THE son of a pattern designer at the rustic village of Milton, near Dunbarton, Mr. Ralston was born there in "the forties." While he was still a child his parents removed to Glasgow, and in due time he received his education at the Old Normal School. One winter he tried to learn art at the Art School, which was near Montrose Street, but the dry scrolls, curves, and other similar figures which he was set to draw did not encourage him, and the result is that he became a self-taught artist. His first adventure into the world of affairs, however, was as a cabin-boy for a summer on board one of the Clyde steamers. Next he served for four years in the wholesale warehouse of Messrs. William Gilmour & Sons. But, showing signs of delicate health, or being thought to do so, he was sent upon a voyage to Australia, where he remained for three years, and as a gold digger, among other occupations, saw something of colonial life. Meanwhile his father had begun business as a photographer in Glasgow, and invited him to return and take charge of a branch establishment. This he did. His younger brother, who died early, was then making for art as a profession - much to the grief of his mother, who classed painting and drink as about equal evils. The methods of that brother afforded him some example, and after business hours he frequently sat up half the night, "pegging away" at sketches of various kinds. He was thirty years of age, and on the eve of marriage, when his bent received its first real encouragement. He had a drawing accepted by the late Shirley Brookes, editor of Punch. Brookes remained a good friend to him as long as he lived. Afterwards the late Mr. Thomas, founder of The Graphic, invited him to go to London, and there Mr. Ralston spent the happiest fourteen years of his life. Unfortunately he never had any faith in his own artistic ability, and when his father died he returned to Glasgow and photography. It would be hard work, he knew, to carry on the two professions, but the family business was at stake. For some time he did not produce so much as formerly, but he still remained a trusted contributor to The Graphic, with whose management, during a connection of over thirty years, he never had the slightest disagreement; and he returned to London in 1907. All the world is familiar with his pages of humorous sketches, sometimes coloured, in that paper. The page usually tells an amusing and delightful story, and it is not too much to say that Mr. Ralston's Graphic pictures have contributed to the gaiety of many nations. In addition to his journalistic work, he has published, in conjunction with his friend, C. W. Cole, Fleet Paymaster, R.N., "Tippoo, a Tale of a Tiger," "A Tour in the North," and "The Demon Cat," while to his single pen and pencil belong the credit of "North Again," "A Yachting Holiday," "Sport," "Tam o' Shanter," illustrated, "Loot from my Friends," a lady's album, "The Jovial Elephant," "Billy" (a cat), and other work. He has also lately redrawn and republished "Tippoo."
Index of Glasgow Men (1909)