also. Two years before his death (which took place on the 24th of April, 1884) the business merged into the present Clippens Oil Co. (Limited), of which he became chairman, and up to the last he continued to interest himself actively in its affairs.

      Notwithstanding the varied and engrossing nature of Mr. Scott's commercial enterprise, he did not shrink from undertaking the discharge of the high and important duties of citizenship in the municipal rule and government of the city. He was a member of the Town Council from 1846 to 1855. For a short period of his term of office he was a magistrate, and for the last four years City Treasurer, at the same time acting as deputy-chairman of the Clyde Trust, and he was a most able administrator. Regarding this part of his career, one who was formerly associated with him says - "Very few of the present generation can realize the value of Mr. Scott's services in connection with the municipal rule of the city. He became a town councillor at an important era of the municipal history of Glasgow, the Act of 1846 having extended the city boundaries over the Parliamentary area so as to include the various districts known as Gorbals, Calton, Anderston, and Bridgeton. This led to the inception of the Loch Katrine water supply, the formation of public parks, museums, and galleries of art. In all these he took a leading part. To him we are mainly indebted for the formation of the Kelvingrove Park; and it afforded him gratification during his later years to see the crowds of citizens enjoy the advantages of the recreation ground which he had done so much to secure.

      The great object, however, to which he devoted special attention was the improvement of the Clyde, so as to render the harbour of the Broomielaw suitable for the accommodation of the increasing shipping trade, and the commercial interests of Glasgow and its neighbourhood. In conjunction with the engineer of the Trust, Mr. Brebner, who was succeeded by the afterwards famous John Ure, the increased size of modern steam vessels was anticipated, and the works of the Clyde Navigation designed on a scale to meet such requirements; indeed, the present prosperous condition of the Clyde Navigation Trust is in a great measure attributable to the works executed or designed during Mr. Scott's term of office as deputy-chairman. He had great ideas regarding the varied industries of Glasgow, and its importance as a leading commercial centre; and these, when times of depression recurred, influenced his sanguine and far-seeing temperament, and enabled him to forecast future progress and returning prosperity."

      Mr. Scott's interest as an extensive heritable proprietor in Bothwell Street and Blythswoodholm led him to obtain, at his own expense, an Act of Parliament for the construction of Bothwell Circus in order to provide the means of direct communication between Bothwell Street and St. Vincent Street, an undertaking which has in the highest degree been advantageous to the city. His design included the formation of an extensive system of arcades on the Holm lands opposite Gordon Street; but ultimately he was induced to transfer his interest to the Caledonian Railway Company, who had it in contemplation to utilize the ground for a railway station. He, however, erected the property situated between Hope Street and Wellington Street, which is known as Bothwell Buildings, a structure which bears evidence to his cultivated taste as regards architectural design, and his knowledge of structural arrangement in the adaptation of business occupancies. Mr. Scott was Deputy-Lieutenant for Renfrewshire, Justice of the Peace for Dumbartonshire, Renfrewshire, and Lanarkshire, and one of Her Majesty's Income Tax Commissioners.

      Mr. Scott was a member of the Church of Scotland, but was liberal and unsectarian in his views and charities, willing always to help and give if the cause was worthy. He possessed a kindly, generous disposition, ever desirous of helping and advising the young who had difficulties to contend with, many of whom can recall his kind words of counsel and encouragement. While occupying for many years a position of commanding influence within the city, he was singularly free from any tendency towards ostentation or display. Quiet in his manner, he was a man of deeds, not words; and few have left to the rising generation a better example of the qualities which enable a man, by earnest and honest application to the duties of life, to raise himself to an honourable position among his fellow-citizens.

      From "Memoirs and Portraits of One Hundred Glasgow Men", published by James MacLehouse, 1886.

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