A SON of Mr. J. R. Kay, who sits with him on the
directorate of Messrs. Arthur & Company, Limited, Mr. Arthur Kay was born south
of the Border. At Park School, Glasgow, before the age of twelve, he took prizes
in Greek, Botany, and Roman History. Afterwards, in Rossall School, in
Lancashire, among many other prizes, he took two firsts for painting in oils,
became head of the school in geography and plain arithmetic, and in the Public
School Competition for the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society, in
which he represented Rossall, he came out third. He also made his mark in school
athletics, winning the long jump and high jump under 16. and taking several
prizes for flat racing. In the school rifle corps he won his marksmanship badge,
and for two years he shot in the school eight at Wimbledon. Later at Glasgow
University, he was asterisked for classics, was Prize Essayist in the late
Professor Nichol's Senior Literature Class, and after winning the Menteith-French
Scholarship subsequent to being bracketed equal with five others, found himself
disqualified by the fact of his birth in England.
In the vacations of 1879, 1880, and 1881 he studied at Paris, Hanover, Leipzig, and Berlin. While still in his teens he spent nearly two years in South Africa and Australia with a view to acquiring a knowledge of the colonies, and he joined an expedition for "big game" shooting, which made its way to the north of the Limpopo, a region then almost unexplored. His impressions of both colonies were afterwards embodied in two papers read before the Glasgow Philosophical Society.
As a director of Arthur & Company, Limited, the second largest ratepayers in Glasgow after the railway companies, Mr. Kay has taken a keen interest in the financial undertakings of the Corporation. He came prominently before the citizens as leader of the agitation against Sir Samuel Chisholm's Housing Scheme. Considering this scheme a dangerous movement in the direction of municipal socialism, he opposed it in the press, in pamphlets, and on platform, obtained its unanimous condemnation at a meeting of the Chamber of Commerce, the largest on record, raised the money to oppose it, and saw the Provisional Order thrown out on its own evidence before the committee. He is also a vigorous critic of the Corporation's methods of finance. Among other matters he objects to the fact that the Corporation holds over £2,000,000 borrowed from small depositors on monthly call, considering that if suddenly demanded in a time of public stress, such liability might lead to serious embarrassment. He also objects to the practice of employing the city's sinking fund in fresh undertakings, instead of actually paying off debt - thus accumulating a huge municipal capital which the Corporation may use to compete in trade against its own ratepayers. To combat these practices he founded the Ratepayers' Federation, Limited, of which he is chairman, and he gave evidence at great length before the Joint Select Committee on Municipal Trading in 1903. He also read a vigorous paper before the Philosophical Society in 1903 on "Municipal Trading with a special reference to the Sinking Funds of Glasgow Corporation," and he published an exhaustive analysis of the intromissions of "The Corporation of Glasgow as owners of Shops, Tenements, and Warehouses."
Previously Mr. Kay was known chiefly by the interest which he took in the fine arts. He is a specialist on early Dutch painting, and has frequently lent pictures from his fine collection to enrich local and other exhibitions. He has made an exhaustive study and formed a valuable collection of Japanese lacquer work. He is a member of the Burlington Fine Arts Club, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House, London, and he has written much in the Glasgow and London press, and spoken on local art occasions in advocacy of the best interests of art in municipal picture buying. He is also Hon. Treasurer of the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts, and a Vice-President of the Council of the Tariff Reform League, London.
Mr. Kay is a Justice of the Peace for the County of the City of Glasgow. His wife is a daughter of Captain John Grahame, son of Major Grahame of Glenny, a sister of Captain G. C. Grahame, and cousin of General Sir Archibald Hunter, K.C.B., D.S.O., etc.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)