A Lochmaben benefactor whose generous legacy continues to this day is to be honoured.
A new street for Loreburn Housing Association’s 21 homes off Vendace Drive in the Royal Burgh will be called George Hunter Drive.
Annandale and Eskdale councillors have approved the new street name after a request from Lochmaben and District Community Council.
George, who was born in Wamphray in September 1848, moved with his parents and older brother James to Lochmaben at an early age. His remains lie in the Old Kirkyard in Lochmaben with a funeral service held in March 1923. The successful grocer and wine merchant made his fortune in Glasgow from the late 1870s and into the early 20th Century but never forgot his roots.
In October 1918 the bachelor made a generous gift to Lochmaben which was the basis for the setting up of the George Hunter Trust.
This was 200 fully paid up £1 shares in the Bank of New Zealand, 200 ordinary five dollar shares in the Imperial Tobacco Company of Canada, and 200 shares in the Calico Printers’ Association Limited. On his instructions the income from interest raised by the legacy capital was to be given out each year to “benevolent and public purposes”.
The trustees were the Provost of Lochmaben, the Senior Bailie of the Burgh, the chairman of the school board, the minister of the parish church and the headmaster of the Lochmaben Public School and their successors in office.The trustees meet twice a year and hand out around £3,000 each year to the worthy causes. Each year it funds the Lochmaben best gardens competition among other things for all ages.Most people will have heard of the George Hunter Trust in the local area but over the years people have forgotten who he was or what he did. This will rekindle interest and knowledge of him.
George made provisions that the trust would give funding to provide achievement and sports prizes at the school, to encourage boating in the Castle Loch, prizes for best kept gardens in Lochmaben to “foster and interest in gardening in the Burgh,” and for improving the amenity of Lochmaben or welfare of its residents.
Records show that George’s father, James, became Provost in Lochmaben and as a teenager a confident George left Lochmaben to seek a career in the grocery industry in Glasgow. He was employed at the wholesale grocers Messrs Smith and Sharp for six years before he entered into partnership with his brother, James. They first set up Messrs James and George Hunter, Italian warehousemen and wine merchants, in Victoria Terrace, Crosshill, in 1871 and began to prosper.
After a fire at the premises the pair were undaunted and built a new grocery store to meet growing demand. This was at Victoria Cross, Victoria Road, Queen’s Park, and an article in The Mercantile Age of January 1884 recalls: “At the time of the completion of this shop it was without doubt not only the largest but also the most beautifully fitted in Scotland or the North of England, having a frontage of fully 90 feet with over 800 square feet of plate glass and about 3,000 feet of cellarage underneath divided into compartments as wine vaults. The fittings are pitch pine with heavy mahogany counters. The ceiling of the shop is one of the most unique and handsome to be seen. It is made of polished pitch pine, rich carved mouldings and handsome panels. The corresponding fittings are elegantly made; no expense being spared, the work being the best.”
As their reputation spread and demand grew they also decided to venture out and expand their grocery empire with branches in Albert Cross, Albert Road, Pollokshields and King’s Cross, Govenhill, and Victoria Cross, Byres Road, Dowanhill – said to be “One of the finest and most commodious in the West End of Glasgow”.
The pair had a reputation for top class groceries including Danish butter, fruits and confectionery, and their own tea blends and they sold vintage Spanish and French wines, port, wines from Germany and Madeira as well as “foreign spirits and malt liquors”. They also had their own “Victoria Blend” of whisky which was a huge hit – especially in England and The Colonies. The brand name of Victoria came from their insignia of “VX” which came from Victoria Cross where their first shop was established in 1871.
George was described as having “a retiring disposition” and declined public office although he was at one time a director of the Glasgow Dumfriesshire Association and of the Grocers’ Company in Glasgow. An obituary which appeared in the Dumfries and Galloway Standard on March 14, 1923, reads: “His generosity was always unobtrusive and many will miss his kindly and practical sympathy.” His brother James became one of the foremost figures in the municipal life of Glasgow as Provost of Govanhill up until its incorporation into the City of Glasgow area, and later as a senior Baillie.
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