Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bucks Head Hotel Glasgow ... and a family tragedy

The fleeting nature of life in times past is all too apparent from the briefest and yet most poignant entry in the death column of the Carlisle Journal of 22 February 1845. 

This is for a boy who didn't live long enough to make a mark in life but in trying to find out something about him and his parents I found myself following some fascinating links to a Glasgow landmark, a couple of eminent Scots builders and, curiously, a King of Saxony.

This is the entry -
At Glasgow, on Friday last, Charles, the only son of Mr. McDonald of the Buck's Head Hotel”.
No age is given, but it is very likely this was the “son and heir” proudly announced when he was born the year before (18 June 1844) to a Mrs McDonald at the same hotel.

My first step was to find out about Charles McDonald and the hotel. This advertisement appears in the Carlisle Journal of 8 August 1843.

Charles M'Donald respectfully returns thanks to his Friends for the Patronage bestowed on him since he Opened the above Extensive and Commodius HOTEL, and at the same time begs to state that nothing shall be wanting on his part to merit a continuance of Public Esteem.
THE BUCK'S HEAD is situated in the most Central Street in the City, and is in the Vicinity of the various Railway Stations, and Steam Boat Wharfs, for which Conveyances leave the Hotel at the various hours suiting the departure of the Trains and Steamers.
N.B. The House kept open waiting the arrival of the London Mail by Carlisle, and the last Railway Train from Edinburgh, at which terminus a Conveyance will be in attendance.
*** STABLES and LOCK-UP COACH HOUSES are attached to the Premises.

Early hotel images from Glasgow Story

The Hotel was a prime establishment in Glasgow that had existed since the mid 1700s and had long been associated with important events in the history of the city - which can be read about here.

It certainly catered for VIP guests. During July 1844 there were various newspaper reports of it hosting the King of Saxony and of big crowds around the Hotel and of Mr McDonald being seen attending to him in great style.

However, Charles McDonald's early optimism and confidence was short-lived as he, too, was dead within eighteen months, as per another death notice for him in the Carlisle Journal on 22 November 1845 in which it was noted he was “formerly of this city” [Carlislel]. 

No cause of death is given and one has to ask did both he and his baby son die from one of the raging infectious diseases that often afflicted cities like Glasgow during this decade, or were the two deaths unrelated? What happened to his wife? In that connection, I also discovered an intriguing marriage announcement in another newspaper of 18 March 1845 - “At York Place, Stirling, Charles McDonald, merchant of Glasgow, to Christina Bowie, daughter of late Alexander Bowie, Esq. of Stirling”.  Is this the same Charles McDonald?

Only further research well beyond the scope of this posting might answer such questions. An online family tree (see here) about the Bowie family suggests she had died in childbirth but there are conflicting dates on that family tree as to her marriage and death so one can't be sure. Still, the McDonalds were an example of a mid-Victorian tragedy that wasn't that rare – father, possibly mother, and only child all dead within the space of a year.

After McDonald, numerous proprietors came and went. In 1860, a Mrs. Moffat advertised that the hotel had undergone “a complete renovation in every department”, but less than five years later - twenty after Charles McDonald's brief sojourn - the hotel was razed and replaced with a new building designed by the famous architect, Alexander “Greek” Thomson

Buck's Head Building remains a major Glasgow landmark today and is a British “A” Grade Listed Building.

More images of the building that stands today from various angles here

YouTube video

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Lieutenant E N Kendall ... a man of "talent, enterprize and unwearied zeal" (Sir John Franklin to Kendall's mother)

Moving on to another individual in the obituary column from the Carlisle Journal of 22 February, 1845 (see previous blog entry) this short summary sparked my interest and sent me digging for someone of whom I knew nothing and, as usual, I was astonished at what was to be found -
“On Tuesday week at Southampton, Lieut. E. N. Kendall, marine superintendent of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Company. This promising officer served on several expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic seas, and accompanied the last expedition of Sir J. Franklin to the Polar Seas, between the years of 1825 and 1827, and was the companion of Dr. Richardson on that branch of the expedition which discovered and delineated the northern coast of America lying between the Mackenzie and Coppermine Rivers.”
This “promising officer” was Edward Nicholas Kendall, born in 1800 into a Cornish naval family and left orphaned with three siblings at the age of six. His life was remarkable, both in the way of exploration and dutiful naval service, yet promotion to higher rank than Lieutenant seemed to have eluded him. One has to wonder why after reading the summary in The Canadian Dictionary of Biography of his achievements. Perhaps he was too humble and not pushy enough on his own account or he fell foul of someone with influence at a critical time in his career. And history is full of people like him.

Cree Wigwams in Summer, 1851, Lieut. E. N. Kendall
McCord Museum, Canada
Members of Ancestry will be able to search for and view Kendall's public family tree showing his numerous descendants, several of whom are in Australia. A family photograph is also posted to the family tree (he looks not unlike his one-time superior Sir John Franklin) also his polar medals and other information about him. (Just enter Edward Nicholas Kendall into

Some of Kendall's paintings, sketches and charts can be found at the Scott PolarInstitute and National Maritime Museum UK.

by Lieut. E.N. Kendall

Another longer obituary in a Southampton newspaper where he was Superintendent for the Peninsular and Orient Steam Navigation (P&O) company describes how his death was unexpected and much regretted in the city and the flags were at half-mast for several days after he died -
“... By his kindness and urbanity of manner to all who approached him, by his indefatigable attention to the duties of his highly important and responsible situation, his officer-like conduct to the gentlemen in the service of his company, by his regard for the interest of the town, his extreme benevolence, and the exercise of all the virtues of private life, he had gained universal respect and esteem, and the announcement of his sudden death was felt universally, as that of a dear and respected friend. ...”
It goes on to say that since the 1820s, Kendall had great zeal for the expansion of “steam communication with our Colonies” and while in his service with P&O had -
“projected a plan for … extending steam navigation to Australia and printed for private circulation a pamphlet describing the proposed route and arrangements – a project which will no doubt be carried out at no very long period hence.”
Sadly, Kendall did not live to see his dream fulfilled.  Although not the first steamship to operate in Australian waters, in 1852  Chusan, built at Miller, Ravenhill & Salkeld, Low Walker Yard, Tyneside, became the first P&O regular steam vessel to Australia.

SS Chusan
State Library of South Australia

More interesting links on Kendall here

Internet Archive - Book on earlier Franklin expeditions (includes many references to Kendall and his drawings)

Internet Archive - Reports written by Kendall on New Brunswick.