C. T. Bowie & Co.
Messrs. C. T. Bowie & Co., House Painters, 26, Bothwell Street.—
One of the largest and most important establishments of its kind in Scotland is that whose well-known title appears at the head of this brief review, it is carried on by the firm of Messrs. C. T. Bowie & Co., and was founded in 1850 at 50, Queen Street, Glasgow. Two years subsequent the business was transferred to its present eligible quarters in 26, Bothwell Street, where it has since remained. The premises are large and handsome having a fine frontage, comprising spacious and commodious showrooms, offices with stock-rooms, &c., above, and the same extent of space on the basement, where the materials are kept, arranged, and distributed ; while adjacent are the stores, workshops, scaffold racks, and stables.
The firm execute every description of painting and decorating, both internal and external, whether of the most ordinary or of the most special and particular character ; and they maintain a reputation for thoroughness and excellence of work in every undertaking in which they engage — houses, ships, warehouses, railway bridges, churches and everything of a structural character — all coming within the scope of their brush or their practical talents receives the same careful and capable attention. They employ a force averaging about two hundred hands, and have done so for the last thirty years. At their showrooms in Bothwell Street they exhibit many sketches (specially prepared and kept for the inspection of customers) of churches, mansions, &c., the majority of which have been practically carried out in detail, and which owe much of their attractiveness to the decorative work carried out within them by this firm.
About six years ago Messrs. Bowie & Co. bought the business of Messrs. David Murray & Son, of Paisley, which was established there as far back as 1810, and this they now carry on in conjunction with their Glasgow house. Their business connections are of the most widespread and influential order ; they have many distinguished patrons in art, mercantile, industrial, shipping and general circles throughout the country.
What may be interesting to the trade in the life history of Mr. C. T. Bowie may be lightly passed over, and we think this sketch would be incomplete without at least a few remarks relative to it, which are so far known to his intimate friends already. As an introduction to it, we find that when a boy he gained the highest prize for drawing in Dr. Boyd’s class in the High School of Edinburgh ; and when a youth he entered the Royal Academy drawing class, under Sir William Allan, and after him, that of Sir George Harvey. While under the former he was employed by Messrs. Ballantyne and Allan, glass stainers, Edinburgh, and after that served an apprenticeship with Mr. D. B,. Hay, one of the most celebrated of Scottish decorative painters, and author of the “Harmony of Colour”, and many other standard works on colour and form. As an instance of the estimation in which Mr. Bowie was held, he was strongly urged in 1852, by Mr. Hay, to become his successor in the business, and in 1854 was offered a partnership in Mr. Purdie’s business in Edinburgh. Previous to both these periods, however, he had commenced business on his own account in Glasgow, as the sequel shows, and modestly declined both proffers.
He came to Glasgow in 1845, and wrought as a journeyman for two years, first to Messrs. Liddle & Co., and secondly to Messrs. Bogle & Co., and for other two years was manager to Messrs. Salmond & Co., they having no practical partner in the firm. It was in the first year on his own account that he was successful in executing the painting and decorating of the (now old) Atheneum Hall and offices ; in the following year that of the Merchant’s Hall, and what enhanced his popularity then was his having received a carte-blanche to decorate the pleasure steam yacht Faid-Rabani for the Pacha of Egypt, which was furnished and decorated more sumptuously and in a more expensive manner than any other vessel then afloat, so much so, that the first day it was brought up to the Broomielaw harbour for exhibition by ticket, no less than five thousand took advantage of visiting it.
About this same time the City Halls (larger and lesser) were done by Mr. Bowie ; and in 1854 the Trades Hall was done in the best and most magnificent style of Raphaelesque decoration, for which he employed Mr. Gow, the decorator of the Italian Courts at Sydenham, to form the design and paint the eight figures, which are about seven feet high, and which are still fortunately preserved, as they are the finest specimens of mural decoration in the city. The renovation was commemorated by a banquet, where six hundred were present the deacon convener of “The Trades Incorporations” as chairman, the members of Parliament for the city, the Lord Provost and magistrates, the sheriffs, the dean of guild, and other city and county functionaries. This work of the Trades Hall did more to bring Mr. Bowie into prominent notice than any other, either then or since — the treatment was “so very beautiful, and highly appreciated by the art press and the public in general ; and is taken notice of in the “History of Glasgow”, and the “Trades House History,” by Cruickshank and others.
It may be pertinent to remark that there are none in the city who are more fully conversant with every executive detail of the trade than Mr. Bowie. He has graduated through all its stages and acquitted himself with high honours, his workmanship being often taken notice of by the public press. He was one of the jurors for the awards on the decorative art works of the Edinburgh Exhibition in 1886, and in 1887 was one of the two judges selected by the operatives for the Dundee Exhibition specimens of house decoration, when gold and silver medals, &c., were awarded to the competitors ; besides acting in the same capacity for competitions of a similar kind in other towns. About thirty workmen from the firm were employed for a month or more on various parts of the Glasgow International Exhibition, especially on the reception rooms and private dining room for their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, erected by Messrs. Wyllie & Lochead.
He was often President of the National Painters’ and Decorators’ Association, and also of the local one, his term of office being concurrent with the lengthy and serious strikes prevalent in this trade some time ago ; and during that trying period he won many a good opinion by the generosity of his dealings with the workmen of the craft.
A diary, or as it was titled, “A Six Weeks' Scamper Through France and Italy”, Written by Mr. Bowie was printed for private circulation ; but the modesty of the author was not to be tolerated by his friends, and the consequence was that it was favourably noticed by nearly all the papers. In 1883 he also wrote the “Trial Trip of the St. George”, a most enjoyable book, and illustrated with the most striking incidents of the voyage. As early as 1848 till 1853, Mr. Bowie was asked and consented to write descriptive criticisms on the art exhibitions, all of which were published. Thus, in the literature of his trade, he essayed to find a pleasing occupation for his talents.
The personnel of the firm at present comprises Messrs. C. T. Bowie, the founder, D. Fisher, and John H. Bowie, son of the former, who conduct the business in co-partnership. Mr. Fisher, who has been for nearly thirty years attached to the interests of the firm, has contributed very considerably to its development and success, and has managed the commercial part entirely, and organised to a large extent the details of the executive features of the business during all these years with characteristic activity and integrity, and has a consummate support in the personage of the junior partner, Mr. John H. Bowie, and the moral of the “House built upon the rock” is fully exemplified in all three.
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