James Buchanan, Fish-hook Manufacturer, 62, Dale Street, Tradeston
One of the most striking examples of the remarkable business and industrial prosperity achieved by numbers of representative Glasgow merchants and manufacturers within the past half century is afforded by the commercial career of Mr. James Buchanan, the celebrated manufacturer of fish-hooks, located as above. The progenitors of Mr. Buchanan, the present proprietor of this business, were manufacturers in Glasgow. One of them is buried in Anderston churchyard, the tombstone bearing the inscription, "John Buchanan, manufacturer". The house in which Mr. Buchananís great-grandfather lived may still be seen, nearly opposite the church in which he lies buried, and the old railings of the dwelling are still in existence, intact. The crow-steps of the house hate been removed and have been replaced by stones of a smooth shape; the steps that lead into the house are, however, still there.
Mr. Buchanan traces his ancestry back to the soi-disant King Kippin, convivial companion of James IV of Scotland, author of the Gaberlunzie Man, and other poems. The youthful days of Mr. Buchanan were not spent in the lap of luxury. The family is of long standing, and possessed of that esprit de corps which, guided by certain principles, the demoralised habits of the last century could not destroy.
When he was twelve years of age he was apprenticed for seven years to his uncle, Duncan McLeod, fish-hook maker, of Bridgegate Street, Glasgow. This was in 1831, and it was thus in this part of Glasgow, famous as the birthplace of ex-provost Ure and for many other celebrities, that Mr. Buchanan learned the rudiments of the business with whose progress in Scotland has since been so closely allied the name of Buchanan. During the first year of his apprenticeship Mr. Buchanan received from two and six to three shillings per week wages, while at the present moment he is paying his own apprentices, at the same stage, from fifteen to twenty shillings per week. On completing his apprenticeship he became manager to his uncle, and in 1848 or 1850 began business on his own account in the neighbourhood of Jamaica Street. With no other means than his own sobriety, economy, and indefatigable industry, he soon worked himself into a sound position.
He tells a touching story of his life. His wife died in childbed, and exactly twelve months after, to a day, while pacing his room in sorrow, the bells of the city began to toll. The Prince Consort had just died of typhoid fever. Mr. Buchanan relates that at that very moment his thought was that there would be no fear of the Prince dying, seeing that he would have the best medical skill. The fact of his death and its announcement made a deep impression on Mr. Buchananís mind, and taught him to be content with his lot in life, and also to make, under all circumstances, the best use in his power of the means and faculties an All Wise and Omnipotent Being conferred upon him.
While a boy he attended the lectures in the Mechanicsí Institution, North Hanover Street, and later in life he went through a full curriculum in medical science at the college in High Street and Andersonís College. He was amongst the first to employ rollers in the trituration of wheat and in this connection is widely known, and second to none in point of ability, though not practically connected with the occupation. In his early business days Mr. Buchanan had for his neighbours a number of men who have, like himself, attained to a position of much note and eminence in these latter days.
In 1870 he built two large and valuable properties in Dale Street, Tradeston, and- one of these he has now occupied since its completion as a fish-hook manufactory, while the other is devoted to the purposes of an extensive flour-milling trade. In 1880 Mr. Buchanan purchased the old-established business of Messrs. Duncan McLeod & Sons, fish-hook manufacturers, who had long been located in Clyde Place, and this business he now carries on in conjunction with his own. The fish-hook manufactory in Dale Street comprises a fine building of five ample floors, all of which are devoted to the purposes of the industry, and all of which are fitted up and equipped with the most highly improved and effective modem plant and machinery.
The wire for making the hooks is obtained direct from Sheffield in large quantities, and the first process of manufacture consists in straightening this wire and cutting it into the required lengths. This is done by automatic apparatus of remarkably ingenious and accurate formation and action. The subsequent processes are all likewise accomplished by machinery, each separate apparatus being admirably adapted for performing its allotted taskópointing, barbing, and bending, as the case may be. The industry throughout is remarkably self-contained, all its phases being completely exemplified on the premises, even to the ultimate tinning or japanning of the hooks when finished. The staff employed numbers about one hundred hands. The industry is now entirely confined to the production of fish-hooks pure and simple.
Formerly Mr. Buchanan used to dress hooks for trout fishing as well, but he has discontinued that branch, contenting himself with supplying hooks in vast quantities to those who make a special business of dressing them in all the latest and most alluring piscatorial fashions. The connection and fame of this house, in relation to fish-hook manufacture, are widespread; indeed, they are well nigh world-wide. Mr. Buchanan has exhibited at many notable exhibitions, and has always gained eminent medallic and other awards, notable among his successes in this respect being the winning of a gold medal at the Fisheries Exhibition, London, 1883. His manufactures of fish-hooks are celebrated for all good qualities, and are in large demand all over the United Kingdom. A great volume of export trade is also engaged in Canada and the United States being particularly good markets for the productions of this well-reputed house.
Mr. Buchanan, active and energetic as ever, conducts his extensive and important business with conspicuous ability and sound judgment. He is decidedly a "man of parts", as the good old phrase has it, and confesses to having at all times had a "great thirst for knowledge". This laudable ambition he has lost no opportunity of gratifying, and has constantly extended the scope of his acquirements. He has studied medicine to much purpose, and, in addition to his sound practical acquaintance with fishhook making he possesses a thorough knowledge of the flour trade. His name is prominent on the long list of well-known Glaswegians of to-day, and his house is one of the representative establishments of Scotland in its well-developed line of industry.
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