SIR JAMES D.
WHATEVER may be the nominal position, there can be no doubt that a large part of the work and policy of every public body is controlled by its permanent official, if the official, that is to say, be a man of the necessary weight, character, and sagacity. In this way for thirty-one years Sir James Marwick as Town Clerk may be held to have vitally influenced and largely directed the lines of Glasgow's development. During that period the entire city was transformed, its powers and amenities were improved by countless by-laws and Acts of Parliament, and it attained the reputation of the best-governed city in the world. It will be the province of future civic historians to point out how large a part of this great advance was owed to the Town Clerk of the time.
A son of the late William Marwick, merchant in Kirkwall, Sir James was born in Leith, 15th July, 1826, and was educated at Kirkwall and the University of Edinburgh. He was admitted a Procurator at Dundee in 1852, and became a Solicitor before the Supreme Courts six years later. For some time he was a member of the Town Council of Edinburgh, and he became Town Clerk of that city in 1860. He was also Clerk to the Convention of Royal Burghs from 1861 to 1876. In 1873, after much pressure, and at the earnest solicitation of Sir James Watson, the Lord Provost, he accepted the Town Clerkship of Glasgow, from which post he retired only in 1904. During those years he occupied a unique place in the municipal, literary, and social life of the city. He enjoyed the friendship of the successive Lord Provosts of Edinburgh and Glasgow with whom he was associated, and he entertained at his house many of the most distinguished visitors to the latter city. Of the way in which he carried out his professional work it is enough to say that no act of his administration ever was adversely criticised. He gradually built up a reputation as the leading authority on municipal law in Scotland. His knowledge was utilised by successive Lord Advocates, and his opinion constantly sought by the Town Clerks of other burghs; and in no instance was that opinion overturned by the Courts. As a municipal organiser he had the task of framing and carrying out many of the greatest city enterprises of his time - City Extension, City Improvement, duplication of the Water-works, Clyde Purification, Municipal Tramways, Municipal Electricity, etc.
At the same time the bare catalogue of his literary achievement puts to shame the efforts of most professional authors. He began in 1865 with a "History of the High Constables of Edinburgh," and the "Precedence of Edinburgh and Dublin." It was upon his initiative that the Scottish Burgh Record Society was founded, and he edited the "Records of the Convention of Royal Burghs of Scotland," 4 vols., 1866-85; "Records of the City and Royal Burgh of Edinburgh," 4 vols., 1869-82; "Charters and Documents relating to the Collegiate Church and Hospital of the Holy Trinity and the Trinity Hospital," 1871; "Charters of the City of Edinburgh," 1871; "Records of the Burgh of Peebles," with historical preface by Dr. William Chambers, 1872; "Records of the City and Royal Burgh of Glasgow," 2 vols., 1876-82; "Charters of the City of Glasgow," 1894; "Historical Preface to the Glasgow Publications," 1897; "Miscellany of the Scottish Burgh Records Society," 1881. He wrote "Suggestions for the Conduct of School Board Elections in Burghs in Scotland," 1873; "Suggestions for the Conduct of School Board Elections in Parishes in Scotland," 1876; "Observations on the Law and Practice of Municipal Elections, and the Conduct of the Business of Town Councils and Commissioners of Police in Scotland," 1879; all three of which have been indispensable handbooks to Town Clerks and others concerned. His "Report on Markets and Fairs in Scotland" was prepared for the Royal Commission on Markets and Fairs in 1890; and since then he has written works on "The River Clyde and the Harbour of Glasgow," 1898; "The Water Supply of the City of Glasgow," 1901; "The Municipal Institutions of Scotland, an Historical Survey," 1904, etc. He was understood to be engaged on several important works when he died.
Sir James never lost interest in the island county from which he sprang, and many a young Orcadian, on coming south, was indebted to him for advice and help. When in Edinburgh he took an active interest in the affairs of Augustine Church, of which the Rev. W. Lindsay Alexander, D.D., was minister; and in Glasgow he also for long took an active part in the management of Trinity Congregational Church, in the time both of Dr. Pulsford and of Dr. Hunter.
Among his many honours it may be mentioned that he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1864. He received the degree of LL.D. from Glasgow University in 1878; the Freedom of the Burgh of Kirkwall was conferred on him still later; and in 1888, on the occasion of her visit to the first Glasgow Exhibition, Queen Victoria gave him the honour of knighthood, this being the first occasion in which a municipal officer in Scotland was thus distinguished. When he left Edinburgh in 1873 the Corporation and citizens there entertained him at a great public dinner, presented his wife with a full-length portrait of him painted by George Herdman, R.S.A., and showered upon him kindness which he never forgot; and on his retiral from the Town Clerkship of Glasgow in 1904 he was presented with an address and a valuable gift in testimony of the esteem in which he was held by the officials of the Corporation. Subsequently the citizens had his bust executed in duplicate by George Frampton, R.A. - one of these being lodged in the art Galleries, and the other presented to Sir James's family.
In all his work and duties Sir James was ably supported by Lady Marwick, who is a daughter of the late James B. Watt, solicitor, Edinburgh. His eldest son, Mr. David W. Marwick, is a member of the firm of Messrs. Simpson & Marwick, W.S., Edinburgh. One of his sons-in-law is the Rev. Dr. Butler, Galashiels, and another is Mr. J. J. Burnett, A.R.S.A., F.R.I.B.A. Sir James died at his residence in Woodside Terrace on 24th March, 1908.
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)