James Whitelaw

James Whitelaw, Dispensing Chemist, 496, St. George's Road (opposite St. George’s-in-the-Fields).—

    Few sciences have done more to alleviate physical suffering, and to make all classes of the community look on the “bright side of things,” than pharmacy, which is appropriately represented by the well-known establishment conducted by Mr. James Whitelaw, Associate of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain. This house was founded in 1872.

    The ground floor of the premises contain a spacious double-fronted shop, with superior fixtures, and a well-appointed consulting-room in the rear. The stock held is large and varied, comprising drugs, chemicals, and pharmaceutical preparations of the best and finest quality ; together with proprietary articles. Extensive and well-sustained patronage is accorded this popular pharmacy in the district.

    Among the other subjects connected with the science of chemistry, Mr. Whitelaw’s attention was directed about eight years ago to that of the varnish used by the old Cremona violin makers ; and, believing that amber had been used as a basis, he made innumerable experiments, but for some years got no results of real appreciable utility. The reward, however, came at last, in the shape of a tangible, certain, appreciable result. Two years ago, in 1886, Mr. Whitelaw ultimately got hold of an idea, which, after repeated experiments, resulted in what must be accepted as a most gratifying success, the result being what appears to be a practical discovery, or rather re-discovery, of the lost secret of the old amber violin varnish.

    The advantages of amber varnish are :
    1st, that it is a soft oil varnish, permanently brilliant and transparent, having a beautiful lustre which is seen — especially on the pine wood — when the violin is held at the back of a lighted candle, and moved from side to side, and up and down. This is characteristic of the genuine old Cremona varnish.
    2nd, it does not sink into the wood, but lies firmly on the surface, permitting free vibration, and allowing the carefully matured wood to give forth its natural quality of tone at once.
    3rd, that no stain or preparation of any kind is applied to the wood before the varnish — the colour is part of the varnish.
    4th, that it certainly gives a beautiful quality of tone to all violins — not to say that it will make a bad violin into a good one.

    On the other hand, the disadvantages of spirit varnish are :
    1st, Its hardness and want of transparency and depth — any it may have at first quickly disappears, leaving a thin painty appearance on the wood ; this occurs especially with lac varnishes.
    2nd, that a great number of the first coatings soak into the wood when applied, filling anew the empty connective cells with hard gums, and giving the violin a harsh quality of tone, which does not quite leave until this new gum is dissipated ; this can only take place after a long period of years and constant playing.
    3rd, that before applying spirit varnish the wood is usually stained and prepared. With stained wood all feeling of depth is lost.
    4th, that it alters, and, in many cases, will spoil, the tone of the finest violin during the lifetime of its owner.

    A handsome case of violins coated with Whitelaw’s Cremona Amber Varnish was exhibited in the Glasgow International Exhibition, 1888, where it attracted great attention from the musical public and the press.

Back to Index of Firms (1888)