People: George Armitstead
Born in Riga, the second son of a flax merchant there, he came to Dundee in 1843 and established the George Armitstead & Co shipping line and flax business in which he was senior partner. The firm built up a fleet of eight sailing ships and one steamer, the London and then moved into steam alone with the establishment of the North Sea Steam Ship company. The full details of the vessels are in the Source Material section.
Armitstead was Liberal MP for Dundee between 1863 and 1873 and 1890 until 1895. He was a great friend of William Ewart Gladstone and paid for the Prime Minister's holidays in Biarritz. It was Gladstone's successor, Balfour, however, who created Armitstead a Baron in 1906. He was a pallbearer at Gladstone's funeral, inmitably recorded in 'poetry' by William McGonagall,
The oil painting, from a private collection, is by John McLure Hamilton (1853-1936). The cartoon is from Spy's popular works for Vanity Fair in 1882.
Alas! the people now do sigh and moan
For the loss of Wm. Ewart Gladstone,
Who was a very great politician and a moral man,
And to gainsay it there's few people can.
George Armitstead, Esq, was there also,
And Lord Rendal, with his heart full of woe;
And the Right Honourable Duke of Rutland,
And the Right Honourable Arthur J. Balfour, on the right hand;
Likewise the noble Marquis of Salisbury,
And His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, of high degree.
While in Dundee he bought Castle Huntly (shown in the 1831 engraving) and is said to have brought his mistress to live in the house to his wife's understandable distress and causing a scandal on Dundee.
The castle was begun by the Barons Gray in 1452 as an L-plan tower house. Today it is a young offenders' institution. It was substantially altered after purchase by the Lyon family in 1647 and the alterations are described by the purchaser's grandson Patrick, 1st Earl of Strathmore, in 1684 who thought that initially 'it was a place of no consideratione, fit for nothing else but a place of refuge'.
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