The Springburn Winter Gardens Trust welcomed Joan Reid and her family from Galway to Glasgow at the weekend as part of a special series of events for the city’s annual Doors Open Days.
Joan, who is 90, is the only surviving granddaughter of Sir Hugh Reid, chairman of the North British Locomotive Company - the largest builder of steam locomotives in the world and the dominant employer in Springburn throughout the early 20th century.
From its grand headquarters in Springburn, latterly the campus of North Glasgow College, over 18,000 of its locomotives were shipped to the far-flung corners of the British Empire. Even today many of the locomotives, with their distinctive diamond-shaped work plates, are still in use in South Africa and India.
At the height of its success, the company employed 8,000 workers and in 1922, in honour of his services to the city, Hugh Reid was created the first Baronet Reid of Springburn and Kilmaurs. Sadly, the North British Locomotive Company failed to adapt to the new age of electric and diesel trains and the firm was liquidated in 1962. The Reid family lived at Belmont House in Springburn, where Joan was born in 1926, and contributed a huge amount through their philanthropic activity in the area; including funding the construction of Springburn Park in 1892, the Springburn Winter Gardens in 1900 and the Springburn Public Halls in 1902. A statue of Sir Hugh’s father, James Reid was erected by public subscription in 1903 and still dominates views across Springburn Park. The family recently discovered a treasure trove of Sir Hugh’s personal effects that had been sealed inside a safety deposit box in a Glasgow lawyer’s office since the 1930s. They include priceless silver and gold caskets gifted by the Glasgow Corporation to Sir Hugh containing his 1917 Freedom of the City scroll. Other items include a series of medals, his baronetcy and correspondence from King George V in 1915 on the death of Reid’s eldest son at the Battle of Loos during the First World War.
Joan contacted the Trust earlier in the year to express her desire to return these precious items to the city of Glasgow and the Springburn Winter Gardens Trust have agreed to collaborate with Glasgow Life to ensure that they will be conserved for future generations of Glaswegians to appreciate the remarkable story of a family that contributed so much to the development of the city’s industrial success. A civic reception was hosted for the Reid family at Glasgow City Chambers on Friday afternoon by the Leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety, the Secretary of Springburn Winter Gardens Trust, Paul Sweeney and Bailie Allan Stewart, where the perfectly preserved artefacts were formally handed over to the safekeeping of the Trust and the city by Joan Reid.
The entire family then joined Paul Sweeney for his Doors Open Day tour of Springburn Park on Saturday where they took great delight in witnessing at first hand the outstanding legacy their ancestors have left to Springburn as they visited the various buildings and monuments around the park.